I’ve been using the HTC One A9 for about a week now. I didn’t get a chance to do camera tests until the weekend. The One A9 had the unfortunate fate of arriving on a Monday. Since then, I’ve been debating which phone to compare it to first.
After all, the HTC One A9 is in a class of its own. It uses a mid-range chipset (so I know the trolls will show up if I start by comparing it to the Note 5. Seriously, what is wrong with these people?) but it’s priced at $499. If you don’t look at the spec sheet, it certainly provides a better experience than most actual flagships, so certainly it is fair to start with flagships.
I decided to start with the iPhone 6S Plus because of the design. The first thought that crosses anyone’s mind when they see the HTC One A9 is that it looks like an iPhone. It was a source of debate since the day the One A9 was announced.
HTC went head first into the “everyone copied us” strategy. Sure, when the iPhone 6 launched, it looked similar to an HTC One M8 with an aluminum unibody and antenna lines, except the iPhone was flat. While the iPhone 6 looked similar to HTC’s design, the HTC One A9 is the spitting image of the iPhone 6S.
Of course, it doesn’t matter. The majority is going to see the HTC One A9 as an iPhone clone. Whether that’s going to be good or bad for sales, I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t care. The HTC One A9 is a beautiful phone, it’s easily the best HTC phone I’ve ever used, and it’s easily in the top five Android devices of 2015, as we’re seeing so many 1440p phones that drag down the GPU so badly that you can’t even play a decent game on it.
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Specs
|>HTC One A9||iPhone 6S Plus|
|CPU||Snapdragon 617, 1.5 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A53, 1.2 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A53||1.85 GHz Dual Core A9|
|GPU||Adreno 405||PowerVR GT7600 (six-core graphics)|
|Display||5″, 1080p, 441 ppi, AMOLED||5.5″, 1080p, 401 ppi, IPS LCD|
|Body||145.8×70.8×7.3 mm, 143 g||158.2×77.9×7.3 mm, 192 g|
|Camera||13 MP, 4128×3096, 4 MP Front||12 MP, 4032×3024, 5 MP Front|
|Video||1080p – 30 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps||4K – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps|
|Storage||16/32 GB, Expandable to 200 GB||16/64/128 GB|
|RAM||2/3 GB||2 GB|
|Battery||2150 mAh||2750 mAh|
The review unit that I received is the unlocked model with 32 GB storage and 3 GB RAM. There’s another reason that I compared the HTC One A9 to the iPhone 6S Plus.
Apple doesn’t tell people the RAM of the iPhone. Someone has to run benchmarks first. They don’t participate in the specs wars, which is why the iPhone 6S is still 750p. Apple is a company that would rather have you judge the iPhone based on real world performance instead of a specs sheet.
With the HTC One A9, you should do the same. This is an amazing phone. If you never looked at the spec sheet, you would certainly think it’s a flagship.
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Sense 7 vs iOS 9.1
I’m a big fan of HTC Sense. I haven’t always been. I felt that around the time of Sense 6, HTC really stepped up their game.
Everyone has their own preference between Android and iOS. Some people like to be able to flash custom ROMs, use widgets, and such. Some don’t feel all that is necessary.
The thing that I like about Sense 7 is that HTC now offers themes, so the user can customize quite a bit without ever having to flash a ROM or even a custom launcher.
Apple added 3D Touch with the iPhone 6S Plus. That’s their way of adding additional functionality from the home screen. 3D Touch is a useful feature. It really depends what you want to do.
I find 3D Touch to be useful in moving the cursor and switching between apps. I don’t really use it for shortcuts from the home screen.
I just wish Apple would ditch the standard grid of icons. Even if icons didn’t have to gravitate to the top left, that would be a massive improvement. Just let me place the icons wherever I want on the screen.
Speaking of icons, HTC has a fantastic feature with Sense 7 that allows the user to customize their home screen experience based on location. You can see the apps you want to see at home, work, or other. One thing that disappointed me there is that Sense 7 doesn’t compensate the user that has two jobs, maybe two homes. I really thought that would come through an update, although it doesn’t look like it will.
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Fingerprint Reader
Most phones these days have fingerprint readers, a trend set by the iPhone 5S. The HTC One A9 is no different.
The interesting thing about the fingerprint reader on the One A9 is that it’s not actually a button. Sure, it’s a home button, but it doesn’t actually depress. It takes a bit of getting used to.
The fingerprint reader is accurate, just like the iPhone 6S Plus. The problem with the iPhone’s TouchID 2.0 is that it’s just too fast and it doesn’t give you time to interact with the lock screen.
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Display
The display is one of the things that makes the HTC One A9 the best HTC phone in years. If you take a look at the 1080p IPS LCD on the HTC One M9, you’ll notice that anything that’s supposed to look white actually looks like it’s tinted green.
AMOLED displays produce more vibrant colors and blacker blacks than an IPS LCD. This is because pixels can be turned off while an LCD panel is entirely backlit.
Apple does a great job with their displays. The 1080p display on the iPhone 6S Plus is beautiful, as is the 750p display on the iPhone 6S. It’s not, however, on par with AMOLED displays such as the one on the HTC One A9.
There is disadvantages to AMOLED, however. AMOLEDs degrade over time, causing burn in. If you use your phone normally for two years, you’ll likely never experience this.
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Rear Camera
The camera on the HTC One A9 is the other thing that makes it the best HTC device I’ve ever used. HTC has finally implemented phase detection autofocus (PDAF).
Apple has been using PDAF since the iPhone 6 was released and Samsung has been using it for roughly 100 years. This is what allows photos to be quickly and perfectly focused. LG uses laser focus to achieve the same effect.
The lack of PDAF or laser focus was the reason that the HTC One M9’s 20 MP camera was such a disappointment. It was a good camera. The big problem was that it just wasn’t on par with what Apple, Samsung, and LG were doing.
The Camera app on the HTC One A9 and the iPhone 6S Plus offer similar options, including slow motion video, panorama, and time lapse. Here’s the differences:
HTC killed Zoe, so that’s there. Zoe was the original Live Photos, which Apple implemented in the iPhone 6S Plus. On the other hand, the HTC One A9 has a Pro mode where the iPhone offers no manual settings.
|HTC One A9||iPhone 6S Plus|
I think it’s obvious that the low light photos look better on the iPhone 6S Plus, although the flash looks better on the HTC One A9.
Also, note the one little flower that’s out of focus on the HTC One A9 side. I tried as hard as I could to get that to focus. It couldn’t happen in normal camera mode.
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Front Camera
Apple made a massive improvement to the front camera on the iPhone 6S Plus. They finally jacked it up to 5 MP, which is the industry standard these days.
HTC brought their ultrapixel technology to the front camera for the One M9 and the same is true with the HTC One A9.
Interesting fact about the HTC One A9 front camera. The only way to take a 4 MP photo is to take the photo at 16:9. Most cameras take their full resolution at 4:3, but that’s not the really strange part.
At 16:9, the HTC One A9’s front camera is 2688×1520, delivering 4.1 MP. The only option for 4:3 is 1280×960, or 1.2 MP. It’s really weird id you’re a normal person that wants to take photos at 4:3. The obvious option that should be available for the front camera is 2026×1520, or 3.1 MP.
Because of this really odd limitation, the photos taken with the HTC One A9 will be at 16:9. Since the iPhone Camera app doesn’t even allow users to change the aspect ratio, the iPhone 6S Plus photos are taken at 4:3.
Apple started using the screen as a flash in the front camera with the iPhone 6S Plus, a feature that LG has been using for years and Motorola is using now as well. HTC, like Samsung and Microsoft, hasn’t adopted this feature just yet.
|HTC One A9||iPhone 6S Plus||iPhone 6S Plus with Flash|
HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6S Plus: Benchmarks
A lot of people ask me why I compare certain lower end phones to higher end phones, such as the Nokia Lumia 635 and the Lumia 1020, or in this case, the HTC One A9 and the iPhone 6S Plus. People will ask the same when I compare the HTC One A9 to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
Sometimes it’s not about which one is better but a question of how much better. It’s important to know where a phone lies on the spectrum.
I always start off this section by stating that no one should put any stock into benchmarks. They’re nearly useless in terms of judging real world performance.
First up is battery tests, the worst of the worst types of benchmarks. Geekbench 3 has two settings, with the dim screen on or off. The first test is with the dim screen toggled off, as that’s how we use our phones. The second test is with the dim screen toggled, you guessed it, on.
|HTC One A9||iPhone 6S Plus|
The one thing you can take away from those battery tests is that the HTC One A9 is effected by brightness more so than the iPhone 6S Plus.
Next up, benchmarks from Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu.
As we can see, the iPhone 6S Plus has a much more powerful processor; however, the processor in the HTC One A9 is just fine for most use cases. Most Android flagships use a Snapdragon 808 or Snapdragon 810, but they use 1440p displays, making them perform worse than phones with a 1080p display and Snapdragon 617.
Next up, GPU tests with GFXBench 3.1.
As we can see, the iPhone 6S Plus outperforms the HTC One A9 in almost every way. That’s not surprising. The iPhone 6S Plus is a flagship and it costs a minimum of $250 more than the HTC One A9.