The HTC 10 was launched back in April of 2016 as a competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S7 line up, the LG G5, and the Sony Xperia X. Specifications wise they all align but why is it then that HTC has found traction in the market hard? We take a look at the phone in our full review and attempt to answer that question.
Firstly special thanks to our friends at Three for sending this unit to us to review.
6 months in tech is a long time. 6 months in the smartphone world is an eternity almost. That’s just about how long the HTC 10 has been available to consumers and if reports are to be believed, sales are hard to come by for the Taiwanese consumer electronics company. Let’s see if we can understand why.
Build & Overview
The HTC 10 is a good-looking phone. Of course opinions on that spectrum will vary, but ignoring comparisons to predecessors and peers, the HTC 10 has a lovely feel to it and a lovely aluminium body.
Around the back face we have the usual HTC branding in the centre, and above that the 12MP with OIS sits proudly in a slightly raised circular camera hump. The camera is capable of 4K video recording too. Nothing too obscene though. Moving to the left hand edge, the microSD card slot is found and nothing else. The right hand edge has a little more going on with the Nano SIM tray, volume rocker, and textured power button. The texture of button is a nice contrast to that of the others making it relatively easy to find in a pinch. The top edge sees a centred 3.5mm audio jack whilst the bottom edge reveals the USB Type-C port and a speaker grille.
Now we get to the front. a 5.2″ QHD (1440 x 2560) Super LCD display with a high 565 ppi. That’s some good numbers right there! Up top we’ve got an ear piece speaker, an LED and the front facing 5MP camera, again with OIS. To the bottom is the fingerprint scanner-come-home button.
The huge chamfer on the back face is a ‘marmite’ moment. We prefer the smaller chamfers but it’s not offensive. The antenna lines here are used to deliver an over used design, but again, it’s not offensive. It fits snuggly in the hand and feels a little smaller than it actually is, which strangely is because of the aforementioned chamfer.
- 5.2″ Super LCD5 display – 1440 x 2560 (565 ppi)
- 4GB RAM
- 32/64GB Storage
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
- 12MP rear facing camera with 5MP front facing camera – both with OIS
- Dual speakers (one front one bottom)
- SD slot for expansion up to 256GB
- Non-removable 3000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0
- Fingerprint scanner, USB Type-C, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11AC
- Android 6.0.1 with HTC Sense UI
Performance & Use
The specifications on the HTC 10 suggests the performance is to be on a par with the other similarly specified flagship devices, and that is indeed the case. The top-tier Snapdragon 820, and 4GB of RAM ensure that daily tasks are dealt with consummately. Specifications, camera aside for now, have never been the issue for HTC though.
Android 6.0.1 is on board here with the latest iteration of HTC Sense and it’s just a lovely experience. There’s theming, settings galore, and lots of little additions, but Sense has gone through a number of changes over the years and this latest offering sees it trim the excess fat still further by avoiding duplicate applications where possible. For example, the Google Play Store applications included by default features a Calendar app, so HTC have simply canned their app to avoid confusion. It shows HTC’s willingness to continue to refine their offering and their clear understanding that just because they can, they shouldn’t always. This keeps the experience light, and consistent.
HTC haven’t abandoned all of their flair to Google however. The Sense UI still has a few tricks up its sleeve. The dots denoting which app drawer screen the user is currently sitting on is nice and the usual grid size changes and application search functions are available. The notifications and settings screens, whilst mostly stock, are themed to match HTC’s aesthetic also. It’s just less intrusive than previous iterations and whilst the HTC M8 and M9 did a lot to move this on, the HTC 10 brings the final touches that were needed.
Geekbench scores aren’t the Holy Grail they once were, but you can see from them that the HTC 10 performs well in the synthetic benchmarks, as well as in the graphics stakes. We had zero issues playing any games on this device including our go to test games, Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP2. One thing to note however is it does get quite hot when in heavy use to the point where our hand was sweating.
The screen is another areas that HTC have been working on. the SuperLCD display is bright and vivid and delivers a great media consumption experience. The brightest brights and darkest darks are well separated delivering a good contrast number and using the phone in sunlight, although still difficult, is acceptable.
In terms of battery life, we managed to get exactly what we expected out of this 3000 mAh non-removable unit; par for the course. As this is an Android 6.0.x Marshmallow device, Doze (the system to close background activity to save power) is in play here and it does indeed help. 3-4 hours of screen on time was usual during testing which stacks up well to other flagship devices we’ve tested. Whilst we’re not happy with that, we can’t beat HTC with a stick without beating the entire Android landscape currently, so the HTC will do you just fine and might even stretch to the “2 days” of battery life HTC claims, if you enable all the battery saving bells and whistles and have perfect signal everywhere! We doubt it though as we couldn’t get near that with only 36 hours achievable in standby.
OK, so those who know of the HTC brand over the last few years will also have heard the term “BoomSound”. BoomSound was the moniker that HTC gave to it’s dual front facing speaker setup and was originally delivering Beats-based technology. Fast forward to 2016 and BoomSound is still about, albeit in a different guise. BoomSound Hi-Fi edition is here and attempts to claim the mantle of “best smartphone audio output”.
Gone, however, are the dual front facing speakers. Instead a speaker on the bottom edge and the ear-piece act as the dual speakers for the HTC 10. Essentially one delivers booming bass, and one delivers mids and highs; that’s the general premise anyway.
That signature BoomSound clarity is still here on the HTC 10, but there is something subtly lost in translation; the immersion is not quite there. Having both speakers front facing on previous devices delivered not only a crisp and rich tone to the audio you got whilst consuming media, but it also helped to immerse the user in the content. Everything was right there in front of you. It does feel a little different, even if the audio isn’t all that different.
When using headphones is where BoomSound Hi-Fi really kicks in though. Distortion is something we didn’t come across despite using both cheap and higher priced headphones, even at high volumes, and for the most part (aside from the cheap headphones) the clarity was spectacular.
More good news; if you’re struggling to get just what you want from the audio you’re listening to, use the build in Profile feature to tweak the sound stage and deliver more rumbling bass, or clearer mids – play around!
Suffice to say, BoomSound is dead, long live BoomSound – it’s hopefully here to stay.
This is what it comes down to really doesn’t it? The HTC 10 can look as nice as it does and perform as well as it does, but if the camera is of the same quality as previous HTC flagship devices, then it’s a tough sell. The good news first then; it’s not half bad. The bad news? It’s probably slightly down the pecking order of the flagship devices available. Let’s take a look.
The HTC 10 seemed to struggle with reds during our testing with other colours just about managing to stay ‘close’ to the original source. Yellows were sometimes blown out, but HDR mode sometimes helped with this. Dynamic range when looking at landscape scenes could be tricky also (as it is with most phones), but again the HDR setting actually did a good job most of the time here for us. The quality is subjective but our day lit office shots of our Harley Quinn POP Vinyl collectible is sufficient in quality when 100% cropped. The Dandelion shot shows a nice depth of field (auto mode) but does start to show grain and lack of detail at the 100% crop. On the whole we think a lot of consumers would be happy with this as a daily point and shoot. It’s not the best, but it’s quite alright.
The camera interface itself is dialled back a bit with just the shutter button and a couple of additional settings (flash, HDR, etc) available from the main screen. The rest of the settings are hidden beneath a rather cumbersome menu. To get to some options it’s a 5 touch process which isn’t great. Thankfully, the main options are only a couple of touches away. With a swipe in from the edge, the Photo, Video, Zoe, Panorama, Selfie and Pro modes are all accessible as well as the aforementioned settings menu. Launching the camera to get to this point is not the most intuitive however. Swiping down twice in quick succession when the screen is off launches the camera, but there is some delay. For some it will be just as quick to turn the screen on and swipe up the Camera icon.
The front facing camera is a mixed bag however. We could take the same three pictures one after another and we’d see three different outcomes. The good thing here is that there is nothing stopping you taking three shots in quick succession and picking your favourite so we’re not holding that against it.
Jumping to Video, we have a 4K sample showing the detail the sensor can achieve as well as the audio. You can make your own mind up here but we thought it actually did a decent job, especially in the audio department.
Taking the package as a whole we’d be inclined to suggest this is the best optical package we’ve seen on an HTC device. Whilst we still maintain that the Samsung S7/S7 Edge can deliver better photos more consistently, the HTC 10 can get there, given some patience and optimal conditions. More than good enough for the average consumer, but just not class leading.
The HTC 10 is perhaps the best device HTC have released since the introduction of their new design with the HTC One (M7). It’s seen iterative refinements throughout the M8 and M9 devices and has delivered what looks like being the pinnacle of this era of HTC devices. We’re not sure what else they could improve.
That many sound strange but the key word in that last sentence is “they”. Other companies might well be able to take the HTC 10 and elevate it to the next level but HTC seem either incapable or unwilling to push the boundaries. HTC have however shown a willingness to listen to consumers, provide faster updates, and deliver a design that most consumers would be happy with, yet their market share fails to improve. They are very much seen as the “alright” option for consumers and they are still tarnished with the poor optical deployments of the past. The market just hasn’t forgotten it seems.
The camera could be better. The design could be more revolutionary. The price point could also be looked at in order to win back customers. All of these things could happen but HTC just hasn’t or can’t deliver it. That’s why their market share is in tatters.
This is a great phone, it really is. For those wishing to share pictures via social media, grab selfies with friends, and have a power house of a device with a battery that lasts as long as other current generation devices, the HTC 10 really does equate to a stellar option. You’re just not buying it.
Dear HTC, either do a Samsung and throw money at it, or do a OnePlus and innovate. The iterative strategy has worked only once for any length of time, and that hasn’t been with an Android device, it’s an iPhone, and you need to get back in the game somehow as people aren’t paying attention.
You can head over to the Three UK store now and pick up the HTC 10 in a number of deals – check them out here.
UPDATE 07/09/2016 – HTC have posted better results for August 2016 however they are still down overall.