HTC launches One A9 smartphone with tech purists in mind

Phone has promotional price of $400 unlocked, comes with 30-day trial, and no penalty for unlocking the bootloader

htc one a9 hero image stretched

HTC on Tuesday unveiled its new 5-in. display One A9 smartphone with an unusual appeal to smartphone purists -- offering to sell it unlocked and with few alterations to pure Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).

The phone will sell globally starting in early November with a limited promotional unlocked price of $400, which is $250 below HTC's previous price for unlocked phones. U.S. carriers AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint will support the unlocked device initially, followed by Verizon Wireless once a software update is made available shortly after launch.

Users will get Uh-Oh damage protection for free and will be able to get Android Marshmallow updates within 15 days of when Google pushes updates to its Nexus phones, HTC said. Also, smartphone purists will be able to unlock the phone’s bootloader software without voiding any warranty.

Unlocking features and quick updates for Android smartphones are a big selling point to many tech early adopters. HTC America president Jason Mackenzie tried to capitalize on such points in an online presentation from an empty Barclays Center in New York, where HTC is sponsoring a concert tonight.

“The One A9 is the best smartphone we’ve launched in years,” Mackenzie declared, saying it offers a “greater level of freedom” for techies who want to unlock the bootloader without any penalty. He also said HTC will offer users a 30-day trial for the One A9. “If you don’t like it, send it back,” he declared.

Mackenzie tried to depict the One A9 as a balance between Apple iPhones and Android phones from other makers that add too much custom software and void warranties of users who unlock the bootloader software.

“The competitors can stay in their glass shiny houses,” Mackenzie said. “When you buy your next smartphone, you have tons of choice and tons of product and no choice at all. On the one hand you can buy another iPhone… a guarantee you’ll be shackled to a company that decides your mobile life. On the other platform, there’s Android smartphones, and too many are littered with duplicative services and bloatware and are clunky and overly complicated. It leaves you feeling you have no choice.”

HTC’s presentation included a video showing a woman in darkened silhouette dancing with a One A9 and connected ear plugs. The company’s clear marketing focus will be on the phone’s multimedia capabilities, including 24-bit audio quality that it termed “better than CD quality.”

The phone also has dual cameras, including a 13-megapixel rear camera. And there's a multidirectional fingerprint scanner, which can be used in support of Android Pay purchases. It features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor with 64-bit octa-core CPUs. It's available with 16GB or 32GB of storage, and has expandable storage of up to 2TB in an SD card.

The metal case will be available in gray, silver, gold and garnet.

In the wake of the company's dramatic decline earlier in 2015, some analysts have seen the upcoming One A9 and other smartphones as vital to HTC’s financial future.

Some analysts have predicted that HTC will launch a Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, but HTC didn't offer any hints about that.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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