Review : Telstra Signature Premium

Telstra takes a shot at the mid-range smartphone market with the Signature Premium. Is it a hit or miss?

There is more to smartphones than blowing over a grand on a high-end status symbol. Sometimes we need to watch the bottom line while still holding something in our hand that feels like a quality device and we still want the features that we have come to expect in a world dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Telstra Signature Premium
Sensible and stylish is the way to go.

To start with, the Telstra Signature Premium is actually a HTC One A9 which is not actually available in Australia. This is where Telstra has stepped up and brought this phone to the Aussie market. But is it any good?

First impressions, this phone feels good. The screen is 5.0 inches putting it at slightly larger than the iPhone 6 and borrows heavily from the Apple design with its rounded edges and brushed aluminium back. There is nothing plastic about this phone. All metal and glass gives it a quality feel in the hand but you would probably want to get a case on this one pronto as it feels very slick between your fingers and I was constantly mindful of this nice phone slipping from my grasp and hitting something hard. From the outset, it is telling you that this phone is precious and will throw itself to certain doom if you don’t treat it with love. Like an over-dramatic love interest, this phone commands your full attention whenever you are in contact with it.

A great performing smartphone for audiophiles that are not prepared to spend a fortune on a high end unit.

Moving on to the screen, it is a nice AMOLED 1080p display so the image is nice and sharp although not as bright as the iPhone. Really in my mind not a big deal in most cases as portable screens are not a place to be an AV snob.

Got enough grunt for Hearthstone? Yep.

Performance is not at all bad. I managed to play Hearthstone on this phone with very little problem thanks to the octa-core Qualcomm processor. Download speeds are pretty damn good also thanks to Telstra’s 4GX network. Also with NFC support we can expect to see Google Pay being available when it comes to Australia. All the usual stuff like current generation WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity rounds out the features that make a phone smart.

The Signature Premium walks that fine line between affordability and quality.

There are a couple of concerns. The battery life is not enough to put the phone through a day of moderate use. You will need to charge this phone if you intend to get the most out of it. Also this phone gets hot when under load. Often using the phone in my car playing podcasts and using GPS based navigation while plugged into my charger pushes it hard enough to get really hot to the touch. Summer is going to be brutal on this phone and I fully expect this to result in phones shutting down to cool off.

The good bits? There are a couple of those too.
HTC is well regarded for its audio quality and this phone is no exception. It pumps out strong sound and when plugged into an amplifier or headphones via the 3.5mm jack HTC’s BoomSound with Dolby Audio kicks in and delivers some damn good noise. Invest in a good pair of earbuds to get the most of this if you are into audio.
Another point where this phone stands apart is the amount of additional memory you can plug in. 2TB of Micro SD storage! 2TB!
The camera is no slouch either with a 13MP rear camera and an “Ultrapixel” front facing camera (which is around 4MP) and is quick and easy to use with a couple of nice features including Slo-mo, Panorama, Hyperlapse and fully adjustable Pro mode to name a few as well as the ability to capture video in full HD (1080p) resolution.

Security wise, the phone carries a fingerprint reader which is surprisingly quick to unlock the phone. I usually expect a bit of messing around with fingerprint readers but this one actually recognised my fingers with nary a hitch and teamed up with the latest version of Android Marshmallow 6.01 I feel confident that this phone is pretty robust until the next round of security holes and malware have manufacturers and carriers scramble to push out updates.

Overall, this is a solid performer and presents well in a slick and shiny package. You can spend $648 to get this phone outright and have a day to day phone that will perform as well as something twice the price and feel just as good about it. Sure there are other phones out there that are cheaper but I think the Signature Premium walks that fine line between affordability and quality.

Even my Apple-oriented family poked at the shiny face of this phone with curious and surprised tones.

A great performing smartphone for audiophiles that are not prepared to spend a fortune on a high end unit.

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