HTC announced the HTC 10 premium smartphone today—its entry into the extreme competition for best smartphone on the planet. The device belongs to a category that makes no compromises in exterior presentation and interior performance. Trade-offs are a luxury enjoyed by makers of commodity smartphone models that pragmatic consumers buy.
HTC earned its reputation by designing exquisite phones that others in the industry, including Apple, had to follow and sometimes copy. Most notably the iPhone 6 and 6s product lines look like HTC designs. Powered by a Qualcomm 820 SoC, the HTC 10 will be one of the fastest phones available. However, raw speed is its least-important feature because almost every smartphone is fast, to such an extent that the performance increase of the newest phones compared to last year’s is barely perceptible.
HTC Style and Ergonomics Evolve
With the screen off, the design and ergonomics of the HTC 10 give a striking first impression. The style of the HTC One M phones and the One A9 are very satisfying to the eye and have evolved into the HTC 10. The Gorilla Glass screen, covering a not-too-oversized 5.1-in. display, merges seamlessly into the metal body, leaving room at the top and bottom for HTC’s miniature woofer and tweeter sound system at the top and a fingerprint sensor at the bottom.
The phone’s unibody is carved from solid metal. The chamfered edges leave the impression that the HTC 10 is thinner than its sleek one-third-inch thickness. And the 2.8-inch width seems like a design decision to facilitate one-handed use. The thumbs of most adults can reach to interact with most areas of the screen when held in one hand.
The very positive impression of the device’s construction leads you to have high expectations for its performance. It’s the camera, however, that will determine if the HTC 10 is a contender for the title best smartphone on the planet.
To Be the Best Smartphone, You Must Have the Best Camera
More people use smartphones to take pictures than to make telephone calls. But they won’t accept a phone with the operating complexity and large lens of a SLR camera because they don’t want to interrupt social interaction. Adjusting, focusing and shooting a photo with an SLR that doesn’t fit comfortably into a back pocket or purse is an unwanted distraction. Yet customers want SLR-camera-quality images.
Working under the consumers’ point-and-shoot constraints and desire for SLR-photo results, HTC made smart design decisions creating the HTC 10. The 12-megapixel camera sensor with bigger 1.55µm pixels that captures additional light is more important than a denser sensor with smaller pixels. High-quality optics, a 26mm focal length and HTC’s image processing expertise—such as Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)—adds up to a camera that earned a DxOMark score of 88, exceeding the score of the newest iPhones and matching the score of the Samsung Galaxy S7 (the top-rated smartphone camera).
A few sample images below supplied by HTC demonstrate realistic color saturation that isn’t too warm or too cool and an excellent depth of field that brings much of the composition into focus.
The HTC 10 camera app launches in 600ms and combines OIS with laser-focus to improve the point-and-shoot experience and photo quality. The laser auto-focus and dual-tone flash produce great close-up photos in low light. Laser auto-focus bounces a beam of light off of the subject to accurately measure its distance, which the image processing software uses to render the image and set the intensity of the flash. The dual-tone flash generates twice the amount of light and produces color contrast that reduces the washed-out coloring often produced from single-tone, single-LED flashes.
Even without the flash, the wide-angle lens captures more light, and HTC’s image-processing software produces SLR-quality images of longer-range scenes like the one below. The DxOMark score and photo samples lead to predictions that the HTC 10 could be a contender for top-ranking smartphones introduced this year. Hands-on testing and comparison with the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S7 will confirm those early impressions.
Powerful Platform: More Than Style and Great Photos
There’s a lot more to this phone than the camera. Some of the features attract a specific audience, like HTC’s 24-bit audio attracts audiophiles. More efficient use of the Snapdragon 820’s cores makes apps run better, and power management features that resemble features in Android N stretch the 3000 mAh battery between charges.
The HTC 10 can be recharged quickly using a combination of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 Rapid Charge 3 technology and the USB Type C connector. The HTC 10 can be recharged to 50% in about half an hour.
First Impressions: Definitely a Contender for the Title
This looks and feels like a contender in the race for best smartphone of 2016. But few people have had a chance to use it for an extended period and put it through its paces. Also, the distinctions between smartphones at this level sometimes are almost indistinguishable to anyone but the most serious enthusiasts and photographers.