HTC has just officially unveiled the newest device in their latest “U” flagship line-up — the HTC U11, a premium smartphone with some unique features and excellent hardware. What does this new vision for the company bring to the table?
In terms of internal hardware specifications, the HTC U11 doesn’t disappoint. While the HTC U Ultra was released with a somewhat-outdated Snapdragon 821, the U11 is now able to accommodate a beefier, more efficient Snapdragon 835, giving other 2017 flagships a run for their money. Featuring clockspeeds of up to 2.45GHz and with its processor flanked by 4GB of RAM, there is certainly enough hardware here to power up the Sense 9 experience running on top of Android 7.1 Nougat featuring both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. All of this is rendered on a pixel-dense 5.5-inch QHD Super LCD 5 display, like we’ve come to expect from HTC. The device comes with 64GB of internal storage (UFS 2.1) with the option to expand it via a microSD card. Connectivity includes NFC, Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11 2.5 & 5GHz Wi-Fi.
Powering this device we find a 3,000mAh battery (with Quick Charge 3.0 support), which might sound small for a phablet with a high-resolution display, though advancements in power efficiency found in other areas might just be enough to somewhat offset this (like the updated processor over its predecessor). Rounding up the hardware, we find an f/1.7 1.4μm 12MP rear-facing camera (with the highest DxOMark score ever, at 90 for mobile) with 5-axis OIS + EIS for video, as well as a higher-resolution f/2.0 16MP front camera, following the selfie tradition set forth by previous HTC endeavors.
The HTC U11 does not feature proper stereo speakers for the BoomSound level of audio quality we once expected, and like the U Ultra, it also doesn’t feature a 3.5mm headphone jack (though this time, one is included in the box). It does, however, feature an HTC BoomSound “Hi-Fi Edition” level of audio, with “USonic” technology for its USB Type-C headphones. In theory, this might have facilitated the physical design of the phone, which while still a deviation from the iconic metal of previous HTC devices, looks good on its own. HTC’s “liquid surface”consists of extremely-reflective and glossy glass in five vibrant colors (ice white, amazing silver, sapphire blue, brilliant black, solar red) and has an IP67 rating for water-resistance (which HTC incorrectly labelled “waterproofed”). The device’s back features Gorilla Glass to shield it from scuffs and scratches, and the camera doesn’t protrude in a way to make its glass scratchable. There are gentle curves around the device for easier handling, though it probably doesn’t offer a confident grip (not unlike the U Ultra), and the device will certainly catch fingerprint oils and smudges quite easily. The front of the device is what we’ve come to expect, with rather sizable bezels by this year’s standards, and a still-unaligned home button. However, at the very least HTC has minimized the black bar and logos that used to take up so much space in previous devices.
“Imagine a baby just born, holding onto the mother’s fingers, for safety, for love (…) squeeze is a natural way for individual person (sic) to express your emotions” — Chia-lin Chang (Actual Quote)
On top of the expected slight software improvements and new features, the HTC U11 also features a pressure-sensitive frame, which is capable of detecting presses and squeezes (hence the “squeeze” motif of the device’s marketing campaign). This allows users to trigger shortcuts to, for example, quickly access the camera or take a picture, or open applications and trigger activities. Functionality will be limited out of the box, though continuous software support will allow users to further customize the new feature in the future, and we can expect some third-party apps or mods (or clever workarounds, perhaps even courtesy of our own Mishaal Rahman) to find a way to take advantage of the U11’s frame. It’s worth noting that the edge of the phone detects varying levels of pressure, but it doesn’t function like a capacitive touch surface, meaning gesture support is limited and you can’t for example, scroll by swiping the side of the device (which would have been pretty awesome). Nevertheless, you can set a few patterns for different shortcuts and triggers.
The HTC U11 will be coming to key markets next week, with full distribution in early June. The company needs this device to do well given their HTC U Ultra wasn’t met with rave reviews, and that they’ve reported a pretty substantial operating loss earlier this year.