HTC 10 Review: Android 7 Nougat Update NOW LIVE

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UPDATE: Android Nougat is Now Available For HTC 10

HTC has updated its HTC 10 handset to Android Nougat. The company has begun rolling out the software to HTC 10 handsets all over the globe, bringing some great new features to the mix as well as some key improvements to software optimisation and overall performance.

All of Android Nougat’s New Features

Performance

  • JIT compiler: The new JIT compiler improves runtime device performance, reduces the amount of storage space required for apps and makes app and system updates much faster.
  • VR mode: With VR mode, Android Nougat is ready to transport you to new worlds. Coming soon with Daydream and Daydream-ready phones.
  • Vulkan™ API: Vulkan API is a real game changer with high-performance 3D graphics. See apps spring to life with sharper graphics and eye candy effects.

Battery & Data

  • Doze: Doze is now dozier, with your device going into lower power usage when you’re on the move. That means your Android device will conserve battery even when it’s jostling around in your pocket.
  • Data saver: Limit how much data your device uses with Data Saver. When Data Saver is turned on, apps in the background won’t be able to access mobile data.

Productivity

  • Split-screen mode: Now you can multitask with ease. Run two apps side by side in split-screen mode – watch a movie while texting, or read a recipe with your timer open.
  • Picture-in-picture mode: On Android TV, you can continue watching your current video while browsing or changing settings.
  • Quick switch: Double tap the Overview button to switch between your two most recently used apps.

Notifications

  • Bundled notifications: See what’s new at a glance with bundled notifications from individual apps. Simply tap to view each alert.
  • Direct reply: Direct reply lets you quickly reply to a message, directly from within the notification shade. So, you no longer need to launch the app to send a quick response.
  • Notification controls: When a notification pops up, just press and hold to toggle the settings. For instance, you can silence future alerts from an app in the notification itself.

System Improvements

  • Customisable Quick Settings: Rearrange your Quick Setting tiles so you can get to what you want faster.
  • Quick Settings bar: Quick Settings has been redesigned so that you can get faster access to top Quick Settings tiles directly in the notification shade.
  • Improved Settings navigation: Find the right setting faster with an updated navigation menu in Settings.
  • Settings suggestions: Within Settings, get suggestions for how to get even more out of your device.
  • ‘Clear all’ in Overview: Instantly close all of your apps running in the background by tapping ‘clear all’ in Overview.
  • Emergency information: Emergency Information lets you add information such as name, blood type, allergies and an emergency contact so that emergency responders can view this information through your device’s lock screen.
  • Lockscreen wallpaper: You can now have different wallpapers on your device’s homescreen and lockscreen.

Privacy & Security

  • Direct boot: When restarting your device, Direct Boot helps it start up faster and ensures that important communications still run. So before you even put in your password, you’ll still get that important text message and hear your alarm clock ring.
  • Seamless software updates: On select, new devices running Android Nougat, OS updates can download in the background, so you can go on with your day while your device syncs with the latest OS.
  • File-based encryption: Building on top of our security platform, Android Nougat introduces file-based encryption. By encrypting at the file level instead of the block level, Android can better isolate and protect files for individual users on your device.
  • Scoped folder access: Apps can request access to specific folders that you can allow or deny access to (just like app runtime permissions). This is a reduced-scope version of the Storage permission for Apps that only need access to certain folders. It can also allow Apps to request direct access to removable media (on devices with that hardware).
  • Trusted face: Trusted face, a part of Smart Lock, makes unlocking even easier thanks to a new face recogniser. The new recogniser is less sensitive to conditions like lighting, facial decorations (eyewear, facial hair, etc.), and how you hold your phone. Available on selected devices.

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According to a boatload of rumours, HTC is currently hard at work on the HTC 11, a successor model to the subject of this review. However, it seems that the HTC 11 will not arrive very soon; it’s not going to show up at MWC 2017, for example. There are likely a multitude of reasons for this, but one key factor seems to be that HTC wants to launch its next flagship with the very latest processor tech onboard, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, to be precise, and reports out of Asia indicate that Samsung has fully hogged the supply of said chip for its Samsung Galaxy S8 handset. Samsung is the manufacturer of that chip, producing it in partnership with Qualcomm thanks to its ability to manufacture on the 10nm FinFET semiconductor architecture for faster, cooler, and more power efficient chips. In something of a dick move, Samsung has gone ahead and bought up pretty much all the chips it has produced for Qualcomm so far, meaning the likes of LG and HTC can’t get hold of the processor for their own designs, apparently supply won’t become available until after the Galaxy S8 launches in late April. In the meantime, LG is releasing the LG G6 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, and HTC has done the same with the HTC U Ultra. Apart from this, your other option is last year’s HTC 10, which runs very similar hardware.

In very short order after the launch of the HTC One M9, HTC recognised the critical and consumer reaction to the handset was, in a few words, not good. The firm very quickly re-shuffled and issued public statements saying that a successor model was already being sketched up on the drawing board and it would be far superior in every way.

In any case, HTC has been on the back foot for a while and it knows things ‘ain’t great, things NEED to change, and hence we have the HTC 10. The “One” branding is gone, although the overall design language, as well as few key features such as the metal build and bespoke audio tech remain. Apart from this, it’s a massive overhaul of almost every feature onboard the device – which is arguably exactly what was necessary to bring HTC back from the brink. Has it worked though? What is different? And is the different stuff different enough?

Many complaints were levelled at the previous two models by reviewers arguing that, when it came to competing with their rivals at the time (such as the Galaxy S6 and LG G4), the likes of the HTC One, HTC One M8 and HTC One M9 simply didn’t do enough. They didn’t have a “wow” factor to win people over, and one or two tech and hardware areas were lagging behind.

The HTC 10 represents HTC saying “ok, we hear you…how about this?”

With previous handsets, HTC has excelled when it comes to UI design and fluidity, premium design and build, and extremely high quality audio. But that’s about it, the firm has been lacking when it comes to display colour, sharpness, and brightness, battery life, and even though it has tried some interesting stuff the camera experience has often fallen very short of the mark.

Processing power hasn’t been too much of a problem to date, though has been fairly standard as flagships go. Will these key areas be improved inside the HTC 10? Let’s take a look…

HTC 10 Review: Design & Display

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Ground-up rebuild this may be, but design wise, although it is immediately noticeable that things have been tweaked from the past two-generations of HTC flagship, on the whole it’s still a similar style and very much in keeping with HTC’s current house aesthetic, as it were. Not surprisingly we are once again looking at a metal unibody build with the slick integration of antenna bands dividing the back panel with those two distinctive ‘end cap’ sections, there’s also the return of a slight curvature of the handset from left-to-right.

The main change appears to be that chamfered edge we saw in one of HTC’s pre-launch Twitter teasers, which does add a nice gradiated taper from the back panel down to the edges with a rather pleasing machined metal finish. As usual on the front, the 5.2in display takes up more room with the bezels narrowing as much as possible – it’s not quite edge-to-edge, but it’s not far off.

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Overall I’d describe the HTC 10’s appearance as ‘neat’, ‘clean’, and again somewhat industrial (in a good way); little details like the phone’s right-hand edge, with a card slot, volume rocker, and serrated power key, all metal, and all in a tidy little row, bring to mind the layout of  unified-yet-individual decor items arranged in some trendy warehouse conversion apartment.

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At the bottom there’s a Type-C USB port in the centre, asymmetrically flanked only on the one side by a five-vent grille, which to me makes the phone’s base resemble Darth Vader’s breathing apparatus. Very cool.

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As usual, many of the pre-launch rumours and leaks have proven true, including the somewhat peculiar return (given Android’s now well-established built-in on-screen controls) of capacitive ‘Back’ and ‘Multitasking’ keys on either side of a central Home key, this time with integrated fingerprint scanner. Is this a big deal? Not really, is my view.

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HTC got a fair bit of flak for the use of older display tech in the HTC One M9, sticking with the LCD 3 tech used in the previous-gen One M8. So this time we’re looking at LCD 5. It’s a 5.2in touchscreen with a 2K resolution at 564 pixels-per-inch, so plenty sharp, plus HTC describes it as a “cinema grade display,” with “cinema standard colour tuning” and a 92% NTSC colour gamut – which it’s claimed is 30% improved colour depth over standard LCDs. It certainly looks the part; colours pop nicely and the brightness levels are good, and it seems reasonably sharp, but will it be enough to dethrone Samsung? We’ll be keeping an eye on DisplayMate’s tests that’s for sure. I’ve always had a bit of an issue with how HTC displays lose their visibility worse than most when the direct sunlight pops out, so will be keeping an eye on that for the full review.

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Another element of the display tech HTC was keen to big-up doesn’t have anything to do with the usual visual quality side, instead, HTC has put effort into the touch responsiveness and states the handset is twice as fast as the competition when it comes to responding to touch input, as quick as 120 milliseconds – we have to say from our hands-on time that it is indeed pretty snappy.

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HTC 10 Review: Camera, Video & Audio

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Phone cameras appear to be experiencing a revival of attention from OEMs just lately, and appropriately a central feature of the HTC 10 is the imaging tech. The handset sees a return of HTC’s Ultrapixel technology; in the past this has been recognised as a promising tech, but one which some believe (including us) may have paid better image quality returns by being implemented with improved sensor technology and with higher megapixel ratings. Appropriately then, the HTC 10 is hitting that now-popular sweet-spot of 12MP with a 1.55um pixel size, a very wide f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilisation, and “2x wider range and ultra fast” laser autofocus. This also supports 4K video recording – more on this in a moment.

All-in-all, this seems like a much more considered imaging setup than we’ve seen previously from HTC, and it does sound like it may be able to compete quite capably with what LG, Samsung, and Apple are putting out. But as ever, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating…or taking photos with it…yes.

Anyway, the front-facing camera has also been given some love, dubbed the “UltraSelfie” camera, and the rumours were true – it has built-in OIS, a first for front-facing selfie cams, but an understandable boon to those who love taking snaps of themselves! It’s a 5MP sensor with an 86-degree wide-angle lens (for those ever more popular group shots), 1.34um pixel size and the same f/1.8 aperture size as the primary – another signature HTC move.

Speaking of signature HTC moves, another is the audio. Again, we had a little pre-launch Twitter teaser of this and sure enough BoomSound has returned as “BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition” aboard the HTC 10. The dual-speaker setup now includes both woofer and tweeter types and there’s now a dedicated amplifier for each driver, HTC says it gives “unprecedented audio clarity on a smartphone”. But there’s more, HTC says the Hi-Res audio experience is “end-to-end” by using 24-bit audio processing “throughout the audio architecture,” and this includes; a 24-bit Hi-Res Digital Signal Processor (DSP), a 24-bit Hi-Fi Digital-To-Analog Conversion (DAC), and a headphone amplifier that HTC says is twice as powerful as its rivals. Plus, as with previous HTC handsets, you are able to personally tune your sound experience via built-in interfaces, and to go with that headphone amp HTC has produced a new version of its own earbuds purpose-built to work optimally with the phone’s audio hardware.

Lastly, that 4K video I mentioned earlier also incorporates the 24-bit Hi-Res audio technology at 96KHz with stereo recording – HTC says it’s twice as loud volume recording as rival devices with twice the frequency range. Certainly there’s some logic here; what’s the point of having 4K high-quality video if it sounds like it was recorded with a potato?

All of this is very appealing to our inner audiophile, and there sure are a lot of people out there who love audio quality so much that this should go down quite well with most. HTC has never really put a foot wrong when it comes to producing phones that can blast us (and the whole neighbourhood) out of bed with clear, crisp and LOUD sound though, so we’re none too surprised to see such a compelling setup here…it’s other areas that have needed improving! Still, it is nice to see HTC not resting on its headphone-shaped laurels.

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HTC 10 Review: Battery

HTC is also making big promises on battery performance, acknowledging that this is a big deciding factor for most consumers. The HTC 10 features a sizeable 3,000mAh cell which is sure to pack plenty of juice. But going further, HTC has implemented hardware and software optimisations in what it calls its “PowerBotics” setup. This has been designed to maximise battery efficiency and HTC is promising two-day battery life on a charge, equivalent to 13 hours of video playback. And if you just leave it on standby, HTC reckons it’ll last 19 days. Details are thin at this point but we can only assume this is building on Android Marshmallow’s built-in battery life tweaks. HTC is also bundling in a Rapid Charger so that when you do run out of power, you can get it charged again in short order. Again, battery performance is one of those areas where proper testing is needed to make any kind of assessment, so we’ll be reserving judgement for now. Sounds ok though, right?

HTC 10 Review:  Processor & Other Hardware

As per earlier rumours, and the general trend in the Android flagship marketplace, the HTC 10 is equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM, and as you might expect this is suitably snappy in the performance department – not that swishing round a few Android menus is that taxing; further testing is needed, but we’ve seen the Snapdragon 820 push out impressive speed on most any handset it is implemented in and there’s no reason to believe it’ll be any different here. It’s a leading chipset for a very good reason.

Onboard storage is 32GB and there’s support for expansion via microSD cards; what’s more, HTC emphasised the point that, unlike the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 makes use of Android Marshmallow’s built-in support for Adoptive Storage, so you can use a card as if it was internal space for storing applications and the like. As mentioned, the phone also has a Type-C USB connector.

HTC 10 Review: Wrap-Up

Promising stuff indeed, it certainly looks as though HTC has paid attention to its critics and honed-in on the areas which really did need a good old tidy up – display, battery, camera – as well as avoiding falling into the trap of neglecting the things it’s already good at – like audio. If there were any criticism to be levelled it might be that the design hasn’t changed that much, but saying that there’s a certain understated and elegant charm to HTC’s existing design. Waterproofing is still missing though, and now that both Sony and Samsung have squeezed that into a metal handset (with no horrible port covers, no less) there’s really no longer a good reason not to have it, particularly as there’s talk of it making its way onto future iPhones too.

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