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Hands-On with the HTC 10

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Apr 12, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

HTC showed off its 2016 flagship smartphone today. The HTC 10 takes all the characteristics we've come to appreciate in HTC and amps them up. The 10 is not a complete rethink, but it's enough of a refresh that the 10 is a compelling option in a world awash with Galaxies and iPhones. The HTC 10 is a metal-clad warrior looking for a fight. Here are Phonescoop's first impressions of HTC's latest handset.

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HTC's next-generation flagship is here, and, at first blush, it was worth the wait. The 10 sees HTC repenting for all the company's past transgressions. The phone makes a concerted effort to correct the (too many) wrongs we saw on last year's HTC One M9. In short, I think HTC managed to create a hit in the 10, though we can't offer a definitive assessment until we've completed a full review.

First, the name. HTC is dropping the "One M" moniker from its flagship line. This new phone is not the One M10; it's simply the HTC 10. The number 10, of course, has lots of meaning attached to it in cultures around the world. It often signifies purity and perfection.

HTC has milled its flagship smartphones from aluminum since the 2013-era One M7. Similarly, the 10 is carved out of a single block of metal. The chamfers on the 10 are exaggerated, giving the phone a bit of its own personality when compared to previous flagships from HTC. It still adopts the tried-and-true HTC design language, but is updated so as to not look too similar to its predecessors. The effect is just enough to give the 10 its one personality, though some will still probably accuse the 10 of looking like an iPhone.

The 10 isn't the thinnest phone on the market at 9mm (thickest point), but HTC managed to keep the overall dimensions in check. The metal frame feels great in the hand and the curved shape of the rear panel helps the phone fit a bit deeper into your palm. There are no sharp edges, which is something I appreciate. It's a bit on the weighty side, and is certainly slippery. In fact, I worry a bit about dropping this phone. It should slide into pockets easily. I suspect many people will choose to put case on it.

HTC 10  

I am impressed with the materials and build quality. The phone was clearly designed with love and attention to detail. In fact, HTC says the phone was stress-tested to ensure some degree of toughness and protection against drops and mild abuse. (The 10 is not a rugged phone.)

The screen is excellent. HTC used 5-inch full HD screens in the A9, M9, M8, M7 and so on. The 10 finally steps up to 5.2 inches and quad HD resolution. The LCD panel is quite something. I really like it. It's bright, sharp, and colors appear to be accurate. Thankfully the increased screen real estate doesn't translate to a big increase in the phone's footprint.

HTC decided to bring back the physical controls for the 10. It has the same fingerprint sensor we saw on the A9 acting as a home button for the 10. It is flanked by capacitive buttons, with "back" on the left and "multitask" on the right. These controls all work well. If you're coming from a phone such as the Galaxy S6, you'll feel right at home.


The left edge houses a tray for the memory card. The SIM card tray is opposite on the right edge. The volume toggle and screen lock / power button are all on the right edge of the phone. The screen lock button has a great profile and textured design that make it easy to find and use. The volume toggle is a bit thinner, but is still easy to differentiate from the screen lock button. This set of controls works well.

Due to the all-metal design, the 10 is sealed up tight. That means no access to the battery. The power cell is rated at 3,000mAh and HTC (boldly) claims it can provide up to two days of usable life. The phone has HTC's power management tools. The 10 supports Quick Charge 3.0 and HTC is including a QC3 charger in the box. HTC claims it can deliver a 50% charge in as little as 30 minutes. That's impressive (if true). By the way, the 10 shifts from micro USB to USB-C.

Another big change in the hardware is how HTC is handling BoomSound. The company has historically positioned two full-range, equally-powered speakers on the front, with one above the display and another below the display. For whatever reason, HTC switched things up. The 10 has a tweeter in the earpiece and a woofer positioned in the bottom edge. Each has its own amplifier and pumps out lots of sound. It's no longer stereo, but HTC says it has doubled the supported frequency range from 20Hz-20,000Hz to 10-40,000Hz. In a short test, it sounded pretty darned good. The headphone jack pushes out 24-bit sound, which is pretty good, and the phone lets owners tweak the audio profile to suit their tastes. An optional set of JBL headphones includes active noise cancellation.

Thet last major hardware upgrade is found in the camera. HTC is moving to a 12-megapixel sensor with 1.55micron pixels. HTC is still using the "Ultra Pixel" branding for reasons unknown. The sensor is paired with optical image stabilization and an f/1.8 aperture sense. The bigger pixels and wider lens should give the phone a huge boost in low-light performance. We'll see. Similarly, the user-facing camera has optical image stabilization and an f/1.8 aperture. HTC claims it takes excellent selfies. Again, we'll let you know once we fully review the phone. The camera also includes a two-tone flash, laser-assisted focus, and HTC says the app will launch in 0.6 seconds.

If you need a rundown of the phone's full spec list, here are a few extra details: the 10 is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. HTC was smart and made sure the 10 supports swappable memory cards up to 2TB. The phone has a complete set of wireless radios and will support the LTE networks of most major carriers. Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi are, of course, included.

On the software side of things, the device runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the latest version of Sense. It's worth noting that HTC is no longer referring to what version of Sense the 10 is running: it's simply Sense.

HTC claims to have whittled down a lot of bloat from the 10 to make it less confusing for consumers. The biggest example we can provide is the lack of duplicate apps. HTC said it worked with Google to make sure the 10 doesn't ship with multiple browsers, photo galleries, messaging apps, and so on. That's why you'll see Google Photos, but the HTC camera app; Google's Chrome browser, but HTC's text messaging app, and so on. On the HTC-branded apps that are on board, HTC said it did what it could to adopt Material Design to make those apps feel more native. Case in point, the camera.

HTC dramatically simplified the camera app to make it easier to use. The use of circular buttons and other design elements are obviously borrowed from Material Design. That's a good thing. Some of HTC's competitors could learn something here. Speaking of the camera app, it is lightning fast. It opens just a swiftly as HTC claims, and is able to focus and shoot pictures very quickly. Obviously, this is something we'll test extensively in the context of a full review.

The phone feels fast across the board. With the Snapdragon 820 under the hood, I expected nothing less. Every app we played with opened in a blink and performed without issue.

The Sense home screens look and behave similar to older HTC handsets, but still manage to feel cleaner and less cluttered with junk.

After spending a little bit of time with the HTC 10, we come away feeling hopeful for HTC's future. It may be easy to say, "This is HTC's best phone ever!" each year, but I feel more genuine about that statement when referencing the 10. The 10 is a step in the right direction for HTC and puts it on a level playing field with the devices from Apple, Samsung, Huawei, LG, and others.

10 v One A9  

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Apr 13, 2016, 6:31 PM

A really good phone ..

I bought an Alcatel Idol 3 last April ('15) - arrived in May. Bought it based on having read numerous reviews and studying the specs. My expectations were exceeded. Unlocked GDM with dual SIM, JBL powered dual front speakers, 5.5" screen with great pixel density, and more. Not only did it deliver more than hoped for, I bought it at a price that was less than half of most flagship phones. And yes, the stereo speakers are Gr-8.
Just wait until the Idol 4 and 4S are released.
Hopefully it improves on already a great phone.

Apr 13, 2016, 6:36 PM

Metal cases ...

I don't know who started this metal (aluminum) cases are better stuff, but I prefer the so called plastic cases - hands down. My Alcatel Idol 3 has one of the nicest cases I've ever seen .. It's a polymer mix - stronger and far more durable than the metal cases. Period !!!
I agree. It's a known fact that plastic cases get less signal interference and are more durable. Besides, plastic can look great all by itself. The idea that metal is somehow better is almost cultish. Especially considering that most of the people who...

Apr 12, 2016, 9:00 AM

No IR Blaster?

Did HTC kill the IR blaster?
Yes. They found it wasn't used by many people. Removing it made room at the top for a better speaker, and better front camera (with OIS).

Apr 12, 2016, 10:03 AM

You lost my fandom

When the M7 came out, the stereo front speakers were what captured me to go HTC. I loved them being someone that likes to watch vids on my phone. Then the M8 came out and I quickly grabbed that one. What a massive improvement! Then when the M9 came out, there was a slight decrease in what I though was the selling point. It was still a decent phone. Then the A9 came out and negated everything I fell for in HTC. It's like they lost their design team. A three year good run, but I'm no longer an HTC person.
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