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
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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.

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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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Opening up the HTC 10

HTC sent me an HTC 10 to review…

HTC-10

Introduction

I love mobile devices. For me, when it comes to electronics, smartphones and mobile devices are some of my most favorite things. So, you can imagine my delight when HTC contacted me two weeks ago and offered to send me an HTC 10 to review.

I was wanting to do a video unboxing of the device, but honestly… there’s little to nothing to unbox.  The device comes in a white, square shaped, box with rounded corners. It contains the device, a SIM tray ejector tool, a wall wart and a USB-C sync/ charging cable.  There’s also some minor regulatory documentation booklets that are included by law, but other than glancing at them to see exactly WHAT they are and maybe to see which side of the device the SIM tray is on, you’re never going to look at them… EVER.

I’m working on a full review for Soft32.  I’ve been in the device since late Sunday 2016-05-22, Chicago time. I’ve got a few first impressions that I’d like to pass on to everyone, without going into too much detail at this point. I’d like to save it for the review that I hope to file before the end of May 2016.

Hardware

When you open the device, the first thing you think is, “iPhone,” or “Samsung.” The device really looks like an iPhone wanna be.  That’s too bad, from a form factor perspective; but it’s not all doom and gloom or any kind of “fanboy” put down.  While the device REALLY does look like an iPhone, the hardware is pretty awesome.

I’ve got the device running around nekked right now; and that’s a bit of a shame. The device itself is truly impressive looking; but as I said, the contents of the box are a bit Spartan. Again, you get the device, the AC wall wart and the USB-C cable.  Clearly missing in my opinion, is a basic case, and a set of ear buds.

NOTE: I shot out an email to HTC on this while I was writing this inquiring about both the HTC Ice View case and the missing earbuds.  HTC is partnering with JBL on a set of exclusive earbuds for the HTC 10.  HTC will be offering them in a bundle package that will be “coming soon” to HTC.com. What I received from HTC was due to this as well as “carrier agreements.”

If you get your HTC 10 now, that’s all you’ll get. Starting in late June, HTC will ship the HTC 10 with JBL earbuds.  The bundle that I mentioned, will be an exclusive offer available only at HTC.com.

Battery

The battery life on the HTC 10 is simply amazing.  The device has 27 hours of talk time and up to 19 days of standby time.  The device can go from zero (0) to 50% charged in as little as 30 minutes with its Quick Charge 3.0 charging system.

I’m still trying to see how well the device lasts without a charge. During the week, I often listen to podcasts and make calls while driving, with my smartphone connected to my Pioneer AVH-4800BS in dash DVD receiver.

As such, battery life on my phone doesn’t usually drop below 60% by the time I leave the office during the day.  However, the weekends are a much different story. My phone usually ends up spending most of the time in my jacket, without being connected to power. We’ll see how well the battery holds up over this American Holiday three day weekend.

UPDATE: As of this writing, I last charged my HTC 10 on Friday 2016-05-27 at 6pm.  It’s been off the charger ever since, fully active and with moderate use – gaming, email, calls, etc. – as of 3pm 2016-05-30, I got my first low battery warning at 15%.  This battery is amazing and you should have no issues with the batter lasting you when using this device.  Normal use should have you no lower than 65% at the end of a normal day.

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Suffice it to say I wasn’t too impressed with Marshmallow when I covered it last.  That hasn’t changed much. I am finding that Marshmallow – perhaps Android in and of itself – gets in its own way.  Half of the stuff that I’m trying to do with it seem simple enough, but it just doesn’t seem like it wants to work.

It may not be the mobile OS for me… and I’ll have more on this in the full review.

Connectivity

As with any smartphone, connectivity is the key to making any mobile device a success. Today’s mobile devices have a number of different radios in them, and the radios in the HTC 10 have a few quirks that you will need to be aware of.  While I hope to have more information on this in the full review, there are a few things that I need to cover here.

BT performance & connections

If there’s one thing that I really hate about Bluetooth is that its inherently unreliable.  In fact, more often than not for me, it doesn’t work right.

Now, while that is a general statement, it does hold true for the HTC 10.  All of the Bluetooth accessories that I have used with the HTC 10 do not perform as I, or anyone, would expect them to, as you’ll see below.

Olio Model One

This is the one device that seemed to work better with the HTC 10 than with my iPhone 6.  The watch seemed to connect with much form consistency and accuracy with the HTC 10. It connected with much more consistency and accuracy to the HTC 10 than it ever did with my iPhone 6.  However, I’m finding an issue with notifications that I hope to have more on in the full review.

Pioneer AVH-X4800BS
This car accessory is an issue.

Not only does it connect via Bluetooth for phone calls and the like, but it also connects via USB.  Both have issues.  The HTC 10 itself often doesn’t connect to the radio consistently without manual intervention.

Android phones also don’t automatically make any of their multimedia content available again, without manual intervention. Worse yet, this manual intervention must be done every time you connect the device to the radio…and that’s a pain in the butt.

USB Type C

This was an interesting choice for the HTC 10. While it does offer higher speed synching than nearly every other serial connectivity out there, USB C, like all other serial connections, it has its roots in RS-232, and in a technology that is well over 40 years old. As such, it’s not as reliable as you might think, or want it to be, especially when it comes to my car radio.  Yes, it charges well, and audio does play through the cable, but not as well as you might think or hope.  In fact, it doesn’t play through the cable consistently at all; and then, it doesn’t resume audio where you left off. It starts everything from the beginning again – beginning of the song that last played, beginning of the podcast, etc.

The biggest issue I have with USB C is that now, I have to get new cables to go everywhere I have and need cables – my home office, work, the car, and any other place I need to charge.  Type C cables are new, and are, unfortunately, somewhat expensive… and they will be until they become ubiquitous.

Call Quality

Call quality both via Bluetooth and the handset are good… much better than I would have hoped.  However, I’ve used HTC devices on and off for over 12 years. I have yet to run into one of their devices that doesn’t do well with call quality. The HTC 10 is no exception here.

Conclusion

So far, the HTC 10 is a decent device.  It’s got some state of the art hardware that includes one of the best batteries and battery technology that I’ve seen in the history of smartphones. It’s also running the latest version of Android Marshmallow, version 6.0.1.

It’s got some connectivity issues to get over, but this is one heck of a smartphone. If Android is your mobile OS of choice, and you’re in the market for a new device, then you really need to stop and give this one a serious look.

Over the next few weeks, I will be putting the HTC 10 through its paces. I’ll have a full review with pictures and additional information. I may also have some extra articles on the HTC 10 during this time as well.

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HTC One (M8) – Wrapping it all Up

My time with the HTC One (M8) is almost up. Here are my parting thoughts on the device.

Introduction

My time with the HTC One (M8) is nearly over; and I’ve had one heck of a time with the device. There are some things I really liked; and there are some things that I really didn’t care for at all.

I’ve published a number of blogs here on Soft32. You can search for all of them if you like, or you can simply click through and check out the links below:
HTC One (M8) Unboxing
HTC One (M8) – Initial Impressions
HTC One (M8) – Performance at a Premium
HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera
HTC One (M8) – Is Retro Good Enough?: The Dot View Case

I wanted to take a few moments and give the device the proper treatment before I box it up and send it back, so here are the core essentials of a proper review.

The Specs
The device has some really nice hardware specs from a device perspective. The camera, as you can see in my review of it, leaves a great deal to be desired. It does OK, but if you’re used to 8MP or better on your phone, I think you’re going to be greatly disappointed. However, I also have a decent DSLR and take some (semi-professional quality) pictures. Honestly, I don’t want to be a camera snob at all, but I would definitely NOT buy the HTC One (M8) for its camera. I’m not even certain I would rely on it as a smartphone camera. My iPhone 5 takes much better pictures, and by today’s standards, its 8MP sensor with f2.2 lens is about average. There are smartphones (some Android, some not…) out there with much, MUCH better lenses. If you’re wanting to double up smartphone and camera needs, this is not the phone to look at, in my opinion.

However, as I said, the rest of the specs are quite respectable, and I think, worth the premium price. The camera would have made this a home run, and instead, it unfortunately makes the HTC One (M8) just a mediocre phone.

Quad-core 2.3gHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
32GB Solid State Storage
2GB DDR3 RAM
microSD Card Slot supporting up to 128GB cards
5″ HD Display
HTC BoomSound
HTC Duo Camera – 4MP, dual LCD Flash
5MP Front facing camera
Bluetooth 4.0

The device does not appear to have BT LE as part of its Bluetooth stack. I’m not certain why. My iPhone 5 does, and its 2 years older than the HTC One (M8). Very disappointing, and somewhat confusing…

The device has enough onboard storage to hold a movie or two as well as most of your music collection. I’ve got a HUGE music library and have about 2300 songs on my iPhone 5. I’ve got maybe 500MB of space left over after that and all my tech podcasts (apps, etc.) are on it. With only 16GB, I don’t bother with video. There just isn’t enough space.

However, the HTC One (M8) has twice that space, and as I said, you can hold 1-3 HD movies, PLUS a large music collection, PLUS other audio (like podcasts) and still have space left over. You can also stick in up to a 128GB microSD card in the device for a max total space of 156GB. The HTC One (M8) gives you enough storage capacity to take everything with you, without having to compromise.

Its 2GB of DDR3 RAM insures that nearly everything you run – games, video player, music player, productivity apps, etc., run smoothly. In the month or so that I’ve had the device, I haven’t had any performance issues with it. It’s been running smoothly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for a better performing device.
The Hardware
Despite the camera issue (which for me, is HUGE, due to my photography bent), the HTC One (M8) has a lot to offer. From a hardware only perspective, the (M8) hits a home run.
The Device Itself
The HTC One (M8) is a great looking, great feeling device. Its aluminum body is solid, and it doesn’t look or feel cheap by a long shot. The device is thin and sleek. As you can see from the pictures below, it makes the larger iPhone 5 (with a 4″ 16×9 screen) seem dinky by comparison. I’ve tried to give you a decent look at the device. You have the full 360, plus the device’s front and back.

HTC One (M8) -0001
The HTC One (M8)

However, I did find that with a 5″ screen, the HTC One (M8) REQUIRES two hands to operate. I am huge (and have been for well over 10 years) on one-handed operability. I live in my device, and often have a notebook, pen and cup of coffee in one hand and my smartphone in another, checking mail, messages and the location of my next meeting. I can do this with my 4″ iPhone 5 quite easily. The device is skinny enough that I can hold the device and work the screen with my thumb.

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The HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 5 – front view

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Is Retro Good Enough? – The HTC One (M8) Dot View Case

It offers good protection, and the dot view display is cool in a retro sorta way, but…

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When I bought my iPhone 4S, I tended to carry it without a case. Most of the cases that I found, I didn’t like. The ones I liked, were too expensive, or…they wouldn’t work with an Apple branded or third party cradle. I got so fed up with it that I just decided to carry a naked device. Working with the cases that I found was just too frustrating.

That changed a little bit with my iPhone 5.  I’ve been using the same Speck case for nearly 2 years. I’m very happy with it, mostly because the back folds up and out of the way, so it works with devices and cradles that don’t work well with cases. It’s pretty cool to have a case that works – and I mean really WORKS – with your device and not against it.

When I received the HTC One M8 a few weeks ago, I was very excited to see that it came with the Dot View case.  Since it’s a loaner-review unit, the last thing I wanted to do was return it with scratches or dents in the screen or aluminum unibody. I know most reviewers understand that these things make the rounds, but you really want to take care of it. YOU don’t want to work with a beat up review unit. The next guy doesn’t want to, either.

So, the moment that after I unboxed the HTC One (M8), I put it in the Dot View Case. Here’s my feedback, specifically on the case.

1.Dot View Display Doesn’t Always Display

I find this one very frustrating. The Dot View display is supposed to display every time you close the case and then every time you double tap the front cover of the device while it’s closed over the display.  Simply  put, the HTC One (M8) review unit I have initially did this, but then stopped displaying the Dot View Display when the Dot View Case is closed on the device shortly after I started working with it on day one. Since then, the Dot View Display does appear when you double tap the closed case while it’s closed over the display, as required.

 2. Cracks and Wear

I’ve said it before. I have concerns about the hinge on the Dot View Case cracking over time with wear.  The logical way to work with this case is to flip the cover around the back of the device so that the cover stays open while you hold the device.  Over time, that’s going to create stress cracks on the spine of the case, and it’s going to weaken, rip and/ or crack. Period. This is just a matter of time.

3. Dot View Case and the Duo Camera

It’s clear to me that whomever designed the Dot View Case, never used it with the device. Part of the normal use case for the device is to take pictures with the device while it’s in the case.  This presents a couple of problems:

a.   Wrapping the Case Cover around the Device – You Can’t Take Pictures with the Case Cover open and wrapped around the back of the device. It covers the secondary lens, and the camera complains because the lenses are obstructed.  If you’re using the device with the Dot View Case and you want to take pictures, you have to open the case and let the cover flop open…which leads to our second problem.

b.   Elasticity in the Case Hinge – Leaving the case to flop open while you’re holding the device in landscape orientation, using the volume rocker as a shutter button, the Dot View Case cover wants to close shut on the device, turning off the display. This makes taking pictures with the device very frustrating.

In the end, you’re better off taking the device OUT of the case when you want to take pictures with the HTC One (M8).  Having the device in the Dot View Case while using it as a camera is very frustrating and very aggravating. While it’s very easy to take a lot of pictures with the HTC One (M8) and its rapid shutter release, the longer you work with the device as a digital camera, the more you’re going to want to have it out of the case, which completely defeats the purpose of having it in the case in the first place.

I’m not sure what the right answer is here. The case needs a couple of holes in the front at least for the camera (which would screw up the dot matrix look of the case OR require a graphic redesign of the dot view display), or you just need to make a different case choice for the HTC One entirely.

4. Use with Automotive Universal Device Cradles

This is another hot mess.   Most universal device cradles use some kind of spring tension arm to hold the device in place. Arkon makes some great universal holders. I’ve been using them for almost 10 years.

Your device needs to be in a cradle of some kind while it’s in the car. If you’re using it for navigation or for music playback, you’re going to want it secured and within reach so you can change songs, address GPS issues or answer phone calls without diverting your attention from the road.

The problem is that the case is flexible and there’s a great deal of elasticity in the plastic/ rubber hinge. You have to fold it around the back of the device so you can see the device while it’s in the case and in a universal cradle.  Side gripping cradles want to grab the case cover and fold it in half long ways/ portrait style. When this happens, I feel like the case cover is going to crack. Top gripping cradles want to grab the case and fold it in half short ways/ landscape style. When this happens, I feel like the plastic/ rubber hinge is going to rip AND the case cover is going to crack.

Again, this is another instance where you’d think that taking the device out of the case would be best, but at that point. However, that brings me to my final point regarding the Dot View Case.

5. Practicality Over Time – Don’t Bother

The Dot View Case is a book style case that rests its novelty in a dot matrix styled, retro display created by the holes in the cover.  When using this case with the HTC One (M8), I found I wanted the device in some sort of a protective case nearly all the time. It’s a mobile device, and I use mine most when I am in fact…mobile.

However, I found myself wanting to plug and chug the device in and out of the case more often than not when taking pictures and when putting it in a universal device cradle in the car.  The case doesn’t work well in these use cases.

I have an hour drive to work every day. That’s 2 hours in the car. Add normal picture taking/ selfies posing and other use to this, and I think you’ll find as I did.  The Dot View Case is a flop.

The problem is the case design, not the case type – a book style case. In contrast, book cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 works and works well because of the huge window cut in them to display the date and time when they are closed. When you fold them back, the opening in the case cover doesn’t obstruct the camera lens or LCD flash, allowing for unobstructed camera use.  The case hinge also doesn’t have the elasticity that the Dot View Case’s plastic/ rubber hinge and doesn’t want to swing closed all the time. I believe it’s also made of leather or other material and will probably weather the stress a bit better.

In the end, while I truly believe you need a case for any and all mobile devices and smartphones, the HTC One (M8) Dot View Case, unfortunately isn’t very practical; and that really bothers me.  I like the retro styled, dot matrix display and the fact that the device can detect a double tap to activate the display THROUGH the case, but in working with it over the past few weeks, I am too afraid of ripping, cracking or breaking it while using it for it to be of any real, long term use to me or any other user of the HTC One (M8).

What do you think?  Is the Dot View Case’s cool factor enough to excuse its many foibles? With its Gorilla Glass front and aluminum shell, is a case REALLY necessary?  Am I being too critical of the design and of book style cases in general?  Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

 

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Blackberry Shops the Company – Too Little Too Late?

Trading was briefly halted this morning, so an emergency strategy meeting could take place.

BB Stock-01BB Stock-02

I’ve been talking about the demise of RIM – now called Blackberry Corporation – for quite some time now.  In fact, if you recall, I called this over a year ago.  Blackberry was in trouble then; and quite honestly, nothing that they’ve done has had the force or power to turn the ship around. They’ve got an arduous decision in front of them.

Steve Ranger from ZDNet had an interesting column with 5 different suggestions for the company. I’m obviously not going to regurgitate what he said, but I do have my own take on most of these. I’ll make it brief; but I’m putting on my thunderwear for this. The time for candy coating everything is long gone.
According to Steve, Blackberry can:

  • Form partnerships
  • Go Private
  • Shop and Eventually Sell the Company
  • Break Up
  • Do Nothing

Form Partnerships
Whether on a client-by-client basis or with a larger player, RIM could seek out potential hardware partners like Samsung, HTC (a personal favorite of mine in this scenario), Microsoft or Apple. There are pros and cons to all of them

If I were Samsung, Apple or Microsoft, I’d pass on the partnership deal. Blackberry has too much going against it right now to attract any of these larger players as a partner, though Apple might want to partner with them to handle sync solutions for PIM data that might be integratable into a point release of OS X Mavericks and iOS 7 or later. If I were Samsung or MS, I’d look to acquire the company outright, which MS has tried to do on more than one occasion. Blackberry was never too keen on.  Big mistake on their part at this point, I think…

HTC could be the best choice of a partner, as they need something to help pull them out of the deep end of the pool.  They are also the potential partner that is likely to take the most risks and be the most flexible. Neither Samsung, Apple nor Microsoft NEEDS anything right now.  They’d probably take a majority share and just tell Blackberry to shut up and sit there… I would if I were any of those three.

Go Private
Without a major revamp in strategy, the company doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of surviving. They’re profitable, but only for as long as they can convince customers to keep buying their services. Eventually, they’re going to run out of steam. It’s just a matter of time.

Going private isn’t an option without a huge strategic shift. Blackberry hasn’t shown the potential to do this in the past 5 years. If they can do it now, I’d call for the removal of Thorsten Heinz. A strategic shift of that magnitude should have been done in the 2008/2009 time frame. No excuses…

Shop and Sell the Company
If I were MS, I’d adjust their last offer for stock price and try one last time. They have the cash, and Blackberry really can’t turn down any serious offer at this point.  I would also bid for the whole damn thing, too. Thorsten Heinz has turned his nose up at Ballmer twice since 2008, but a melding between Microsoft and Blackberry could do a lot for Windows Phone and could give it a huge boost.

As I mentioned, Samsung and Apple could and probably should also bid for the assets, including the IP that may still provide income. Blackberry’s future may not be bright, but there something there that may be of value to a larger mobile player.

Break Up
As I just said, their IP and other assets have some value. This is a real option for them. Their stock price as of 1130am Central Time as 10.25, up nearly a 1/2; but it had 6.6x that value in February 2011, just over 2 years ago.

Breaking up should be considered a last resort, if they can’t get any real cash in either the partnership or sell categories. The assets are likely to get spread around to too many companies, and then the value is greatly reduced

Do Nothing
This is clearly not an option. Heinz was brought in to turn around the company after its co-CEO’s did nothing and nearly ruined the company.

You don’t’ just halt trading on a publicly traded company. Something serious is up; and while there haven’t been any major announcements made on the results that I can see, its clear Blackberry’s time is almost up. Back in 2008, it thought Microsoft’s bid of $50 per share undervalued the company. They’ll be lucky to get 12 or 15 at this point, let alone 20-25 (which would be half the original bid).

I think the time has come. Heinz gave it a good go; but he hasn’t done anything to successfully turn the company around; and unfortunately, BB10, Blackberry’s new mobile operating system hasn’t seen any notable success.

The writing’s on the wall, we’ll miss Blackberry…maybe.

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HTC Needs…Something

Back in the day, the company could do no wrong. Today, it’s a different story…

htcI’ve been an HTC device user for years. Back in the day, HTC made devices for a company called imate. imate was a device OEM out of Dubai, UAE, and back in 2004…they were the BOMB. Their devices were unlocked, well designed, high performing, high margin products. I remember saving money for an entire YEAR so I could buy an imate PDA2k, a Windows Mobile 5 powered, EDGE based, smartphone. It cost me $930. Unfortunately, the review of the PDA2k I wrote and posted on 2005-06-09 seems to evaporated. There’s nothing left but a small shot of the actual device. It’s too bad. It was a great device and a good review, too.

It turns out that the company behind all of imate’s devices at the time was HTC. Since then, the company came out on its own, established its own brand, made a huge splash in the market and was a total success. Lately, however, they’ve hit some really hard times.

Samsung seems to be able to introduce new Android devices every time it sneezes. Their Galaxy S line of smartphones is a worldwide success, despite any disputes with Apple or accusations of patent infringement. The competition they have been providing in the Android camp is pretty stiff.

As such, it’s been difficult for HTC to gain much traction in this space. I saw an interesting article on WSJ.com, indicating that HTC may need to consider a merger if it wants to survive.

htc_one14

Many analysts that share this point of view have suggested either Huawei or Lenovo as potential merger partners. It’s unclear whether HTC will consider partnerships with either organization. Both companies are Chinese, and a Chinese partner could really open up sales opportunities for a struggling HTC, who posted their first operating loss on record. Unfortunately for HTC, this loss, coupled with a “gloomy third quarter forecast” is powering an eight year low in HTC’s stock price. Many brokerages are targeting a NT $100 share price in recent weeks. HTC was priced at NT $160 as of early this morning, 2013-07-31.

HTC’s problems aren’t engineering based. Their devices are well designed, and well manufactured. The HTC One is simply stunning by all accounts. HTC’s issues are sales and marketing related, and its seems that a merger may be the best and easiest way to resolve those issues and hitch a ride on someone else’s well-oiled machine.

Any way you slice it, it’s clear. HTC needs…something. If they want to stay relevant and stay in business, they better figure out what that is and get it done, or the HTC One may be the One and Only.

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Fast and Fluid Future at Mobile World Congress 2012

The biggest names in the fastest-moving industry gathered for the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, in what has been another eye-opening telecommunications industry event. From 27 February to 1 March, more than 3000 industry CEOs joined 60,000 attendees to see the latest products and ideas from the likes of Microsoft, Google, Nokia and Sony Ericsson.

With tablets and smartphones taking centre stage in recent mobile technology, many of the latest apps and products catered for these users, although mobile and laptop technology is also seeing some major developments.

Microsoft had techy hearts a-flutter with the launch of Windows 8. The company’s two-hour conference presentation featured the phrase “fast and fluid” enough times to drive home their new focus on the latest operating system model. Windows 8 will allow users to access multiple apps at any one time, and, keeping current user trends in mind, is synchronised for social media. Users will also enjoy smoother functionality for both touchscreen and mouse/keyboard.

Meanwhile Nokia had several new mobile phones to showcase, including the Luma 610, an simple, affordable smartphone designed for the youth market. Yet what is really creating a lot of Nokia buzz is their new high-res smartphone, the 808 Pureview. This is the first mobile to take photos at up to an extraordinary 41 megapixels, and cutting-edge Carl Zeiss optics to boot. This is one to lead the way in the evolution of smartphone photography.

Google is making waves with their latest additions to the Android family, despite pressure from their Apple competitors. As well as revealing plans for more affordable smartphone, their Android Honeycomb sees a brand new app for budding movie makers. Movie Studio is a slick app designed to enhance the 3.0 Android’s current video and image technology. Users can create their own short videos, using music, text and other such features, much as you would with other video-editing software. Except this can all be done from your smartphone.

High-definition seems to be the big trend at the moment; LG, HTC and Huawei all have big, high-def mobile screens in their latest releases. Certainly HTC was keen to preview their latest smartphone, the HTC One X. This super-slim mobile is less than 1cm thick and weighs a mere 130 grams. An impressive camera, dual core processor and 4.7inch screen makes it one to watch.

Sony Ericsson revealed their new Xperia Play, a mobile phone/game console hybrid. Despite being one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry this year, it has managed to impress the critics so far. This is an interesting design, yet it does do both the gaming and mobile sides justice. It has a slide-out gaming control pad, much like the Playstation hand control, while the phone itself also features a 5.1 megapixel camera with flash and auto focus, video-recording, Bluetooth, GPS, and the usual mobile features you’d expect from Sony Ericsson.

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Legacy Devices & Android 4 – Why your Ice Cream Sandwich is Gonna Melt

I’ve seen this over and over again – I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy.  Will I get the new upgraded OS for it when it’s released?

I remember back in the day when I had a Samsung i700 on Verizon Wireless here in the US.  Windows Mobile 2003 was about to come out, and the device was fairly new, and should have received the update for it fairly quickly. Samsung came out and stated that the device would get an update; but this was the early days of true smartphones – and apparently, the driver development wasn’t going well.

The device eventually got the upgrade that was promised, but it took Samsung over 18 months to deliver it.  Eighteen months…Eighteen months?!  Are you serious?  Yes, it was well into 2004 by the time the Samsung i700 WM 2003 upgrade was delivered.

Google just released the source code for the latest version of their Android 4.0, code named Ice Cream Sandwich. As such, Samsung, HTC and others are in the process of working on Android 4.0 powered devices. Some of their flagship devices, like Samsung’s Galaxy S II, and HTC Sensation 4G may or may not see some ICS love.

At the end of the day, kids…It’s up to the manufacturer or the carrier, not Google.

This is somewhat different than my experience with the i700 and Verizon.  While it took Samsung a while to get it together, Verizon also did a great deal of “testing” with the new OS before it released it.  While the OEM and the carrier are supposed to partner together to manufacture the device, in the end, the carrier has the final say.  They’re the ones you call when you have a problem – not Samsung…not HTC.  You call Verizon, AT&T…whomever you have your mobile contract with. In the end, they really don’t want you to upgrade, however. They want you to buy a new device.  Think about it…it’s part of how they make their money.

However, I know that both Samsung and HTC have already announced a starter list for devices that will definitely get ICS.  Those lists can be found at the manufacturer’s web site, and should be easily located, so if you’ve got a Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, etc. device and want to know if you’re going to get the upgrade, the best place to look is their home page.

If your device isn’t going to get an automatic upgrade, it’s not over. You can always root your phone and check out XDA Developers or CyanogenMOD.  More than likely, you’re going to be able to find a version of Ice Cream Sandwich that will meet your needs at either of those two sites.

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