This is HTC’s flagship for 2016, and don’t let the name fool you: the HTC 10 is absolutely an Android device. A 5.2-inch, 2K Marshmallow smartphone with a full-metal unibody, the HTC 10 packages Snapdragon 820, 4GB of memory, and USB-C in a slick, premium chassis.
The display has a 564ppi pixel density, and covers 92-percent of the NTSC color gamut. It’s also speedy, HTC claims: the company used high-speed cameras to calculate a 120ms response time for touchscreen taps, versus 163ms on the Galaxy S7 and 206ms on Sony’s Z5.
“It means as you’re using the HTC 10,” Darren Sng, vice president of communications told us, “it feels like an iPhone!”
Inside there’s 32GB of memory as standard, with a microSD slot on the edge that supports adoptable storage. HTC also includes its new Boost+ system for background app monitoring, flagging up warnings if any are proving excessive with their use of system resources, and optimizing Android in general by dumping unnecessary caches and other housekeeping tasks.
In many ways, it’s the successor to the One M7 that we’ve wanted from HTC for years. The company has returned to its camera roots, delivering UltraPixel 2: large, 1.55 micron pixels (slightly smaller, true, than the 2.0 micron on the One M7) for 12-megapixels in total.
There’s also an f/1.8 lens, optical image stabilization, 4K video recording with 24-bit, 96 kHz Hi-Res stereo audio, and support for twice the ambient noise volume of other devices with no distortion.
HTC uses a second-gen laser focus system that promises twice the width and range, as well as three-times faster locks than the One M9. It’s a phase-detection system, though not the dual-pixel approach on Samsung’s excellent Galaxy S7 camera.
Even so, the camera-testing folks at DXOMark grade the HTC 10 at 88 points, the same as Samsung’s phone.
Unusually, the front camera – which HTC has dubbed UltraSelfie – also gets optical image stabilization, which should make it popular among Periscope and Facebook Live fans. The resolution is 5-megapixels – with 1.34 micron pixels – and the lens an f/1.8, 86-degree wide-angle. It’ll record 1080p video, too.
HTC has cleaned up the camera UI, with the different modes now living in a menu dragged in from the left rather than a completely separate screen. It has RAW support, too.
What you don’t get is the HTC Gallery app. That’s part of HTC’s attempt to pare back on the duplication in its Android phones, working with Google to pick only the best of each company’s apps as preloads. So, you get Google Photos instead, though HTC will offer the homegrown software it removes for optional install from the Google Play store.
The metal casing with its deeply chamfered edges goes through 168 hours of temperature testing – from -20 to 60 degrees centigrade – and 10,000 bend, crush, and other tests. HTC says it’s been “sculpted by light” and that the chamfers along with the 2.5D curve to the toughened cover glass give it a visual sense of being narrower in the hand.
Also helping are the vastly-reduced bezels, a common point of criticism for HTC. Capacitive back/task-switcher keys flank the combination home button and fingerprint scanner – HTC says it’ll unlock the phone in 0.2 seconds, as well as authenticating Android Pay and locking access to individual apps – but the biggest change is the new version of BoomSound.
Gone are the sizable front speakers, with the HTC 10 getting BoomSound HiFi Edition instead. That splits the tweeter from the woofer, putting the former at the top of the phone and the latter on the bottom (directionality is of less importance for low-end sounds). Each gets it own individual amplifier.
The headphone jack doesn’t miss out, either, with a 24-bit Hi-Res audio support from the DSP and DAC, twice the power as in the One M9, and the ability to upscale 16-bit to 24-bit. “This is going to be the gold standard in playing music,” Sng says, and to underscore it HTC is bundling a Hi-Res-certified set of earphones in the box.
They have 13mm aerospace-grade polymer diaphragms with double the sound range as HTC’s regular bundled headset, and benefit from a Personal Audio Profile wizard that – after asking what sort of music you listen to – automatically adjusts the EQ to suit your tastes.
If you want to listen to your music elsewhere, meanwhile, along with the usual DLNA, Miracast, and Google Cast options, the HTC 10 is the first Android device to support Apple’s AirPlay out of the box.
The 3,000 mAh battery gets Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support, going from zero to 50-percent in 30 minutes, and for once HTC is bundling a fast charger rather than expecting you to cough up for it as an accessory.
On a full charge, HTC claims the phone will run for two days. That works out to up to 13 hours of video, 73 hours of music, 13 hours of browsing, or 27 hours of 3G talktime.
As for accessories, the old Dot View case gets retired in favor of the new HTC Ice View cover, a flip-case which has a translucent panel on the front. Through that glows a neon-style preview of time, date, new messages, missed calls, and even the camera UI, so you can snap photos without having to open the case up.
Though Sense is even more minimalistic in its changes than before, HTC hasn’t quite been able to leave the software alone entirely. The biggest difference is Freestyle Layout, which does away with the traditional grid in favor of allowing you to put icons and stickers anywhere you please. Each can trigger an app or action, and be saved and shared through HTC’s Themes store.
Four colors will be available at launch, though not necessarily in every location: they include Carbon Grey, Glacier Silver, Topaz Gold, and Camellia Red (with a black front and a red back, and that will sadly only be offered in Japan on carrier KDDI, at least initially)
In the US, various carriers will offer the HTC 10, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, and it’ll go on sale this month. HTC plans to offer an unlocked, SIM-free version compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, meanwhile, which will be priced at $699 and sold direct. It’s available to preorder today, and will ship in early May.