Fortnightly updates, brilliant display, a fantastic camera and satisfying battery back up, makes this 5.2-inch phone HTC's saviour, says Himanshu Juneja
With HTC 10, the company is hoping to regain the lost ground, and the sheen as well. But will it succeed? Himanshu Juneja
HTC has seen a lot in the past couple of years. From being one of the most admired to being the most beleaguered. The company's fortunes suffered badly as the last two major handsets failed to create the buzz. Something had to be done to avoid a crushing third debacle. Enter the HTC 10.
Not only has the company gone back to the basics, the name itself clearly announces the intent. By not naming the latest as HTC M 10, the company is making it clear about a new beginning. With news of HTC manufacturing the next three Nexus handsets trickling in, this indeed spells out a new phase. HTC will be hoping to regain the lost ground, and the sheen as well.
But 2016 already is proving to be a watershed year for the Android flagships. With Samsung Galaxy S7 handsets reigning supreme, and tough competition from LG G5, and HTC's own upcoming Android Nexus, how much inroads can the HTC 10 make? We try to make sense of HTC's latest offering.
One look at the HTC 10 once it is out of the box, and there is no doubt that HTC has brought a stylish and a premium device. The all meal unibody phone measures 145.9 x 71.9 x 9 mm in dimension, and it is pretty thin as well. Of course there is the increase in thickness at the back, but that is due to the curve imparted for better handling.
The front of the HTC 10 seems heavily inspired from HTC's One A9. It retains the looks and the finger print scanner embedded touch-pad, but drops the front facing dual speaker set up. The BoomSound set up is implemented differently, and this may irk some of the loyalists.
HTC has taken out the black bar from the front, which used to carry its branding. This is a welcome move, but they still went ahead with capacitive buttons. For some, this means more real estate for displaying content; for others, it will be a bit illogical. The handset weighs a good 161 gms, but handling the phone is not bothersome.
The right edge of the handset carries the nano SIM card tray, volume button, and the sleep/wake key. The latter has been given a distinctive texture for easy identification. The top edge has the audio jack, and the bottom edge sports the USB Type C connector and the speaker grille. The left edge only carries the microSD card tray.
The back of HTC 10 has shades from the HTC One M9. What gives the rear panel its signature looks are the heavy duty chamfered edges. This again will polarise people, but it definitely makes the panel glisten distinctively. The two antenna lines present look perfectly part of the overall design. The back panel again has minimal branding, and this lends more character.
HTC 10 is a stylishly constructed solid slab with premium values. Just the way people have always expected HTC to manufacture its handsets.
HTC brought its A game here from the word go. The first handset from its camp to get a Quad HD resolution of 1440x2560p, on a 5th gen Super LCD screen exudes confidence. The 5.2-inch Gorilla Glass 3 screen gets a whopping 565 ppi pixel density, ensuring pin sharp display.
The colours are not AMOLED punchy, but unless compared side by side, HTC 10 is going to wow the users. There is the sRGB and a Vivid mode available to choose from, and a slider in the settings to adjust the colour temperature for both. The viewing angles are pretty good, and despite being a little reflective, brilliant level of brightness ensures that sunlight legibility is not an issue.
HTC however has not been able to include the Always On mode, which allows the users to glance at the important notifications easily. Since LG got the same done on the LG G5's LCD panel, any flak coming HTC's way will be justified.
The display is still very much befitting a flagship phone. The fact that users have less to complain about goes in HTC's favour nicely.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC is what HTC has fitted their latest flagship handset with, and it is a wise choice. With heating issues gone, the chipset is the choice for the reigning marquee handsets this year.
Dual core Kryo (clocked at 2.15 GHz) and another set of dual core Kryo processor (clocked at 1.6 GHz) provide the computing grunt, while Adreno 530 gets the graphic intensive tasks underway. 4 GB of RAM sounds adequate for the current trends.
There is the 32 GB worth of on-board storage capacity, and the users can further expand this further by up to 256GB, via microSD card.
The HTC 10 is a 4G LTE device, and comes with expected features like Bluetooth (ver 4.2), WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), and A-GPS. HTC has taken a bold step and equipped their latest with the USB Type C connector.
Users may have to lug an extra cable, but future proofing becomes a guarantee. The company also pulled another rabbit out of its hat by bringing in the Apple Airplay support.
It is worthwhile to mention that the Infrared emitter and FM radio did not make the cut here.
HTC has always been known for some slick implementation of Android OS, and the firm has a special treat this time. HTC has worked along with Google to do away with duplicate apps.
The handset comes running the Marshmallow (6.0.1), with Sense 8 skin on top. Using the touch-pad, users can go straight past the lock screen. Those who prefer to launch apps via lock screen shortcuts will have to swipe upwards to accomplish the same.
The vanilla Android imprint is everywhere. From the stock like notification shade to Google Now on tap feature. HTC has removed its in house apps in favour of applications like Google Photo. It has been made compatible with RAW files as well as Zoe pics. BlinkFeed is definitely there for the curated content, and if the users so desire, it can be disabled as well. Few apps have slipped in as duplicates like HTC mail and the messaging app, but largely this has been avoided.
Boost+ is a good feature included by HTC. It removes the junk files, keeping the cache free. As a result the users will get a buttery smooth OS experience. It also allows for downgrading graphics while playing heavy games, saving upon precious battery.
Sense 8 allows for the usage of themes, and HTC has quite a good collection in place to start with. If that is a bit too mainstream, the FreeStyle layout allows placing of widgets, and icons anywhere on the screen, without adhering to a grid arrangement.
Going a step ahead, HTC has the 'sticker' feature to further pep up the screen. These stickers can be assigned tasks like launching of apps, and they need not be labelled either! Talk about going subtle and enhanced privacy.
The user experience on offer is definitely unparalleled. Other flagships will struggle to bring something as slick, and with the promise of major updates showing up within a fortnight of Google release, HTC has ticked all the right boxes in this segment.
The handset performed as per expectations every bit way. There were no hiccups in launching or switching between the apps. Multitasking was a breeze as well. The HD content in the form of movies or even the games went about smoothly. Users can easily edit the pictures without any issues.
The heating up of the phone was only minimal, and nothing that raised concerns. The fingerprint scanner does its job, and is pretty snappy at that.
But the real deal here is the audio department. BoomSound speakers are in a different avatar, with the front facing speaker catering to the mids and the highs, and the bottom firing speaker takes care of the lows. To achieve this, HTC has supplied a tweeter at the top, and a sub-woofer towards the bottom.
Users can choose between a theatre mode, or the music mode. The former is more immersive, and suitable while holding the phone, the latter mode being more suitable while using the handset as a portable stereo set.
Plug in a good set of earphones, and HTC takes you into a world of sublime experience. The onboard 24 Bit DAC and the amplifier ensure that the things becomes addictive soon. It even upscales the low resolution audio files for a better sounding experience. Any audio enthusiast caring for their music would gravitate towards the HTC 10 automatically.
HTC's failure to come up with an effective camera for their showcase handsets have been a big surprise. Thankfully, things have been sorted to a great degree with the HTC 10.
The primary camera is a 12MP (Ultrapixel) snapper with an f/1.8 aperture, and comes with dual LED flash, laser auto focus, and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). The front facing camera is no slouch either and the 5MP, f/1.8 unit comes with its own OIS feature.
The Ultrapixels (ver 2.0) ensures that the pixels are bigger, capable of capturing more light, and hence turn in more details. The result is the best camera to come up on an HTC device ever. The captured photographs were rich and loaded with accurate colours. Low light photography too is very impressive. OIS comes especially handy here, as the shutter speed increases to let in more light. HTC 10 captures more accurate colours than the Samsung Galaxy S7 twins, but the latter wins in the overall detail and contrast department.
There is one quirk here though. On some occasions, users should be prepared to spend extra time to set up the shots. The metering issue means that some of the pictures may end up with lot of flares. This can be frustrating and proves to be the Achilles' Heel for otherwise a brilliant camera. HDR mode comes to the rescue in the tricky situation. Another issue of incorrect warning of the laser getting covered up was fixed quickly via software update.
The camera app is simple and users get to choose from Pro mode, HDR, Panorama, slow motion, bokeh and hyper lapse. The ability to capture RAW files is a huge plus.
The videos captured are not a source for any major complaint either. The OIS lends smooth effects to the detailed and clear 1080p videos. While the 4K videos do not have OIS working for them due to technology bottleneck, the results are still fantastic.
Coming with a 3000 mAh non removable battery, users can expect a day's worth of back up easily, and that too on a moderate to heavy usage pattern. Quick Charge 3.0 support allows the battery to be juiced up within an hour's time.
The Boost+ feature allows the heavy gamers to be less taxing with their habits. Toning down the game resolution saves up precious battery back up, and this can come in very handy during taxing times.
HTC really has gone all out with the HTC 10. By going back to the drawing board while keeping an eye on the current trends, the result is a fine handset from a renowned company trying to get back to winning ways.
The handset is not without quirks, but they really are few and innocuous. The camera still is not the best in the market, but very much belongs to the flagship class, and definitely the best HTC has ever offered. The update to fix the glitch of incorrect warning has exhibited HTC's eagerness.
Missing out on water and dust proofing definitely cannot be overlooked, but that would have meant compromising on the brilliant BoomSound quality. Always on display is definitely a missed opportunity, but thankfully the notification LED is there to soothen the blow.
The positives are delightfully everywhere. Those who have held onto their handsets for a considerable number of years should confirm that the user experience is one area which cannot be ignored. HTC provides that better than any other.
Add to it the promise of fortnightly updates, brilliant display, a fantastic camera and satisfying battery back up, HTC 10 seems a winner all the way. Overall, HTC 10 is a very solid offering and the best equipped to take the Samsung Galaxy S7 on. Already retailing for under Rs 49,000 online, it is an option one cannot afford to overlook.