The HTC 10 was something of a rebirth for the struggling company. Offering a cleaner Android experience and a simple but solid design, the HTC 10 surpassed the One M9 in many ways to offer a desirable flagship experience. HTC has since gone on to build the Google Pixel too, which might hint at where the company moves next.
So what can we expect from HTC's next handset? Rumours suggest that it might be codenamed HTC Ocean, perhaps hit the market as HTC 11 and here's how the threads of this story are weaving themselves together.
HTC Ocean: Design
The HTC Ocean first appeared when a video surfaced showing an HTC handset with no physical controls, instead relying solely on gestures, touch and voice.
The video purports to demonstrate the "Sense Touch" user interface and was discovered on Danelle Vermeulen's website. Vermeulen is a visual and motion designer, although it is declared that the phone is a concept, raising some doubts as to how much can be drawn from this video.
The design perhaps has to be taken with a pinch of salt, but it sees a phone with no buttons, suggesting a range of interactions we're yet to see in smartphones so far.
The physical design doesn't look too far removed from the HTC 10, with a metal body and chamfered edges around the display. There are two cameras on the rear with an LED flash, but there's no knowing if HTC is going to go back to a dual camera arrangement, although it seems to be quite the trend in 2016.
The video suggests that there will be touch-sensitive zones around the phone and demonstrates a heavier use of voice than we might typically go for. Although this looks like a concept, regular leaker Evan Blass has taken to Twitter again to say that HTC Ocean exists.
No. Source: "Ocean is real and alive." https://t.co/aBUrpNYR5R— Evan Blass (@evleaks) October 18, 2016
As this is an HTC flagship, we'd fully expect a full metal unibody and the recent launch of the HTC Bolt (Sprint) or HTC 10 Evo (everywhere else) introduces another missing feature and that's waterproofing. We'd expect HTC 11 to carry an IP57 rating, but we'd also expect it to lose the 3.5mm headphone socket in the process.
We say this because we get the feeling that these two things are linked, that USB Type-C only made the water-resistance easier on HTC 10 Evo, so HTC Ocean is likely to go the same way.
HTC Ocean: The name
What's interesting about the HTC Ocean name - and makes this a rumour worth running with - is that no sooner had Evan Blass shared the HTC Ocean concept video, but another familiar name in HTC leaks joined the party.
Codenames— LlabTooFeR (@LlabTooFeR) September 21, 2016
In isolation, a single leak could be dismissed, but with LlabTooFeR adding three codenames to the mix, it makes things more real.
So HTC Ocean should be taken as a codename and the three versions suggest different devices with different skills: Ocean Master, Ocean Note and Ocean Smart.
The obvious thing is Note, perhaps following Samsung's lead with a larger stylus-equipped device. Exactly what Master or Smart would bring to the party is anyone's guess, although we suspect there will be a range of sizes spread across 2017.
As is the final go-to-market name. With HTC dropping the One moniker for its flagships and adopting HTC 10, logic would suggest it will be called HTC 11.
That may well explain the choice of Ocean for a codename, a sideways nod to Ocean's 11? Perhaps it's just a reference to the introduction of water resistance?
HTC Ocean: Hardware and specs
Currently there's no suggestion of what the HTC Ocean might have sitting at its heart, but it's likely to be a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset from the 800 series. HTC has recently used the SD821 in the Google Pixel, so might form an obvious choice, but Qualcomm has already announced the Snapdragon 835 and HTC has a long history of launching with new Qualcomm hardware.
We'd expect at least 4GB of RAM and storage from 32GB, with support for microSD card expansion. The RAM might see a bump if HTC wants to push companies like OnePlus in the specs race. One of the things that's likely to dictate the hardware specs of HTC Ocean is compatibility with Google's new VR platform Daydream, and boosted RAM may well help to bump that performance.
We've mentioned USB Type-C already and that's a certainly. HTC might also garner the courage to remove the 3.56mm headphone socket. It did so on the HTC 10 Evo/HTC Bolt and having developed its excellent Hi-Res USB Type-C headphones and the funky auto-tuning feature that's certainly going to be used again in HTC 11.
We'd expect a front fingerprint scanner too.
HTC Ocean: Display
HTC opted for a 5.2-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution on the HTC 10. We'd see that as an optimal choice for the Ocean, but with three codenames circulating, there may well be a range of sizes. There's a question over whether HTC will opt for LCD; AMOLED was used for the Pixel, and HTC used AMOLED in the One A9 too.
A rumour suggesting details of the display says it will be 5.5-inches, with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. So far, so Pixel XL. With HTC putting that display into Google's phone, it's no surprise to see it mentioned again. However, the interesting suggest is that it will be curved, i.e., fairly close to the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. That would be a change of direction for HTC.
Display quality will be important. HTC used a Super LCD 3 panel on the HTC 10 Evo and it doesn't look good at all, with weak colour tones. The Super LCD 5 of the HTC 10 is much better, but recent AMOLED displays are better than both.
HTC Ocean: Software
One thing that's certain is that HTC's next flagship will launch with Android Nougat. For the HTC 10 the company took a lighter approach, stripping away a lot of the additional bloat for a cleaner Android experience, turning to stock Android apps rather than duplicating with its own. The HTC 10 is in the process of updating to Nougat and we've seen some tweaks in the latest version of HTC Sense through the HTC 10 Evo too.
With a complete change in interaction with Sense Touch, the experience might be different, but judging by that video above, it's still very much about the core Android experience.
One of the things that might drive this change in interaction is Google Assistant. The talk from that concept video revolves around some of the things that Google Assistant already offers and with HTC having first-hand experience from the Pixel, it should be in a strong position to use that platform. However, Google Assistant is still an exclusive of Google's own devices, the Pixel handsets and Google Home. We'd expect that to change in 2017.
HTC Ocean: Cameras
HTC's track record with cameras has been a little rocky over the past few years. Currently, there's no indication of where the company might turn. The leaked video, however, did feature a dual camera setup on the rear of the HTC Ocean. Whether this is just for fun, or a serious consideration, we have no way of knowing.
HTC was one of the first companies to put a dual camera on a smartphone with the HTC One M8. That wasn't a huge success, but things have moved on and recently we've seen the likes of Apple adding a dual camera to the iPhone 7 Plus, although, we still think that dual cameras aren't perhaps worth the return.
With HTC fitting the Google Pixel with a pair of excellent cameras, however, it would be no surprise for HTC to use the same hardware again. That's suggested in a rumour appearing on Weibo, saying that HTC 11 will have a 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, the same as the Google Pixel.
The 8-megapixel front camera fits with the recent HTC 10 Evo, but that phone then offers a 16-megapixel rear camera, which isn't great.
HTC Ocean: Release date
HTC is likely to target early-2017 for the launch of its next flagship handset. The key dates to note would be around Mobile World Congress 2017, perhaps 26 February, when Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy S8.
However, HTC eschewed the conference this year, running with its own virtual event which it may well repeat, to avoid the noise of the big launches at that show. If that's the case, we'd expect it to some time in March 2017.