HTC has had a relatively poor run with its smartphones in the past year. With most of the top manufacturers delivering top-drawer devices in the year 2016, it really is HTC’s turn next to impress.
The One A9 and the Desire 350 were devices that did not stand up to the standards of modern premium devices and even the standards of HTC itself.
Now, when I say it is HTC’s turn to impress, it implies that it is sort of a make-or-break deal for HTC. We have seen HTC compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple with one or two of its earlier devices (and truth be told, in many ways, it won against Samsung and knocked Apple’s singularity of aluminium-only devices back a bit).
But the recent dip in quality and innovation has left HTC somewhat a little further down the pecking order.
All of this becomes increasingly significant as 2016 has already seen many-a-worthy premium devices launched from almost all brands out there, that it really seems that the competition has risen to another level. Also, manufacturers like LG and Huawei have come into play with stellar devices like the LG G5 and Huawei P9, respectively.
Amidst all this – if the next device that HTC introduces to the market is even so slightly off the mark, it really will cement HTC low in the pecking order of brands that customers vie for. HTC now is the first Android OEM to ever launch Apple’s proprietary AirPlay wireless streaming feature on their phone.
Two words to describe the screen on the HTC 10 – sheer delight.
Let me savour that by repeating it – sheer delight!
A much improved version of the display on the One M9, it’s a little bigger too, at 5.2 inches. And HTC’s decision to continue with LCD displays – a Super LCD5 panel in this case, stands vindicated. The panel covers 99.9% of the sRGB colour gamut and is sharp, bright, realistic.
It packs a lot more pixels with a mind bending 564 pixels per inch, across a 2560×1440 quad-HD resolution.
So, those are the specs for display and as good as they are, the real life experience is even better.
It is a wonderful display to look at – it doesn’t lack anything. Infact, it is one of the few displays that does not leave you “wanting a little more” or feeling “overwrought with colours” as some AMOLEDs do.
You hold the device in your hands switch it on and you feel that everything is right with the display. The colours are punchy, bright and clear and all this with no oversaturation, which is a difficult balance to achieve. The display is sharp enough and text looks aptly neat and crisp.
There is a slight pinkish tinge to the display when it’s tilted to the side and this dampens viewing angles, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Viewing angles are still great and reflections are kept to a minimum, but colours are skewed ever so slightly when you’re not looking directly at the device.
The screen being an LCD panel is not as vibrant as that of the AMOLED in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but that is not noticeable until you pitch the two devices together. It is vibrant enough and sunlight visibility is no issue with this display.
There is something though that HTC has left out – the ‘Always On’ mode is seen both on the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7. It is not an essential feature and is still in its infancy, but just for the sake of comparison HTC does not have it.
The HTC 10 is a beautiful device.
While this model has heralded a change in the brand stereotype, but it still is very familiar. How you ask?
Well, it combines the design of two previous devices and the resultant output looks very different, yet retains the HTC DNA.
The front is taken from the HTC A9 while the rear aspect is a re-worked version of the HTC One M9.
Okay, to be honest, the HTC One does resemble the iPhone 6s or the Samsung Galaxy S7 so to say, but it sure has a refreshing look and the resemblance may not be such a bad thing after all.
The phone has a metal body with the back panel having that faint sexy curve that fits just right in your palm. The metal feels cool and the phone feels sturdy.
It feels like an expensive phone and is in league in terms of looks and design with devices like the iPhone 6s and the Galaxy S7.
The back of the phone is as clean as it can get. There’s nothing on the back not even the company logo! It is all shining metal with that slight curve which makes it look classy. But… there are those beautifully chamfered edges that are clearly the highlight of the device’s design. They’re really shiny but they really make for a good place for your fingers to sit.
The right side of the phone houses a volume button and a sleep/wake button placed just below it. The size difference between the two makes it easy to recognize which is which by simply touching them. Distributed on both sides are separate trays for SIM and SD cards.
At the front sits the home button just below the display. It is more of a touchpad really. This is also where the fingerprint scanner is hidden.
HTC has also switched to capacitive Back and Recent Apps keys, as opposed to on-screen or physical buttons, and these sit either side of the home button. This switch is a good idea as it allows for a bigger screen to be shoe-horned into that chassis. This helps the HTC 10 get a very respectable 71% Screen-To-Facial-Area ratio.
The device looks beautiful and feels amazing. The first time you look at this phone, you will instantly know that this is a top-end expensive device. It is very important for top end devices to look the part and this phone certainly does so. It also feels so good in your hands giving you that confidence of knowing that you are holding something precious.
The device is a superb performer.
While it has a spec sheet that looks identical to all the 2016 Android flagships, in the real world, the HTC 10’s output is very impressive.
The processor & chipset is the best of the best at this time, the Graphics Processor too, is top-of-the-line. HTC’s intent of investing in the best hardware out there is visible from the fact that they’ve not only put in 4 GB of RAM, but also put in the fastest version of the RAM at this time.
Having experienced the phone firsthand, we can assure you, it performs right where all most of the flagships are this year. And then some!
The device is fast, nimble and smooth. Using the phone as a regular user and going through everyday tasks poses no problem for the device. Apps open as soon as you tap on them and close as soon as you exit. Web browsing, scrolling through web pages, opening and closing apps, switching apps you name it – the HTC 10 can do it without a bother in the world.
Playing games on this device is a delight and there is no game the market yet that can challenge the capabilities of this device. Also, the phone remains cool while playing these games and in general too. Which speaks volumes to HTC’s attempt to balance the processor, GPU, and RAM to ensure neither of them coerce the other.
The software on the HTC 10 is simply delightful and the Android skin that HTC uses on this device may be the best yet.
Called HTC Sense, it runs atop Android 6.0.1 and HTC seems to have achieved a perfect blend between the stock Android experience (like that on the Nexus 6P) and the intrinsic features that HTC provides with its skin.
What HTC seems to have done very well is the stay away from duplicating apps that Google already offers with Android. Instead, they’ve focused on adding only some app of their own, that really seem to enrich the user experience.
Back to Sense: The latest version of Sense UI is HTC’s cleanest and borrows many elements from a stock version of Android. The notifications’ shade, for example, is exactly what you’ll get on a Nexus 6P, while icons are simple and clean.
HTC’s own stuff is quite magical. Docked to the left of the screen is HTC’s news and social feed app called the Blink Feed. It’s always been our favourite part of the Sense UI package, though it seems to have lost the integration with Facebook at this time. That said, once you master Sense, you can’t really live without it.
There is another very useful app called the Boost+. It tends to lock some apps which then require you to unlock them again with the fingerprint scanner. It still is a very cool feature.
Yet another of the HTC 10 features include Freestyle Layouts. It really is designed to spice up your regular Android experience in a sense – especially if you’ve gotten bored of the same app grid homescreen view that pretty much every Android phone has.
You can replace icons with stickers that perform additional functions, taking you straight to a favoured contact, and these can be laid out anywhere on the screen. This really is a fresh look at interacting with the OS, and… HTC has made it optional so you can choose how to interact with the 10.
All in all, the software and the additions made to Android are really refreshing – the UI is not heavy as it is on most other flagships. In fact, it in no way hinders the performance of the phone, it actually aids it.
The rear camera on this device has 12 megapixels, with a twist. The HTC 10 uses the Ultrapixel 2 sensor which essentially means that there are more pixels inside the sensor resulting in more light entering, hence brighter pictures all round.
Some stats? The UltraPixel 2 sensor, takes in 136% more light resulting in clearer images and with 1.55um per UltraPixel you get super high-resolution photos even in low light. To add to that, Optical Image Stabilisation and Laser Autofocus come built-in to help improve the quality of images.
It’s is undoubtedly the best performing, most competitive camera HTC has ever had and it is capable of taking good pictures. However, do not confuse this – it is not the best smartphone camera out there. Not by a mile. HTC has struggled in the camera arena, for a while – ever since their famous One M7 (2013).
And while the camera on the 10 is the best that has ever been seen on a HTC device, yet it remains the weakest link of the device.
Now, when I say weakest, it does not imply that the camera is generally weak – all it means is that as compared to the other areas of the device this is a relatively weak facet.
The camera can capture lovely indoor and outdoor shots with colours that look very accurate and natural. The pictures, as in some of HTC’s devices before, are not overly sharp. The camera also captures some very impressive shots where the background blurs beautifully, from the in-focus foreground.
Also, the extra amount of light entering the lens means that the night shots have significantly improved and this is such a pleasure to see.
To add to this, the camera app that HTC provides here is one of the best around. It has RAW support and the Pro modes. It has HTC’s own Zoe photos – which is somewhat similar to Apple’s Live Photos.
It is very easy to navigate through the app thanks to a lack of text and also in doing so you will experience no lag whatsoever.
There are a couple of things that cannot be overlooked though – such as the overexposure of the camera. Using Ultrapixels does have its perks when it comes to low lit shots but that much more extra light entering the lens means that if there is a light source such as a street light or the sun for that matter in your shot, the pictures seem to get overexposed and unpleasingly bright.
The light source also blurs the picture and throw the colours off.
Apart from that, the camera is pretty good.
Moving to the front facing camera – it may well be the best in the market!
It’s a major upgrade – better camera hardware, lower aperture, laser autofocus and excellent video recording capabilities.
in fact, it is the world’s first smartphone with optical image stabilisation for the front camera!
Consequently it can take unbelievably sharp selfies and video, even in low light.
All in all, the HTC’s cameras and their performance may not be placed next to the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7’s, but certainly right after them.
The device comes with some cool audio features. Though HTC has ditched the stereo speaker system that pumped out quality audio on the One M9, the amazing sound quality still exists. It just comes in a different form.
The dual speakers are placed at the bottom but there’s a dedicated amplifier for both, the tweeter and subwoofer which sit on the bottom and top of the phone respectively.
Historically, HTC phones were renowned for their emphasis on audio quality – sponsored by the inclusion of Beats Audio technology and fitments (up until Apple bought Beats). The HTC 10 heralds a return to audio-focus, and the speakers belt out really, really good tones. Not as good as with the iconic speakers of yesteryear, but it still is plenty loud. At max volume the sound is loud enough for you to not require bluetooth speakers for a room! We aren’t kidding.
Now audiophiles will scoff at that idea, and we understand. But consider the same parameter (loudness) in the case of conference calls, or cooking while chatting with mom, and you’d see why this is such a boon.
All this combined with a good display and amazing performance makes this device a solid entertainment unit. HTC has a surprise for you, it ships with support for AirPlay streaming out of the box. There have been third party apps for Android for the same, however offering Apple’s tech is a new for the Android ecosystem.
At the front of the 10 sits the home button blessed with a fingerprint scanner. More of a touchpad, the fingerprint scanner works very efficiently and is super fast.
What really helps is actually an overlay that HTC has cleverly included as part of their proprietary Boost+ app – it locks sensitive apps and puts them behind a fingerprint release. The best part? The apps themselves don’t even need to carry this functionality themselves. So any app you like – WhatsApp, photos, banking apps all get secured thanks to Boost+!
Other wise, business utilities and security is set up the usual Android way and you get the usual suite of privacy controls, parental controls, remote locking of the device, and most importantly locating misplaced devices (which you can do via the Android Device Manager as well as via HTC’s Sense website).