HTC U11 is the HTC flagship smartphone we have been waiting for

HTC just had a global launch event to commemorate its 20th anniversary. It was a trip down memory lane when HTC brought us back to 2013 when the HTC One was launched – the first smartphone pioneered the metal unibody craftsmanship and dual camera. If you remember the iconic HTC Sense clock widget, you should be of a certain age now lol.

It didn’t take long for HTC to unveil the HTC U11. HTC Global president of smartphones and connected devices business Chia-Lin Chang joked about the leaked video of the HTC U11 which was widely spread just hours before the launch. It seemed that the leaks were pretty accurate. The U11’s USP is indeed the squeeze function along the edge of the phone which allows you to call upon different actions. HTC is calling this the Edge Sense.

Take a photo simply by squeezing the edges of the U11.

Chia-Lin explained that the company spent a lot of time in researching how people are using the smartphones in their daily lives. It discovered that the squeeze action along the edges of the phone is the most logical and intuitive way of using a smartphone that would solve many problems for modern smartphone users (mainly taking selfies with one hand and trigger certain actions without the need of physically unlocking your phone. He then went on to demo how effortless it is to capture a selfie with the audience simply by positioning the phone’s camera to the desired angle and lightly squeezing on the edges.

While most phones’ touchscreen wouldn’t work in wet conditions or when with gloves on, HTC is positioning the U11 as the perfect adventure and weather proof phone.

You can customize the Edge Sense to call up any apps that you have installed onto the phone. It has two ways of accessing your apps – one by short pressing and the other by long pressing the edges. Users can customize the sensitivity of the squeeze to prevent accidental triggers.

One of the emerging trend that HTC can’t ignore is the rise of voice assistance.

You can wake the U11 up from deep sleep using dual wake words like “Ok, Google” and “Alexa.
While the Google Assistant is pre-loaded onto most Android phones and Samsung has its own Bixby virtual assistant, HTC chose to utilize what it is calling the “Dual  Wake Words” that allows you to choose between Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa simply using trigger words (“Ok Google” , “Alexa”).

In China, HTC is partnering Baidu to include its DuerOS as the voice assistant on the U11.

The camera has always been a key selling feature for most flagship smartphones. The Ultra Pixel 3 camera on the U11 is the highest ranked camera on a smartphone by DXOMARK Mobile with a score of 90 points. In contrast, the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus and Huawei P10 were rated 88 points while the Google Pixel scored the previous high score of 89.

The rear camera is a 12MP with ultra fast autofocus, optical and electronic image stabilisation and a f/1.7 lens.

There is also always-on auto HDR boost for brighter images with with better colors, reduced noise and finer details. The U11 also records in 4K at 30fps and slowmo 1080p video at 120fps with 3D audio recording utilizing its 4 microphone array.

The front of the U11 is equipped with a 16MP camera with f/2.0 and a 150 degree wide angle lens so that no one gets left out of the frame. In contrast, the wide angle camera on the front of the LG G6 can only deliver a 100 degree field of view.

Chia-Lin also addressed the criticism the company received for removing the 3.5mm audio jack from the U Ultra and U Play. HTC believes that the HTC USonic provides the best on-the-go experience for its users. The HTC USonic optimizes the sound to your ear structure and ambient noise level to determine the output level that best suits you. With the U11, HTC is taking things up one level by including active noise cancellation into its earbud – all these being powered by the USB-Type C port.

The HTC BoomSound that we all know so well from HTC has also been upgraded to the Hi-Fi edition. The audio engineers have now fully utilized the spaces between the components of the U11 (or “acoustic chamber”) to deliver more bass ensuring a more immersive audio experience from the U11 phone’s speakers.

Similar to the HTC U Ultra and U Play, the U11 is made up of alot of glass. HTC says the top layer of glass of the screen is bent all around to give it a perfect rounded screen. The back is made of the same liquid surface as the U Ultra and U Play and it’s really gorgeous despite being a fingerprint magnet.

HTC explaining how tedious it is to make a U11.

The HTC U11 when available will come in five different variations; Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black and Ice White, Amazing Silver and Solar Red. The HTC U11 comes with a 5.5″ LCD screen with QHD resolution. That’s a tad larger than the Huawei P10 (5.1″) and a tad smaller than the LG G6 (5.7″) and Galaxy S8 (5.8″). It’s probably using the same display as the U Ultra which while is vibrant and capable it isn’t exactly the bezel-less display that are hoarding the headlines.

And finally, a flagship phone from HTC that is dust and splashproof. With the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 being waterproof, the U11 is finally joining the ranks with its IP67 rating.

One of the key features that HTC is bringing over from the U Ultra and U Play is the HTC Sense Companion – the company’s AI assistant that provides voice control and contextual suggestions. HTC Sense Companion is to provide personalized recommendations based on usage. The longer you use the phone, the more recommendations the phone can offer.

HTC also took a leaf out of Huawei’s book by bundling a clear hard case with the U11. It is also bundling a USonic Type-C earbud with anti noise-cancellation and a USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio cable.

Today’s U11 launch should have been the flagship phone that HTC announced in February. Specs-wise the U11 is running on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 – beating even the LG G6. It also seems that the company has taken the complaints of the U Ultra and U Play seriously, making the phone waterproof, bundling a USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio cable and packing in a very capable camera.

The HTC U11 is expected to retail for £649 (roughly S$1,169) which is about the price of most flagship smartphones. But with the specs improvement, innovative Edge Sense and some pretty attractive in-box accessories, the U11 might just be worth its price.

HTC U11
Dimension 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9
Weight 169g
Display 5.5 inches/Quad HD (2560×1440 pixels)
Screen 3D Corning ® Gorilla ® Glass 5
Battery 3000 mAh (non-removable)
Capacity 64GB/128GB
Memory 4GB/6GB
OS Android ™ 7.1 with HTC Sense ™

Learn more about the HTC U11 here. 

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