HTC 10 (Unlocked)

HTC says the fingerprint sensor is the fastest in the industry, and we found it to be slightly faster than the Galaxy S7’s, unlocking the phone in 0.4-second as opposed to 0.5. In practice, though, the speed difference isn’t really noticeable. The sensor is noticeably more accurate than the S7’s, though. The phone has a microSD card slot that had no trouble with a 200GB Lexar card, and it charges with USB-C and Qualcomm’s Quickcharge 3.0 technology. HTC says the phone can charge 50 percent of its 3,000mAh battery in 30 minutes.

Battery life is good. We got 6 hours, 4 minutes of video streaming time, which is solid, if not up to the Galaxy S7’s 9 hours. That isn’t the whole picture, though: HTC’s software bleeds somewhat less battery in standby than Samsung’s does, and the phone comes with an app called Boost+ that sips power by reducing the screen resolution when you’re playing games. After seven and a half hours in standby, a Samsung Galaxy S7’s battery had dropped by 8-10 percent, while the HTC 10’s battery had only dropped by 2-3 percent.

h1Calling and Networking
The unlocked model of the HTC 10 supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/28/29/30 and LTE Category 9, which means it will get the fastest speeds and best coverage that AT&T and T-Mobile have to offer. We found this true in our tests, where LTE speeds and coverage were on par with the Galaxy S7 Edge. Qualcomm’s TruSignal antenna tuner, introduced late last year, recovers from connection drops much more quickly than last year’s devices did. It will also work perfectly on Canadian networks, although it lacks CDMA so it can’t authenticate on Sprint or Verizon.

Wi-Fi performance is fine, although it isn’t up to Galaxy S7 levels. We got about half the speed we saw on a Galaxy S7 at various distances from our Verizon FiOS test router: 20Mbps down instead of 40Mbps, for instance, or 2Mbps instead of 4Mbps. It was still usable, especially at closer distances. A software update we received in the middle of our testing process bumped speeds up—they were originally even lower—so this may be something that can be further improved in firmware.h2

Call quality is very good, thanks to vigorous speakers and excellent LTE connectivity. Test calls were clear, loud, and sharp, and the bottom-ported speakerphone was easy to hear outside. Noise cancellation was also effective. The phone supports VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling, and it will support T-Mobile’s enhanced EVS codec for even better call quality in a software update, HTC said.

h4Software
The HTC 10 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with HTC’s latest version of Sense. HTC said it’s trying to slim down duplicate apps, and that effort is appreciated. The apps HTC kept are a mix of its own and Google’s: HTC’s camera, Google Photos, HTC Mail, Google Calendar, and Google Play Music, for instance. The only obvious bloatware comes in the form of apps for Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram, which you’ll probably use anyway. This is on the unlocked version, of course. Expect US carrier versions to be loaded down with redundant carrier apps.

Camera and Video
The story with the HTC 10’s camera is a little bit more mixed than with the audio, and is where the Galaxy S7 pulls ahead a bit.

The HTC 10 can shoot stills in RAW or JPEG, its camera app has some Pro Mode controls (shown below), and it can record up to 4K video at 30 h5frames per second. It has built-in slow-motion and hyperlapse modes, too. Both of its cameras have optical image stabilization to smooth out videos. Sticking with the audio theme, it also records high-quality audio up to twice as loud as other phones without clipping.

The main camera is a 12-megapixel unit with 1.55µm pixels, which are larger than the 1.4µm pixels in the Samsung Galaxy S7. That should make for better low-light performance, right? Alas, no. The Galaxy S7’s f/1.7 aperture, slightly larger than the HTC 10’s f/1.8, along with its added focus pixels seem to make a difference.

The HTC 10 is the best music phone on the market, and a strong performer all around. Its solid, all-metal body, quick performance, and fast fingerprint scanner make for an elegant experience. Aside from the audio quality, though, we still like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge a bit better. It packs an even bigger screen into an only slightly wider body, it has a larger battery, and more importantly, it has a better camera. Low-light camera performance is a hugely important feature, and the S7 and S7 Edge lead the pack right now.