FEATURE REVIEW – HTC 10

HTC sent me their new flagship Android smartphone to review, and it’s awesome.

Introduction
I’ve always been a gadget guy. If its electronic and it has buttons of any kind, then I’m usually all over it. Smartphones have always been a favorite gadget, as I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan (it’s a well-known fact that the idea for the cell phone came from the Star Trek communicator). So yeah… gadgets.

Back in the day, an obscure company out of Taiwan began making smartphones for a company out of Dubai called i-mate. These smartphones were the elite of the smartphone world. EVERYONE that was anyone in the tech journalism world went out of their way to try to get one of them in their hands, including me.

Fast forward to today. That obscure little company out of Taiwan, turned out to be HTC… and their flagship phones are some of the most sought after devices on the market today. Case in point – the HTC 10 is HTC’s latest offering in their Android line. This one is going to be kinda quick; but let’s see how well it does…

Hardware
As I said, HTC has one of the best hardware reputations in the industry. It’s always been great at hardware engineering. That being said, let’s take a look at what you get when you purchase an HTC 10.

What’s in the Box?
When you get a new smartphone, you nearly always expect to find a few things included with the device. Back in the day, you got a number of different gadgets and goo-jams in the box. This nearly always included the device, some kind of device cradle or charging station, a USB cable, some kind of carrying case or pouch and a set of earbuds. Today, that’s just not the case. Nearly NO ONE includes a cradle or charging station. I find that very problematic, as I don’t like to leave my device – in a case or not – just sitting by itself on a desk. More likely than not, I’ve got a glass of something sweet and sticky also on my desk, and I’m the kind of guy that works cluttered, as I like to spread out. This potentially makes the desk a water (read: liquid) hazard zone for nearly EVERYTHING on my desk. I’m fairly good about NOT bumping or spilling anything, but accidents do happen. Having the device off my desk surface at least gives my smartphone a fighting chance; and that only happens with a sync/ charge cradle.

The ICE View Case
When I got the HTC 10, I was really surprised that it didn’t come with w case. The HTC One (M8) came with the Dot View case. It was included with the device. The HTC 10 has a similar case, but it – the ICE View Case – is a $50 USD add-on purchase. It’s not included.

Now the ICE View case is a cool HD update to the M8’s low-red DOT View case, but it’s expensive, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth $50 USD. I happened to be fortunate enough to catch the case on sale for $20USD, direct from HTC, and my device is in one now. It’s nice and I think the device needs to have some kind of protective case. The ICE View case does a good job at $20 bucks, but a horrible one at $50 USD. At that price, it should do a lot more.

But enough about the case that should be, but isn’t, there…

OK, So What IS Included?
To be honest… not much. You get exactly the following:

  • HTC 10
  • SIM Card Removal Tool
  • USB-C Cable
  • Wall Wart Charger
  • Warranty Documentation

Notice, that you do NOT get any ear buds or other type of headphones with the device. I contacted HTC about the lack of accessories included with the device and got the following response:

“I know we used to include earphones but this time around we are teaming up with JBL to bring the highest quality earphones to consumers in a bundle package that will be coming soon to htc.com. The earphones have not hit the market yet. What you received in the package is partially due to carrier agreements as well.”

According to my contact at HTC, the JBL bundle was supposed to the partnership with JBL was supposed to come together in late June. From what I can see, it hasn’t happened. The JBL ear buds that they do show on the site, are just that – earbuds; and they’re currently priced at $200 USD. I don’t care how great they are. No earbuds are worth $200 bucks. Period.

HTC also offers as set of HTC Pro Studio Earphones for $80 bucks and a set of HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones for $30 bucks. The Pro set has a better dynamic range, and support HTC’s BoomSound audio profile. The plain Jane set don’t. You have to ask yourself if the HTC BoomSound audio profile is worth $50 bucks. For me… it’s not. Quite frankly, their entry level ear buds aren’t worth $30 bucks in my opinion. If you want a decent set of headphones, do some research on the internet and then go to an electronics store. If you’re looking for earbuds to get you listening to audio on the go, go to Wal-Mart or some other value retailer and buy a pair for $10-$15 bucks. Save yourself some money. Earbuds aren’t worth much more than that, in my opinion.

The Full 360
As you can see from the pictures, below, the device is similar in form factor to its cousins, the M8 and the M9. However, the first moment I took it out of the box, the first thing I thought was, “wow. This looks exactly like an iPhone.” In fact, for a split second, I thought I was holding an iPhone instead of the HTC 10.

To be blunt, the hardware is awesome looking. Check it out!

 

IMG_5490 IMG_5491 IMG_5492
FULL FRONTAL: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 LEFT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 TOP: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Notice the audio jack placement on the HTC 10
IMG_5493 IMG_5494 IMG_5495
RIGHT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Both the M9 and the HTC 10 have power, volume rocker/ buttons and SIM card slots on the right side. BOTTOM: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8 and M9 have microUSB connectors, off-centered. The HTC 10 has a centered, USB-C connector & a bottom speaker instead of the headphone jack. BACK: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8’s dual camera setup was so disappointing, they did away with it.

Camera
I’ve been shooting amateur photographs for quite a while now. I’ve become pretty good, though I will be the very first to admit that I have a great deal to learn when it comes to the manual settings on my cameras. However, one of the things that I do well is compose and take a good picture.

So, when I found out that the HTC 10 supported RAW camera files, I got very excited. For those not familiar with Camera RAW and its benefits, here’s a quick explanation. Camera RAW is basically a dump of the actual camera image that the camera captures when it snaps a shot.

Usually when you take a picture the camera will take the data that it captures and then convert that data into a file that your PC – either Windows PC or Mac – can read. In many cases, in order to conserve space on the SD card you’re camera uses for storage, it also compresses that file. While the choice of this file type and its compression level is user controllable, compressing a file always strips detail out of the file, degrading the image. This happens with JPEG’s and JPG’s regardless of the compression level you use. JPEG/ JPG by default has some compression to it, even when you choose a compression level of “0.”

This is an issue because when you go to tweak your photos, you want to work with as much detail and data as possible in order to insure that you get the best results. When you add compression, you strip detail away, and well, by now, you get the point – you don’t get the best results. Camera RAW is the FULL detail of the image you took, and is really the one that every photographer wants access to when they go to retouch their images.

However, most consumer based digital cameras don’t support camera RAW. While it’s mostly because 1) Most consumers don’t care about or understand how the loss of detail effects their pictures, it’s also about 2) The camera manufacturer doesn’t want (for whatever reason) to write the translation filter for your computer so it can read and edit the RAW files for that camera (and yes, each camera/ camera brand has its own RAW file format).

With this in mind, you’re going to need to do a couple of things

  1. Understand that RAW files are big. Pictures normally range in file size from 20MB to 30MB, depending on the lighting, detail, type of shot (macro, zoom level, etc.)
  2. You’re going to want/ need to store files on an external SD card. If you keep files available on your phone, you’re going to run out of space, quickly.

All this said, I was very pleased with the performance of the camera on the HTC 10. Full camera specs can be found below.

Primary
  • 12 MP,
  • f/1.8, 26mm,
  • OIS,
  • laser autofocus,
  • dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features
  • 1/2.3” sensor size,
  • 1.55µm pixel size,
  • geo-tagging,
  • touch focus,
  • face detection,
  • HDR,
  • panorama
Video
  • 2160p@30fps,
  • 720p@120fps,
  • HDR,
  • stereo sound rec.
Secondary (Front-facing)
  • 5 MP,
  • f/1.8, 23mm,
  • OIS,
  • autofocus,
  • 1.34 µm pixel size,
  • 1080p,
  • HDR

The camera here has decent low light exposure and a decent depth of field, but it’s strictly your basic point and shoot camera. This isn’t going to do pro or pro-sumer level photography. Don’t expect that. The pictures that it takes are decent at best. I’ve noticed that zoomed in photos taken near dusk (some are below) can be grainy, even when using camera RAW.

Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the HTC 10. These are in fact JPG’s, as the RAW files wouldn’t have displayed in this review. However, they are done with minimal compression. However, if you’ve got a good eye, you may see some image degradation and graininess in them. I can; but that’s due more to the “Save for the web” feature that I used in Photoshop Elements than anything else.

IMAG0028 IMAG0029 IMAG0031 IMAG0032
My family at my oldest son’s baseball game. My granddaughter making friends at the game The following pictures are of the coach’s review after the game (they won…) This shot is grainier at the top than it is at the bottom. I think that may be due to the stark color discrepancy between the top and bottom of the shot. Its more washed out near the extreme powder blue of the sky.
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The coaches review continues. You can see some graininess here The graininess isn’t as bad here, though, as the picture contains more elements of color than actual white.

Communication
The unlocked version of the HTC 10 that HTC sent me runs on both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the US. The HTC 10 uses a nano SIM, and I was able to pull the card out of my iPhone 6 and immediately stick it in the HTC 10.

As expected, calls were clear. As expected coverage and radio reception were on par with my iPhone 6. The thing that DID go sideways with it was its communication with my car radio, the Pioneer AVH-X4800BS.

While the radio is Siri Eyes Free Compatible, it is neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto compatible. The radio uses an app called AppRadio One to display audio and video content and compatible apps on the radio’s 7-inch screen. If you want, you can call this the “poor man’s” version of CarPlay or Android Auto. It does much the same thing, but it’s a Pioneer product.

While I’ve learned that its nothing anywhere close to either Android Auto or CarPlay, I have found that the iPhone communicates and works much better than the HTC 10 does with this radio. I’m not certain if that’s a USB issue (the radio supports a direct, cabled, USB connection), a software issue (it seems to work better with iOS than with Android, in my opinion).

The radio does hands free calling via Bluetooth. That works, mostly, without issue. There are more minor Bluetooth communication quirks with the HTC 10 than with the iPhone 6. To be honest, it was one of the major reasons why I went back to the iPhone 6 much earlier than I had originally planned.

Android
The HTC 10 is an Android phone running Android 6.01 Marshmallow (or greater). The full platform specs are below.

OS Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 530

I have been watching for updates to the operating system. Since I received the device about three months ago, I have received two OS updates and a carrier update. The device is running well.

The only real concern I have is how long HTC will support the device with upgrades. The device isn’t cheap, and one would usually expect to have it supported with updates and upgrades for at least 2 years (the average of a single “contract” term with any character. However, that may not be the case. HTC and the rest of the other OEM’s have made it clear they’d rather sell new devices than provide support.

Conclusion
I was impressed with the HTC One (M8), though it had its issues. The HTC 10 is a far cry better than the M8.

The HTC 10 is shy on accessories. You get little more than the device, a cable and a wall wart in the box. Even on HTC.com, the number of offered accessories is limited to the ICE View Case and a handful of headphones/ earbuds. If you want a lot of accessories for your smartphone, the HTC 10 may not be the device for you.

However, as the device has killer battery life, and a decent point and shoot camera. Marshmallow is a decent version of Android, though to be honest, while it does a good job with the HTC 10, it’s much like any other version of Android since Jellybean. If Android is your mobile OS of choice and you’re due for an upgrade or looking for a new mobile device, this is a GREAT device of choice.

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