HTC 10

There can be no doubt that the all-new HTC 10 is the finest smartphone available on the market today. (Go ahead, argue with me.)

It is an absolute beauty, from its chamfered all-metal body to the edge-to-edge glass on the front.

Edge to edge gorilla glass, but where did the speakers go?
Edge to edge gorilla glass, but where did the speakers go?

HTC touts the “24-bit high resolution audio.” It’s like there’s a bottom-firing woofer and a top-firing tweeter. The older HTC One line used to have two front-facing speakers built in, for what many believed was the best-sounding smartphone. But how many of us listen to smartphones through the speakers? When I first plugged a headset into the 10, it asked if I wanted to set up a personal audio profile (well, YEAH, duh). After taking a short test of various frequency levels, the 10 now adjusts the audio for MY EARS. (And with hearing loss in the upper reaches and a constant tinnitus, that ain’t easy.) It also recommends that I create a separate audio profile for each pair of earbuds/headsets that I use. SWEET.

HTC One M7 and HTC 10
The old One M7 with the new 10. Now that’s different.

The One M7 was a groundbreaking smartphone from a respected manufacturer. It had an all-metal chassis, dual front-facing speakers, and was crammed with goodies as befits a “flagship.” The One M7 was a class leader. The succeeding One M8 and One M9 would carry the same look and feel onward, and reviewers would complain that HTC was getting stale. Well, the HTC 10 puts all of that behind. Still, what was important to me was that this new HTC would carry class-leading cameras, above all else. And it does.

HTC 10 sample
Sample photo on AUTO using available lighting

I’ve set up a Flickr album for the HTC 10, to show actual untouched photos straight from the camera (other than downsizing, of course). As with the TFrog.com philosophy, I will show exactly what this device can do, without any help from me, so that everyone thinking of investing in the 10 will know what they can expect.

Right off the bat, I’m amazed. The f/1.8 lens seems to be up to every situation, from full sun to low light. I took the phone on a grocery shopping trip, and it came back with photos good enough to eat. One reviewer pointed out that the photos from the HTC 10 lacked the oversaturated colors, the “punch,” of other smartphones. As a dedicated amateur photographer who has spent thousands of dollars on cameras and lenses, I will point out that the images from the HTC 10 are exactly what the eye sees. Others pump up the colors to make them attractive on social media sites, but I’m not interested. Reminds me of those tourist postcards sold in gift shops.

HTC 10 PRO mode
PRO mode in the HTC 10

I can always adjust saturation and sharpening in post-processing, especially because the 10 also has a PRO mode and RAW format! In PRO, I can control many of the functions (read: screw up), from ISO to shutter speed to focal points. But my early results tell me to just keep it on AUTO. I like the 16:9 format, which spits out a 9MP JPG (4000 x 2240). The buffet above was at 4:3, and was exactly a 4000 x 3000 JPG (you’re looking at an 800 pixel version). So output from the camera is more than enough for most occasions (think a printed copy at 13″ by 10″).

The phone arrived Saturday and I write this on Monday, so I’ve only had it for a few days. But everything about the phone so far has been amazing. I’m thrilled and convinced that I made the right decision.

The back story

Back in 2013, I bought the best available smartphone on the market, the HTC One M7. Not thrilled with my iPhone 4S, I moved to Android, read up on available phones, and chose the HTC – the right decision. The display was sharp, clear, and vivid. HTC Newsfeed was a great home screen, offering news, social media, fully customizable content. The camera/selfie combo was just fine, until my main camera zotzed in year two, putting out purple garbage in other than outdoor sunny shots. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed that phone for its three years.

2014 – HTC released the One M8, also to excellent reviews.

2015 – HTC took a step backwards in the One M9, generally viewed as a disappointment.

I knew that the successor to the M9 had to be a major hit. HTC couldn’t simply “return to form,” they had to create a masterpiece to reclaim the top spot among smartphone manufacturers. And whatever was coming would be out in time for me to upgrade! I set up a Google alert and started scouring the net for any information.

Rumors abound in the electronics world, especially in mobile electronics. Even so, nothing was known as the big Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show came around in January. Perhaps we’d find out something at the big Mobile World Electronics show in Barcelona in February. No, what we found out was that HTC was not going to announce there, either, but stand by for a release from HTC in April.

The early rumors indicated that the new phone (as yet unnamed) would feature a Qualcomm chipset that hadn’t yet been invented. It would also run on a new version of Android that hadn’t yet been written. I wasn’t the only one anticipating something very special.

Enter @evleaks, Evan Blass (now of venturebeat.com), a leaker of information famous around the globe for accuracy. He pointed to a performance test that showed the new 10 as faster than all of its competition. He pointed to a third-party test of the camera, which scored the highest marks ever (tied with the new Samsung). He leaked things like the processor, the camera sensor, and ultimately pictures of the upcoming phone.

Finally, on April 12, 2016, HTC had the big reveal of the new 10. It was beautiful. Just seeing it, I wanted it. Knowing that it had the best camera available today, I wanted it. Knowing that it was the fastest, most capable smartphone available today, I wanted it. It would begin shipping on or about May 4th. But there was a catch.

AT&T LilyI’ve been with AT&T since back in the Bell Atlantic Mobile days. And AT&T, for whatever reason, was not going to offer the HTC 10. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Lily (left) and set up an account for three with Verizon. But it was a celebratory moment when the FedEx man came up my front walk with a package containing two shiny new HTC 10s! “It’s Christmas,” somebody yelled.