HTC 10 review: HTC 10 about to be phased out and HTC 11 incoming?

The HTC 11 has been hinted at in an official Facebook post

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£474
  • Sturdy metal build; Lengthy battery life; High quality camera and screen; Fast
  • Somewhat unwieldy shape and size; Some Sense features of questionable value

It's no secret that HTC has been struggling in the smartphone market. Cheaper phones from upstart Chinese manufacturers and more aggressively designed and marketed phones from familiar names, such as Microsoft and Apple, have knocked it off its once market-leading perch. Some of the pain is also self-inflicted though. Aside from a bafflingly large product line, 2015's lacklustre One M9, which was the second relatively minor iteration of the 2012 One M7 in as many years, did more harm than good.

Although the HTC 10 was a fantastic upgrade to the company's line of premium smartphones, launched almost a year ago, it has some very healthy competition from its main competitors, plus some less-likely brand winners. Can it keep up?

Latest News

17/03/2017: The HTC 10 could be about to be replaced by the HTC 11 on March 20, with an announcement penciled in by the smartphone manufacturer.

The company promised an 'unexpected surprise' on a post on the Taiwanese manufacturer's Facebook page. It said the launch will coincide with the coming of Spring and as the HTC 10 itself was launched in April 2016, the announcement is coming at the right sort of time for an HTC major release.

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However, sceptics have suggested that the launch won't be a smartphone at all and will be a new virtual reality headset to replave the HTC Vive.

The launch of a new device in HTC's flagship range will, of course, mean further price reductions for the HTC 10. It's currently selling for 489 SIM free from the company directly, although you can snap it up for a lot less through other retailers.

As Samsung's hype around the Galaxy S8 ramp up, it's probably time HTC launched a new smartphone to keep up with the competition.

13/07/2016:HTC has cut the cost of its smartphones in a bid to shore up its market share. The HTC 10 has dropped in price by $100 in the US, if you buy the handset from HTC.com. The offer ends at the end of this month.

The deal also gets users a year's worth of free "Uh Oh" protection against scratches, broken screens, etc. Customers purchasing from another retailer will get $100 in credit to spend on HTC accessories, excluding its Vive VR headset.

The large price drop indicates that sales for the handset aren't going as well as expected as it compares closely with the OnePlus 3 which is prices at just $399 and offers similar specs.

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12/05/2016:A drop in sales for HTC has led to the company making a loss of 2.6 billion Taiwanese dollars over the first three months of 2016.

Revenue for the first quarter dropped 64 per cent year on year, reports BBC News, which equates to 315 million. The company's struggles have been attributed partly to competition with firms such as Apple and Samsung.

HTC is now hoping that new releases, including the HTC 10 and virtual reality headset - HTC Vive - will help it to break even in the second quarter of 2016.

"The media and consumer buzz around HTC, including for the keenly-awaited launches of the flagship smartphone and Vive virtual reality system, clearly demonstrate our leadership in innovation and have provided a great boost to the HTC brand," said Cher Wang, chairwoman and chief executive of HTC, in a statement.

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Ben Wood, an analyst from CCS Insight, told the BBC: "The next quarter will be critical because we'll start to see the effect of Vive and the HTC 10 phone. The company has really got to work hard to show signs of progress.

"The combination of Apple's incredible success and Samsung's determination to outspend all its rivals on marketing puts HTC in a precarious position."

Casing

The One M9's sturdy and attractive metal casing was one of the best parts of an otherwise mediocre phone, so it's no surprise that the 10 feels just as seamless and well-made. Available in silver or grey, the back is now more subtly curved and has sharply sloping edges.

It looks great, but it's arguably more awkward to hold even though the increase in screen size and overall dimensions is minimal. Its chunky shape makes it feel far more clumsy and unwieldy than the Samsung Galaxy S7, even though that phone has a similarly sized screen. The HTC 10 isn't our first pick if you have small hands.

If anything, we expected a decrease in width and girth given that HTC has abandoned the forward-facing speakers of the One M9. Those speakers were among the best we'd heard on a phone. The top and bottom facing speakers on the 10 just aren't as good. Although generally loud, vocals sounded muffled and indistinct.

The 10's fast and accurate fingerprint sensor is built into the home button. Unusually, that home button is capacitive so it doesn't move when you press it. There are capacitive back and app switcher buttons to either side of it - given this phone's width, we wish we could switch their position in software but this sadly isn't possible.

Battery life and performance

Like the LG G5, the HTC 10 is fitted with a new quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of memory. It's therefore no surprise that it stormed through our benchmarks, making it one of the fastest phones currently available.

Battery life was lengthy, lasting just over 31 hours when used for photography, calls, Web browsing and GPS while connected to O2's 3G network in London. It lasted just under nine hours in our continuous WiFi web browsing test and just over 12 hours when playing video on a loop. It's therefore comparable to the LG G5's battery life and thus generally longer lasting than the S7. Given that battery life was a major failing of the One M9, this is especially welcome.

Camera

Another flaw with the One M9 that HTC has remedied in the 10 is the rear-facing camera. Whereas the One M9's 20 megapixel shooter struggled in anything less than bright sunlight, the 10's 12 megapixel camera fared well in most situations. It produced generally sharp and well-lit results.

Low-light image quality was good too, with noise kept to a minimum although autofocus struggled here producing soft-looking results. The optical image stabilisation proved to be less effective than the OIS built into the G5 at reducing blur and enabling shooting at fast shutter speeds. In any case, all this is proof, as if any was needed, that sheer megapixel count isn't everything with it comes to image quality.

Screen and Android/HTC Sense

HTC has needlessly bumped up the 5.2in screen's resolution to 2560x1440 pixels. The difference in sharpness between this QHD display and a similarly sized 1080p screen is subtle - and that's with both side-by-side. Even so, the screen is very bright with excellent colour accuracy, high brightness and deep contrast. There were no problems with the responsiveness of the touchscreen, as we'd expect from a modern flagship Android phone.

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HTC has refined its Sense interface overlay which sits on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Blinkfeed is still present in Google Now's usual place. You can keep the look of the home screens close to Google's stock look, or you can change it quite radically.

For example, you can have large, resizable and labelless stickers' which are effectively shortcuts to any app of your choosing. They're available in a variety of whimsical styles and can be resized and positioned anywhere on your homescreen, not just in a grid. It's all quite fun, but hardly essential and of questionable value and utility - much like all the other theme-based options baked into Sense.

We do wish there was more fine-grained control over the blinking physical notifications light, including the ability to turn it off completely. It might be useful for Blackberry exiles who are used to a similar feature on their old phones, but it seems superfluous to us in most situations where on-screen notifications are just as good if not better.

Ice View

HTC hasn't adopted LG's approach of making lots and lots of accessories for the HTC 10. Instead, it's introduced a successor to the Dot View case that accompanied the One M9. The Ice View case and has a frosted glass-style screen cover - tapping the screen with this cover attached shows higher resolution graphics than could be achieved with the Dot View cases. This shows basic information, such as the date and latest weather forecast, in a similar fashion to the always on' screens of the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7. Ice View is a distinctively stylish touch, but it's not compelling enough to sway your buying decision between the HTC 10 and its competitors.

Conclusions

The HTC 10 is the smartphone that the Taiwanese company should've released last year, instead of the HTC One M9. It's so good, that it's allegedly the basis for this year's Nexus phones from Google. It's easily a match for all the other competing flagship phones, but it doesn't surpass any of them which is problematic for a company in deep financial trouble.

It's not as comfortable to hold as the Galaxy S7 and Samsung's camera is slightly better, but the 10 has longer battery life. The LG G5 lasts even longer and has a camera that matches Samsung's and has few unique tricks up its sleeve too, even if it doesn't feel as well-made as the 10. The HTC 10 is a great phone, but it's competing in a market awash with great phones. We'd rather have the LG G5 or the S7, but the HTC 10 is a very good alternative if one of those phones doesn't quite fill your particular niche.

This review was originally published on 21/4/2016 and has since been updated, most recently on 20/5/2016.

Verdict

The HTC 10 is a very good smartphone, but it struggles a little to stand out from the competition.

ProcessorQuad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Screen size5.2in
Screen resolution2,560x1,440
Rear camera12 megapixels
Storage (free)32GB (23.9GB)
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size146x72x9.0mm
Weight161g
Operating systemAndroid 6.0.1
WarrantyOne year RTB
Detailswww.htc.com/uk
Part codeHTC 10
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