The HTC 10: How the Developer Community Radically Improved My Experience
Sometimes it needs a little help to make it truly yours
My 14 day return window drew to a close and I had a decision to make, my HTC 10 hung in the balance. HTC has always had a soft spot in my heart. Starting with the HTC Incredible and then upgrading the M7 and M8, I have seemed to have a deeply rooted affinity for them.
At its announcement, the HTC 10 drew my eye but I was also overly skeptical of it after the M9, which I skipped for various reasons. I knew deep down, though, I would end up owning the device because for as much criticism as I give the company, I love HTC. The first few days were great and brought back so many memories of the old days with great HTC devices, but all good things must come to an end and my HTC 10 experience quickly began to deteriorate sooner than I might have expected.
Credit where it is due though, the hardware is second to none. From the beautiful beveled edges, glistening chamfers and near perfect mix of materials to the liquid black front and amazing audio experience — one could really only knock the 10 for its lack of waterproofing. The software, though, is where things got a little more complicated. Praised by blogs all around for its Close to Stock Android look and feel (which we disagreed with) I felt like I was being betrayed by everything I had read.
True, the software may look or feel like stock in some ways but don’t be naive: the stock Android feel is little more than a theme. HTC did some deep customization to this software and to make things worse they removed or broke some key features one would expect in Marshmallow. It uses a custom dialer with no lookup features, the SystemUI Tuner and Ambient Display were removed, icons were added or changed for no reason (making for inconsistent iconography), and you couldn’t modify the quick toggles. Few offenses were worse than what HTC did to the lockscreen. Not only did they remove the simple three toggle system most devices have settled on – which works – but they totally broke notifications while playing audio with their second biggest offense, Boomsound.
Having Boomsound installed on the phone is fine, having a constant notification present advertising “Boomsound with Dolby Audio” while ANY audio is playing regardless as to if it is enabled is beyond words. But it gets worse, due to HTC’s lockscreen modifications if you happen to be playing any audio you can see ZERO new notifications on the lockscreen without interacting with it since slot 1 is taken by the playback controls and slot 2 by this Boomsound advertisement. There just is no valid excuse for this unremovable, overly irritating, and unwanted thorn in my side that breaks proper notification handling. But the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was my battery. No matter what I did, I could not make my HTC 10 have good battery. I subscribe to the “I’m not turning any features I want off to save battery” mantra, so wakelocks are a fact of life. But my 10 would last 8-10 hours with about 2 1/2hrs of SOT, totally unacceptable. Add to this the fact that it appears HTC broke the App Standby feature that puts apps into an ‘inactive’ state after no use and the situation was pretty dismal.
So as I was pondering the future of my HTC 10’s existence I thought back on why I loved my prior HTC One M7 and M8 so much and I came to a conclusion. What made the M7 and M8 so great was the developer support from both HTC with bootloader unlocking and the developer community that made it possible to have my phone exactly as wanted.
I decided to go to the XDA forums and see what I could find, what could make me love this phone again, and what happened over the next few hours floored me. The HTC 10 I grew to despise had turned into a beautiful customized beauty with few of the annoyances that bugged me so much, and so much more…
The first module I installed was N-ify. Featured on the Portal just a few days ago, this app is a must-have for anyone wanting that Android N look. MrWasdennnoch and Paphonb need a solid round of applause, or at least a solid round for their work. At first I didn’t think this mod would work well on the 10, but it turns out that it works almost perfectly, some features don’t enable like the changes to the Recents view or Settings, but it has no UI or functionality glitches. Full width notifications, quick jump to the last app, notification/quick toggle panel, it’s all there and more that I can’t even use due to HTC’s software modifications. Seriously, if you wanted to have your stockish Android device look and feel like N this is the one stop shop and they have more features planned like quick replies and more so be sure to follow the project.
My second issue was with the unremovable Boomsound notification as well as the WiFi calling notification (which is redundant with the status bar icon), they needed to die. After some searching I found XNotifications by Taptigo. The app can be confusing at first, but all you need to do to make it work its magic is to long press a notification and see the options. In my situation, I wanted to remove the Boomsound and WiFi notifications but not stop Android System from sending other notifications,
XNotifications can do just that. Using a series of rules and toggles, XNotifications can block or alter notifications based on a specific filter. For instance, notifications from Android System with the title “HTC Boomsound with Dolby Audio” are blocked, but any other Android System notifications are allowed. Yes, it works just as advertised and yes, it is awesome.
Viper pushes the HTC 10’s audio components to the next level
HTC also removed Ambient display and I wanted it back. Thanks to two modules Enable Ambient Display and Ambient Notifications I got that and more. Paired together they not only brought the feature back but allowed me to set it so it only activates when notifications are present, perfect!
Next I came to my crown jewel, Amplify. If you run Xposed and don’t have Amplify I don’t know what’s wrong with you, so i’ll wait for you to go download it and enable it… Back? Its awesome, right?! My battery has never been better and wakelocks are back in check, just don’t block “Icing” it causes a force close loop on Messaging. Again, this app should be used by anyone running Xposed, no questions asked.
Finally I wanted to really push this audio experience. Boomsound with Dolby were good, but Viper4Android is better. After doing the pre-required steps to install it, I went with the Viper|Atmos flashable zip file from the Nexus 6 subform. I had long used Viper on my M7 and M8 and for good reason. The audio quality components HTC uses are almost unmatched and Viper pushes them to the next level thanks to the sizable overhead that the HTC amps allow. Boomsound now sounds more like a cheap EQ compared to my setup. The audio quality while properly tuned is nothing short of amazing, take some time and learn about the settings and how to properly use them to really benefit from this modification.
It’s only been 1 day now, but I am again in love with my HTC 10. With great power comes great responsibility, likewise rooting and running customizations like Xposed or even changing your ROM isn’t for everyone and it absolutely comes with its warnings. But the power you have at your fingertips is unmatched. HTC knows how to build a device, but only you know how to make it truly yours inside and out. Sometimes it might feel like the developer community is getting edged out as Google implements more features into AOSP that we are familiar with from XDA, that is until you dive head first into the community and really see what these developers are creating.
The most awesome part is that I haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg with what is possible with the awesome developer community that enables us to make Google’s, HTC’s, Samsung’s, Sony’s or LG’s Android our Android.