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HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger

Posted: , by Chris P.

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For a good part of the last year, Taiwanese HTC has been in something of a paralysis, or so it seemed from the outside. It truly felt like HTC wasn't sure as to what exactly it was doing wrong, and more importantly -- what its next step should be. As we started drawing ever closer to the end of 2013, however, it became apparent that HTC has realized which way the wind's blowing, and will not simply sit and wait for the inevitable. Instead, series of moves have showcased that HTC is both cutting its loses, and making more calculated bets, but at an altogether different table. The mid-tier one.

But marching a massive portfolio of products towards enemy lines isn't going to work on its own -- HTC's Desire range may be well-built, but it lacks a 'wow' factor. HTC needs a hero mid-ranger, the type of device that is cut from the cloth with rival Motorola Moto G. It's unlikely that the the company will completely abandon its premium pricing model, but it sure feels like HTC will be trying very hard to make the Desire 816 the hero mid-ranger that it needs to be. We had a first meet with the 816, and here are our initial impressions.


HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
HTC Desire 816 hands on: the 'flagship' mid-ranger
Wow! We know aesthetics are a subjective matter, but we find it hard to imagine somebody could argue the looks of the Desire 816. It's like HTC took the best from the One, and strived for the most minimalist design possible. And it worked like a charm! 

Apart from the massive screen at the front, there's basically no ornamentation to speak of with the exception of the two front-facing HTC BoomSound stereo speakers. These have gone through a transformation from previous models, and are now much more minimal in their appearance and size. At the back, we have a virtually empty glossy shell made from polycarbonate, with the rear camera and flash  stacked on top of each other at top rightmost. The left side holds the volume rocker and power buttons, both of which felt nice to the touch. On the right, we have an inconspicuous flap that holds the slots for the microSD card and nano SIM.

Obviously, the materials used in the construction of the Desire 816 are a far cry from the aluminum-clad HTC One, but we nevertheless admired the build of the 816. It may not feature as premium materials, but it felt sturdy and reliable, which is what matters in the end.


We weren't allowed to turn on the display on the Desire 816 since it was an early, pre-production unit, but hey, at least we can regurgitate the specs and say a word about what they mean.

There's no running away from the fact that the Desire 816's 5.5-inch display puts it into the phablet league. With a resolution of 720x1280, or 267 pixels per inch, it's not going to be among the most detailed screens out there, but it should prove sharp enough for a pleasant viewing experience. 


Again, we couldn't get to see the interface of the Desire 816, but the press release issued by the company did note that the phone will come pre-loaded with Sense 5.5. We aren't told the exact version of Android that the manufacturer's skin will be put on top of, but we're guessing that HTC will try and get the handset Android 4.4 KitKat-ready by April, when the Desire 816 will supposedly launch globally.

Processor and memory

Qualcomm seems to have cemented its spot as the main provider of mid-range chips as of late, for we've seen quite some devices ship with a version of its quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip as of late. The Desire 816, as you've probably guessed, makes is no exception. It's powered by four power-efficient, 1.6GHz ARM-A7 cores and an Adreno 305 GPU. Built on a 28nm process, we've seen the chip handle itself quite well in the past, and it brings the added benefit of 4G LTE radio.

The HTC Desire 816 is no wimp in terms of memory, either. The company has fitted a 1.5GB RAM unit inside, which should prove more than sufficient for everyday multitasking.


HTC's approach to the camera on its flagship One smartphone has been quite controversial. Instead of opting for the highest possible megapixel count like its competitors, it went down the complete opposite way with its UltraPixel technology. Many of will breathe a sigh of relief once they register this: the Desire 816 comes equipped with a 13-megapixel camera with f/2.2 aperture and an LED flash. The camera can shoot 1080p video, and we're expecting the usual software goodies, like HTC Zoe, to be on-board.

Up at the front, we have a 5-megapixel, f/2.8 wide angle lens unit, capable of 720p video capture. It goes without saying that the Desire 816 sounds like the perfect tool for the selfies-obsessed out there.


HTC made it crystal clear that it is going to be betting on the Desire 816 to get the company back on track to recovery. So much so, that the company dedicated its entire event at the MWC 2014 to the handset, essentially ignoring its other new device -- the Desire 610. We're told to expect an extremely competitive, mid-range price point, though that's still fairly ambiguous. 

The "flagship mid-ranger", as HTC calls the Desire 816, will be first made available in China in March, and a month later -- in April -- for the rest of the world.

  • Options

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 10:54 13

1. LiyanaBG (Posts: 381; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

one word beautiful phone.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:12 3

4. PunyPoop (Posts: 752; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)

Dayum I missed my HTC Sensation :(

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:17 7

6. PunyPoop (Posts: 752; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)

Even thought it has a glossy back, HTC knows how to design..

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:01 11

2. imyourpapi (Posts: 70; Member since: 04 Jan 2014)

For a mid range phone that's actually awesome

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:11 6

3. vtem97 (Posts: 5; Member since: 23 Feb 2014)

Great phone, nice design and fresh look.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:14 2

5. williamdroid (Posts: 125; Member since: 19 Jan 2014)

This is the first HTC fone that im tempted to buy after my Evo 3D which i loved.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:21 1

7. rawbow (Posts: 428; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)

Love the phone ...tired of their names really

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:25

8. maherk (Posts: 4849; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)

The back of the 5S is slapped on the back of the 5C.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:26 6

9. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)

This mid range phone is a lot sexier than a lot of high end out there :P

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:30 9

10. kryme (Posts: 382; Member since: 24 Oct 2013)

*cough* s5

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:40 6

14. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)

*cough* agree

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 17:14 1

20. mafiaprinc3 (Posts: 575; Member since: 07 May 2012)

samsung phones have the same dull designs year after year,then then copy the same design to lower end smartphones with that stupid home button!

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:35

11. kryme (Posts: 382; Member since: 24 Oct 2013)

no word on battery?? if its over 3000mah then its a phone for me....

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 13:52 1

18. Hyperreal (Posts: 322; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)

its 2600mah. I think thats completly enough for 720p display, snap 400 and sense 5, which is not so power consuming. really nice phone. bezels could be smaller but besides thats perfect.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:37 1

12. andrejx (Posts: 30; Member since: 28 Oct 2012)

I think all those leaked pictures of the HTC m8 (htc one up?) were fake. at first, there was just one leaked picture, that was considered as the real deal. and then more and more renders were made from the same leak. why would HTC design its flagship worse than its mindrange/flagship phones. Imagine this (desire 816) design with (aerospace) aluminium body. that would be something!

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:40 4

13. newbey123 (Posts: 636; Member since: 19 Mar 2012)

This is a killer midrange device.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:46

15. andrejx (Posts: 30; Member since: 28 Oct 2012)

and I reall hope they'll go with such hybrid onscreen/offscreen buttons! so that the wallpaper can be seen and the buttons can rotate and dont interfere with the screen

http ://images.intomobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/0​2/HTC-M8-LEAK1.jpg

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 11:53

16. antonioli (Posts: 200; Member since: 08 Sep 2013)

Interesting phone. The problem is the price. I don't think that will be fair.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 12:51 2

17. Epicness1o1 (Posts: 280; Member since: 30 May 2013)

this phone lookes better than the m8(if the leaks are real)(and I hope they are not real)

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 15:56

19. CaptYolo (Posts: 25; Member since: 30 Jan 2014)

Whats with the metal/aluminum worshipping on tech sites????????????

posted on 26 Feb 2014, 01:32

21. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 3718; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)

Q: What exactly it was doing wrong?
A: Pricing. (IMHO)

Check Moto G's success HTC.

posted on 26 Feb 2014, 02:13

22. Odiin (Posts: 352; Member since: 23 Apr 2013)

HTC one? How come with crappy camera n battery, its got best smartphone award? I wonder!
G2, S4, n Z1 deserved it.

posted on 26 Feb 2014, 04:55

23. tiara6918 (Posts: 2111; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

I would say this is the best mid range device released this year so far

posted on 01 Mar 2014, 17:34

24. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3814; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

It hasn't even been released. How can it possibly be the best? Such a fanboy comment.

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