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Grow Your Business Technology

HTC One A9 Review: Is It Good for Business

HTC One A9, business smartphones The HTC One A9 earns 3.5 out of 5 stars. / Credit: Jeremy Lips

As smartphones get bigger and bigger, it's hard to find a nice work phone without the palm-stretching dimensions. HTC's new One A9 fits the bill, with a reasonably sized 5-inch display, plus a sleek and sturdy design, solid battery life, and decent performance. It also includes a really reliable fingerprint scanner for a nice security boost.

But there's a trade-off for the One A9's premium metal design: It's not quite as affordable as its closest competitor, the Google Nexus 5X. The One A9 will run you about $520 off-contract (or $21.67 for 24 months), compared to $379 for the all-plastic Nexus 5X. So which 5-inch smartphone should be your next work companion?

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]

The One A9's good looks really do help justify its price tag. The metal construction looks sleek and makes the device feel durable and sturdy. In fact, it looks a lot like the iPhone 6s, right down to a couple of distinctive accent lines on its back. 

One design feature that distinguishes the One A9 from the iPhone 6s is the phone’s capacitive home button, which lets you effortlessly unlock your phone or return to the home screen just by setting your finger down on it, instead of clicking down.

The One A9 has a nice 5-inch display that’s roomy enough for work tasks, without being big enough to feel cumbersome. It’s reasonably sharp, too, with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Text looks crisp, and colors are vibrant.

I just wish it were a bit brighter. Topping out at 326 nits of brightness, the One A9’s screen is noticeably dimmer than the average smartphone (405.0 nits). The Nexus 5X (454 nits) and iPhone 6s (498 nits) also have much brighter screens, they’re easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.

Like the iPhone 6s, Galaxy S6 and Nexus 5x, the One A9 has a built-in fingerprint scanner, which gives workers a nice security boost. The scanner is embedded in the phone’s capacitive home button, located below the display; just hold your finger over the button for a moment to unlock your device. You don’t even have to turn on the display first.

In my experience, the One A9’s scanner was slightly more reliable than the Galaxy S6’s scanner, which regularly failed to recognize my print on the first attempt. And while it’s not quite as quick and accurate as the Nexus 5x’s scanner, which almost never failed, it’s pretty close. You can register up to five separate fingers on the A9, and the process is quick and painless.

Workers will also appreciate the One A9's up-to-date software. Thanks to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the phone has a couple of new productivity-boosting features. My favorite is Google Now on Tap, which lets you quickly access additional information about whatever is on your screen, just by holding down the home button for a moment. For example, if a client emails you about meeting for lunch with the name of a restaurant, you can use Google Now on Tap to quickly pull up extra info like the restaurant’s location and hours of operation.

Instead of running on stock Marshmallow, the One A9 actually uses a tweaked version of the Android operating system called HTC Sense. While the interface is mostly the same as the stock software, Sense adds some extra features like single-swipe access to the dialer, messaging and camera apps right from the lock screen.

The One A9 runs on an octa-core Snapdragon 617 processor with 3GB of RAM, which provides good performance for everyday work tasks, though it's not quite as snappy as pricier flagship phones like the HTC One M9 or the Samsung Galaxy S6

The phone racked up a decent score of 3,121 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That beats the smartphone average of (2,564), but was edged out by the Nexus 5X (3,507), Nexus 6P (4,289) and iPhone 6s (4,385).

The One A9's battery life is also quite good. The phone ran for 8 hours and 29 minutes in our battery test, which beats the smartphone average of 8 hours and 11 minutes. With mixed usage, that should easily get you through the end of the workday and beyond.

The Nexus 5X is the battery life champ, though, running for a whopping 11 hours and 30 minutes on the same battery test. The Nexus 6P put up an even more impressive 12 hours and 25 minutes, while the iPhone 6s disappointed by dying in just 6 hours and 46 minutes.

HTC sells the one A9 in just a single hardware configuration, which comes with 32GB of internal storage. The device does have a microSD card slot, though, which lets you expand the storage by up to 2TB.  It also comes in four different colors: black, silver, red and gold.

Although the HTC One A9 is a solid work phone, it faces stiff competition from the likes of Google's Nexus 5X. At $399, the 5-inch 5X costs more than $100 less than HTC’s phone, and offers longer battery life and slightly speedier performance. 

Even if you’re willing to shell out $500 for a new work phone, there are other strong options. Google’s Nexus 6P ($499), for example, offers a roomier 6-inch display and even better performance and battery life than the Nexus 5X. The large display makes it a bit of a handful, though.

Apple’s iPhone 6s is another good pick, but it’s the priciest of the bunch. The 4.7-inch phone provides fast performance and a good selection of productivity apps for $649, but its below-average battery life and high price point might make it a hard sell for some workers.

Those devices aside, the HTC One A9 is still worth a look if you love its classy metal shell and relatively compact dimensions.

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]

Brett Nuckles

Brett Nuckles has been a working journalist since 2009. He got his start in local newspapers covering community news, local government, education and more before he joined the Business News Daily staff in 2013. He graduated from Ohio University, where he studied Journalism and English. Follow him on Twitter @BrettNuckles.

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