The time has come for HTC to finally announce its latest, best smartphone -- its newest salvo in the ongoing war against Samsung, LG and its other top-tier Android competitors. HTC's new phone is called the 10, and it's by far the most refined and carefully thought out handset that the Taiwanese company has ever created. The 10 builds on the strengths of the M8 and M9, marks a return to form for HTC's UltraPixel camera, and cuts out the software bloat that held previous phones back. We're impressed.
The New: Pretty Much Everything
The HTC 10 is an entirely new phone on the inside. Running the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and with 4GB of RAM onboard, it'll be available in Australia only in a 32GB variant -- not a problem for storage fiends, because HTC has built in microSD card support for up to 2TB cards (in a dedicated tray for easy access). The phone fully supports Android 6.0 Marshmallow's flex storage, so that SD card functions as native storage space when inserted.
A 3000mAh battery means "up to two days" of light-duty usage according to HTC, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support means the phone will be able to restore almost 50 per cent of its battery with a 30-minute charge. Everything is handled through the phone's USB Type-C connector -- HTC has embraced the omnidirectional standard like the LG G5, leaving Samsung as the only major Android maker of 2016 still using microUSB.
The Old: An All-Metal Unibody
HTC's all-metal, aluminium-bodied design that has typified its flagship One smartphones since the M7 returns on the 10. But the HTC 10 is not a One -- yep, the confusing combo of name, letter and number is gone and HTC has instead replaced it with just a number. The metal-bodied 10, soon to be available in Australia in both Carbon Grey and Glacier Silver, improves on last year's design with a polished, deep-chamfered edge on the phone's slightly rounded rear panel.
The front of the phone is a single sheet of 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3 glass, with the return of capacitive buttons (hooray!) on the lower bezel and a central, soft-touch fingerprint scanner that HTC says can unlock the phone in 0.2 seconds. The 10's display is a 5.2-inch, 2560x1440pixel Quad HD SuperLCD 5 one, with "cinema grade" colour reproduction and very fast touch response. There's also a Topaz Gold HTC 10 launching internationally that the company is considering releasing in Australia later this year.
The New: UltraPixel 2 Cameras
The new HTC 10 has "the best camera available in any smartphone in the world". That's fighting words from HTC, but at least on paper, it could well be true. With a 12-megapixel sensor with 1.55um pixels, a f/1.8 lens aperture, and optical image stabilisation, HTC is confident the 10 can outperform an iPhone 6s Plus and even beat Samsung's best when it comes to low-light shots. Independent authority DxOMark ranks the 10's camera as equal to the one in Samsung's Galaxy S7 edge.
The front camera is actually where HTC has made the most groundbreaking improvement in quality. Its 5-megapixel 1.4um sensor and f/1.8 wide-angle (86-degree) lens combo are supplemented by the world's first optical image stabilisation in a front-facing camera, and the quick samples we saw showed a significant improvement in detail versus an iPhone 6s. HTC's software suite on the phone is mostly restricted to a bespoke camera app and the return of Zoe video modes.
The Old: BoomSound, But Different
HTC's stereo-speaker BoomSound was one of the most obvious selling points of its previous phones, with two large and powerful front-facing speakers that produced excellent sound and loud maximum volume levels. Here's the bad news: BoomSound as you know it is gone. There are not two front-facing speakers on the HTC 10. There's only a single one, running double duty both as a forward-firing mono speaker and as the phone's earpiece.
What has changed is that HTC has built a secondary speaker into the phone's lower body, downward-firing from the edge next to the 10's USB Type-C connector. That speaker solely handles lower frequencies while the top speaker handles treble; in that way, HTC has separated the phone's two sound-producing speakers and promises better audio quality from both. It's calling the tech BoomSound Hi-Fi, and it also includes Hi-Res Audio support.
The New: Simple Software, No Bloat
HTC has completely changed its rationale on the apps and baked-in software that it includes with the HTC 10. No longer will HTC include its own Gallery app on the 10, for example -- the company has realised that Google Photos does a better job. Where first-party Google apps are broadly equivalent to those that HTC previously spent time and money developing, the HTC 10 will use those. Only where HTC can make genuinely valuable improvements will it ship custom apps.
The HTC Camera app, for example, allows RAW shooting and various Zoe modes, so that's worth including. But bloatware is, by and large, gone on the HTC 10. That also means future software updates should, in the future, be delivered much faster and at smaller file sizes than in previous years. Software updates -- like the transition to Android 6.0 Marshmallow -- has been a sticking point for HTC on older phones, and we're glad to see this problem start to be solved.
HTC 10: Australian Price And Release Date
In Australia, we'll be getting the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 version of the HTC 10, with bundled Hi-Res Audio earphones and a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0-compatible USB Type-C charger. It'll support over 30 different frequency bands including all major 3G and 4G networks. We don't know how much it'll cost, though -- we're forecasting an Australian price tag of around $999 based on our experience with other 2016 Android phones.
We'll know more about the HTC 10's Australian price and release date in a couple of weeks; HTC has told us to expect more detail around April 26.
Telstra has confirmed it will have the HTC 10, with customers told to register here to receive updates. It's likely to be sold through all of Australia's other major telcos as well -- Optus and Vodafone at a minimum -- with HTC saying the phone has been "well received by all Aussie partners", and that "you'll see it widely ranged" when it lands on local store shelves soon.