For 2017, HTC wants you to think “it’s all about you” with its new handset appropriately named U Ultra. This smartphone features top-of-the-line specifications, an all new design for the company, and packs some unique features currently found on other flagship smartphones nowadays.
Starting with the new design, HTC is going with a new language called ‘Liquid Surface,’ providing an ultra-glossy, shiny, and slippery build for the U Ultra. This is the same design leaked recently. It’s a far distance from the OEM’s all-metal approach they took with recent smartphones including the HTC Bolt and 2016’s 10, but with more and more high-end handsets reaching the market with all-glass bodies, it’s about time for HTC to jump into the same ring, even though it doesn’t make them stand out as much anymore.
You’ll find an aluminum border around the U Ultra so there’s at least some type of grip to the phone, while on the front of the device there’s a 5.7-inch QHD display covered in either Gorilla Glass 5 or Sapphire Glass (depending on which storage configuration you get) paired with a 2-inch 160×1040 secondary display. This is very similar to LG’s V20 handset which also comes with a second ticker, allowing users to see their notifications, apps, music controls, and more all in a dedicated section on their phone. There’s also an always-on display mode that’ll constantly show the current time and date. However, with a relative lack of unique features that might make this element stand out a bit from the rest, there’s fear that the U Ultra won’t be known for its secondary display. Only the V20 will.
Touching on the back of the phone, there’s a 12MP HTC UltraPixel 2 camera that offers laser/phase detection autofocus, an f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, a dual-tone LED flash, 4K video recording, RAW capture support, and even a Pro mode with manual controls. HTC doesn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to smartphone cameras, but this one will be interesting to check out nevertheless.
In addition, a 16MP shooter can be found on the front of the device for all those super-sharp selfies that’ll get compressed via Instagram or Snapchat anyway. You can either shoot in 16MP or UltraPixel mode which will produce photos in 4MP. 1080p video recording is present with this sensor alongside a bunch of tools to make your face seem prettier.
Regarding other specs of the handset, the U Ultra packs a quad-core 2.15GHz Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64 or 128GB of internal storage which is upgradable via a microSD card slot for up to an extra 2TB of room, HTC BoomSound for excellent audio playback and recording, a fingerprint sensor on the front, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, a USB-C port, NFC, and HTC Connect software for casting content to various media streaming devices such as Google Chromecast.
Notice how I didn’t say “headphone jack?”
Yup, that’s right, folks. HTC has rid the U Ultra of the headphone jack much like Apple and Moto did last year with the iPhone 7 and Moto Z line. The reason? Just scroll down.
We removed the headphone jack because we believe the audio experience on the phone can be so much more than just the simple transmission of sound. The sonar-like capabilities of USonic wouldn’t be possible with a 3.5mm headphone jack. We have microphones built into both earbuds that “listen” for sonic pulses, which can then adjust your audio to match your ears’ unique architecture. We believe the market is ready to push audio into new innovations that benefit consumers’ listening experience.
In other words, HTC thinks the USB-C port is better for listening to music rather a dedicated port. Hey, whatever floats their boat, right?
Regarding battery size, the U Ultra comes with a 3000mAh cell installed, however this is slightly on the smaller size for flagship smartphones with such powerful processors and high-resolution screens. Perhaps HTC optimized their software (which, by the way, is Android 7.0 Nougat) for better battery life, but only real-world testing will confirm this.
To make the U Ultra just that much more unique, HTC built in some artificial intelligence, and no, I don’t mean the Google Assistant. The handset can tell you when to plug in if it thinks it’ll run out of juice soon, will warn you if it’s cold outside and you should bundle up, suggest apps to use during your day, and even allow voice commands while keeping the screen off. All of this technology is called Sense Companion is baked directly into the OS, and utilizes the secondary screen a lot. However, as is the case with most virtual assistants, Sense Companion may not wind up being all that useful in the end. Of course, if we get to spend time with the handset, we’ll let you know.
Brilliant Black, Cosmetic Pink, Ice White, and Sapphire Blue are your color options if you choose to pick up the U Ultra, while $749 is the price of the handset here in the States. This is rather high for a smartphone, so if you really don’t NEED to have the latest and greatest from HTC, you may wanna save that cabbage for something more important.
Of course, as is the trend nowadays for smartphone manufacturers, HTC also announced the U Play, the little brother of the U Ultra. This handset scales the display size down to 5.2 inches and reduces the resolution to 1080p, while the processor is now a MediaTek Helio P10, RAM amount is either 3 or 4GB, 32GB of storage is present, two 16MP cameras with likely worse quality are present on the front and rear, and the battery has been downgraded to 2500mAh. We expect this handset’s price to be much lower than the U Ultra’s, but we don’t have that information yet.
You can begin pre-ordering the U Ultra now from HTC.com with the first orders shipping in March.