A premium smartphone is not easy to do, and it’s even harder to win in this price-band. The reigning smartphone vendors for the last two years have been Apple and Samsung. And unlike Samsung’s wide portfolio, Apple is all about premium phones.
For users who are willing to pay above $500 or Rs 40,000+ for a smartphones, there’s now a standard set of expectations: exceptional camera, a great-design, battery that lasts all day, and yes performance and consistency that few can match. There are very few players that can tick all the right boxes, especially that last bit and maybe even give you something extra.
HTC, which used to be one of the top smartphone players in the world, seems to be refocusing on the premium segment where it had some grip earlier. The brand has lost momentum, and market share, since HTC One M7 and M8 awed the world.
The latest flagship is HTC 10, which on paper ticks all the right boxes that a premium phone should. But will HTC 10 be the company’s saviour? Here’s our review.
Specs: 5.2-inch 2K display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor at 2.2 Ghz | 4GB RAM +32GB storage (expandable to 2TB) | 12MP camera with Ultrapixel technology, OIS, 4K recording, f/1.8 aperture + 5MP front camera with 1.34 μm pixel size | HTC Sence with Android 6 | BoomSound technology, Dolby Surround Sound | 3000 mAh battery
Price: Rs 52,990
At an MRP of Rs 52,990, HTC makes its clear: This flagship will take on S7 edge, LG G5 and the Apple iPhone 6s. Certainly not an easy fight to win. HTC 10 ditches the iPhone-clone design of the HTC One A9 and goes for a slightly wider body, chamfered edges, and you get a phone that fits easily in your hand.
The back of HTC 10 has two bands running across it, and the circular camera module placed bang in the centre. We got the white and gold version, and this one had a gold metal frame running on the side. The front body is all glass, which merges seamlessly with the frame.
HTC has redesigned speakers on the front panel for a sleeker look, and there’s a set of speakers drilled at the bottom as well, right next to the USB-Type C port. The headphone jack is bang in the middle of the top-end of the phone.
As someone who uses a 4.7-inch iPhone because it fits easily in my hand, I’d rate the HTC high on looks. It’s a sleek smartphone, which looks premium; the gold colour is just right and I can fit it easily into my pocket.
The build quality on this is inspiring as with other HTC flagships. I’ve been carrying it around in my bag without any cover and I’ve not notice any dents or scratches. But I would suggest, you get a cover for the phone and a tempered glass to protect the front.
Design in a premium smartphone matters and as I’ve pointed out HTC 10 delivers on this front. What helps the HTC 10 is the 5.2-inch 2K display, which is quite bright and crisp. You should not have any trouble using this one in bright sunlight either.
HTC also gone for a cleaner UI, which is closer to stock Android. Personally, I was never fond of HTC Sense UI, and this pared down version works better for me. All those extra apps are now gone.
BlinkFeed is still accessible when you swipe right on the screen and you can customise the content you want to receive there. However, Android M features like Permissions, Google Now on Tap, etc are easily accessible, and it’s good to see HTC has not decided to hide them somewhere else. Google Photos is the default Gallery app on this one.
The overall performance of the phone is smooth and flawless. In my tests, HTC 10 came in the top ten in Antutu Benchmarks scoring 132082, putting it just below S7 edge, iPhone 6s, and above the G5. In GeekBench it scored 4953 in multi-core comparison. Benchmarks aside, the HTC 10 doesn’t stutter or lag and can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
Camera is where HTC 10 really shines, because this one delivers some stunning shots. Low-light shots or whether you are out shooting during the day, HTC 10’s camera is top-notch. It is fast, there’s no shutter lag and really delivers on the promise of what a premium smartphone’s camera should offer. The low-light shots in particular really impressed me with the HTC 10.
I’d say it comes quite close to the S7 edge in terms of performance, and if you’re not picky, you won’t feel much difference.
HTC 10’s battery is another strong suit of this phone and should last 10-12 hours with heavy to moderate usage. At one particular event, HTC 10 was down to 15 per cent with 4G on and I still used it to tweet, take pictures till the battery was at four per cent. When I was back in office, phone had not died and that’s impressive.
HTC’s BoomSound technology makes audio on this phone quite an experience. I listen to a lot of music on my phone, pretty much all the time and often I tend to the put the volume quite high, which is not really ideal. With HTC 10, I felt I could keep the volume levels at minimal and it still sounds loud enough.
On the 4G, connectivity front I faced no issues either. I used this with a 4G Vodafone SIM in Delhi.
What’s not so good?
The major problem I had with HTC 10 was over-heating. It got really warm, especially when I was using the camera outside, and that resulted in the battery draining faster. At one point it was to hot to hold or even put inside my jeans pocket.
HTC might have pared down HTC Sense, but this one still requires you to download Google Keyboard. The native Sangam IME keyboard was quite a pain to use and didn’t do much for my accuracy.
We know HTC is struggling in the premium smartphone market. It wants to regain the lost space, and HTC 10 is as good a bet as any to do that.
But I felt what’s missing was that extra factor to give this phone the edge, to justify the Rs 50,000 plus price tag. The S7 edge has the dual-edge display, which makes it stand out. The LG is going the modular way with the G5 phone. And the iPhone 6s has 3D touch, which others don’t.
HTC 10 doesn’t disappoint on any crucial aspect. But the problem for HTC is there are other options in the market, offering a similar experience that comes very close. Two phones I think of are: Nexus 6P, which is my personal favourite, and yes the newly launched OnePlus 3 that so far has wowed reviewers across the board.
For HTC 10 the challenge is not convincing users it is a great phone, the challenge is the pricing.