HTC, the manufacturer of the very first Android phone, is betting on speed, battery life and the world’s first optically stabilised selfie camera with its new flagship HTC 10 phone it hopes will relaunch the company.
The latest in its long line of top-end Android smartphones resembles the best of the rest with a all-metal body, all-glass front, 5.2in quad HD screen, 0.2-second unlock fingerprint scanner, Qualcomm’s latest top-end Snapdragon 820 processor and USB-C.
HTC’s build-quality and premium materials have always been top flight, but its recent flagship phones have been uninspiring, failing to attract buyers, something the company must address.
Celebrating a decade of making smartphones, Darren Sng, head of product marketing for HTC said: “We appreciate that in recent years we haven’t been great. If you ask most people where we’ve failed, it’s been our cameras. We’re going to be better, faster and solve problems.”
The HTC 10 has a new 12-megapixel camera dubbed “UltraPixel 2” after the company’s large pixel, low-light technology first introduced with the HTC One M7 in 2013. It has a 0.6-second launch time, laser auto-focus and f1.8 aperture, which the company said should rival the best in low-light performance from Samsung.
But the 5 megapixel “UltraSelfie” front-facing camera breaks new ground with optical image stabilisation – a first for selfie cameras, which with its f1.8 aperture should help remove camera shake and blurry photos. It has 32GB of storage, microSD card support for adding more and 4GB of RAM for multitasking.
HTC is also taking a new approach to its customisation of Android, called Sense, removing duplicate apps and bloat from the phone and optimising the software so that apps launch faster, the touchscreen responds faster and the device lasts longer between charges. It has also introduced freestyle homescreen customisation options that allow users to place icons or stickers for apps and actions anywhere on the screen, at any size or orientation, rather than in a fixed grid layout.
The company said it worked with Google to add support for more image formats to the Android-maker’s Photos app, as well as optimise both HTC’s and Google’s apps on the smartphone. The HTC 10 will also have the company’s Boost+ app that promises to combat phone slowdown – a common criticism of smartphones over a year old – and keep the phone running as fast as when it was first switched on.
HTC has also added support for Apple’s AirPlay audio streaming service, becoming one of the first Android manufacturers to do so, through its HTC Connect app, which supports myriad of wireless streaming protocols including Bluetooth, DLNA, Google Cast, Miracast and others.
The Taiwanese manufacturer faces a battle with both the incumbent players, Samsung and Apple, who dominate sales of high-end smartphones, as well as rising Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei, which recently became the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Whether HTC can regain a strong foothold in the highly competitive market remains to be seen. It was recently removed from the Taiwanese Stock Exchange’s top 50 list after years of declining sales and revenue. The company has bet big on its partnership with Valve for the Vive virtual reality headset, as well as partnerships with US sportswear manufacturer Under Armour for wearable devices.
But the company needs to stop the decline of its smartphone sales if it wants to survive in its current state.