HTC 10 (£570)
The HTC 10 is a marketer’s worst nightmare. What’s it good at? Pretty much everything. What’s special about it? Erm, battery life. Yup, wake up hungover on a Sunday with this HTC fully charged and it’ll see you through until midnight the next day without conking out. How do we know this? Bitter, whisky-soaked experience, friend. Stamina may be the least sexy of smartphone features, but that mini rush of euphoria you get from knowing the 10 has enough spare juice to survive an impromptu pub trip feels pretty damn good.
These little jolts of pleasure are the story of HTC’s latest flagship, really. It doesn’t have a headline-grabbing design, always-on display or any water protection. Like Andrea Pirlo at the peak of his powers, this phone does the simple stuff impeccably well. By pairing the latest Snapdragon 820 processor with a refreshingly bloat-free edition of Android Marshmallow, the HTC 10 proves to be as slick as a Texas oilfield.
Unlike the S7 Edge and LG’s G5, you don’t get duplicate apps for calls and messaging. Even HTC’s own Sense user interface has been pared right back. If it’s razzle dazzle you’re after then the HTC 10 will quickly come a cropper; as an exercise in all- round execution, this handset barely puts a foot wrong.
The HTC 10 is a tad heavier and chunkier than the other handsets here, and that added heft translates into a really pleasing handset. Its chamfered edges are gorgeous to behold and, more importantly, easy to grip. Granted, HTC phones haven’t switched up their all-aluminium aesthetic since the One M7, but that’s because it’s a classic. One that’s been updated with a blisteringly quick fingerprint scanner/home button that’ll unlock your phone at first touch. HTC’s usually-front-facing BoomSound speakers have been separated out to emphasise treble from the earpiece and bass/mid-range from the bottom edge. Forget the familiarity – this is a very well made handset.
The HTC 10's 5.2in display is bright and accurate, delivering great footage. Star Wars: Rogue One’s trailer is bristling with colour, while photos aren’t needlessly oversaturated. This screen is certainly on par with the LG G5’s LCD equivalent, although the S7 Edge’s OLED effort just pips them both for detail.
HTC’s One M9 really struggled to nail exposure. The 10 returns to HTC’s UltraPixel tech, where larger pixels capture more light, so doesn’t come a cropper anywhere near as often. In low light, Samsung’s S7 still has the Edge; we found strong light sources flummoxed the 10’s white balance. That said, the HTC’s point-and-shoot pics are punchy and lifelike, while selfies are among the best to ever grace our Instagram, with optical image stabilisation to cure shaky hand syndrome. As comebacks go, this is a good ’un.
OS and apps 9/10
Taking a Nexus-like approach to Android, the 10 offers the purest third-party take on Marshmallow, with the Flipboard-like Blinkfeed being one of few concessions to own-brand software. In fact, we were so taken with HTC’s OS that we stuck with it during testing, instead of loading Google’s Now Launcher.