When I reviewed the HTC 10 a few months back, I was impressed by just how solid of a device it was, and how restrained yet wholly functional its user experience turned out to be. It was a good phone, a great phone even, but I parted ways nonetheless.
Leaving the clear financial irresponsibility of our phone-addicted staff aside, nothing was particularly wrong about the HTC 10 itself, the hardware and software, the body and soul that we personally bought into and consequentially enjoyed. But as we left our units behind, I couldn’t help but notice a parallel trend in the larger Android conversation too: just a couple of months after its release, the HTC 10 had already been eclipsed by prior releases, brand-new devices and the rumor mill of that to come. As the weeks went past, we seemingly forgot about the HTC 10 and only recalled it in internal conversations, often by remembering how good of a device it was right after reading about another desperate promotion or bad HTC headline.
This might not be the case everywhere and within every community (nor group of friends), but it certainly feels truer with the HTC 10 than it does with other current flagships. And it could very well be due to the same factors that led to the HTC’s under-performance in the market as well.
Ironman has seen better days
Marketing has been, of course, a traditionally (and often humorously) weak point for HTC. But with the HTC 10, we saw the company leave the silliness aside and drop the over-reliance on big-name stars like Robert Downey Jr. for what at first seemed like a more-focused approach. Indeed, instead of weird conceptual TV spots about anti-depressants, the company released short and interesting videos teasing the phone’s performance, battery life, and audio – all things we enthusiast deeply care about – through confident sounding ads ending with the promise that “we’d feel it”. When the phone arrived, it oddly lived up to many of these promises, and reviews commended the phone for being extremely solid… but just that. Then, faint radio silence.
During the first half of the year, devices like the S7 Edge and LG G5 were making rounds, boasting with promises of new experiences that arguably made the HTC 10 feel safe, too traditional, and too focused on the essentials. Personally, that’s just what I look for in such phones, and if the LG G5’s performance in the market is anything to go by, the mainstream does too. But the ostentatiousness of H1 2016 likely robbed the HTC 10 of some attention, as critics (and perhaps consumers too) expected devices to do more particularly at the HTC 10’s price range.
That’s a particular Achilles heel of the HTC 10, as while manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Lenovo (Moto) tried hard to justify higher prices through new shiny designs and ideas, the HTC 10 “simply” had a very solid user experience to offer. This comes at a time where devices like the OnePlus 3 prey upon all flagships aiming above the $400 range, and the HTC 10 was more than a couple hundreds above that line.
HTC tried to save itself by doing what it awkwardly does best, offer various lengthy promotions like it did with the Nexus 9 and the infamous HTC M9. But even then, forecasts from TrendForce suggest that the production volume of the HTC 10 will only be around 1 million, and HTC may only build 13 million handhelds this year, 27% less than in 2015. This may be reflected in how difficult it is to find stock for the phone among some carriers like T-Mobile, and ultimately puts a significant cap on the HTC 10’s potential.
The new Nexus phones should succeed with the crowd the HTC 10 had lured
The second half of 2016 looks to bring even more device to take away attention from the HTC 10, with two of the biggest expected releases coming from HTC itself in the form of the Nexus Sailfish and Marlin. These two devices are bound to do well with the enthusiast crowd that the HTC 10 lured but failed to net, and will likely mean a nice resurgence in interest for the company among internet communities. But then we have the Moto Z, the Note 7, the V20 and more devices that are bound to clog our memories and make us less likely to remember the HTC 10 on the spot, unless we happen to use one daily.
The HTC 10 was just an honest-to-god phone, and that in relation its price and radio-silent marketing likely contributed to the widening memory hole. But if there is one phone in HTC’s recent history that I’d like the company to build upon – or make a Nexus out of – it is definitely the HTC 10. It came and went without glory nor fault, we didn’t feel the need to write editorials about a failed concept or gimmick feature, nor about a revolutionary paradigm. And that’s fine, because it was a great Android phone, a good canvas for the user, and a Nexus is just the kind of device I want to carry that premise.
What do you think about the HTC 10? Will its memory stand the test of time?