Readers know I love gadgets and no gadget is more important or personal than a smartphone. Although I have tested several dozen smartphones over the years, an Phone 6s Plus is still my daily driver.
Recently I wanted to revisit the HTC 10 and determine if it is a phone I can recommend.
The first thing you notice when you pickup the HTC 10 is how good HTC is at industrial design. The sand blasted aluminium is soft and grippy in the hand. The phone feels incredibly solid with a beautifully executed chamfered edges.
The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 3 and the "home button" is a matt finger print sensor, that work quickly and reliably every single time.
The buttons are solid (no wobble) and are extremely tactile. Clicking them is very satisfying.
The phone is definitely beautiful and a few people asked me what the device was. People rarely ask about smarpthone models I test ( since most look very similar.)
IP53 water resistance means the phone would likely survive being used in the rain (but don't try to submerge it).
The screen is a beautiful 5.2 inch super LCD 5 (QHD) screen with 565 PPI. Blacks on LCD screens aren't as dark as on AMOLED or SuperAmoLED) screens, but the HTC 10 screen has excellent color reproduction and is visible in all but the brightest sunlight conditions.
The capacitive buttons below the screen mean you are not losing any valuable real estate for virtual buttons. A definite plus.
The phone includes its signature BoomSound tweaks and hardware. The quality built in DAC (Digital Audio Converter) supports 24 bit high resolution (hi res) audio. Older HTC devices had 2 front facing speakers while the HTC 10 has a tweeter on the top and a woofer on the bottom. This is one of the drawbacks of this phone. The older HTC phones were amazing when consuming content or playing games because of the front facing speakers. The HTC 10 is good but not as good as its older siblings. BoomSound support Dolby audio and now works system wide (when using the built in speakers or headphones - not available via bluetooth headphones).
Hardware spec dump:
- Snapdragon 820
- 4GB RAM
- Adreno 530 GPU
- 32 GB if internal storage, expandable
- WIFI 802.11ac
- Bluetooth 4.2
- 3000 mAh battery
Sense is tightly built into their version of android and it is though even finding the version installed.
HTC has tried to fight bloat and has not double installed apps. As an example the default calendar was Google Calendar while the camera app is the HTC one. HTC has tried to choose the best app for each function. Most HTC created apps have adopted Material design which means apps feel unified (between the Google ones and the HTC Ones). This is a very good thing to improve consistency.
My test version came from Bell and had bundled Bell apps that did were not material design and could not be uninstalled.
HTC bundles an app called Boost+ which helps eliminate bloat. Until using the HTC device, I had to install a third party app to perform this clean-up.
The first thing you will notice is how responsive the device is when scrolling a long list of apps (100+ apps on my test device). It's refreshing to see that even with the HTC skin, responsiveness doesn't seem to suffer.
I installed and tested these 5 demanding Android games for testing :
- Modern Combat 5: Blackout
- Asphalt 8: Airborne
- Real Racing 3
- N.O.V.A 3 Freedom Edition
- Dead Trigger 2
All of the above games opened quickly and ran smoothly. After playing these games for 10-15 minutes, the phone becomes warm but nothing too dramatic.
HTC Connect is included again and works relatively well. It allows you to stream on device content to various devices from Chromecast to Miracast and Bluetooth. The most surprising inclusion is the ability to stream to Apple Airplay devices (to AirPlay speakers and AppleTV).
The device supports lock-screen gestures (such as launching the camera from an off screen).
I've been testing the HTC 10 for 2.5 weeks now (while at home and while travelling for business). I loaded our corporate Mobile Device Management framework and used it as my main work smartphone during this time.
Phone calls always sounded great and the phone connected to 2 major Canadian networks reliably. I compared WIFI and LTE performance to my iPhone 6s Plus and surprisingly, the HTC 10 seems to detect, capture and stay connected to wireless networks better than my iPhone.
The 3000 mAH battery (with Android 6) was better than average for Android devices but nothing to write home about. I was able to get 3.5+ hours of screen on time. With heavy corporate use (texting, emailing and reading content), I regularly got between 3.5-4 hours of battery life.
The bundled charger is QC3.0 (but was not included in my test version provided by HTC, so I couldn't test this). Using my own Anker charger with QC3.0, I charged my device from 20% to full in a little over an hour.
The size of the HTC 10 seems to be just right. It is big enough to enjoy videos while small enough to be used one handed.
The HTC 10 Camera
HTC has added Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) to both the front and back cameras. This is an amazing achievement and a model for other companies to follow.
The back camera uses their Ultrapixel sensor with a bright 1.8f lens. The 12 MP Ultrapixel sensor includes 1.55um per UltraPixel. The front camera also has a bright 1.8f lens with screen flash. Its one of the few devices to include OIS for the front camera. The built in (rear camera) takes beautiful 4K video with very good 24-bit Hi-Res audio. I compared the audio to that of my iPhone and found the HTC 10 in-video audio quality better than the iPhone's. The audio quality on the HTC 10 rivaled that of my iPhone with the Shure MV88 attached.
Front camera OIS means this could be used as an excellent Vlog camera.
I tested the video stabilization of the HTC 10 compared to the Samsung S7 Edge (rear) and found it is competitive. stabilization does not rival that of external 3-axis gimble based stabilizers but is very usable.
In my testing, daytime photos are amazing with deep color saturation and fantastic contrast. In many test situations, the HTC 10 produced more pleasing pictures than my iPhone 6s Plus. To be honest, the iPhone is likely to get a better & more usable picture in more situations but the HTC has an honorable mention.
The HTC 10 camera app is super simple for the average user but includes other modes such as hyperlapse, slow motion, selfie photo. selfie video and full manual. I wish HTC had slightly faster focusing (photo and video). This focusing issue is more pronounced at night.
HTC offers it's Uh Oh Protection for the HTC 10. When purchasing an HTC 10 from HTC directly in the US, you can add this free protection which gives you a opne time replacement for a broken screen or water damage for the first year.
Why aren't more people buying it?
Samsung has a huge marketing budget and seems to have pulled the oxygen out for most other Android smartphones. The Samsung S7 offers wireless charging, an amazing display and a better camera. The big killer is price. The Samsung S7 can sometimes be had cheaper (or close to) than the HTC 10 price.
The HTC 10 is a wonderful phone with great specs but priced it as if it were 2014. Price is the main reason most consumers haven't jumped on this phone.
OnePlus, Alcatel, ZTE and Honor have changed the conversation around smartphone pricing. These phones come with fantastic specs but are sub $400. The HTC 10 is definitely a better phone (than those lower cost competitors but not enough to justify the substantially higher price.)
This bracketing by Samsung offering higher end specs at the same price (as the HTC 10) and the lower end competitors offering amazing specs at $100-250 less, have meant most consumers have shied away from what is otherwise a great device.
The HTC 10 is the best HTC phone I have ever used. It is also one of the best Android phones I have ever tested. During my ~3 week of testing, I never had to force reset the device (unlike most Android devices I test).
- The microSD slot for the space consuming 4K Video is a wonderful touch.
- QuickCharge 3.0 which allows you to top up the battery as quick as technical possible.
- Excellent audio quality for calls with very few dropped calls.
- Excellent ability to find and hold onto mobile data (Wifi and LTE).
- Built in discreet DAC (with a headphone jack) for amazing audio quality during playback.
- Good pace of Android security updates (not perfect but decent).
The Achilles heel is the price. If this phone was priced at $399, this would probably be the smash hit of the year. The HTC 10 is easy to recommend in isolation but harder to recommend when you consider its lower cost Asian competitors.