HTC’s newest flagship smartphone, the HTC 10, is finally here — and it’s a bit of a departure from last year’s M9.
With top of the line hardware and a scaled back user interface, HTC is (still) trying to position itself as the premium Android manufacturer. The HTC 10 gets a lot of things right, but it’s also just very ordinary in a crowded marketplace of flagship devices.
Don’t take our word for it though: we’ve got an HTC 10 to give away to one lucky reader!
Cameras: 12MP f/1.8 rear-facing camera and 5MP f/1.8 front-facing camera
Speakers: Dual BoomSound speakers
Battery: 3,000mAh non-removable
Operating System: HTC Sense, a skinned version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Extras: LED notification light, fingerprint scanner, microSD card slot, USB Type-C
The HTC 10, like its predecessor, the HTC M9 (our review), is undoubtedly a premium device — but it has taken a decidedly different approach than the M9 or M8 before it. The backside now has less of a gentle curve and more of a chamfered look. The iconic dual front-facing BoomSound speakers have been relocated, taking away one of the best features of HTC’s flagship line. And capacitive keys have been added, doing away with the old software keys.
At its thickest, it’s 9mm, making it significantly thicker than its closest rivals, the LG G5 at 7.7mm (our review), the Galaxy S7 at 7.6mm (our review), and the iPhone 6S at 7.1mm (our review). It’s also slightly heavier than those phones, but the difference is hardly noticeable. In the hand, it still feels like a typical smartphone — though the unibody metal design does give it a very iPhone-like feel.
The screen is gorgeous and very high resolution at 2560 x 1440 pixels, but it’s definitely not the brightest screen out there. At 5.2″ diagonally, it’s also one of the smallest screens on a flagship smartphone of this size (the G5 is 5.3″ and the S7 is 5.5″).
Up top is the lone headphone jack, accompanied by a plastic panel to allow the radio waves to escape that are blocked by the aluminum body. The right side has a highly textured power button just below the volume rocker, along with the nanoSIM card slot. The bottom has one of the speakers (the other is built into the earpiece), and the left side has the microSD card slot.
Overall, it has a very sturdy and solid feel to it, but it’s also pretty generic now. Nice design with a bottom-facing speaker and a physical home button is pretty standard by now, and it feels like HTC has fallen more into line with everyone else with the 10, rather than creating a phone that stands out.
Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that it is well built. This is nothing like the cheap plastic Androids of yesteryear.
Speakers & Audio
While it would seem that HTC has ditched their dual BoomSound speakers for a solo speaker on the bottom of the device, that’s only partially true. There is a second speaker built into the earpiece, and these are still BoomSound speakers, but they’re different than the old front-facing ones.
The bottom speaker acts more as a subwoofer and handles more of the bass, while the earpiece speakers does more of the higher frequencies. This strange method means that you’re not getting twice the audio, you’re just getting the regular audio split in half and moved to separate speakers.
One thing remains consistent, though: These speakers have high quality but rather quiet audio. They’re noticeably quieter than the G5’s lone speaker, though perhaps a little less tinny. Is that worth it? I guess it depends on what you like, but the 10’s speakers are much quieter than I’d prefer.
However, the HTC 10 does come with high quality Hi-Res headphones that will knock the socks off any cheap pair of other smartphone headphones you have lying around. For the amateur audiophile, this is a really nice treat that adds a good amount of value.
Don’t act surprised: you knew HTC was going to have a fingerprint scanner on their flagship just like everyone else. The surprising thing is, they invented an entirely new home button for it, ditching the software home button that they’d been using for years.
While this home button looks deceitfully like the one on the Galaxy S7, it’s not. It doesn’t click. It lies flush against the device and isn’t able to be pressed in. This is a little unsatisfying, since it looks so invitingly clickable. Instead, it’s just a fancy design for a capacitive key, one that works with a light touch of your finger. You can wake the phone up this way (or turn that off), hold it for Google Now on Tap, and the fingerprint scanner is built into it for quick unlocking.
Of course, the fingerprint scanner is quick. Just lightly press your finger against the home button and your phone is unlocked and ready to go. There are also capacitive keys on either side of the home key for Back and Recents.
One small annoyance I ran into was that I would sometimes just rest my finger on the home button with the intention of pressing it soon but not yet (as I often did on the Galaxy S7), and I would unintentionally go Home or activate Google Now on Tap. The dissonance between seeing a clickable button and pressing a capacitive one takes some getting used to.
The camera’s performance probably says a lot about this device: It’s good, but unremarkable.
The rear-facing 12MP camera has laser autofocus, Optical Image Stabilization, a low f/1.8 aperture, and a dual tone LED flash. The shutter reacts quickly as you snap photos, and the interface is clean and easy to use. It’s just that after toying around with the wide-angle camera on the LG G5, the HTC 10 just seems so… average. The camera is good, yes, but it doesn’t take the best pictures you’ll ever see in your life.
This photo was taken as the sun was setting with a very bright background and very dark foreground. Other cameras had trouble capturing it at all without completely blowing out the trees, but the HTC 10 handled it fairly well.
The front-facing camera is 5MP but also has that solid f/1.8 aperture for low light photos, and it has a built-in beauty mode as most do nowadays.
HTC is back with their HTC Sense interface, this time layered over Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s pretty basic and quite similar to stock Android in the notification bar and Settings menu, but the home screen still has Blinkfeed and a vertically-scrolling app drawer.
The Quick Settings have been adjusted a little bit, giving you access to the calculator app. HTC has pre-loaded a few apps that some might consider bloatware, including Dr.eye Cloud, HTC VIP, KKBOX, and News Republic.
There’s also a theme engine built in for changing the wallpaper, stock apps, and icons. Scrolling to the far left of the homescrceen will bring you to Blinkfeed, HTC’s curated news and social app. You also get a built in cleaner called Boost+ for checking on your storage and memory.
Performance is great, as you would expect from any phone with a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM. Animations are smooth, scrolling is quick, everything just works.
Double-tap-to-wake functionality is present, but double-tap-to-sleep only works on the lockscreen (not on the status bar like on the LG G5). These are part of the Motion Launch features that also include swiping on the screen to wake it up or go directly to the homescreen or Blinkfeed.
Battery life was the most disappointing part of this phone for me. With a 3,000mAh battery, I expected to be running for days with this phone, but sadly, that wasn’t the case. Battery life was average. At the most, I got 3 hours of screen on time in a day, but more often than not I was getting 2 hours (maybe we can blame Pokemon Go for that). But seriously, even when not in use it seemed to drain quicker than other phones.
Thankfully, the USB Type-C port does support quick charging, taking it from dead to 100% in about an hour and twenty minutes. Not quite as fast the LG G5, but still pretty fast. Not sure if there’s something in the software that causes this phone to use more battery, but it’s probably not your best bet if you want a phone that can go multiple days without a charge.
Should You Buy It?
There’s little to complain about with the HTC 10, aside from the mediocre battery life and quiet speakers. The camera is good, the build quality is amazing, the software is speedy and minimal.
But there’s nothing about it to get excited about, either. There’s just nothing that will blow you away. If you just want an all-around decent smartphone, this might be the one, but if you want something more unique, look towards the LG G5 or Samsung Galaxy S7.
Get this phone if you’re an audiophile who wants a well-built phone and likes HTC’s software. But if you want something with a little more pizzazz, keep looking. Our verdict of the HTC 10:8/10