HTC always makes good smartphones, but unfortunately, they don’t sell enough of them to actually make money. The company needs a stellar flagship for 2016, is the HTC 10 it?
Let’s take a look at the key selling points of the HTC 10 - it’s got an all-metal unibody design, a great camera, solid audio playback, and amazing software.
Sounds like HTC could be onto a winner then, right? We’ve spent several weeks with the phone to find out.
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Design which plays with the light
The HTC 10 is probably the second best looking Android phone you can buy (after the Samsung Galaxy S7), it’s properly solid, has attractive chamfered edges which reflect the light and, most importantly, it’s incredibly comfortable to hold.
We had the black version of the phone and think that it’s our favourite colour. It does smudge a bit if you have sweaty hands, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the S7.
The 10 is the chunkiest smartphone of 2016, but the edges are tapered, so it doesn’t feel that bad. It also fits comfortably into your palm thanks to the nicely curved back.
It has a 5.2-inch screen which packs 1440 x 2560 pixels, that means a PPI of 565, which is a lotta’ PPI - only second behind the S7. It’s a great screen as well, using a Super LCD 5 display with packs almost Hollywood levels of colour. It really is a beautiful screen.
Other key measurements are 145.9 x 71.9 x 9 mm, HTC has removed the dual front facing speakers to achieve this more hand-friendly size.
On the rear of the device, you’ll find the camera which doesn’t sit flush with the rear casing, but it’s pleasingly circular and petit.
The front is pretty simple. There’s a front-facing camera, speaker, three touch sensitive buttons (home, multi-tasking, and back) which only light up when the screen is active.
The pill-shaped home button houses a fingerprint sensor which I found really responsive.
The HTC 10 isn’t officially waterproof or dustproof, but the robust casing certainly feels like it can take a few knocks.
It features a USB-C charging port, single speaker on the bottom of the device, and headphone jack at the top - which I like.
Built for responsiveness
The HTC 10 is a 2016 powerhouse, it comes packing Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of Storage.
HTC has also, apparently, delved deep into the backend of Android to make the 10 super responsive. Have they worked their magic here? I’m not really sure. The device is incredibly fast to use, but if it is faster than other flagship smartphones the difference is imperceptible.
Just FYI, if you buy any top end Android smartphone in 2016 you won’t be disappointed with how it performs.
Navigating around the OS is smooth and apps load almost instantly.
That brings us onto the UI. I’ve always been a fan of HTC’s Sense UI, and they’ve really knocked it out of the park with this version.
It’s easily the best version of Android we've ever seen, even better than Nexus phones. It's close to Stock Android in appearance and usability, and only includes the genuinely helpful Sense UI additions (such as an organisable app drawer, hide apps you don’t want etc).
HTC has also removed all the bloatware and duplicate apps, so instead of having two calendars, two galleries, and two music apps, HTC has only included the best (and it’s usually Google’s). The HTC is also better integrated with Google services, so while the camera app is made by HTC, all images open in Google’s Photo app by default and benefit from the automatic backup etc.
There's also a new Freestyle Layout mode, which does away with the app grid on the home screen and replaces app icons and tasks with interactive stickers. It's an interesting concept, but possibly a bit gimmicky, I used it for a day and switched back to the default home screen. But it’s a nice option to have.
HTC has also included Boost+, which makes the smartphone faster, improves battery life by 30-percent, and aids application management.
Speaking of battery life, the 10 includes a 3,000mAh cell, which HTC claims will last around two days, which is very impressive… if it was true. Unfortunately, we never managed to reach the fabled two days, but the HTC 10 did outperform other smartphones we’ve reviewed.
There’s no wireless charging, but the HTC 10 does have Quick Charge 3.0 and also has microSD slot.
Of course, no HTC flagship would be complete without Boomsound, and the HTC 10 is no exception. To make the design sleeker HTC has dropped the front facing speakers and replacing them with a front facing tweeter and rear mounted bass speaker. It sounds okay, but not as impressive as previous HTC phones, which is a shame.
There is also a more powerful high-res audio amp for the headphone jack, which promises double the power and ten times less distortion than a regular headphone amp.
It really does add extra oomph when listening to music, we love it, but wonder how much is done via software… I’m not really an audio expert. But I do love how this handles music playback over headphones.
The HTC 10 also supports 24-bit high-res audio and upscaling. So this could be the ideal smartphone for hi-fi nerds.
Say cheese, great camera, so-so snapper software
The camera is another area where HTC has focused its efforts - being a problem for HTC in the past.
The rear facing camera is 12-Ultrapixels (larger pixels, let in more light, so are better in low light conditions). The camera has OIS and laser autofocus.
The camera has been benchmarked by DxO, who gave it a rating of 88 - that’s joint top (in the smartphone table) with the Samsung Galaxy S7, and we love the camera on that thing.
But that’s where things get interesting. Because DxO rate a sensor and lens in a lab, taking pictures of charts and analysing the results. DxO don’t take it out into a nightclub or sunny park to see how the camera and software perform as a complete package.
The HTC 10’s rear camera is very good, very very good, but it’s not quite up there with the Samsung Galaxy S7. The S7 is telepathic when picture taking, you literally just point and shoot and it captures a great image. With the HTC you have to work a bit harder, sometimes it’ll overexpose the image, and the colours look a tad undersaturated.
It is capable of taking amazing images though, second best smartphone camera out there, and this is clearly a software problem, which HTC could update over time.
There is also an 'UltraSelfie' front facing camera, which takes 5MP images with optical image stabilisation, and the same f/1.8 aperture at the rear facing camera. It’s fine.
The HTC 10 is the most complete package HTC has put out in years. It has a premium all-metal design, top-end specs, a great camera, and the best version of Android we’ve ever seen. If you can’t tell, we’re seriously impressed with it.
We’ve given this 4.5 stars (our site doesn’t currently allow ½ stars, so you’ll just have to imagine it) because it’s almost perfect.
Of course, there are some areas where the HTC 10 could improve. It’s not as slick as the Samsung Galaxy S7, it would be nice to see an IP waterproof rating, the camera isn’t perfect, and it we'd LOVE that two-day battery life.
If you love Android, but don’t love Samsung, the HTC 10 is the smartphone for you.