Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

HTC 10 is a wonderful Android phone you haven't thought of

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Readers know I love gadgets and no gadget is more important or personal than a smartphone. Although I have tested several dozen smartphones over the years, an Phone 6s Plus is still my daily driver. 

Recently I wanted to revisit the HTC 10 and determine if it is a phone I can recommend. 

Hardware

The first thing you notice when you pickup the HTC 10 is how good HTC is at industrial design. The sand blasted aluminium is soft and grippy in the hand. The phone feels incredibly solid with a beautifully executed chamfered edges. 

The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 3 and the "home button" is a matt finger print sensor, that work quickly and reliably every single time. 

The buttons are solid (no wobble) and are extremely tactile. Clicking them is very satisfying. 

The phone is definitely beautiful and a few people asked me what the device was. People rarely ask about smarpthone models I test ( since most look very similar.)

IP53 water resistance means the phone would likely survive being used in the rain (but don't try to submerge it). 

The screen is a beautiful 5.2 inch super LCD 5 (QHD) screen with 565 PPI. Blacks on LCD screens aren't as dark as on AMOLED or SuperAmoLED) screens, but the HTC 10 screen has excellent color reproduction and is visible in all but the brightest sunlight conditions.

The capacitive buttons below the screen mean you are not losing any valuable real estate for virtual buttons. A definite plus.

The phone includes its signature BoomSound tweaks and hardware. The quality built in DAC (Digital Audio Converter) supports 24 bit high resolution (hi res) audio. Older HTC devices had 2 front facing speakers while the HTC 10 has a tweeter on the top and a woofer on the bottom. This is one of the drawbacks of this phone. The older HTC phones were amazing when consuming content or playing games because of the front facing speakers. The HTC 10 is good but not as good as its older siblings. BoomSound support Dolby audio and now works system wide (when using the built in speakers or headphones - not available via bluetooth headphones).

Hardware spec dump:

  • Snapdragon 820
  • 4GB RAM
  • Adreno 530 GPU
  • 32 GB if internal storage, expandable
  • WIFI 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 3000 mAh battery

Software

Sense is tightly built into their version of android and it is though even finding the version installed. 

HTC has tried to fight bloat and has not double installed apps. As an example the default calendar was Google Calendar while the camera app is the HTC one. HTC has tried to choose the best app for each function. Most HTC created apps have adopted Material design which means apps feel unified (between the Google ones and the HTC Ones). This is a very good thing to improve consistency. 

My test version came from Bell and had bundled Bell apps that did were not material design and could not be uninstalled.

HTC bundles an app called Boost+ which helps eliminate bloat. Until using the HTC device, I had to install a third party app to perform this clean-up. 

Usability

The first thing you will notice is how responsive the device is when scrolling a long list of apps (100+ apps on my test device). It's refreshing to see that even with the HTC skin, responsiveness doesn't seem to suffer.

I installed and tested these 5 demanding Android games for testing :

  • Modern Combat 5: Blackout
  • Asphalt 8: Airborne
  • Real Racing 3
  • N.O.V.A 3 Freedom Edition
  • Dead Trigger 2

All of the above games opened quickly and ran smoothly. After playing these games for 10-15 minutes, the phone becomes warm but nothing too dramatic.

HTC Connect  is included again and works relatively well. It allows you to stream on device content to various devices from Chromecast to Miracast and Bluetooth. The most surprising inclusion is the ability to stream to Apple Airplay devices (to AirPlay speakers and AppleTV). 

The device supports lock-screen gestures (such as launching the camera from an off screen). 

I've been testing the HTC 10 for 2.5 weeks now (while at home and while travelling for business). I loaded our corporate Mobile Device Management framework and used it as my main work smartphone during this time. 

Phone calls always sounded great and the phone connected to 2 major Canadian networks reliably. I compared WIFI and LTE performance to my iPhone 6s Plus and surprisingly, the HTC 10 seems to detect, capture and stay connected to wireless networks better than my iPhone. 

The 3000 mAH battery (with Android 6) was better than average for Android devices but nothing to write home about. I was able to get 3.5+ hours of screen on time. With heavy corporate use (texting, emailing and reading content), I regularly got between 3.5-4 hours of battery life.

The bundled charger is QC3.0 (but was not included in my test version provided by HTC, so I couldn't test this). Using my own Anker charger with QC3.0, I charged my device from 20% to full in a little over an hour. 

The size of the HTC 10 seems to be just right. It is big enough to enjoy videos while small enough to be used one handed. 

The HTC 10 Camera

HTC has added Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) to both the front and back cameras. This is an amazing achievement and a model for other companies to follow.

The back camera uses their Ultrapixel sensor with a bright 1.8f lens. The 12 MP Ultrapixel sensor includes 1.55um per UltraPixel. The front camera also has a bright 1.8f lens with screen flash. Its one of the few devices to include OIS for the front camera. The built in (rear camera) takes beautiful 4K video with very good 24-bit Hi-Res audio. I compared the audio to that of my iPhone and found the HTC 10 in-video audio quality better than the iPhone's. The audio quality on the HTC 10 rivaled that of my iPhone with the Shure MV88 attached. 

Front camera OIS means this could be used as an excellent Vlog camera. 

I tested the video stabilization of the HTC 10 compared to the Samsung S7 Edge (rear) and found it is competitive. stabilization does not rival that of external 3-axis gimble based stabilizers but is very usable. 

In my testing, daytime photos are amazing with deep color saturation and fantastic contrast. In many test situations, the HTC 10 produced more pleasing pictures than my iPhone 6s Plus. To be honest, the iPhone is likely to get a better & more usable picture in more situations but the HTC has an honorable mention. 

The HTC 10 camera app is super simple for the average user but includes other modes such as hyperlapse, slow motion, selfie photo. selfie video and full manual. I wish HTC had slightly faster focusing (photo and video). This focusing issue is more pronounced at night. 

Warranty

 HTC offers it's Uh Oh Protection for the HTC 10. When purchasing an HTC 10 from HTC directly in the US, you can add this free protection which gives you a opne time replacement for a broken screen or water damage for the first year. 

Why aren't more people buying it?

Samsung has a huge marketing budget and seems to have pulled the oxygen out for most other Android smartphones. The Samsung S7 offers wireless charging, an amazing display and a better camera. The big killer is price. The Samsung S7 can sometimes be had cheaper (or close to) than the HTC 10 price.

B&H price for the Unlocked Samsung S7 32GB

B&H price for the Unlocked Samsung S7 32GB

Expansys special price for the Unlocked HTC 10 32 GB

Expansys special price for the Unlocked HTC 10 32 GB

The HTC 10 is a wonderful phone with great specs but priced it as if it were 2014. Price is the main reason most consumers haven't jumped on this phone.

OnePlus, Alcatel, ZTE and Honor have changed the conversation around smartphone pricing. These phones come with fantastic specs but are sub $400. The HTC 10 is definitely  a better phone (than those lower cost competitors but not enough to justify the substantially higher price.) 

This bracketing by Samsung offering higher end specs at the same price (as the HTC 10) and the lower end competitors offering amazing specs at $100-250 less, have meant most consumers have shied away from what is otherwise a great device.

Conclusion

The HTC 10 is the best HTC phone I have ever used. It is also one of the best Android phones I have ever tested. During my ~3 week of testing, I never had to force reset the device (unlike most Android devices I test). 

  • The microSD slot for the space consuming 4K Video is a wonderful touch. 
  • QuickCharge 3.0 which allows you to top up the battery as quick as technical possible.
  • Excellent audio quality for calls with very few dropped calls.
  • Excellent ability to find and hold onto mobile data (Wifi and LTE).
  • Built in discreet DAC (with a headphone jack) for amazing audio quality during playback.
  • Good pace of Android security updates (not perfect but decent). 

The Achilles heel is the price. If this phone was priced at $399, this would probably be the smash hit of the year. The HTC 10 is easy to recommend in isolation but harder to recommend when you consider its lower cost Asian competitors. 

Distributed Denial of Service Attacks have doubled in Q2

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by thierry ehrmann used under creative commons license

Image by thierry ehrmann used under creative commons license

Akamai, the 800lb gorilla of internet security, has published its Q2 2016 State of the Internet Security Report. DDoS attacks seem to be a prefered attack vector and have doubled in number over the past 12 months.

In Q2, The security teams at Akamai have counted a 129% YoY increase in the number of DDoS attacks translated to 4,919 attacks being mitigated in Q2. Beyond just absolute number, we are constantly looking for the size of the attacks and the report does not disappoint. The largest DDoS they saw targeted a media company with a 363Gbps attack. It is also important to note that 10 other attacks were 100Gbps or larger. It seems bad actors are particularly fond of gaming and software companies.

Anyone want to take a guess at which country originated the most DDoS attacks? Anyone? China... Followed closely by the USA then Taiwan.

Another "fun" trend is that Web Application Attacks have increased 14% in Q2 (Q2 compared to Q1). Local File Inclusion taking the lead at 45% of WebApp attacks followed closely by an oldie but goodie, the venerable SQL injection. 

 

Your browser will betray your identity    

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by Lisa Brewster used under Creative Commons License

Image by Lisa Brewster used under Creative Commons License

Without doing anything wrong, your browser sends out information that makes you unique on the internet. This basically betrays your efforts to stay anonymous (unless you know what you are doing).

Every time you visit a website, your browser sends (or makes available) information about your browser configuration to the site. This information includes content such as fonts, browser type, elements supported, etc. In many cases, this will allow a site, network or bad actor to track you across the internet without cookies.

Prove it

Open another browser tab and visit Panopticlick from the EFF. It will perform browser fingerprinting and tell you how unique you are in a sea of web citizens.

So what can you do to stay anonymous?

Every prepper knows that the best defense is blending in. Blending into the crowd means you are less likely to be targeted. When you travel, don’t look like a tourist waiting to be pickpocketed with a giant dSLR hanging from your neck.

The same holds true in the digital world. When a security professional wants to blend in, he/she will make his computer look as normal as possible. Using common browsers, minimal plug-ins, etc. IF you want anonymity, don’t be a digital survivalist: running noscript, UBlcok Origin, turning off Java, etc.

Why

Modern browsers were designed for convenience and not for privacy.

What's the best SD card?

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

SD Cards are everywhere. Whether you are using them in your video gear or camera, choosing the right one can make all the difference in the world.I needed to find the best SD Card I could buy and am sharing it with you. 

In tech, there is always something better if you are willing to pay more. So what I was looking for was the best value proposition. 

What to look for in a SDCard ?

When evaluating any external memory, you will typically use the same evaluation criteria :

  • Speed
  • Reliability
  • Warranty
  • Price

Many android phones will test the SDCard  speed while preparing it for use and will warn you if it is believed to be too slow. A slow SDCard can make the entire phone slow and sluggish. Also you should be saving your photos and videos directly to the memory card so a slow card mean slow click to click speeds.

The smartphone has become the primary camera for many users and since you are storing your important memories (photos and videos), reliability is important. Nothing frustrates more than losing your memories because of a technical issue. SDCards have become incredibly reliable but choosing a strong brand is important to protecting these memories.

Electronics die. Sometimes an SDCard will live for 10 years other times it will die within 90 days of first use. You just can't tell so it is important to chose a product that is backed by the manufacturer.

Price... Price...Price... When choosing the best SDCard, price was an important factor. You could always pay more to get better (faster, bigger, etc) but most people want a card that is good enough.

The tests

I tested 12 of the best known brands (Including Toshiba, Transcend, Samsung, PNY, Lexar, and some lesser known Amazon brands). 

The SanDisk Extreme Pro came up on top every time. It tested as the fastest,  when reading and writing from a desktop, which means your camera will spend less time writing and your post photo workflow will be much faster. 

Most modern cameras will take pictures faster than SD Cards can record them (typical dSLRs save pictures at 200MB/s and some point and shoots in the low 100MB/s.) Obviously the faster the card the faster your camera will be able to offload pictures from its internal memory to the card thus preventing the dreaded slow shutter to shutter issue.

As for videos, most device record at between 30-100 MB/s, so you should be ok with this card even at 4K resolution. 

What I especially liked about it is its weather proofing. I snapped pictures then dunked the card in water (outside of the camera of course) for 1 minute. Lat the card dry up and it worked like a charm. I often use my Olympus Though waterproof camera so if the unthinkable occurred, I would likely be able to save my images (at least).

SanDisk also bundles its cards with a limited Lifetime warranty. 

My second pic would be the Samsung PRo Plus (if the SanDisk is not available).

How many SD Cards should I buy?

The other question I get asked is regarding what size of card to buy. I typically recommend that you carry multiple cards and rotate between them. Nothing would ruin your day more than losing all your pictures because of a malfunction. Buy the largest size you can afford as long as you can buy at least one-2 extra cards of the same capacity.

Most of my cards are 32-64GB in size and on a multi day trip, I will typically have 1 card per day. If the unthinkable happens, I only lose 1 day of memories. 

How to watch Apple's iPhone event tomorrow

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

It's that time of the year again when we all gather around our web browser and watch Apple's masterfully choreographed launch of the next iPhone (we believe the iPhone 7). It is safe to assume that with the Phone, they will also launch some ancillary products like the Watch or maybe even a new Macbook Pro. 

Regardless of what they launch, you should be planning to watch the livestream starting on September 7  at 10 am PT (1pm ET). 

Browser

You can go to the Apple Events page and watch the livestream there. As long as you do it from an IOS device running IOS 7 or better, a Mac using the Safari browser of a Windows PC using the Edge browser (this last one still perplexes me). 

After the fact

If you miss the event (and you really have no excuse to miss it), then Apple will make the livestream available later on the same link of via the Apple Events podcast channel (which should work in most podcatchers).