After tons of leaks, and even a promotional video leaking out yesterday, HTC has finally unveiled their latest smartphone. This was a hugely important launch for HTC, because they haven’t been selling many smartphones lately, and their bank account have definitely been affected. In fact, in 2015, their sales dropped 35% compared to the year before. That’s a big drop, over a third of their sales. HTC has been struggling for about 5 years now. Some quarters they’ve been able to break even, but most quarters they have been in the red. To be quite honest here, no company can survive long when they are spending more money than they are making. BlackBerry has been able to because they were on top for so long, thus have plenty of cash in the bank.
Now with the HTC 10, the company knew there were some big areas that needed addressing, after their HTC One M9 launched in 2015. Perhaps the biggest one was the camera. But also the processing power, because the Snapdragon 810 didn’t work to well in 2015 – and HTC wasn’t the only one affected. But will the HTC 10 lead them back to glory? Tough to say right now. But let’s break down this new device from HTC, and tell you what’s good, what’s bad and what’s ugly about this new smartphone.
Finally, HTC has gotten the camera right. For the most part. DXOMark, who is a website that publishes reviews on cameras – not just smartphone cameras, but digital cameras, DSLR’s, Mirrorless, etc – put up their rating for the HTC 10 today and it did really well. Prior to the HTC 10, the highest rating for a smartphone was 88 out of 100. And that was given to the Samsung Galaxy S7/Galaxy S7 Edge. This means that HTC may have finally gotten the camera right. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we get one in hand to do our full review, which should be fairly soon. The camera was easily the biggest turn off with their last three smartphones. The HTC One M7 and One M8 both sported the “UltraPixel” camera, which was sporting larger pixels, but it was still just a 4-megapixel shooter. Which didn’t allow the camera to get a whole lot of detail. Last year with the HTC One M9, the company jumped to a 21-megapixel shooter, however they choose a sensor from Toshiba. Who had never made camera sensors before, and this one wasn’t good at all.
HTC finally went Quad HD! Now this isn’t HTC’s first smartphone with a 2560×1440 resolution, but it is the first one that will be available globally. The HTC Butterfly 3 (exclusive to Japan) and the HTC One M9+ (for Asia) both sported QHD displays, but their main flagship always stuck to a FHD (1920×1080 resolution). For many this was not needed, seeing as 1080p at 5.2-inches is pretty adequate. But when all of your competitors are using a QHD display, even on their smaller phones, it starts to tempt customers away from your product. And that is what has happened to HTC over the years. It’s pretty ironic, since they were first to use a 1080p display on the HTC Droid DNA (or the original HTC Butterfly in Japan). It’s a Quad HD Super LCD5 display this time around. Which should look pretty fantastic, as Super LCD always looks great.
Boomsound is still here, well sort of. When HTC debuted the HTC One M7 back in 2013, everyone was in love with the dual front-facing speakers on the HTC One M7. Which HTC dubbed as “Boomsound”, and this was back when they owned part of Beats Audio, so Boomsound was co-branded with Beats. The front-facing speakers continued on the One M8 and One M9 in 2014 and 2015 as Boomsound, but with the HTC 10, it’s different. This time around we have dual speakers, one at the top and one at the bottom of the phone. It’s an interesting set up, but from the early impressions, it appears to work really well. HTC decided to keep the tweeter and woofer separate, so your lows are coming from the bottom and your highs from the top. The HTC 10 has high-res audio, including a 24-bit DAC included, which should definitely keep those audiophiles nice and happy. HTC is also including a pretty spiffy set of headphones in the HTC 10 (unless you’re getting a carrier variant). These are hi-res audio earphones, which means you’ll still get to experience the same 24-bit audio you’d get from the Boomsound speakers.
No smartphone is perfect, and thus we do have some bad thoughts about the HTC 10. The glaring thing about the new smartphone is its price tag. The HTC 10 is selling at full retail of $699.99. That’s quite the price for this flagship smartphone. To put this into comparison the LG G5 is around $600-650 depending on where you’re getting it from. And the Samsung Galaxy S7 is around $650-700. Now this is right on par with their competition, but what does HTC have to lure customers from the behemoths of Samsung and LG? Not much. Spec-wise, the three companies are all the same. Each of them sporting a QHD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and roughly the same size battery. The HTC 10 and Galaxy S7 both use a 3,000mAh battery while the LG G5 has a 2800mAH battery inside. If HTC really wanted to get the attention of everyone out there and really make a splash, they should have priced it at around $550. That’s not that much less, and they would still get a decent profit. However, what good is a profit margin when you aren’t selling many smartphones?
The design of the HTC 10 is largely unchanged, and now in its fourth year. If you compare the HTC One M7 to the HTC 10 on design, you wouldn’t see much of a difference. The largest differences would be the front, where we now have a physical home button and no front-facing speakers, and then the chamfered edges on the backside of the device. That’s really all that’s different. We’ve all heard the saying “if it’s not broke, then don’t fix it” and that’s entirely true when it comes to smartphone designs. But something needs to change. HTC can’t afford for their sales to drop another 35% in 2016. Samsung had to see the light with their design after the Galaxy S5, and came out with some beautiful smartphones in 2015 and 2016, so hopefully HTC can do the same in 2017.
Now it’s time for the ugly. And this has to be said. Skipping out on selling your flagship device at AT&T is a big mistake. It’s actually rather surprising since AT&T is willing to carry any phone. Heck, it carried the HTC First and the Amazon Fire Phone, both of which flopped pretty hard. HTC is selling an unlocked model, which is compatible with AT&T’s network, but they aren’t going to be in their stores or sold on AT&T’s website. Which means if you want one, and you’re on AT&T, you’re stuck paying full price up front (unless you want to use PayPal Credit and split the payments up over 12 months). This is not good for HTC, and is likely going to cost them a good amount of sales. Seeing as AT&T is the second largest carrier in the US.
There’s also the fact that the HTC 10 isn’t shipping for nearly a month. While pre-orders did open up today on HTC.com, shipping is not expected until about the middle of May. Meanwhile, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile haven’t set dates for availability or pre-orders. Although T-Mobile did say it’ll be available in May. That is simply too long to wait for a smartphone. Apple and Samsung can announce a phone and have it available within 2 weeks at the most. And HTC has made their flagship available within days in the past (with the One M8 in 2014). So there’s really no reason why it couldn’t be shipping at least in April. This is going to be a tough one for HTC, because there are other phones coming in May and throughout the summer that will likely gather potential customers attention. And customers have already waited long enough for their new flagship.
Having said all of that, this is definitely HTC’s best smartphone in quite some time. Now it’s not without its quirks, but what smartphone doesn’t have quirks these days. Time will tell if it’s enough to get HTC back on their feet.