HTC 10: Is this the Droid you're looking for?

Oh, M8. Let's just say it sounds good


Remember how ambitious HTC used to be with its Sense UI? It pioneered merging your many contact books intelligently (without breaking them) and offering a social feeds reader. Well, the Material Design bulldozer has come and gone, and leaving only clues that there once used to be a vibrant and imaginative software house here once. HTC retains only a few of its home-grown apps: Contacts, Mail, Phone and Messaging. In comes Google Photo and Chrome. I don’t regard either as a step forward: the HTC photo app was much nicer.

With the Googlified Quick Settings (left) can't be edited: a step back from the M8. Audio profiles (centre, right)

You might wish to consider a third party launcher, because Sense only allows 16 (4x4) icons above the dock, which doesn't look right. At least "Sense Home", the misconceived “smart” widget folder has disappeared.

The most unwelcome addition comes in the Recent Apps switcher, which is overlaid with a Google search bar. WTF, HTC? When people invoke this, they have only one task in mind: switching apps. Or maybe closing a few. It's pretty tacky.

In addition to HTC’s Themes there’s a new “Freestyle” option for designers, which makes use irregular shaped and overlapping icons, which are called "Stickies".

It's very thorough and gives the phone a complete visual overhaul. At first sight it's very gimmicky, but it does give you a break from the fussiness of a conventional Android UI, and its constant visual reminders that you ought to be busy. Maybe it's one for weekends, or when you don't want to be reminded of stuff. Only a few Freestyle themes are available so far.

Last year’s M9 was hampered by the CPU from hell, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810. Normal use sometimes left me with a brick by 3pm. The 820 is a tamer beast, and better tuned. The 10 only got mildly warm, certainly not uncomfortably so, when gaming. I'm skeptical of HTC's boast that the 3000mAh battery, lasts two days. But over a week, only on the first day of setting things up did it fail to last a day, and the rundown is predictable. That's a big improvement.

Signal reception was markedly better than previous HTC flagships, although it aggressively nagged me to turn Wi-Fi calling on. (I didn’t always want it on).

Call quality was fine, but given HTC’s brand reputation with audio, call audio diverted through the loudspeaker should sound better. Reducing noise needs some work.

HTC’s big bragging feature is audio. In addition to the 24bit DAC and HiRes certification more protocols are supported. Last year HTC introduced Blackfire and AllPlay support, but the biggie here is Apple’s AirPlay. This will be backported to older HTC devices. There must be teething problems, though, as it didn’t recognise an Apple TV. (We’ll update you on this).

I liked the ability to fine-tune an audio profile to emphasise certain parts of the dynamic range. If one ear doesn’t work as well as the other, you’ll appreciate it too.


The HTC 10 is a tale of two cameras, a superb front-facing selfie cam and a greatly improved rear camera. It's hard to find much fault with either. The 5MP wide aperture (f/1.8) selfie camera captures excellent wide shots, and includes hardware OIS for the first time I've seen on a front-facing shooter. The rear camera is 12MP and gets good detail and colour balance. The old villains of overexposure pop up sometimes, but after the Huawei/Leica hype the 10's achievements are refreshingly understated. Smartphones usually receive tweaks, but judging by the pre-production unit we received, imaging was reliable. It takes 4K, slow mo and time lapse video, as well as HTC's Zoe images (since copied by Apple), and it's nice to see the simple HTC Camera UI hasn't been tampered with.


Two years ago, the HTC "ecosystem" looked healthy. To go with your M8 you could pick up funky cases and audio accessories, a novelty camera (the Re) and even NFC treasure tags. Much of this has been discarded.

The 10 is HTC’s best phone and does much to repair the reputational damage done by last year’s One M9, notable for its poor-in-all-conditions camera and shocking battery life.

But the market has moved, and HTC’s flagship is no longer as distinctive as it was, and if you don’t need the 10’s marquee features of 24bit audio, or Apple Airplay support, buying a 10 becomes much harder to justify.

Improvements in hardware design from Chinese upstarts, and the relentless March of Material make brand flagships feel much more generic. Yet the price of the HTC 10 – listed at over £550 – remains eye-wateringly high. Overall, it's a smart package that's hard to fault. But there isn't enough here to challenge a much-improved Samsung, and unless you really need the audio features, you should consider the Shenzhen alternatives at half the price. ®

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • UK government opens consultation on medic-style register for Brit infosec pros

    Are you competent? Ethical? Welcome to UKCSC's new list

    Frustrated at lack of activity from the "standard setting" UK Cyber Security Council, the government wants to pass new laws making it into the statutory regulator of the UK infosec trade.

    Government plans, quietly announced in a consultation document issued last week, include a formal register of infosec practitioners – meaning security specialists could be struck off or barred from working if they don't meet "competence and ethical requirements."

    The proposed setup sounds very similar to the General Medical Council and its register of doctors allowed to practice medicine in the UK.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft's do-it-all IDE Visual Studio 2022 came out late last year. How good is it really?

    Top request from devs? A Linux version

    Review Visual Studio goes back a long way. Microsoft always had its own programming languages and tools, beginning with Microsoft Basic in 1975 and Microsoft C 1.0 in 1983.

    The Visual Studio idea came from two main sources. In the early days, Windows applications were coded and compiled using MS-DOS, and there was a MS-DOS IDE called Programmer's Workbench (PWB, first released 1989). The company also came up Visual Basic (VB, first released 1991), which unlike Microsoft C++ had a Windows IDE. Perhaps inspired by VB, Microsoft delivered Visual C++ 1.0 in 1993, replacing the little-used PWB. Visual Studio itself was introduced in 1997, though it was more of a bundle of different Windows development tools initially. The first Visual Studio to integrate C++ and Visual Basic (in .NET guise) development into the same IDE was Visual Studio .NET in 2002, 20 years ago, and this perhaps is the true ancestor of today's IDE.

    A big change in VS 2022, released November, is that it is the first version where the IDE itself runs as a 64-bit process. The advantage is that it has access to more than 4GB memory in the devenv process, this being the shell of the IDE, though of course it is still possible to compile 32-bit applications. The main benefit is for large solutions comprising hundreds of projects. Although a substantial change, it is transparent to developers and from what we can tell, has been a beneficial change.

    Continue reading
  • James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its new home – an orbit almost a million miles from Earth

    Funnily enough, that's where we want to be right now, too

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex space observatory built by NASA, has reached its final destination: L2, the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, an orbit located about a million miles away.

    Mission control sent instructions to fire the telescope's thrusters at 1400 EST (1900 UTC) on Monday. The small boost increased its speed by about 3.6 miles per hour to send it to L2, where it will orbit the Sun in line with Earth for the foreseeable future. It takes about 180 days to complete an L2 orbit, Amber Straughn, deputy project scientist for Webb Science Communications at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a live briefing.

    "Webb, welcome home!" blurted NASA's Administrator Bill Nelson. "Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb's safe arrival at L2 today. We're one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can't wait to see Webb's first new views of the universe this summer."

    Continue reading
  • LG promises to make home appliance software upgradeable to take on new tasks

    Kids: empty the dishwasher! We can’t, Dad, it’s updating its OS to handle baked on grime from winter curries

    As the right to repair movement gathers pace, Korea’s LG has decided to make sure that its whitegoods can be upgraded.

    The company today announced a scheme called “Evolving Appliances For You.”

    The plan is sketchy: LG has outlined a scenario in which a customer who moves to a locale with climate markedly different to their previous home could use LG’s ThingQ app to upgrade their clothes dryer with new software that makes the appliance better suited to prevailing conditions and to the kind of fabrics you’d wear in a hotter or colder climes. The drier could also get new hardware to handle its new location. An image distributed by LG shows off the ability to change the tune a dryer plays after it finishes a load.

    Continue reading
  • IBM confirms new mainframe to arrive ‘late’ in first half of 2022

    Hybrid cloud is Big Blue's big bet, but big iron is predicted to bring a welcome revenue boost

    IBM has confirmed that a new model of its Z Series mainframes will arrive “late in the first half” of 2022 and emphasised the new device’s debut as a source of improved revenue for the company’s infrastructure business.

    CFO James Kavanaugh put the release on the roadmap during Big Blue’s Q4 2021 earnings call on Monday. The CFO suggested the new release will make a positive impact on IBM’s revenue, which came in at $16.7 billion for the quarter and $57.35bn for the year. The Q4 number was up 6.5 per cent year on year, the annual number was a $2.2bn jump.

    Kavanaugh mentioned the mainframe because revenue from the big iron was down four points in the quarter, a dip that Big Blue attributed to the fact that its last mainframe – the Z15 – emerged in 2019 and the sales cycle has naturally ebbed after eleven quarters of sales. But what a sales cycle it was: IBM says the Z15 has done better than its predecessor and seen shipments that can power more MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) than in any previous program in the company’s history*.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022