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 R40,000+ for a smartphone, 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 latest flagship is HTC 10, which on paper ticks all the right boxes that a premium phone should. At R52,990, HTC makes its clear: This flagship will take on S7 edge, LG G5 and the Apple iPhone 6s. But will HTC 10 be the company’s saviour? Here’s our review.
What is good?
Design in a premium smartphone matters and as I have 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.
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% with 4G on and I still used it to tweet, take pictures till the battery was at 4%.
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 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.
What is 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 too 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 R50,000 plus price tag. 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.
For HTC 10 the challenge is not convincing users it is a great phone, the challenge is the pricing.