Audio is the elephant in the room. The iPhone 7, as you may or may not be aware, ditches the standard 3.5-millimeter jack found on every iPhone, iPad, Mac, and MacBook before it (not to mention most laptops, smartphones, tablets, and desktops). Instead, the new iPhone’s Lightning adapter pulls triple duty, serving as a charging port, data connector, and audio output in one. The usability blow is somewhat mitigated by Apple’s inclusion of a Lightning-to-3.5-millimeter adapter and Lightning-compatible EarPods, but the fact remains: using your old pair of wired headphones with the iPhone 7 won’t be a walk in the park.
You could buy a Bluetooth pair, and that’s one solution that Apple is actively encouraging. The iPhone 7 sports a new, in-house Bluetooth chip, the W1, one that’s said to deliver audio much more efficiently than conventional wireless. It’ll pair with any off-the-shelf wireless headphones you can find on Amazon or at your local Best Buy, but optimally with the company’s wireless AirPods and headphones within the company’s new Beats lineup. This includes the Solo3 Wireless, Powerbeats3 Wireless, and Beats X.
You don’t have that problem with the HTC 10. It sports the familiar 3.5-millimeter jack, along with the company’s recently “re-engineered” BoomSound. It’s a heck of a package on paper, consisting of amplified speakers with a separate woofer (on the bottom) and tweeter (on the top). It also includes a hardware headphone digital audio converter that supports upscaling to 16- and 24-bit, as well as HTC’s Personal Audio Profile that lets you personalize the sound to your liking.
In practice, though, the HTC 10’s audio isn’t as good as you’d expect. We found the BoomSound speakers exhibited impressive depth and volume, but sounded “muddy and less crisp” compared to the iPhone.
Calling a winner is a tough one. The iPhone 7 has better speakers, but the HTC 10 has the all-important headphone jack. Given the state of smartphone audio accessories as they exist today, though, we’re inclined to hand HTC the crown — wireless headphones are nascent tech, and some of the best headphones around are wired.
The battery is a different story. You’d think the HTC 10’s 3,000mAh battery would easily best the iPhone 7’s 1,960mAh, but intricacies conspire to make the comparison a lot less straightforward. In truth, the HTC 10 lasts longer than the iPhone 7 — just shy of a day and a half, in our testing — but not dramatically so. The iPhone 7, by comparison, lasts around a half hour less.
Still, a win’s a win, and the HTC 10 edges out the iPhone 7 this round by a hair.
Winner: HTC 10