The HTC 10 has stood the test of time remarkably well. After months of use I haven’t had any serious issues with the phone.
Unlike competing phones, like the Huawei P9, the HTC 10 remains lightning fast. Games open in a matter of seconds and run chug- and stutter-free and I’m yet to have a serious software crash.
The phone has also survived more than average wear and tear. As well as several standard accidental drops onto TrustedReviews’ carpeted floor, the phone also survived a hazardous impact with a tree after an accidental trip while running. It remained crack and chip free.
Battery life has slightly deteriorated, but not as much as I’d expected. The HTC 10 still easily lasts a full day off one charge and I regularly manage to eek out two days with light use.
The camera is still a slight annoyance, but only because I’ve experienced the majestic awesomeness of the Galaxy S7 – which still has the best phone camera sensor on the market.
The HTC 10’s camera isn’t bad, but the use of Ultrapixel tech, which instructs the camera to capture bigger pixels and more light, works a little too well. Photos taken in even moderately bright lighting conditions are regularly washed out and have unwanted flare effects. Careful use can get around the issue, however, and I’m still more than happy to snap memento shots of meetups with friends.
However, the phone’s biggest selling point remains its advanced audio qualities. HTC’s been leading the mobile audio market for quite some time and the 10 cements its position as the best phone maker for music fans.
Putting aside the phone’s Boomsound speakers that, while above average, are only useful to cretins that insist on using their phone to listen to music outloud, the HTC 10’s standalone headphone amp is its best feature.
The HTC 10 uses a dedicated DAC as well as headphone amp. HTC claims the 10’s amp is twice as powerful as competing phones, and after a few months with the phone I believe it. The HTC 10 consistently delivers superior audio quality to competing phones, including the Galaxy S7, LG G5 (without its add on DAC), OnePlus 3 and Huawei P9 on a variety of genres.
Everything from heavy metal, punk, prog and jazz sounds fuller and better balanced on the HTC 10 and it’s a key reason the 10 remains my handset of choice, even though it falls behind its archrival, the Galaxy S7, in other areas.
After the frankly awful HTC One M9, the Taiwanese brand went back to the drawing board and, well, it worked. The HTC 10 more than matches up to the iPhone 6S in looks, and it doesn’t fall behind the Samsung Galaxy S7 when it comes to specs.
HTC 10 – DESIGN
While the HTC 10 takes the brand’s flagship smartphone in a new design direction, it’s still very familiar. The front is stripped from the One A9, and the back is a tweaked and tuned version of the rear casing from the One M9.
It’s far from original and looking at it face-on you’d be forgiven for confusing it with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S7, but for me it’s the perfect mix of style and substance.
First off, this phone is clearly made from metal – and proud of it. The back is cool to the touch, with an elegant curve that helps it sit comfortably in your hand. This curve flows into some heavily chamfered edges that add a bit of much-needed flair.
It’s a divisive design choice, though. I really like them as they give your fingers somewhere to sit, but the some of the TrustedReviews team were less impressed, claiming they’re far too shiny.
The camera sensor sits bang in the centre, and while it doesn’t have what I’d consider a ‘hump’, it does jut out ever so slightly. Alongside it is an LED flash and a space for the laser autofocus system.
Like any metal phone, the sleek design is broken up by two bands of antenna lines that run around the top and bottom. These don’t stand out anywhere near as much as they do on the iPhone and they feel like part of the design, rather than something that has to be there.
Along the side you’ve got the usual combination of a volume rocker and sleep/wake button, the latter of which is bevelled and easily identifiable even when the phone is in your pocket.
Most other phones have switched to a single tray that houses both the Nano SIM tray and a microSD card, but the HTC 10 still has one tray on each side. I’d like to see this combined to makes things sleeker, but it makes little difference in reality.
Flip the phone over and the HTC 10 is one of the cleanest devices around. HTC has even removed its brand logo – a minimal change that makes a big difference.
Compared to last year’s One M9 flagship, there are a couple of major differences here.
There’s now a capacitive home key sitting below the display that isn’t so much of a button but a touchpad. Like pretty much every worthwhile Android phone this year it features a fingerprint scanner inside, but coming from the Galaxy S7 it feels strange not to get get that satisfying ‘click’ when I press down.
HTC has also switched to capacitive Back and Recent Apps keys, as opposed to on-screen versions, and these sit either side of the home button. It’s all down to personal preference whether you prefer physical or virtual buttons, but it does free up that extra bit of screen real estate.
The phone comes in black, silver and gold
Whereas LG took plenty of risks with its funky modular design of the G5, HTC has played it relatively safe here. That’s not a dig, though. In fact I’d say the HTC 10 is my favourite phone of the year so far when it comes to the overall look and feel.
It almost matches the Galaxy S7 for size, though it’s marginally taller and noticeably weightier. It feels reassuringly expensive and solid, which is something I just can’t say about the LG G5.
It’s the precision, though, that wins it for HTC. Everything is symmetrical, with the headphone jack, camera sensor and USB-C port on the bottom, all in line with each other. I would have preferred to see that headphone port on the bottom, but that’s just a minor quibble.
Considering its history, it’s no surprise that HTC has designed a stunning looking phone. It hasn’t taken risks and opted for something more ‘out there’, but it still has charm and is an absolute pleasure to use.
HTC 10 – SCREEN
HTC has updated just about every part of the One M9 for its successor, and the display is no exception.
It’s grown slightly to 5.2-inches, but the bigger upgrade is the resolution. It’s much more pixel dense now, thanks to the 2560 x 1440 quad-HD resolution, and it covers 99.9% of the sRGB colour gamut. It’s a mightily impressive panel, though as it’s LCD – 5th-generation LCD, to be precise – it does lack a little of the vibrancy of Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen. It’s not far off, and it’s hard to notice unless you have both phones sat next to each other.
It’s a lovely display to look at. Colours are punchy and bright, without being oversaturated, and they’re accurate too. The wide colour gamut is great for watching video as it was originally intended and accurately editing snaps, making this a strong media machine.
There is a slight pinkish tinge to the display when it’s tilted to the side and this dampens viewing angles, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Viewing angles are still great and reflections are kept to a minimum, but colours are skewed ever so slightly when you’re not looking directly at it. I had a similar issue with the Galaxy S7 Edge, so it’s certainly not a problem exclusive to HTC’s displays.
The HTC 10 is missing a feature both the LG G5 and Galaxy S7 tout, which is an Always-On mode. This clever method of displaying your most recent notifications when the display is seemingly off is far from essential, but it’s a useful extra that I’ve grown to like after using those two phones. LG managed it with an LCD screen, so I’m not sure why HTC hasn’t tried anything similar.
What it does offer over its rivals is improved brightness. Well, in certain situations. In regular use, the maximum brightness on the HTC 10 is much brighter than that of the LG G5 and Galaxy S7, though it doesn’t feature the trick used by those two where it can boost brightness even more in direct sunlight. Still, the HTC 10 is perfectly usable outdoors.
HTC 10 – SOFTWARE
HTC has done a fantastic job with the software on the 10.
It’s the perfect mix of a Nexus-like Android 6.0.1 experience with some genuinely useful and interesting features laid on the top. It might just be my favourite interpretation of Android yet, and easily beats both Samsung’s TouchWiz and LG’s UX 5.
The latest version of Sense UI is HTC’s cleanest and borrows many elements from a stock version of Android. The notifications shade, for example, is exactly what you’ll get on a Nexus 6P, while icons are simple and clean.
HTC’s biggest masterstroke here is to cull nearly all the useless, duplicate apps that have become so common on an Android phone. Both the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7 have multiple apps that each do the same thing – music players, email clients, galleries – but the HTC 10 doesn’t.
HTC says it’s worked directly with Google to clean up the software experience on its latest flagship phone, but to also build some its own features into the search giant’s OS.
Take Photos, for example. The Google app is the default gallery on the 10, but it now works with previously unavailable features such as RAW files and Zoe photos, the latter of which are sort of like Apple’s Live Photos.
This makes the whole Android experience much smoother and more cohesive.
Blinkfeed, the fancy little news and social feed aggregator that sits to the left of your home screen, is still here. It’s a Marmite feature amongst users, but I like it. It always manages to select an interesting and diverse array of content from news sources and Twitter – it seems Instagram and Facebook support is no longer here – but its picture-based approach is slick. Don’t like it? It can easily be turned off.
Each of HTC’s native apps, the ones that haven’t been replaced by Google’s versions, have all received Material-themed makeovers.
A new app called Boost+ is actually quite useful. It’s main function is to supposedly keep the phone running smoothly by clearing caches and deleting junk files. Its coolest feature, though, is the ability to lock apps, meaning you need to use the fingerprint sensor to open them. Apps themselves don’t even have to do anything to support this, as it’s just an overlay on the top. It’s perfect for blocking out prying eyes from WhatsApp or your gallery, but also to add another layer of protection to banking apps which mostly still don’t seem to support fingerprint authentication on Android.
A nifty, though slightly gimmicky, feature for the HTC 10 is freestyle layouts. This is for you if you’ve gotten bored of the same app grid homescreen view that pretty much every Android phone has. You can replace icons with stickers that perform additional functions, taking you straight to a favoured contact, and these can be laid out anywhere on the screen.
These layouts are fun and a nice change from the typical Android style, but they’re less functional and grow tiresome quickly. Still, there’s a cute one if you like cats. And everyone likes cats, right?
My only slight niggle with the software, and this is incredibly minor, is that you can only have a 4×4 app grid when using a regular layout. Most other phones now let you have at least a 5×5 grid, allowing more icons to be crammed onto the homescreen and less space wasted.
Unlike the majority of other brands, HTC hasn’t messed around with the fantastic operating system Google has created and it makes the 10 ever so much better for it.
HTC 10 – PERFORMANCE AND AUDIO
Often a neglected feature on phones, HTC has added a load of audio-centric features to the 10. Although it has ditched, mostly, the iconic stereo speaker system that pumped out quality audio on the One M9.
BoomSound, though, is far from dead. It’s just here in a different form. The main speaker is now on the bottom, but there’s a dedicated amplifier for both the tweeter and subwoofer which sit on the bottom and top of the phone respectively.
It’s true, the on-board speaker doesn’t sound quite as good as it used to. It’s still very loud – alarms are hilariously bombastic and I almost fell out of bed the first morning one went off. There’s also enough nuance in the audio to make listening to YouTube videos a better experience than on most phones, but it lacks the bass you’d want from a Bluetooth speaker replacement. Still, it’s much better than the Galaxy S7, iPhone 6S and LG G5.
It’s when listening through headphones that the experience is massively improved. The HTC 10 supports Hi-Res Audio, so it’ll play 24-bit audio files (like the G5 does) and attempt to upscale lower-res tunes to sound better.
The kicker is that you actually get a set of Hi-Res-certified earbuds with the phone. These in-ear ‘phones are comfy, nicely styled and, most importantly, blow every other set of bundled earphones out out of the water. Multiple times over. They sound great, whether you’re listening to Hi-Res Audio files or just a bit of Spotify.
Talking about the performance of 2016 flagship phones feels like a broken record. Phones seem to have hit a performance plateau – they’re all very fast and the only slowdowns seems to come from a lack of software optimisations. The HTC 10 follows suit, but then its combo of a Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM seems to be the default choice for a 2016 flagship.
Everything from gaming to day-to-day use to intensive multitasking is done with consummate ease. Apps pop open as soon as your finger taps the icons and so far I haven’t come across anything that causes any sort of slow-down. Photo editing is chewed through with no trouble and 3D games – Hitman Sniper, Lara Croft Go, Real Racing – don’t suffer from dropped frames or any lag.
Unlike the HTC One M9, the 10 manages to stay cool to the touch during normal use. It heats up ever so slightly when fast charging and installing a bevy of apps, but that’s something I’ve noticed on most phones.
In our usual array of benchmark tests, the HTC 10 performs well. On the Geekbench 3 multi-core test it scores 5,065, which is slightly lower than both the LG G5 (5,172) and Samsung Galaxy S7 (9,307), but still a very high score. In AnTuTu, though, it comes out slightly better than those two with a score of 130,178.
Call quality is impressive too, especially when you take advantage of the speakers for voice chats.
HTC 10 – CAMERA
HTC has a storied history with cameras. And it’s never been very good. Slow apps, sensors that ridiculously overexpose shots, poor autofocus and so much more have always left it trailing behind the competition. It’s tried going high with megapixels (One M9) and low with UltraPixels (One M8), but nothing has really stuck.
The camera in the HTC 10 is the best to ever grace an HTC phone. You (probably) won’t find anyone saying otherwise, but it’s still the weakest part of the phone. And that frustrates me.
Like the One M8 before it, the HTC 10 uses an UltraPixel sensor. This essentially means the pixels inside the sensor are much larger, thus allowing more light into the lens and resulting in brighter pictures. As a comparison, the HTC 10 has 1.55µm-sized pixels, whereas the Galaxy S7 has smaller 1.4µm ones.
And just like those on the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S, the camera itself is 12-megapixels (well, UltraPixels). So, in theory it should be better, right? Well, no. Especially when compared to the Galaxy S7.
Let’s start with the positives. The HTC 10’s camera app is one of the best around: it’s fully featured with RAW support, Pro modes and it’s simple to navigate with big buttons and a lack of text. It’s also fast to navigate and jumping through modes doesn’t lag in the slightest.
It can also capture lovely indoor and outdoor daytime shots with accurate colour representation and without any nasty over-sharpening artifacts. There is sometimes a lack of oomph in the snaps, with some looking a little dull, but they’re up there with the best.
Pictures have plenty of detail. You can pick out the leaves even though it’s quite dark
It’s also really impressive at capturing shots with plenty of bokeh – that effect where the background blurs heavily away from the in-focus foreground. These look lovely and wouldn’t have been achievable on a phone last year.
Shots with a blurry background look great
The big play with these UltraPixels, though, is how they act in low light. Think about your use case for a phone camera and I’m sure a lot of you take a load of snaps when the lighting isn’t great, maybe when you’re in a pub, restaurant or bar. It’s this area that most high-end smartphones are trying to improve in.
The combination of the larger UltraPixels, a wide f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation make this phone able to capture some really nice low-light shots. As you can see in the examples below, it picks out the colours well in the sky and there isn’t a load of noise surrounding the details.
Even though the light isn’t perfect here, it does a great job of capturing all the colour in the sky
My biggest issue with the HTC 10 is camera is how easily fooled the light metering is, leading it to overexpose pictures and blow out light sources. If you’re taking a shot and there’s a light on in the corner, this will blur and take over the whole picture, throwing the colours off throughout.
It’s annoying and means you need to spend more setting up your shot to avoid it happening.
There are also a couple of quirks with the camera app. It likes to alert me when it thinks something is blocking the laser AF system… but nothing’s there. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to when this happens either – most of the time it doesn’t but then it suddenly will.
Nighttime shot looks bright
Opening the camera can also take a few milliseconds longer than I feel it should, just hanging there doing nothing before it kicks into life.
Things take a rosier turn when you flip the phone over and look at the front-facing camera. Again, HTC is employing its UltraPixels here (just five of them this time) and it features the same f/1.8 aperture as the rear camera. It also has optical image stabilsation too, which is a first for a front camera on a phone.
Again, all the parts should combine to let you take great selfies, whether you’re on holiday or in a nightclub. And they do. It’s certainly more successful than on the back.
This is the best front-facing camera on any phone and it can capture really smooth front-facing video too. A phone for all those fancy Vloggers out there maybe?
The lens is wide enough to cram in multiple grins and it produces crisp shots with plenty of facial details in all types of conditions.
I know I said the HTC 10’s camera is its weakest part, and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad because it really isn’t. It’s just that the competition has been ramped up so much by the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5.
HTC 10 – BATTERY LIFE
Like internal components, each of this year’s current crop of Android flagships – Galaxy S7, LG G5 and of course the HTC 10 – have a similarly sized battery.
The 3,000mAh cell tucked inside the HTC 10 is exactly the same capacity as the Galaxy S7’s and marginally bigger than the LG G5’s, and in my tests I’ve found that it lasts about the same amount of time as those two.
HTC might claim you’ll get two days’ worth of use, but my findings suggest a little less. Yes, it is possible to stretch it out to two days, just, but you’ll have to enable all the battery-saving modes which will, in turn, negatively affect performance.
In real use the HTC 10 will easily make it through the day. Even if you’re pushing down multiple email accounts, playing the odd round of whatever the addictive fad Candy Crush-style game of the moment is, and streaming some music and so on.
Over the course of a week I got an average of three hours’ screen-on time per day, which is standard for a phone of this size. An hour of streaming Spotify in the morning takes about 5%, while watching an hour-long HD TV episode on either Netflix or BBC iPlayer with auto-brightness enabled chews through 8-10%.
Standby time is ace too – leaving the phone unplugged overnight only sees a 3-4% drop.
On the bottom of the phone there’s a USB-C port, replacing the old Micro USB. Samsung decided against switching to this new reversible connection method, but HTC and LG have taken a step into the future by making the change.
HTC is trying to make the most of this move, enabling Quick Charge 3.0, which is something the S7 doesn’t support due to its Exynos processor. It’ll juice up fully in just under an hour.
HTC will also be selling a pair of JBL noise-cancelling headphones that take their power from the USB-C port as opposed to the headphone jack, ditching the need for a bulky battery pack.
The move to USB-C is initially annoying, rendering all those Micro USB cables you’ve acquired over the years redundant, but it’s the future and the addition of it here futureproofs the 10.
SHOULD I BUY THE HTC 10?
By ditching gimmicks and fine tuning the formula, HTC has hit back in style after a disappointing 2015.
It’s not the best phone of the year, but it’s not far off. Yet, it’s the phone I would want to use. That might sound strange, but hear me out. From the lovely screen to the speedy performance to the fantastic representation of Android, the HTC 10 ticks all the boxes.
That’s the point – it might not be the best in every area, but it’s strong in pretty much all of them. While the Galaxy S7 might sacrifice audio quality and the LG G5 does the same with build quality, the HTC 10 doesn’t really sacrifice in any area. It doesn’t really do anything different, granted, but when all the parts fit together this well, I don’t think it needs to.
BEST DEALS FOR HTC 10
By ditching the gimmicks, HTC has crafted its best phone ever. It’s not the Android king, but it’s chomping at the heels of the Samsung Galaxy S7.