HTC 10 hands-on review: More so than perhaps any previous flagship since HTC’s peak in 2011, the 10 will have a defining influence over the company’s future in the consumer mobile space.
Meeting the HTC 10 for the first time, the most apparent thing is that the company has opted for simplicity – looking to the likes of the One (M7) and the Nexus line to see what makes a great smartphone.
On the hardware side, you’re presented with the company’s signature all-metal build, this time accented by a deep chamfer and a two-tone finish along the back face. The chamfered edge improves handheld grip, whilst the curved back sits nicely in the palm. It looks like a fairly chunky flagship as a result, which not everyone will appreciate, but it feels fantastic to hold.
The heavily textured power key that we first met with the One A9 makes an appearance on the 10 too, allowing for easy control using feel alone. With the 10, HTC has also shifted away from on-screen navigation keys and instead positioned backlit back and app switching capacitive keys either side of a fingerprint sensor-laden pill-shaped home button (said to respond to a fingerprint in just 0.2 seconds), all below the display. It’s a design trait we’ve seen in a lot of phones of late, most obviously with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy line, but also handsets such as the OnePlus 2.
The front-facing speakers of the One M9 have been replaced by the 10’s new BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition layout, which features a forward-facing tweeter, hidden behind the earpiece and a downward-facing woofer, each of which relies on its own dedicated amplifier. From the BoomSound speakers to the centrally positioned audio jack on top and even when recording audio with video, the HTC 10 is also laden with Hi-Res audio support, which bodes well considering the company’s previous flagships offering respectable audio chops to begin with.
Next to the speaker on the phone’s underside, you’ll also find a reversible Type-C USB connection, which as well as bringing the 10 in line with the increasing number of rival smartphones that pack the connection, enable fast charging of the capacious 3000mAh battery, using Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 standard. HTC claims that just 30 minutes at the wall plug will provide up to a full day’s worth of longevity.
Easily the most contentious aspect of the One M9’s hardware was its camera arrangement. The front-facing 4-UltraPixel camera has been upgraded to a 5-megapixel UltraSelfie camera, with enlarged pixels, an f/1.8 aperture, an 86 degree wide-angle lens and for the first time for any handset (at least in the UK market) optical image stabilisation (OIS).
The rear camera meanwhile sports a 12-megapixel UltraPixel 2 sensor, an f/1.8 aperture, OIS, a dual tone LED flash and a laser autofocus system. Initial impressions suggest that it’s an unquestionable improvement over the M9’s snapper, it feels extremely fast to capture and it scored a DxOMark score of 88, the same as was achieved by Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
The last piece of the puzzle and one that highlights the stripped down experience of the 10 is its new software. Running a reworked version of HTC’s Sense interface (no number this time) atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the company claims to have worked closely with Google to avoid duplicate apps (with the intentional exception of Mail and Gmail) and bloatware.
You’ll still find a vertically scrolling apps drawer, BlinkFeed (HTC’s news aggregator) and features like HTC Connect (which now supports Apple’s AirPlay audio standard), but you also have the option to utilise Freestyle Themes, which do away with Android’s standard grid icon layout and let you lay ‘stickers’ anywhere on your home screens with the ability to hide or show labels and assign any app or function to an object when tapped.
The HTC 10 will launch in May and will be available in Carbon Grey (as pictured in this feature), Glacier Silver, Topaz Gold or Camellia Red (depending on market and retailer).