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

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.


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.

Related phones

Desire 816
  • Display 5.5" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, Quad-core, 1600 MHz
  • Storage 8 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2600 mAh(21h 3G talk time)



1. LiyanaBG

Posts: 381; Member since: Nov 07, 2013

one word beautiful phone.

4. PunyPoop

Posts: 752; Member since: Jan 18, 2013

Dayum I missed my HTC Sensation :(

6. PunyPoop

Posts: 752; Member since: Jan 18, 2013

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

2. imyourpapi

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 04, 2014

For a mid range phone that's actually awesome

3. vtem97

Posts: 5; Member since: Feb 23, 2014

Great phone, nice design and fresh look.

5. williamdroid

Posts: 125; Member since: Jan 19, 2014

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

7. rawbow

Posts: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

Love the phone ...tired of their names really

8. maherk

Posts: 7029; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

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

9. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

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

10. kryme

Posts: 469; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

*cough* s5

14. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

*cough* agree

20. mafiaprinc3

Posts: 585; Member since: May 07, 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!

11. kryme

Posts: 469; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

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

18. Hyperreal

Posts: 361; Member since: Oct 08, 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.

12. andrejx

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 28, 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!

13. newbey123

Posts: 702; Member since: Mar 19, 2012

This is a killer midrange device.

15. andrejx

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 28, 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 ://​2/HTC-M8-LEAK1.jpg

16. antonioli

Posts: 200; Member since: Sep 08, 2013

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

17. Epicness1o1

Posts: 312; Member since: May 30, 2013

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

19. CaptYolo

Posts: 25; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

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

21. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Q: What exactly it was doing wrong? A: Pricing. (IMHO) Check Moto G's success HTC.

22. Odiin

Posts: 373; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

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

23. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

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

24. g2a5b0e unregistered

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

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