HTC One A9, competitor to Sony Xperia M5 and Samsung A5 and OnePlus Two, will be launched in India today at an expected on-the-ground price of around Rs 33,000.
The phone, however, is already selling on eBay at Rs 34,900.
UPDATE: The firm did not specify the official price of the phone today. However, it announced a variant of the HTC Desire 826 (Rs 22,000) mid-range phone in the form of Desire 828.
The Desire 828 is almost exactly the same as 826. The only difference is that the front camera of the model is far more low-light friendly compared to that on the 826 due to the use of a bigger sensor and backside illuminated (BSI) sensor.
The Snapdragon 615 processor in the 826 has been swapped with a MediaTek MT6753 unit as well. We expect the 828 to be priced around Rs 24,000 initially, but to fall to Rs 20,000 soon after.
Meanwhile, the highlight of the One A9 will be its full-HD super AMOLED display. HTC normally does not use AMOLED displays. Till date there have been only one or two models that have come with non-LCD screens.
In fact, a large part of the reason for not using AMOLED panels in HTC models has been that the key supplier for such screens was Samsung, HTC’s biggest competitor.
While smaller companies like Vivo and Meizu have launched AMOLED models, the Taiwanese smartphone maker has been dragging its heels due to the pricing issue.
However, a China-based firm, Hehui, has come to HTC’s rescue and is reportedly offering AMOLED displays at rates that are much below what Samsung is charging.
HTC, therefore, launched its first AMOLED model — One E9s — a month ago and priced it around Rs 20,000.
However, the One E9s had a 720p panel. The One A9, however, will have a full-HD one, though the size of the display will be only 5 inches.
The One A9 will be HTC’s first ‘high-end’ launch in around six months — a long time in smartphone history, and will compete with other affordable flagships such as the 5-inch Xperia M5 from Sony (priced in the same range) and the OnePlus Two, though neither of these have AMOLED panels.
The biggest competitor is the Gionee Elife S7, which comes with a full-HD 5.5-inch AMOLED display and is priced at a mouth-watering Rs 16,154 on Paytm.
Another competitor is the Vivo X5 Pro, priced at Rs 20,655 on the same website. This one comes with a full-HD 5.2-inch AMOLED display and is selling for Rs 20,655.
As a result, we expect the effective price of the HTC One A9 to fall to the late twenties (around Rs 28,000) soon after launch.
Hit by competition from the likes of Xiaomi and Meizu, many global smartphone brands are launching new mid-range sub-brands and the HTC One A series is part of the same trend. The first to launch such a series was Samsung, which launched the Galaxy A series as a mid range offering, following it up with the E and J series as well.
Sony too has also been focusing heavily on the mid-range market with its C series and M series phones. Recently, it launched the M5 – a 5-inch, full-HD device priced at Rs 36,000 and now available for around Rs 30,600.
The Xperia M5 is perhaps the first high-end phone designed with price-sensitive, emerging markets such as India in mind. For its price, the M5 offers a 21 MP camera supplemented by a 13 MP shooter in the front and 3 GB of RAM.
The device, powered by MediaTek Helio X10 (MT6795) processor, is definitely offers more than ‘mid range’ specifications and can be considered an affordable flagship. It is also the most value-for-money offering from Sony in the high end market in India.
Though not quite as highly speced as the M5, the HTC One A9 will bring the quality of ‘One’ series to the mid-range. So far, HTC has been serving the mid-range with its ‘Desire’ branded devices, such as the Desire 820 and 826.
In addition, the One A9 also comes with typical higher-end features such as an all-metal body and a fingerprint sensor.
The phone also has a special, big-pixel technology for its front camera that are very low-light friendly. In other words, selfies and low-light shots are likely to look much better on the One A9’s 4 MP front camera compared to rivals’ 8 MP cameras.
The A9, which comes with MicroSD support, is powered by the new Snapdragon 617 chipset. The 617 is the improved version of the octa-core SD 615 processor, and comes with support for ‘World Mode’ (implying that it supports CDMA though it is not clear whether the phone will support the technology or not.)
The chipset also doubles LTE speeds to 300 Mbps. At present, nearly every phone in the market comes up Cat4 LTE, which has a theoretical maximum LTE download speed of 150 Mbps. Of course, networks in India do not have the required spectrum for supporting that kind of speed.
There are, however, a couple of disappointments as well. First, RAM is only 2 GB. Secondly, battery is just 2.15 Ah, which is on the lower side. However, given that it is just a 5-inch phone and is powered by the 617 chipset, the battery should last a day of moderate use.
Another point of doubt is the smaller display size. A 5.5 inch display offers about 21% more area compared to a 5-inch phone. Though people with smaller hands, especially women, prefer 5-inch phones, most others are now gravitating towards the 5.5-6.0 inch form factor.
It should also be kept in mind that Samsung is preparing to launch almost half a dozen smartphones in India over the next six weeks, most of which will have AMOLED displays. These include the newer versions of Galaxy A3, A5, A7 and the Galaxy J3 and A9. The A9 is likely to be the most interesting launch, as it will have a full-HD, 5.5-inch AMOLED panel and 3 GB of RAM.
The Samsung Galaxy A9 will be priced around the Rs 30,000 mark in India.