HTC Hopes to Turn Around its Fortunes With New 10 Smartphone

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HTC’s new flagship smartphone is here. It’s the 10. Like we anticipated, HTC is dropping everything we have come to associate with its naming convention for its devices. The successor to last year’s One M9 is simply known as the 10. The HTC 10.

The HTC 10 while definitely a worthy upgrade to the One M9, doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s an evolutionary product. A refinement of past HTC premium smartphones to fit the 2016 profile of what users want and expect from a high-end device. As such, you won’t find the modularization that LG brought to the market at least a few years before fully modular devices hit the market.

The design, said to be an effort of both the company’s teams and its users whose feedback was taken, borrows from HTC’s flagship One M series from last year going backwards and that of the HTC A9, a device that resembled Apple’s iPhone. The end result is chamfered edges, a fingerprint sensor embedded on a button that is located where home buttons are placed on other devices and an all-Aluminium unibody.

The major bone of contention in past flagship smartphones from HTC has been the camera. The Taiwanese device hopes to exorcise that ghost with the 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel “UltraPixel” cameras in the HTC 10. Apple and Samsung’s top smartphones’ cameras also pack a similar pixel count. Both sensors have optical image stabilization and f/1.8 aperture. This is the first time we are seeing a f/1.8 wide-angle lens selfie camera on a smartphone. The back camera also has a laser autofocus sensor and dual LED flash.

There was no glitzy event laden with models and executives trying to outdo each other on stage with poorly rehearsed phrases and awkward moments. Instead, a slight makeover of htc.com and the video below was all that HTC needed to officially announce the 10.

Here are specifications of the device:

  • Size and weight: 145.9 x 71.9 x 3.0 – 9.0mm, 161 grams
  • Display: 5.2-inch Super LCD 5 Quad HD display (2560 x 1440 pixels, 564 ppi)
  • Processor: Snapdragon 820
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM, 32/64 GB internal storage (expandable via a microSD card slot up to 2 terabytes)
  • Camera: 12-megapixel OIS f/1.8 UltraPixel (1.55µm) sensor at the back, supports 4K video recording; 5-megapixel OIS f/1.8 UltraPixel (1.34µm) sensor at the front
  • Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow with HTC Sense 8 UI layered on top
  • Battery: 3,000 mAh (non-removable, supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0)
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5GHz)
  • Network: 3G, LTE
  • Others: Fingerprint scanner, Dolby Audio 4 Hi-Fi dual BoomSound speakers, 24-bit high-resolution audio

As the rumour mill had prepared us to expect, the dual BoomSound speakers live on but in an interesting arrangement. Instead of being prominent on the front, they take a back seat. The HTC 10’s earpiece also doubles up as a speaker. The second speaker is placed at the bottom of the device with sound coming out of the holes drilled from the Aluminium body.

HTC is said to have taken extra steps to make its Sense user interface, which is now in its eighth version, “lighter”. That has included stripping it of applications that duplicate functions already performed better by the bundled Google apps and the inclusion of a new “Freestyle” home screen. The photo gallery application on the HTC 10, for instance, will be Google Photos, not HTC’s own.

When we say that HTC has not introduced any unique features in the HTC 10 we don’t explicitly mean that. There are some minor features that not every user of the device may end up taking advantage of but that are quite notable. One of those is the HTC’s support for Apple’s proprietary wireless streaming standard, AirPlay, a first for an Android device. No other Android device in the world supports AirPlay. Even though it will only be limited to music streaming, HTC’s new smartphone is the first to do so. May be after the HTC 10’s announcement we will see other Android device makers introduce devices that support the proprietary standard?

On the accessory front, HTC is partnering with JBL, an audio products powerhouse, to avail in the market headsets that take advantage of the HTC 10’s 24-bit high res audio reproduction. The Dot View case that previous HTC One M devices have had for an accessory is being replaced by an “Ice Cream view” case. The latter serves up translucent peeks at the device’s display instead of the 8-bit style low-resolution rendering of the former.

The HTC 10 goes on sale globally in May at a price of US $699 (about Kshs 71,000). It is available in Carbon Grey, Glacier Silver and Topaz Gold colours. Japan will get a special edition Camellia Red colour model.

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