HTC used to be one of Android’s brightest stars. Back in the day the company could do no wrong. Hell, it even made the first ever Nexus phone. My first Android phone was a HTC phone as well — the HTC Hero, if you’re wondering. But those heady days are now well behind the company and the immediate future does not look good.
HTC’s financials are, well, terrible. The company’s revenues during Q1 2016 plummeted 64% year on year which is obviously very bad for business, investor relations and the overall viability of the business going forwards. Questions will be asked. Questions like: is it worth it anymore? Can HTC compete in this space? Why are repo men knocking at the doors of our building?
Viewed in this context, the HTC 10 could well be the last handset the struggling Taiwanese company makes. I know, I know — that sounds a bit drastic. But so too is a 64% drop in revenues year on year. Financially speaking, HTC is on the cusp of oblivion. But it is still limping on and the HTC 10, alongside the HTC VIVE, are the two products the company hopes will engender some positive change in its financial outlook for 2016.
But will they — recovering from a 78% dip in profitability is a tall order? Plus, HTC could not have picked a worse year to begin imploding. After a super dull 2015, LG, Samsung and Huawei have all come to the table with excellent, well-marketed Android flagships and the competition is just going to get fiercer and fiercer from here on out with the arrival of the Galaxy Note 6, OnePlus 3 and iPhone 7.
Right. Now all that doom and gloom is out the way, let’s crack on with this review and find out whether or not the HTC 10 has the chops to compete for the top spot in 2016’s ultra-competitive Android space.
As per my LG G5 review, we’re serialising the publication of this review. Today we’ll be looking at design and display performance. Stay tuned for daily updates before a final verdict at the end of the week.
HTC 10 Review: Design
HTC has a decent reputation when it comes to industrial design. At least it used to, anyway. Remember the original HTC One? That handset launched in 2013, back when HTC was a force to be reckoned with, and it took the Android space by storm. No one else at the time made handsets quite as good looking. And throughout the year the HTC One racked up awards and glowing reviews across the board.
But that was three years ago and since then HTC hasn’t really done anything noteworthy in the design department. But I don’t think this is entirely HTC’s fault. Not really, anyway. Put curtly, I don’t think HTC has the financial freedom it once had and this has directly impacted the development and overall quality of its flagship phones. Just look at the HTC One M8 and HTC One M9 — basically the same thing — and then look at HTC’s financial reporting for the past 24 months. You’ll see what I’m getting at.
If you were hoping things with the HTC 10 would be different, well, you’re in for some bad news. The HTC 10 is very similar to what came before. The are differences — the most obvious being the large chamfered edging that runs around the sides of the phone’s aluminium chassis — but mostly it looks and feels very much like the HTC One M9, which, looked and felt very much like the HTC One M8.
What you’re looking at here is the front from the HTC One A9 and a slightly reworked back panel from the HTC One M9. The HTC 10 is still premium and it is still made from excellent build materials, but so too is everything else these days. Everybody’s caught up in this regard — even LG — and in an the increasingly competitive Android space of 2016 it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see where HTC fits in. Even more so when you factor the rise of brands like Huawei and OnePlus in the UK and elsewhere.
The HTC 10 features a Samsung-like physical home button which doubles as a fingerprint scanner. HTC claims this scanner is the world’s fastest; that it can read and respond with 0.2 seconds. And it is rather speedy in every day operation. I just kind of wish it was on the back, which is now definitely my preference thanks to prolonged used of the Nexus 6P and LG G5.
Despite its familiarity, the HTC 10 does look very sharp. I got a lot of comments from friends when testing it; they loved the size and proportions of the display. And after a couple of weeks with the phone, I happen to agree. The HTC 10 is a wonderful size for a phone; the 5.2in panel is definitely the new goldilocks standard for me.
The HTC 10 is available in three colour schemes: Silver, Gold and Carbon Grey. The latter of which is my favourite. Obviously, this is subjective but I would 100% recommend seeing all three models in the flesh before pulling the trigger on any purchase just to be sure.
Whatever colour you go for, though, a case is definitely required. As is ALWAYS the case with HTC handsets, the aluminium chassis, while stunning to behold, is a magnet for scratches. This is just a reality with aluminium phones; if you want to one day sell them, or, just want to keep it looking good, you will need to invest in a decent case. Keys, coins, lighters and the occasional drop will, over time, ruin the flawless finish of the handset. DO NOT wait until you have a scratch across the back to find out — buy a case with the phone and put it on right away.
The power/unlock key and volume controls are located on the right hand side of the HTC 10. Both are very clicky and easy to locate without looking. On the bottom you'll find a speaker and a USB Type-C port. On the very top of the handset sits the headphone jack, dead centre. HTC has ditched BoomSound on the HTC 10, so if that was your thing, well, prepare to be unimpressed. The speakers are OK, just don’t go expecting the same level of power or clarity you got with the M7, M8 and M9.
Why HTC did this, I have no idea. The dual-speaker setup was one of the company’s last remaining USPs in the mobile space and like a lot of things in HTC’s current history it has now been relegated to the annals of history alongside steady growth, decent market share and innovative design work that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with build materials and phone technology.
HTC 10 Review: Display Technology & Performance
HTC has finally made the switch from 1080p to QHD panels, joining the likes of LG, Samsung and Google. What you’re looking at here is a Quad HD 2560 x 1440 resolution Super LCD 5 panel with a protective layer of Gorilla Glass 4 and a pixel density of 564. This is a very impressive panel, pretty much across the board, as the numbers suggest.
It reached a maximum brightness of 449cd/m2 in our tests and managed to cover 99.8% of the sRGB gamut. This places the HTC 10’s display right up there with the best of them in 2016. It is brighter than what you get on the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 but under closer scrutiny it does lack some of the detail present in the latter, which manages to cover 100% of the sRGB gamut. Personally, I do tend to prefer the look and feel of AMOLED panels as well. And the one Samsung has inside its Galaxy S7 is simply sensational.
The display inside the HTC 10, as mentioned earlier, is perfectly sized as well at 5.2 inches. This makes the phone ideal for media viewing and web browsing, but not impossible to operate one-handed unlike the slightly larger 5.5in handsets on market. I’ve been using 5.5in handsets for a long time now, but found the switch to the HTC 10 like a breath of fresh air; it’s not a massive difference but it is one that brings with it a lot of utility, so hat’s off to HTC for finding the sweet spot here and proving you don’t have to go big just because everybody else is.
TUNE IN TOMORROW FOR: Hardware & Specs Performance