HTC recently revealed the new U 11, its ‘real flagship’ model which arrives on the market several months after ‘the flagship before the flagship’ phone U Ultra did. With it, the Taiwanese company announced a radical shift when it comes to modernizing the finishing touch of its smartphone line. To put it plainly, this is a slightly smaller version of the U Ultra, equipped with the latest Qualcomm chipset, even better rear-facing camera, which – finally – can measure up to the current top models from the competition, more powerful USonic sound and what HTC representatives single out – Edge Sense, technology which makes this device the first phone in the world that has edges responsive to touch … or to pressure.
It seems unusual, even very market-risky, but the finishing touch and the body are details that most users will be paying attention to when they first get their hands on the HTC U 11. Compared to the already known U Ultra model (even U Play), there are not that many changes at first glance. This is a 5.5-inch phone in a glass body with metal rims with a highly effective, multi-layered finish, thanks to which the colors on the rear surface have an overflowing effect. This effect leaves the impression of premium class, as well as already proven credibility and reliability of HTC industrial design. A slightly rounded back and trendy glass display cover without any sharp transits along the edges make it more than a sufficient substitute for the praised, but untouched metal design of previous HTC flagship models. Indeed, modernization also entails certain ‘sacrifice’, thus the phone attracts fingerprints left, right and center – to such an extent that HTC decided to include a wiping cloth in the package, just like (better) sunglasses manufacturers do.
All impressions are more or less the same in this regard, except the fact that the HTC U 11 comes with Edge Sense, meaning the phone can be pressed along the sides (left and right) to initiate certain tasks. To be specific, the device needs to be pressed simultaneously on both sides, as if it is being squeezed for juice and the pressure level will be illustrated by darkened rings along the display edges, so that users know whether they are pressing hard enough. What task will take place? This depends on the user, given that the actions which are initiated by pressing the sides can be attributed through the phone’s settings, e.g. activating the camera at any moment and if the sides are pressed once the camera is already turned on, shooting images will then be initiated.
There is plenty of room for playing with Edge Sense, both from the users’ and the manufacturer’s perspective – especially if this innovation fares better than just a gimmick or a trick required to differentiate a product from its direct competition. The squeezing level, a double or triple squeeze, contextual squeeze conditioning of the new HTC etc. – everything is subject to having certain tasks being attributed, but this previously unseen manner of interacting with a phone takes getting used to.
It shout be pointed out that Edge Sense does not imply that the phone’s sides are touch-sensitive, like the case is with displays on phones, but pressure-sensitive. This means that the stated option can be used with all the cases HTC offers for U 11 and with most cases which are not originally HTC’s equipment, as long as they are not made from a hard an inflexible material which would disable the pressure reaching the phone’s sides, like metal. The overall impression, after having squeezed the HTC U 11, is that the technology is practical but not revolutionary.
The same goes for the AI smart assistants – there are no less then three of them supported: HTC’s own Sense Companion, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Nice touch, but again, this is more gimmicky than revolutionary – you’ll probably end up using only one of those three … if any.
What makes me happy about the HTC U 11 from a geek point of view is Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 chipset, which the Taiwanese manufacturer has intended for all global markets. This is often pointed out as an advantage, given that, i.e. Samsung has this SoC only in the Galaxy S8 for the US market, while Exynos is used for the rest of the world. The hype surrounding Snapdragon 835 was created due to Qualcomm itself, which made this chip seemingly unattainable and having a phone that comes with it seems special – if not for anything else, then for the record-breaking results which it scores on most synthetic benchmarks. In reality, this is a completely fluid phone indeed, which will actually work on all live networks throughout the globe and will be most economic about harmonizing the way the software, hardware and battery work on this phone.
This reliability, which is otherwise one of HTC’s traditional aces, is actually a more important feature that S835 provides the new HTC flagship than possibly record-breaking speed on benchmarks, which will not stay that way in the long run. The device comes with 64 GB of memory storage and 4 GB of RAM, or 128 GB of memory storage and 6 GB of RAM depending on configuration.
The display is the same Super LCD5 with QHD (1440 x 2560) resolution that U Ultra has, but only 5.5-inch (not 5.7-inch), thus it reveals a greater pixel density of 534 ppi. This is enough for immaculate imaging sharpness and quality, which cannot be criticized, apart from the fact that the more vivacious part of the specter cannot be oversaturated, which AMOLEDs got flagship buffs used to. In other words – there are no real objections to the display.
HTC U 11 Camera & Sound
However, compared to the HTC U Ultra, the camera on the HTC U 11 takes an added step forward so that it could measure up to the bar which is being set higher and higher by rival models. We now have the 12-mega pixel UltraPixel 3 sensor, which includes 1.4 micron pixels, OIS and – what is most important – f/1.7 aperture – a combination that can result in clear photographs even in nighttime conditions, with lots of details and without much noise. Additionally, the camera is equipped with the so-called UltraSpeed autofocus and has HDR Boost. The front includes a 16-mega pixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture. There were no objections to HTC’s upper class selfie-cameras before either.
Even the USonic sound has been advanced. Just like the HTC U Ultra, the HTC U 11 does not have a 3.5-mm audio jack, but unlike the bigger model (only a few months old), it is delivered with an adapter which has such a connector on one side and the USB Type-C on the other. Thus, the headphones which come with the smartphone include the active noise cancellation technology and the same option of transmitting beams which read the ear’s structure of individual users so that it can entirely adjust the sound to their features. The mentioned adapter also includes DAC and those who want to use the phone for outstanding music playback via other devices and not only the delivered headset will surely find it interesting. If four active microphones are taken into account, apart from music playback, such an equipped phone enables 3D Audio Recording with Acoustic Focus technology, as HTC calls it. The name is self-descriptive.
The HTC U 11 should be released on the market by early June. Its modern finish, top-of-the-line features and the emphasis on multimedia playback are more attractive than Edge Sense, but it simply has to have a trick or two up its sleeve, because the rivals’ models have ‘their own thing’, like different phone size to display size ratio.
HTC enthusiasts will find the new model surely satisfactory, but it does not include the type of diversification in relation to the rival models (that are now more aggressive than ever), which would secure it absolute domination over this season.