One of the year's best smartphones doesn't come from Apple or Samsung.
HTC is known for its thoughtfully designed smartphones and slick software. Unfortunately, the company has struggled in recent years to keep up with Samsung and Apple, mainly due to cameras that don't compare to the big flagship phones.
But this time around HTC is getting a lot of things right with the HTC 10 smartphone. It might not be the most flashy or feature packed device out there, but it accomplishes most of what you need, and without a lot of fuss. Android enthusiasts will particularly like the software experience since it is very close to stock Android.
In the several weeks I've had my unlocked review unit - provided by HTC - I have gotten at least three major software updates, many times containing tweaks to make the camera perform better. It shows that HTC is dedicated to evolving this device and making it the best it can be.
You have to understand what you're giving up when selecting this phone over Samsung's flagship Galaxy S7. For starters, you won't get an always on display, water resistance or wireless charging. You do get a beautiful (but super slippery design) and a way better software experience.
I love what the S7 is all about - it's a powerhouse phone that has just about everything you can imagine - but the software is bloated and unnecessarily laggy. It totally undermines the premium experience of the phone.
With that said, the HTC 10 is a nice alternative if you want a phone that's different yet still highly capable. It runs fast, smooth but is a bit on the bulky side compared to today's slim flagships.
The camera takes good pictures but not great pictures. I've seen it get better over the various updates pushed to the phone, but it still struggles a bit in mixed light. Anytime there is a bright light in the picture things might get washed out. The latest update has definitely helped this a bit though. The HTC 10 has second generation laser focus but it's still not as fast to focus as the S7. I've also noticed that the center of the picture is in focus while the edges can be a bit fuzzy. The biggest downside - I really wish this phone had some way to "fast launch" the camera, like the S7's double click of the home button. The HTC does let you swipe down on the (off) screen twice to launch the camera, but it's not as easy or as intuitive as the S7.
If you find me comparing this to the S7 a lot it's because I believe Samsung's phone is currently the "default" Android phone choice. But the interesting thing is that the HTC 10 is closer to an Android iPhone than it is the S7.
There is something calm, reassuring and solid about this phone that the Samsung just doesn't have. I find myself constantly tweaking settings or restarting the S7 to make it smoother, faster or more buttery - things you just don't have to do with the HTC 10. It's always there, ready to go and ready to perform - similar to the iPhone.
Two more things to know about this phone. It uses USB-C charging, which is nice since it's the future and charges up your phone really fast - the downside is that you need to be sure you have a USB-C cable nearby. Chances are you can't borrow one from a friend - they're just not as ubiquitous as MicroUSB or lightning. Also, the speakers on this phone pale in comparison to previous HTC models. The loudness isn't there. However, the headphones experience is the best I've ever experienced on a phone thanks to a combination of BoomSound and Dolby support.
Bottom line - know what you're getting - and what you're not getting - with the HTC 10 and you'll be very happy with a fuss-free Android phone that takes capable photos and sounds great in your ears.
Have more questions about the HTC 10? Join me today (Wednesday, May 11) at 2 PM Pacific on my Facebook page. I'll be broadcasting live and taking your phone calls about the HTC 10 or any other tech topic you want to talk about. Listen, Watch and Join in!