The HTC 10 is no afterthought: It’s a well-engineered smartphone, with all the specs and capabilities of a true flagship, flavored in a style reminiscent of the brand.
But, it has been a while since I was excited to review an HTC device. This wasn’t a purely subjective feeling. A year ago, HTC launched the One M9, and it was reported to be a decidedly mediocre device across the board; it almost felt like an afterthought.
Now, with the HTC 10, the problem is no longer, “can HTC make a great phone again?”, but “can HTC sell great phones?”. After all, there should be a full comeback this time.
Price as Reviewed: $699 at HTC.com
- 5.2 inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels), 564ppi
- 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core, 64-bit
- 12MP UltraPixel 2 camera with 4K video recording, hi-res audio, 1.55μm pixels, OIS
- 5MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording, 1.32μm pixels, OIS
- 32GB internal storage, expandable via microSD to 2TB (adaptive storage enabled)
- Android 6 with HTC Sense
- 3,000mAh battery and USB-C
- 4GB of RAM
- Dimensions: 145.9 x 71.9 x 3.0 – 9.0 mm, 161g
- Aluminum unibody in dark grey or silver
I lived with the HTC 10 for nearly a week — not a long time, but chalk that up to industry deadlines. So, I made the HTC 10 my daily driver; my “one and only phone” — if only that last part were true.
So, what is it like to live with an HTC 10? It’s neat.
Whether I like it or not, the subjectivity of using the device is a given. But things like reliability, performance and holding a charge for a full day are more, if not strictly, objective. So, what is it like to live with an HTC 10?
Turns out: it’s neat. Notice how I didn’t say great, but also am refraining from calling it shoddy.
Unibody aluminum makes another appearance with HTC, this time with a 45-degree chamfered edge on the back that increases ergonomics and grip — a welcome addition.
The HTC 10 is what everyone wants from a smartphone — all generalizations are dangerous, even this one — but for me it lacks excitement. It’s a top-tier smartphone, and makes great calls through the earpiece (there’s a dedicated amp for the tweeter) but also doubles as a rich speakerphone, since the bottom speaker is a woofer, also with dedicated amp.
A similar story can be applied everywhere else: the HTC 10 has what it needs to be really good. A laser-based autofocus assists in quickly shooting decent photos in brighter light, but with some grain and ISO compensation in low-light situations. Usually there is little overcompensation with renders having accurate detail and color.
Capturing staggeringly saturated or otherwise vibrant shots can be tricky, but the “Pro mode” of the app allows for custom camera control, plus shooting in RAW, so there is some flexibility.
There’s a lot of RAM to keep Android M running smoothly. Whilst using and opening apps, it’s fast as hell, and that’s because it’s powered by Qualcomm’s best processor: the Snapdragon 820. Again, the HTC 10 is well-endowed and executes admirably.
HTC Sense has never been so stripped-down, but also complimentary of the default Android user interface. So, it really shows in terms of speed but also ease-of-use. Still, HTC has thrown its own personal spin on Android, with things like Blinkfeed (a news screen that can be accessed left of the homescreen), HTC Zoe (a video story editor of sorts), or gestures like swiping up on the screen to unlock or double-tapping to wake (both very useful). Want stickers to be free of the grid layout on the homescreen, but linked to any app you want? Sense has that too.
But best of all, none of these software additions intrude too heavily upon using Android, placing widgets, using Google Now, or otherwise setting a new record playing Crossy Road.
On top of that, the battery life is strong, lasting me nearly a “full day of usage” — starting at 6AM and ending at 12AM. If a quick-charge is needed, then a USB-C cable and compatible fast charger (like the one included) takes it to 85% in little less than a half hour.
But it’s not an exciting device to use. Instead, it feels like just that: a device. A piece of technology so well-connected, engineered and capable that it allows you to do everything you wanted (subjective, of course) but there’s no allure. I’m not saying you need to love your phone — although some people do — I’m saying it has to feel like more than just a collection of metal, glass, silicone and maybe some germanium.
The remedy to making a device more exciting when nearly everything about it is good? Marketing that generates consumer interest. Consumer appeal (or at least that’s what it seems) is HTC’s biggest problem.
Consumer appeal is HTC’s biggest problem now.
They’ve been out of the cross hairs of the general public for so long that even with a top-notch offering, it’s going to take more than just the appeasement of diehards, tech reviewers and people who have been waiting for the “perfect HTC phone” — if there is such a group of people — to push sales forward, ultimately saving the brand.
It’s a great phone, HTC — now convince us all why we need the 10.
If HTC can convince the world — even just a few of its major markets — that the HTC 10 is a phone worth having, then they have a shot at being in the picture of a top Android phone manufacturer.
The HTC 10 itself is a great smartphone, and brings good looks, robust specifications, support for modern standards and a battery that you needn’t fret over.
But none of that matters if no one buys into the experience. On the flipside, however, there’s never been a better time to buy an Android phone, since the big three — Samsung, LG and HTC — have offerings with specs so similar that the only real difference are proprietary features and the software design layered on top of Android. Lucky for HTC, the 10 strikes a solid balance between competitiveness and a unique aesthetic.
Great work on the phone, HTC. Now convince us all that we need it.