HTC is all set to launch its true flagship smartphone of 2017 – the HTC U11 in India on June 16. The U11 comes after the U Ultra and U Play which were not received very well by critics and were criticised for being a tad overpriced and underwhelming. The U11 however seeks to change all that with powerful internals, a striking design, updated cameras and a new ‘Edge Sense’ feature which allows users to squeeze the edges of the smartphone to perform different functions.
The U11 is a very important smartphone for the Taiwanese manufacturer. The company needs the smartphone to be a success after a string of disappointments like the HTC Ultra and HTC 10 which failed to set the market of fire. The company has left no stone unturned in designing the HTC U11 in a bid to regain lost market share and reclaim brand value.
The U11 is a summation of two different HTC smartphone lines – the ‘U’ in the U11 name reflects HTC’s new design language and series for 2017 and the ’11’ refers to the fact that the smartphone is the successor to the HTC 10 – the company’s 2016 flagship.
The smartphone is launching in India on June 16 and looks set to the best smartphone from HTC in years. On paper, the smartphone comes with all of HTC’s historical strong points – a good design, focus on audio quality and a light and clean UI. Here is everything you need to know about HTC’s upcoming flagship:
The U11’s design is striking as well as unique. A refinement of the ‘Liquid Surface’ design ethos first seen in the HTC U Ultra, the U11 is a glass and metal spectacle where the color of the glass changes depending on the angle from which the smartphone is viewed. For example the red color variant transitions into fiery gold when seen at an angle.
The rear is an glass affair and is curved at the edges. This curved glass back joins the metal frame seamlessly which then transitions into the Gorilla Glass covered display. While some might miss the industrial and chunky feel of the metal backed HTC 10, the U11 is a premium looking smartphone that looks unique.
In terms of specifications, the HTC U11 is loaded with everything a 2017 flagship is expected to feature. It is powered by Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor – the Snapdragon 835 paired with 4/6GB of RAM depending on the variant, the Adreno 540 GPU and a 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support.
Additionally, the smartphone features a 5.5-inch QuadHD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on top for protection against scratches, 64/128GB of internal storage depending on the variant which is expandable via a microSD card (of up to 256GB) and a fingerprint sensor up front.
The smartphone runs on Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box with HTC’s Sense overlay on top and supports 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS/A-GPS and GLONASS. It comes with a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer. The port is also used for transmitting audio as the smartphone lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack.
HTC has had a chequered history when it comes to smartphone imaging, with most of its flagships disappointing in the camera department. However, HTC seems to have concentrated a lot on the U11’s camera, which appears to much improved from the HTC 10.
The U11 comes with a 12MP rear camera with a larger than usual aperture of f/1.7, dual-pixel autofocus and 5-axis optical image stabilisation (OIS). This is paired to a 16MP front shooter which has a 150 degree wide-angle lens and an aperture of f/2.0. Sadly, OIS has been removed from the front camera, which was one of the most loved features of the HTC 10.
The HTC U11 comes with powerful internals, a striking design, impressive cameras and a new ‘Edge Sense’ feature which allows users to squeeze the edges of the smartphone to perform different functions.
The smartphone’s camera has received a DxO Mark score of 90 points, which is currently the highest score ever posted by a smartphone’s camera. That is not all. HTC has made sure the camera records audio as well as it captures video. The U11 records audio in 24-bit and has 4 microphones on board which help it capture 360-degree sound.
The smartphone also has a nifty trick up its sleeve. Called ‘Acoustic Focus’, this feature captures audio from the mic closest to the subject with a boost in levels when you zoom in while recording video.
The U Ultra was roundly criticised for lacking waterproofing. HTC seems to have taken heed of the same and has made the U11 IP67 water and dust resistant (water resistant up to 1 meter/30 minutes). While an IP68 rating, which is found in smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Xperia XZ Premium would have been ideal, an IP67 rating is still more than sufficient to protect the phone against splashes and the occasional dip in the pool.
The iconic feature of the HTC U11, which HTC seems to be the most proud of is Edge Sense, which allows you to ‘squeeze’ the edges of the smartphone to imitate different functions. HTC has added pressure sensors on the side edges of the phone which are triggered whenever the handset is ‘squeezed’. HTC claims that the squeeze effect works even when the phone is underwater or the user is wearing gloves.
When it comes to cases, while it works when the phone is inside a soft, flexible case, hard cases render the feature inoperable. This feature can currently be used to take photos, launch Google Assistant, turn on the flashlight, launch the microphone while texting and so on.
Audio lovers delight
The HTC U11 is currently the best smartphone out there for audiophiles despite the fact that it does not feature a 3.5mm headphone jack. HTC is one of the few smartphone manufacturers left that values audio quality as much as any other component. Audio is one thing that most OEM’s blatantly ignore – flagship smartphones are packed with superb displays, excellent cameras, scintillating designs but they sound decidedly average.
On the HTC U11 though, HTC’s commitment to audio quality shines through. The smartphone comes with U Sonic technology, a feature that the company introduced with the U Ultra and U Play. U Sonic adapts sound to the user and works on the basis that every single person’s ear structures are different.
The U Sonic earphones that come bundled in the box map your inner ear with an advanced sonar-like technology and then adapt the sound profile according to your unique biology. Pretty advanced stuff. All this basically means that the smartphone will personalise the music coming out of the phone according to your ear’s requirements.
The bundled U Sonic earphones also support noise cancellation. In fact, the U 11 is the first smartphone in the world to come with active noise cancellation earphones out of the box. Which means you can listen to music without any external sound interrupting or coming in the way of your listening experience.
That is not all. The U11 also come with HTC’s trademark BoomSound stereo speakers which are 100 percent louder and have a 150 percent improvement in dynamic range than before. Another unique and pretty amazing feature of the U11 is in relation to the bundled USB-Type C to 3.5mm jack adapter. HTC has managed to compensate for taking away the iconic audio port by building in a dedicated DAC into the adapter. This means you will get stellar audio quality even while using regular 3.5mm earphones.
Sense Companion is HTC’s answer to the Siri’s, Cortana’s and Alexa’s of the world. The AI based voice assistant works constantly in the background and proved user-relevant suggestions, updates and alerts such as the weather, calendar reminders and so on. It can also inform the user about commuting advice, phone performance, step count and more. The phone has four always-on low-power microphones on board which help Sense Companion respond to every command.
Three voice assistants on board
Don’t like Sense Companion? No need to worry. HTC has been very democratic when it comes to voice assistants in the HTC U11. Users can choose between Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and HTC’s own Sense Companion – the smartphone comes bundled with support for all three of them.