HTC is reportedly the manufacturer behind Google’s upcoming Nexus devices, but there’s another device to look forward to from the Taiwanese company. At a pre-IFA press briefing in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, the company took the wraps off the A9S, a midrange affair that’s a little less capable — and a little less expensive, appropriately — than the HTC’s eponymous flagship, the HTC 10.
HTC may be positioning the A9S, the successor to last year’s A9, as a budget phone, but the company said it didn’t take any shortcuts in crafting it. It features a two-tone aluminum body that HTC said was inspired by “nature” and “created to inspire a new … impeccable precision,” and that appears to be the case from afar — the A9s is seamless, minimalist, and devoid of any distracting iconography.
The A9S isn’t much different the A9 aesthetically, but if anything, the new device somewhat evokes Apple’s iPhone. A few peripherals such as the front-facing camera have been moved around, and the rear camera is no longer at the center — HTC has moved it to the top left along with the flash. Antenna bands loop the bottom back and top, and the HTC logo sits dead center. It’s overall pleasing — if derivative.
Unfortunately, that attention to design doesn’t appear to have extended to the A9S’s internals. The phone’s inexplicably bulkier than its predecessor at 146.49 x 71.5 x 7.99 mm and 149.8 g, for one, and sports a 5-inch 720p (1,280 by 720 pixels) panel that’s a notable downgrade from the A9’s 1080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) display. And the rear-facing camera’s a bit worse, too — 13 MP with an f/2.2 aperture without optical image stabilization versus the A9’s f/2.0 sensor with it.
The A9S exhibits enough improvement, though, that it shouldn’t be written off wholesale. The front-facing camera’s a 5 MP sensor, an upgrade from the A9’s 4 MP shooter. The battery’s gotten a bump, too, from 2,150mAh on the A9 to 2,300mAh model that supports fast charging. It packs HTC’s bass-boosting BoomSound audio tech. And for better or worse, HTC’s swapped out the old handset’s Snapdragon 615 for an octa-core, 2GHz MediaTek Helio P10 paired with 2GB of 3GB of RAM (depending on regional availability).
Rounding out the A9s’s accouterments is a familiar array of sensors and doodads. There’s a 4G LTE radio inside, plus one that supports dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. GPS is present and accounted for, too, as is NFC. Primary storage starts at 16GB, optionally supplemented with a MicroSD Card up to 2TB in capacity. And the A9s’s got a fingerprint sensor.
HTC didn’t announce availability or pricing for the A9S, but said to expect the handset to slot in “somewhere below” the A9’s $500 sticker tag and debut “in the coming months.” It’ll launch in gold, silver, and black configurations.
The A9s’s debut was widely predicted ahead of Thursday’s announcement, most visibly by noted leaker Evan Blass. He said the company would launch a slightly improved variant before the kickoff of IFA, and that it’d formally replace the company’s aging midrange A9.
We likened last year’s HTC A9’s design to the iPhone in our review, but like it better. If the A9S is anything like it — and assuming the price is right — it may be the midrange phone to beat come this fall.
Updated on 09-01-2016 by Kyle Wiggers: Added details of Thursday’s announcement