htc desire 816  008As you know, the HTC Desire 816 was announced at Mobile World Congress 2014 recently. It wasn’t a huge launch with the usual fanfare that phones like the next HTC One aka M8 will get, but since it’s a mid-range smartphone, it will likely sell more units worldwide (HTC’s stock price is actually up following a 450,000 units pre-order). Since I’m back from Europe, it’s a good time to go through the videos that I did not have time to upload yet.

Industrial Design

I met with Jeff Gordon from HTC who gave us a great pitch for the HTC Desire 816 before we had a hands-on to see what the handset looked like. Like many other mid-range smartphone, the Desire 816 uses plastic, or should I say high-quality polycarbonate, for the external shell. It is tough and seemed extremely durable when I played with it. It doesn’t look or feel “cheap” at all, so that’s great.

If the phone looks big, it’s because it has a 5.5” (720p) display, which makes it an official “large-display” phone which competes with the Galaxy Mega 5.8 and other Huawei Mate 2 handsets, just to cite the obvious ones. If you follow my various reviews, you know that I’m no stranger to large phones, so I thought that this is a nice size and it felt pretty good in the hand.

Because the phone is quite large, HTC felt the need to put the Power control on the side, instead of the top which makes it possible to turn it on and off quite easily.

HTC calls this handset a “flagship midrange device”, which may sound odd at first, but you have to know that the mid-range market is quite big and has a lot more variety than the high-end devices. Both pricing and build quality can vary widely and yes, the HTC Desire 816 would sit at the top of that range, both in HTC’s own line of products, but also in the general mid-range landscape.

We have recently learn that the HTC Desire 816 would come in more colors than previously thought, so this is a nice surprise, knowing that additional colors makes things harder for HTC in terms of supply-chain. It looks like HTC wants to please their customer base and is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Specifications

The HTC Desire 816 comes with 8GB of storage built-in because the pricing is so competitive. However, users can add extra storage via MicroSD, which is so cheap that I recommend adding 16GB / 32GB which is the sweet spot for those little cards. Typically, photos/videos and movies can be offloaded to the MicroSD card, while apps would stay in the internal memory.

htc desire 816  009

Computing-wise, the HTC Desire 816 is equipped with a Snapdragon 400, which is one of the few popular system-on-chip (SoC) for this category of smartphones. It provides decent performance, integrated LTE connectivity and is generally optimized to give the best bang for the buck.

In the back, there is a 13 Megapixel Camera while a 5 Megapixel camera is in the front for web-chat for “selfies”.  Also in the front, HTC has placed its BoomSound loudspeaker which is a trademark of the company design language. This type of placement is in theory the best option for loudspeakers since it does not require the sound to bounce before reaching the user.

HTC Sense Next remains a mystery

At MWC 2014, HTC told us that it was not yet ready to show what the next HTC Sense will look like. If you are not familiar with HTC Sense, it is HTC’s proprietary user interface (UI), much like TouchWiz for Samsung. HTC Sense was built at a time where Android was seriously lacking in terms of user interface and it also helped HTC provide features that were not yet integrated in the Android OS.

Today, Android’s UI is much better than it used to be, but HTC Sense still has a very dedicated following and could still allow HTC to add UI features that are not yet in Android. What HTC Sense will really look like will remain a mystery for a short while, but HTC seemed very upbeat about it. Let’s wait and see.

Conclusion

htc desire 816  002As it is the case with all mid-range products, it’s all about the quality/price ratio, so without an actual street price, it’s difficult to comment on the value-proposition of this product. However, what we know is that the absolute build quality is fairly high and that the device looks good and feels good. While the software remains somewhat a mystery, and with the exception of radical changes, we can assume that things will look pretty good on that side as well, just like they did when the HTC One mini was introduced.

Now, it’s all about how quickly HTC can deliver and what channels it can occupy. The mid-range smartphone market will grow 400% faster than the high-end market, so it is not surprising to see HTC do everything that it can to woo customers there. Will the HTC Desire enter the U.S market? Most likely – but “when” is up to the U.S carriers to announce.

Filed in Cellphones . Tags: HTC, MWC and MWC 2014.
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