HTC is seeking to revive its fortunes with a new flagship smartphone called the One A9 that it hopes will stand out in a crowded field because it is selling it as an unlocked phone and because it is the first non-Nexus device to run on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the latest version of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) mobile operating system.
HTC One A9
The One A9 will go on sale in the U.S. and around the world in the first week of November and will have wide carrier support, with AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) and Sprint (NYSE: S) committing to selling the phone in separate announcements. The phone is also compatible with T-Mobile US' (NYSE:TMUS) LTE and HSPA+ networks and Verizon Wireless' (NYSE: VZ) LTE network.
HTC will be making a special unlocked edition available on www.HTC.com and for a limited time customers can pre-order the A9 at a promotional price of $399.99. This edition will be SIM unlocked and will also allow customers to unlock the bootloader without voiding the phone's warranty. This version will also come with six months of unlimited music on Google Play Music and HTC's "Uh Oh Protection," which includes one free replacement within the first 12 months of ownership for a cracked screen, water damage or if customers switch carriers.
The network support for the phone is somewhat complicated. An HTC spokeswoman noted that HTC will the offer U.S. unlocked HTC One A9 variants through HTC.com that are compatible with the networks of major carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.
Verizon's network will be compatible through a software update that will roll out shortly after launch, the spokeswoman said. Once the update rolls out, the phone can be used on Verizon's network using LTE only with a previously activated SIM, and it will support full voice, data, SMS and MMS capabilities. A Verizon spokesman told FierceWireless the phone is not certified for Verizon's network. As PhoneScoop notes, the A9 is the first phone that can technically work on Verizon's network but will not support CDMA technology. Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said today the carrier will probably start marketing such LTE-only phones itself around the end of 2016.
T-Mobile said in a statement to FierceWireless that while it is not selling the new HTC One A9 directly, customers who purchase it directly from HTC.com will be able to also purchase a T-Mobile SIM card to bring it to the carrier's network.
For HTC, the One A9 is a chance to show off its design chops, its emphasis on audio quality and its commitment to giving customers fast software updates. HCT Americas President Jason Mackenzie said at an event unveiling the One A9 that the phone will receive every Android software update within 15 days of when Google first pushes it to Nexus-branded devices.
Many observers have noted that the One A9 shares many design elements of the iPhone 6s, which might not make it stand out and lead to negative press, but Mackenzie said HTC feels like many of its larger smartphone competitors, including Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Samsung Electronics, have copied the unibody all-metal construction HCT pioneered with the One M7 back in 2013. The problem for HTC is that even though that may be the case, its larger competitors have eclipsed it in terms of sales.
HTC said earlier this month it would post a net loss of around $139 million for the third quarter, compared with a net profit of $18.5 million a year earlier. HTC also said revenue plunged sharply to around $660 million, down from $1.29 billion in the year-ago period.
HTC is trying to change course with the One A9. Since it has a $400 unlocked price point, the A9 does not have high-end specs on every front, though HCT has emphasized the phone's camera and audio capabilities. The A9 runs on an octa-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 617 processor (with four cores at 1.5 GHz and four cores at 1.2 GHz), has 3 GB of RAM and either 16 GB or 32 GB of storage. The A9 supports memory cards up to 2 terabytes, notes PhoneScoop.
The A9 also has a 13-megapixel main camera with 1080p HD video capture, optical image stabilization for enhanced image quality and phase detection autofocus for speedier focusing. The front-facing camera uses HTC's UltraPixel technology to let in more light. The phone also sports HTC BoomSound technology integrated into the headset combined with Dolby Audi surround technology.
- see this HTC page
- see this release
- see this Re/code article
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article
- see this PhoneScoop article
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Article updated Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. ET with a statement from T-Mobile.