HTC today took the wraps off their highly rumored smartphone now officially known as the U11. It’s HTC’s true flagship for 2017 despite releasing the flop that was the HTC U Ultra earlier this year. It’s also the successor to last year’s HTC 10. Admittedly, this phone looks a bit gimmicky but promising. Sort of.
Starting with the hardware, HTC designed the U11 like they did the U Ultra with what they call a “Liquid Surface.” This mirror-like finish has already proven to be a serious fingerprint magnet, so slapping a case on this guy shouldn’t be something you think twice about.
Inside the build, this is where the U11 stands out. Along the left and right sides of the handset, HTC has built in pressure sensitivity to allow for a new feature they call Edge Sense to operate. Essentially, you can squeeze your phone for either a short period or long period and the software will react by opening an app or executing an assigned action. This is all customizable, so a short press could open the camera while a long press could launch the Google Assistant. It’s all up to you, which is a saying not many companies are delivering on nowadays.
Obviously, with any new function like squeezing your phone being introduced leads to some believing it’s just a gimmick and could help with marketing. Yes, I think this same thing, but hey, we thought fingerprint sensors were pretty gimmicky back in the day. And c’mon, who talked to their iPhone in 2011? I guess we’ll just have to give HTC a shot first before making any calls.
As for the rest of the phone, things seem pretty promising. There’s a 5.5-inch QHD display, a Snapdragon 835 processor like the Galaxy S8, 4GB of RAM, a minimum of 64GB of storage which is expandable via microSD card, and a 3,000mAh battery. The handset even features an IP67 rating. All in all, the specs of the U11 look like they’re worthy of competing with 2017’s high-end smartphone lineup, so let’s hope HTC can actually have an impact this time around opposed to recent years when they’ve been nothing more but sitting ducks.
Regarding the cameras, HTC has included a 12MP f/1.7 sensor which is actually pretty special. HTC has received the highest-rated DxOMark score ever at 90. This beats out the Google Pixel from 2016 which scored an 89 and was the previous placeholder. Now, HtC wears the crown, but it has yet to prove how well it can actually perform.
As is the case with most flagship cameras, there are fancy new HDR features onboard, improved autofocus, and two forms of image stabilization: optical and electronic. You can also shoot up to 4K video. As for selfie takers, you’ve got 16MP to work with.
Unfortunately, HTC is following its own trend of eliminating the headphone jack, and the U11 falls in this category. HTC says a) by removing the port, they have more room for additional components and b) they can include a better in-box headphone experience thanks to the single USB-C port on the bottom of the phone. Regardless, users will no doubt miss the 3.5mm jack and the ability to charge their phone and listen to jams at the same time.
For an added bonus, HTC has teamed up with Amazon to turn the U11 into an Echo. In other words, the handset features native support for interacting with Alexa. It works just like it does on the Echo: you can ask it the weather, turn on or off your lights, play your Spotify playlist, and more. Alexa also works while the phone is off so you don’t have to dive into an app or something to use it. Of course, you also have access to the Google Assistant alongside HTC’s Sense Companion, but it’ll be interesting to use Alexa on a phone that actually seems like supports it better than others do.
The HTC U11 will begin shipping June 9th for the price of $649, the same price as the standard 5-inch Google Pixel. The handset will be exclusively sold through Sprint for $29/month for 24 months to interested customers. If you preorder the U11, you’ll get two free Echo Dots (you know, in case you need them). In addition, an unlocked model that works on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile will also be sold through HTC and Amazon. Colors include Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, and Amazing Silver.