It’s time for HTC to take the wraps off their latest smartphone, and they’re doing so in style this evening with their launch of the HTC 10. We attended a briefing in Sydney earlier today and got the lowdown from the Australian HTC team, and it’s evident that there’s been a lot of introspection and customer feedback in equal amounts, which have come together to make a much better phone than we saw last year. HTC have used the word ‘obsession’ a lot when talking about the development process for the HTC 10, and it shows.
HTC has acknowledged that 2015 was a challenging year. Financial results weren’t great, the HTC One M9 wasn’t the phone it could (or should) have been, but there’s a resurgence. HTC have invested a lot of energy in developing super-mid range phones, with extraordinary value for customers, great specifications at a great price. However, they’ve not forgotten the flagship, and that’s where the HTC 10 fits in.
HTC clearly believe the HTC 10 is the best phone they’ve ever made, and they’ve made a number of claims about being the world’s best in a number of key areas. Let’s take a look at what makes the HTC 10 an interesting proposition.
Design and Display
Firstly, when it comes to design, the HTC 10 is said to be sculpted by light. With its full metal body, and refreshed design, chamfered edges and contrast between matte and polished surfaces, the HTC 10 actually looks great — it’s the spiritual successor to the One M7 and One M8 that the One M9 never really was. It’s both comfortable in the hand and grippy too, without looking over-engineered.
The HTC 10 will come in a number of colours, three to be precise: Carbon Gray with black face panels, Glacial Silver with white panels, and a Topaz Gold, which won’t be coming to Australia (at least, not initially).
On the front, the 10 features a 5.2″ Quad HD display, with 2.5D glass and Super LCD 5 technology. This puts out 2K resolution offering 564ppi, and believe me, it looks amazing. HTC have also moved their on-screen buttons to capacitive buttons, but unlike Samsung, I’d say they’ve got them right. HTC’s back button is on the left, a Home / Fingerprint sensor is in the middle, and a multitasking key is on the right. They’re a joy to use.
Software and Performance
There’s no argument that Android can be a bit of a fragmented, disjointed experience, especially between different vendors. HTC used to create Sense with the idea in mind that Android was good, but not great, and HTC had to do a lot of work to make it good enough for the user. With Marshmallow, HTC is of the view that Google has got it mostly right, and so while there is still Sense of a sort on the HTC 10, it’s very, very minimal. In fact, many of HTC’s apps have gone, because Google’s are better. Of course, HTC’s apps are available if you want them, but in many instances, it looks like HTC has got the balance right.
A great example of this is with the photography, which we’ll talk about more in a moment. While HTC believes its camera works better than Google’s default camera (and my impression would be yes, yes it does), its Gallery app isn’t quite so good, and so HTC’s Camera is fully integrated with Google Photos as the on-camera gallery app. The integration is just perfect.
Performance was a key focus area for HTC; they want a phone that lives up to expectations rather than redefining them down. Touch response is lightning fast — just 120ms compared to 160ms and higher on rival devices. Launch / switch speed is improved too, with HTC’s internal testing showing the HTC 10 is 5 to 10% faster than competing devices.
A new feature (known by different names from different OEMs) is HTC Boost+, which monitors the phone in the background intelligently managing apps and shelving those that don’t need to be running. Many OEMs are doing this, and it does make a measurable change to performance and battery life, despite the improvements we’re seeing in Android’s core.
On that topic — battery life — HTC claim to have 2 days of battery life, and unlike some others who’ve made similar claims in recent times, I think HTC might actually be able to deliver it, or get nice and close. With a confirmed 3,000 mAh battery, the HTC 10 is capable of up to 19 days on 3G/4G standby, 27 hours talk time, 13 hours web surfing, or 73 hours of audio playback. Travelling overseas? You can watch 13 hours of video on the 10 before it goes flat.
We’ll be testing those claims, because battery life is often overstated.
HTC have made a lot of noise about their cameras in the past, and while they’ve been good, they’ve been a bit of hard sell. The HTC One M9 gave us high hopes, but it didn’t quite deliver. HTC have admitted as much, and said that with the HTC 10, it’ll be a different story altogether.
The raw facts are here for all to see. The main camera has been improved with a bigger aperture (f/1.8 from f/2.0), bigger pixels (1.55um from 1.12um) and 12 megapixels instead of a much lower number in years past. This should result in more light, less blur, and better photos, especially with the inclusion of optical image stabilisation (OIS).
Probably the best thing is the quality of the camera, but don’t take it from HTC. DXOMark have taken a look at HTC’s 10 camera, and they’ve given it the highest rating for a smartphone so far; 88 out of 100. This compares quite favourably to the 68 or so that the HTC One M9 got, and puts it on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 range (which has a fantastic camera).
With HTC’s Zoe, the features we know and love from modern smartphone cameras are present, including slow-mo videos, hyperlapse, panoramas, special selfie modes and more.
The front camera hasn’t been forgotten. Dubbed the UltraSelfie (shudder), it features OIS as well, with a 5MP 1.34um sensor, 86º wide angle view, and the same f/1.8 aperture as the main camera. This is going to take some great front-facing photos as well.
Sound and More
While the rumours didn’t talk about BoomSound much, and the leaked images definitely didn’t show off the front-facing grills we’ve come to expect, BoomSound is definitely still a thing with the HTC 10. Dubbed BoomSound HiFi Edition this time around, there are indeed two speakers; one near the earpiece and one in the base of the phone, operating as a tweeter and woofer respectively. By separating out the audio components, HTC claims that the 10 will feature the best sound on a smartphone. Powered by a 24bit DSP and DAC, and a best-in-class headphone amplifier, we have big expectations.
On that note, HTC are including a pair of high-resolution capable headphones in the box, which feature massive drivers (70% larger than competitors), greater sound response and stylish looks. They’re a set of included headphones you might actually like to use.
Other laundry list specifications include MicroSD support (up to a theoretical 2TB limit), 32GB on board storage with adoptable storage from Marshmallow, 4GB of RAM, USB Type C with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU pulling it all together.
Sadly, the HTC 10 won’t be waterproof as such, but it is rated to IP53 so it will resist the water incidents that might occur from use in the rain or splatter from a drink, for example. It won’t be going for a swim, though.
The HTC 10 feels amazing in the hands. I didn’t like the HTC One M9 very much, but the 10 fixes all of that. The curves are right, the over-the-top jewellery-inspired design is gone, and we’re left with a phone that just looks and feels the part.
The specifications are strong. HTC claim to have coupled Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 with powerful optimisation and efficiency to deliver a phone that won’t run hot, and in quick play with the device, it didn’t warm up appreciably.
The camera (in limited testing) certainly seems pretty capable, but we had limited opportunity to really put it through its paces. The overall experience, noting the limited time we’ve had with the phone, is positive, and the transitions between screens, apps and more feel way faster than current flagships on the market.
HTC have clearly done their homework this time around, and delaying the launch to get it right really seems to have paid off. Of course, we’ll have a full review in time, but for now, the first impressions are very, very good.
If this has you as interested as I was, this is the part you’ll care about. HTC have confirmed that the HTC 10 will be available from all major carriers soon, including Virgin Mobile, and probably from some major retailers as well. Pricing for Australia has yet to be confirmed, but as soon as we know more, we’ll let you know. Give it a couple of weeks and we’ll have some concrete pricing and launch dates on hand.
In the meantime, you can take a look on HTC’s website for the HTC 10, and whet your appetite.