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My love for Android flagships started with the HTC Desire in 2010.
And this love only increased with the M7, M8 and M9 devices – over the past few years.
I believe that HTC smartphones strive for premium Android experience. For me, they have been excellent in producing great quality mobile phones for Android lovers – especially for those who have a keen eye for design and build quality of the flagships.
In 2016, I had a chance to use their latest HTC 10 device for nearly two months as a daily driver. As I am ready to say it a good bye now, it is the time to share my opinion and feedback with you about the HTC 10.
I am going to highlight in this article the key strengths, weaknesses and passes (average-performers) of the HTC 10 smartphone. This will give you a flavour of the device and its highs and lows.
If you are in the middle of researching for the HTC 10 or you just want to know more about this phone, stay with me for the rest of this article. At the end, I am sure you will be more informed and in a better position to make a decision.
Remember I am not going to dig deep into specifications (check them on GSMArena if you like). My aim is to give you a real-life, common-user feedback based on personal experience.
Let’s start with the HTC 10 strengths first.
Table of Contents for Quick Navigation
- Strength 1 – HTC 10 Delivers on Design and Build Quality
- Strength 2 – HTC 10 Sounds Impressive
- Weakness 1 – HTC 10 is on the Expensive Side of the Competition
- HTC 10 Has a Lots of Average Performers (Passes)
- HTC 10 – The Final Verdict
Strength 1 – HTC 10 Delivers on Design and Build Quality
If you are a design aficionado, you will be pleased to know that HTC 10 looks and feels beautiful in hand.
I myself am a design-lover and one of the reasons I like HTC is their unibody and metal construction designs in the past.
This time, although I have a little gripe about the HTC taking a more mainstream approach (and looking like iPhone), I still feel that it is an elegant, practical and attractive design for a 2016 flagship Android.
I have written in detail about its design recently. Head over to this article if you want to know the details of why I have given it an 8 out of 10 on design and build-quality.
I wish, I had given it a 9 or so but unfortunately, I couldn’t.
The size and ergonomics feel excellent. The weight is just a touch on the heavier side (161g) but nothing too worrying. The back is crafted from a solid piece of metal and hence feels heavier as compared to plastic and glass designs.
The metal body (anodised Aluminium) feels premium and the texture is great to touch, hold and use. It just feels comfortable.
The deeper chamfer with slightly satin colour shade is something new from the HTC. For many it is a welcome style but for me, I prefer the old(ish) full curve back without any lines.
“All in all, a well engineered flagship device with an attention to detail and finesse – well done HTC.”
If you like premium looking Android smartphones with metal effect, HTC 10 is definitely one of the top options in 2016 to look for (OnePlus 3 is another excellent metal design in 2016 to give the HTC 10 a run for its money).
I will easily call the design and construction quality as a main strength of the HTC 10. It has always been the HTC’s strong point and it still is.
I am not alone in saying that, look who did Google ask to build their latest Pixel series smartphones?
Strength 2 – HTC 10 Sounds Impressive
Let us talk about the external speakers first.
HTC’s BoomSound-labelled front-facing stereo speakers have been one of the strongest points of their flagships in the past. The whole sound experience was at a different level to the rest of the competition.
This time, the top speaker is front facing and produces high-frequency audio – acts like a tweeter. The bottom speaker is downward facing and produces low-frequency sounds – acts more like a sub-woofer. HTC has renamed it to Boomsound Hi-Fi Edition.
By slightly changing the logic and having one speaker in the front and one at the bottom, I believe that HTC has stepped back from its own standards in this instance.
To my naked ears, the sound is still very good but not as good as the HTC One M8 and M9 from previous years.
Having said that though, I still believe that it is on top of the pack for “smartphone audio” from external speakers at the time of writing this review.
Let’s talk about the internal audio chip and the sound quality through earphones/headphones.
HTC has introduced their own DAC chip (hardware which converts digital signals to analog) in the 10 and has not relied on the Qualcomm’s (processor) own converter (DAC). This has resulted in a better sound quality and more refined and crisp audio through the audio jack.
Get yourself a decent pair of earphones or headphones and you are going to like the HTC 10’s sound quality. There are plenty of options within the software to complement these specifications. With a little bit of playing around, you can customise the HTC 10 audio to your taste and liking. Don’t forget to get a decent music app too (such as PowerAmp etc.), if you really want to enjoy the quality audio.
It is clear that HTC has targeted a specific group of its users here – the audiophiles.
And it has done it well.
Chris Hall for Pocket Lint has explained in detail about the HTC 10 Boomsound Hi-Fi Edition in this article here if you want further in-depth insight.
Weakness 1 – HTC 10 is on the Expensive Side of the Competition
In October 2016, when I am writing this article, it has been six months since the HTC 10 has been released in the UK market.
You can get it for £485 from HTC UK direct or via Amazon for anywhere between £480 to £510.
While this price is close to its rival Samsung Galaxy S7, it is significantly higher than the likes of other competitors such as LG G5 (£399) and OnePlus 3 (£329) etc.
HTC 10 is on the high end of the competition and its price reflects this fact.
While many will not have a problem paying for this premium flagship phone, for those who are budget-conscious will not be overly comfortable in spending this much money for the HTC 10.
I myself felt a touch-uncomfortable when I bought mine.
I see this as a weakness of the HTC 10 and it will have a negative impact on the brand’s relationship with its user base. We don’t want HTC smartphones to be labelled as “pricey” and “out of reach” for the common buyer. Yes, I agree that “you get what you pay for” but with cut throat competition in this market, can HTC do anything to keep their price tag competitive?
We will wait and see next year.
HTC 10 Has a Lots of Average Performers (Passes)
For a flagship and premium smartphone, I don’t want many average-performers. It has to excel in every department and only then a flagship is truly a remarkable device.
Unfortunately, HTC 10 has many of the “OK” ticks. I call them the “passes”.
Lots of key elements are mediocre and satisfactory in a day to day scenario. Let us have a look at the few of them.
Camera is Good But Not Great
Camera is the first one to mention.
Many of us have the camera as a primary reason to choose a smartphone.
HTC 10 comes with a 12 MP Ultrapixel camera with an F1.8 aperture. It is supported with the phase detection focus and optical image stabilisation features (OIS). The app and picture-taking is easy and smooth and to help with the storage, HTC 10 comes with an expandable microSD card slot as well.
All good so far.
But what about the picture quality with the main camera?
I have written a detailed review of the main camera with 30 sample shots taken and analysed in different lighting conditions. The results were well-acceptable and generally the pictures came out to be good.
The low light performance was not as good as expected. The use of optical image stabilisation (OIS) was not at its best and many pictures suffered soft focus, image blur and lack of depth issues.
I gave it an overall 7 out of 10 for its camera performance.
If you are a casual shooter, HTC 10 will suffice for your requirements easily. However, if camera is one of the most important reasons for you to use your smartphone, there are better options available in the market.
While HTC has definitely improved their game in the “camera experience” sector, there is more room to improve in their future flagships devices.
Battery Life is Just Normal
Battery life is a difficult topic to cover.
Depending on which apps you use and how you use them, your battery performance can be different to mine.
However, having used the various flagships for my reviews, I have a general feel and experience of the battery life these smartphones offer. You can call it a non-technical gauge.
HTC 10 comes with a 3000mAh Li-Ion battery. This is on par with most of the competition such as S7 (3000mAh), G5 (2800mAh) and OnePlus 3 (3000mAh).
In day to day use, I found it to be surviving a full day easily with a need to top up overnight.
Yes, with a minimal/light use and by applying energy saving modes you can stretch yourself well into the second day but I personally find it to be negatively impacting my user experience.
So I am used to charging my mobile every day for a full charge. HTC 10 is no different.
I liked the ability to quick-charge the device with the help of the standard charger that comes in the box. It took about an hour to achieve approximately 90% charge which I found to be quite useful and pleasing.
Remember, HTC 10 has a built-in battery which is not replaceable by a common user on a normal day. I personally do not have any issue with this approach.
Nirave Gondhia for Android Authority has carried out a further detailed battery test for this phone and explained his results and feedback in this article. Have a look if battery life is super-critical for you.
Screen Quality is Good But Not in Outdoors
HTC 10 comes with a 2K quad-HD LCD display with an impressive resolution of ~565 pixels per inch (ppi).
The colours look natural and the LCD 5 display produces sharp and immersive screen experience. The 5.2 inch screen is slightly bigger than the previous 5” screen in the HTC One M9 and is clad with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
While OLED screens are all bright and vivid, a good quality LCD still wins for me purely because it produces more natural and deep colours for a common user like me.
While this is all good, I have another problem which mildly-ruins the whole display experience.
HTC 10 screen feels to be a bit dim and low on brightness from time to time and especially in outdoor conditions. Even with the screen brightness turned up to full, you still feel that you could do with some more brightness. It was difficult to enjoy the screen in bright outdoors.
Perhaps this is where OLEDs are missed for their extra brightness.
Sense UI is Slick But Not Fully Lag-Free
Sense UI (user interface) is perhaps the best Android UI that I really enjoy using on a day to day basis.
M8 and M9 from previous years gave us the Sense 6 and Sense 7 which I loved and enjoyed thoroughly.
In HTC 10, you will feel that the “actual Sense” part is toned down and more “stock” feel is adopted and implemented. I know that you may disagree with me but for me personally, this is a step down. HTC has again shifted from their own style to a bit more mainstream and common approach.
Cut the bloat down and be as close as possible to the stock.
Well, what if the HTC fans really liked the “Sense” feel and want to see more of it?
Having said all of that, I still believe that the Sense 8.0 in HTC 10 is intuitive, fast and practical. It is generally very responsive but I felt a hint of lag and stutter occasionally. Nothing that made me worried or annoyed but it is worth including here for completeness.
Overall, it is another tick in the box for me.
Sense UI in the past has been the major strength of the HTC flagships but this time, I don’t necessarily feel that way. It just does not stand out.
HTC 10 – The Final Verdict
For many, HTC 10 ticks a lots of boxes and is a great attempt by the company to rise again from the disappointing performance in 2015. It is a well-engineered and well-designed smartphone which is difficult to find a fault in.
While I agree that it is a very good smartphone in 2016, I feel that the HTC has failed to impress a die-hard fan here who has previously grown up with the HTC-style and traditions.
Everything feels like a mild-compromise to enter and impress the mainstream.
But that is me. I couldn’t hide my feelings from you.
It is still a great phone, excellent design and a solid machine which will not disappoint you with its performance on a daily basis.
“I will give it an 8 out of 10 for the overall user experience in a day to day scenario – feels extremely good.”
If design and build-quality are critical for you, HTC 10 should be on your list of options right away. If there are other features you are more interested in such as camera quality and battery life etc. you will need to adjust your expectations accordingly. Or perhaps look elsewhere.
I want to know what do you think about the HTC 10 smartphone as a total package?
Do you see the HTC bouncing back this year after last year’s mediocre performance and ready to give us their next beauty in 2017?