Saturday , October 21 2017

Have HTC struck the right balance with their new One A9?

HTC One A9 White-SIlver

It seems that HTC has copped a lot of flack in the last few days following the official announcement of its new HTC One A9, which really only adds to the criticism the brand has been receiving for a little while now. There have been accusations levied that HTC has simply given up on its design prowess and simply copied Apple’s iPhone design, that they’ve compromised their design message by immediately going on the defensive … as with most industries, pundits will have their say whether they should or not.

Watching HTC move and change over the last five years, from the first Nexus handset (the stunning Nexus One) through to the HTC One range over the last two years has been rather interesting. HTC has always been proud of its design, and for good reason. Like the Nexus One before it, the HTC One, back in 2013, was ground-breakingly stunning. Unfortunately, using that same design in 2014 on the HTC One M8 was a touch of a misstep, and sticking with it in 2015 was (in my opinion, at least) a really bad idea.

What HTC has shown with the unveiling of the One A9 is that it can learn; it can learn when a design is finished, and move forward to something that could be much more appealing to the consumer. The HTC One M9 was a good phone, but in some ways it was over designed; a phone is a disposable piece of consumer tech. Most people keep them for a year, maybe two, not often more, and leading with a message about how the phone had been designed and crafted in the manner a jeweller would design a fine ring or watch … it’s just not what the phone consumer wants to hear, values, or even cares about.

I think Ausdroid is in a good position to comment on what a phone should and shouldn’t be — not only do we see an awful lot of them, use many, and review plenty, but we also have the benefit of our readers’ feedback too.

A phone should be well designed, yes, but to a point; first and foremost, it needs to do certain things well. It needs to be a good phone. It needs to be understated. It needs to be functional, last all day, and offer some good features, like a strong camera, and ideally, it should be resistant to the realities of daily life. It should survive being dropped, or in a perfect world, immersed.

The materials it’s made from, the way those materials are arranged, and how many hundred hours are spent assembling them … these are things that, really, no one cares about, and that’s especially so where the phone doesn’t deliver the essentials. Think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and that laundry-list of what a phone needs is right down the bottom (as the absolute essentials), and impeccable design and craftsmanship are much further up the list.

With the HTC One A9, it is at least possible that HTC have nailed the basic needs, and actually matched it with an appropriately understated and yet attractive design. Does it look like an iPhone? Superficially, it bares some resemblance, but who cares?

I don’t.

That HTC becomes defensive against such an accusation is not, to my mind important, nor is it a distraction from HTC’s message. HTC’s message with the One A9 has to be “we see your expensive smartphones, and we think we can do it at less cost without compromising on performance or design”, and if it is, that message remains loud and clear.

I want HTC’s One A9. Not because it shows some passing similarities to an iPhone. Not because it’s the most powerful with the best of everything. Not for any of that.

I want it because it’s an HTC, and for a time there, HTC set the standard of what Android should be. I think they could do it again.

Every manufacturer can make an incredible phone if the retail pricing target is $1000 to $1200. That’s not a challenge, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that many of the phones in this price range are actually a bit dull. I’m not going to be impressed at that ultra-premium price point anymore.

If you want to impress me, do what HTC is doing. Deliver a stylish handset, with premium features, for an affordable, realistic price, and you’re leading the pack. Motorola have just about done this with their Moto X Play / Moto X Style, and I think HTC are doing exactly this with their One A9.

 

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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11 Comments on "Have HTC struck the right balance with their new One A9?"

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Goran
Valued Guest
Goran

I agree with author with almost everything….just if 32/3gb have the same price all around the world as in USA….doesnt seem fer that richest part of the world got the best price….here in Europe price goes like 570€ for 2gb version. Thats not fer.

vijay alapati
Valued Guest
vijay alapati

I didn’t see any special focus on camera…. Looks like Htc dropped their balls yet again on camera. FAIL

Daniel Tyson
Ausdroid Manager

Myriam Joire (aka TNKGRL) actually said on All About Android the other day that the camera was quite impressive. That’s a lot coming from a picky mobile photographer like Myriam, she’s quite picky about that stuff.

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

The issue with the phone is that it’ll retail for $600-$700 (or more?) here. At that price point there are clearly better options.

These days, aggressively pricing a phone really means aggressively pricing a phone in the US market only. That’s all I’ve seen this year.

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Member

Very well said. I’m genuinely excited about this phone. I hope it pulls HTC or if its hole.

Member
Matt

I think you’re right. It looks like a good solid phone.

My 3 niggles:
– no boom sound
– no usb-c (quite minor)
– battery (is it enough?)

I’m just a little confused by what defines the One now. Because it’s obviously not boom sound 😀 Have you seen anything about this? Is it simply all metal unibody construction?

Goran
Valued Guest
Goran

Who really cares for usb c? It has almost everything what it needs…just right pricing and its success. Boom sound is reserved for M series. But sound will be best on earphones…better than any phone in the world. Dont we all listen more music on earphones? S7 preparing better sound if roumors are true.
Battery acts ok…nothing special but no disaster.

Member
Matt

Well someone messed up. In the main video the gold colour is called Acid Gold and in the colour sub videos on the design tab of the A9 website it’s called Topaz Gold.

Haz
Valued Guest

Any news on Australian launch date? Also, I’m very interested to see how the camera and battery life perform.

I am torn between a Z5 Compact and the A9. Reviews of the Xperia it’s quite jittery from a software perspective but the amazing battery life and excellent camera are attractive.

I’ve watched several videos of the A9 in action and it’s smooth as butter (I couldn’t care less if running a Snapdragon 6 series as long as it’s smooth)

If the camera is good and battery life is reasonable I think I’ll pick one up.

DroidRobot
Valued Guest
DroidRobot

Both do seem quite capable of being good handsets.
The Z5C seems to be getting a software update to fix that which only seemed to effect the white ones.
The A9 seems okay but there is a lot of unknown in regards to how it will be handled by HTC.

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