Updated: Counting to 10: the headline hits and flagship flops from HTC

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Counting to 10

The HTC 10 has finally been announced and with sales dwindling in the face of competition from Apple and Samsung it’s the company’s most important phone in years. It needs to be a success, and with completely overhauled specs and a new feature set it has a fighting chance.

As the name suggests, this is the tenth true flagship Android handset in HTC’s history (the Desire HD was more of a big brother), a series that goes all the way back to 2008 and the first phone to feature Android to go on sale in the UK.

From the runaway hits of the Desire and Desire HD to the classy but niche HTC One (M7), it’s been a tumultuous ride for the manufacturer. Take a trip down memory lane with us as we remember how HTC got to where it is today. There’s no mention of Robert Downey Jr., we promise.

T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream

HTC T Mobile G1

Name: T Mobile G1
Date of launch: October 2008
Dimensions: 117mm x 55.7mm x 17.1mm
Weight: 158g
Screen size: 3.2 inches, 320 x 480 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 1.0
CPU and RAM: Single-core 528MHz processor, 192MB RAM
Camera: 3.15MP

HTC’s earliest flagship phone was one of the first Android handsets to go on sale — remember that Google’s operating system started a long way behind iOS, BlackBerry and even Windows Mobile. The general consensus was that this was a very good phone indeed, second only to the iPhone 3G in 2008.

Our review listed “an awful lot of reasons to get excited” about it — integrated GPS, the Google-powered mapping capabilities, the open Android Market and *ahem* its slide-out keyboard.

Google’s Android was off to a flyer, and as TechRadar put it: “The G1 is a stellar phone and points to a future when a phone is as flexible and useful as the PC on your desk.”

HTC Magic

HTC Magic

Name: HTC Magic
Date of launch: May 2009
Dimensions: 113mm x 55mm x 13.7mm
Weight: 118.5g
Screen size: 3.2 inches, 320 x 480 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 1.5 Cupcake
CPU and RAM: Single-core 528MHz, 288MB RAM
Camera: 3.15MP

Half a year after the T-Mobile G1 arrived, HTC was back with another effort. Sporting very similar specs to its predecessor (though with a whopping 96MB of additional RAM), the Magic was a slimmer and lighter animal.

Its main purpose in existing seemed to be to ditch the slide-out keypad that the G1 had offered: Android was updated very frequently in the early days, and the freshly baked 1.5 Cupcake had an on-screen keyboard.

Our take on the handset mentioned the improved touchscreen, the increased quality of Google’s own apps and the sleekness of the design. The iPhone 3GS appeared a month later, selling 1m units in three days. The HTC Magic took three months to reach the same number, but Android was on the march.

HTC Hero

HTC Hero

Name: HTC Hero
Date of launch: July 2009
Dimensions: 112mm x 56.2mm x 14.4mm
Weight: 135g
Screen size: 3.2 inches, 320 x 480 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 1.5 Cupcake
CPU and RAM: Single-core 528MHz, 288MB RAM
Camera: 5MP

The HTC Hero was the first flagship device from the Taiwanese manufacturer to look something like the modern handsets we see today. That may be partly because it was the first phone to sport HTC’s own Sense UI skin on top of Android.

Aside from the camera upgrade, the specs were again very similar to the company’s earlier efforts, but multi-touch enabled pinching and zooming, while a standard 3.5mm audio jack finally found a place.

We concluded our 2009 review with the assessment that this was the best Android phone to hit the market yet. Even with the iPhone 3GS selling well, HTC’s profits and market share rose significantly as the year drew to a close.

HTC Desire

HTC Desire

Name: HTC Desire
Date of launch: March 2010
Dimensions: 119mm x 60mm x 11.9mm
Weight: 135g
Screen size: 3.7 inches, 480 x 800 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 2.1 Eclair
CPU and RAM: Single-core 1GHz processor, 588MB RAM
Camera: 5MP

HTC’s first flagship phone for 2010 was the HTC Desire, and it was responsible for tempting tech-savvy users away from Apple in significant numbers. In the reader survey that we ran on TechRadar at the time, 47 percent of iPhone owners said they were planning to switch to the Desire.

Its appeal was largely down to its powerful specs list, with the 1GHz CPU and 3.7-inch 480 x 800 screen putting it right at the cutting edge for spring 2010.

Videos and photos now looked half-decent on a mobile, while it was the first of HTC’s phones to launch on a number of networks simultaneously — something that may have given it an edge over the Nexus One, which HTC was also manufacturing.

HTC Desire HD

HTC Desire HD
A very desirable phone

Name: HTC Desire HD
Date of launch: October 2010
Dimensions: 123mm x 68mm x 11.8mm
Weight: 164g
Screen size: 4.3 inches, 480 x 800 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 2.2 Froyo
CPU and RAM: Single-core 1GHz processor, 768MB RAM
Camera: 8MP

Usually referred to as the big brother of the Desire, the HTC Desire HD helped to confirm 2010 as HTC’s best year yet. Back at the start of the decade, you would’ve thought a 3.7-inch screen was too much, but the Desire HD upped this to a whopping 4.3 inches.

Other improvements included an 8MP camera and the latest 2.2 Froyo version of Android, but it had stiff competition in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S and the iPhone 4.

Our review of the phone was mostly positive, but dodgy battery life (thanks in part to that large screen) meant it wasn’t an unqualified success. It certainly proved popular with punters, with several stores running out of stock in the first few months.

HTC Sensation

HTC Sensation

Name: HTC Sensation
Date of launch: May 2011
Dimensions: 126.1mm x 65.4mm x 11.3mm
Weight: 148g
Screen size: 4.3 inches, 540 x 960 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
CPU and RAM: Dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 768MB RAM
Camera: 8MP

HTC’s “dual-core wonder” turned up in the summer of 2011, earning plaudits for its design and speed in our original review. With that dual-core 1.2GHz CPU, an impressive screen and 1080p video recording capabilities packed inside the 8MP camera, it was well equipped to take on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2, the LG Optimus 2X and the iPhone 4 (the 4S wouldn’t appear until October).

The perennial battery life issue did take some of the shine off, and with Samsung upping its game, the HTC Sensation wasn’t able to stand out in the way that its 2010 models had.

As usual, HTC remained tight-lipped over sales numbers, but it was the Galaxy S2 that nabbed the TechRadar phone of 2011 award.

HTC One X

HTC One X

Name: HTC One X
Date of launch: May 2012
Dimensions: 134.4mm x 69.9mm x 8.9mm
Weight: 130g
Screen size: 4.7 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
CPU and RAM: Quad-core 1.5GHz, 1GB RAM
Camera: 8MP

HTC had now settled into a one-flagship-phone-a-year pattern, and in 2012 the company’s hopes were riding on the HTC One X. With a quad-core CPU working behind the scenes and 1GB of RAM, HTC was continuing the trend of pushing the limit in terms of internal specs.

Once again we found ourselves impressed with the IPS LCD display and the performance of the phone, which was taking on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S3 at the time.

“Let’s not beat around the bush here: we love the HTC One X,” was the verdict we gave, but despite all that it had going for it, the HTC One X couldn’t quite claw back the ground that the manufacturer was losing.

HTC One (M7)

HTC One

Name: HTC One (M7)
Date of launch: March 2013
Dimensions: 137.4mm x 68.2mm x 9.3mm
Weight: 143g
Screen size: 4.7 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
CPU and RAM: Quad-core 1.7GHz processor, 2GB RAM
Camera: 4MP / Ultrapixel

It was a familiar story for HTC with its 2013 flagship: despite getting some rave reviews from the technology press, the HTC One (M7) struggled to make an impact in terms of actual sales.

We liked it so much we gave it a five-star review, praising the phone’s “wow-factor” design, Sense version of Android and low-light camera performance.

Long after its launch, the 4.7-inch full HD display, quad-core processor and smooth metal chassis was still putting many handsets to shame.

Despite all of these plus points, the HTC One never really took off in the face of fierce competition from the Galaxy S4 and the significantly cheaper Nexus 4. HTC would have happily swapped one or two ‘Phone of 2013’ awards for a few more millions in sales.

HTC One (M8)

HTC One M8

Name: HTC One (M8)
Date of launch: March 2014
Dimensions: 146mm x 70.5mm x 9.5mm
Weight: 160g
Screen size: 5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 4.4.2 KitKat
CPU and RAM: Quad-core 2.3GHz processor, 2GB RAM
Camera: 4MP Ultrapixel Duo camera

The HTC One (M7) may not have been a sales success, but it was such a hit with critics that HTC decided to build on that phone for the HTC One (M8), rather than going back to the drawing board.

The result was a larger, more powerful handset, with an even more beautiful design. In short everything we liked about the HTC One (M7) was here again, only better.

An innovative new Duo camera improved its photography skills and the addition of a microSD card slot addressed one of the key criticisms of the HTC One (M7). This all led to another five-star review from us and the conclusion that the HTC One (M8) “really impresses at nearly every turn.”

The phone didn’t bring much new to the table, but it was polished to near perfection and this paid off for the Taiwanese firm, with the HTC One (M8) making the company profitable again.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

Name: HTC One M9
Date of launch: March 2015
Dimensions: 144.6mm x 69.7mm x 9.6mm
Weight: 157g
Screen size: 5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 5.0 Lollipop
CPU and RAM: Octa-core 2.0GHz processor, 3GB RAM
Camera: 20MP camera

There are only so many times you can repeat the same trick before it becomes stale, as HTC learned with the One M9, with which it once again tried to build on what had gone before, but found there was nowhere left to go.

Which isn’t to say that the HTC One M9 was a bad phone, far from it, as our four-star review attests. It had an incredible design and its 20MP camera was a definite step up from the Ultrapixel snappers HTC had been peddling previously.

But battery troubles and a general sense that this was a conservative upgrade held it back, with our review concluding that “this year we’ve just got a good phone – a pretty darn good one – but not brilliant.”

Unsurprisingly this led to lacklustre sales, especially in the face of the Samsung Galaxy S6, which sported a new design that could almost rival the M9’s. April should have been a big month for HTC, with its flagship newly available, but in fact the company recorded its worst April quarter in six years.

HTC 10

HTC 10

Name: HTC 10
Date of launch: May 2016
Dimensions: 145.9 x 71.9 x 3.0 – 9.0mm
Weight: 161g
Screen size: 5.2 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels
Launch version of Android: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
CPU and RAM: Quad-core 2.2GHz processor, 4GB RAM
Camera: 12MP Ultrapixel camera

And so we come to the HTC 10. After the disappointment of the HTC One M9 there’s a lot riding on this, but it’s a very different beast to 2015’s flagship and that can only be a good thing.

Everything seems to have been improved, from upping the size and resolution of the screen, to equipping it with a powerful Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM. The metal unibody looks as stunning as expected and with a 12MP Ultrapixel rear snapper and a 5MP front-facing one, complete with optical image stabilisation for both, this looks to be HTC’s best camera setup yet.

But as well as improvements the HTC 10 includes new and changed features, like a fingerprint scanner, hi-res audio, promises of two-day battery life and a refined interface, that better fits with Google’s Material Design.

Hopefully these features will live up to their promise and lead to a best-selling phone. Only time will tell, but sales are one thing HTC really needs right now.

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