HTC has finally unveiled their highly-anticipated flagship, the HTC U11. Although we expected the U11 to be unveiled in April, a year after its predecessor the HTC 10, the company wanted to wait for its official 20th anniversary to launch the phone.
Ever since the HTC One, announced in 2013, there hasn't been much hype about the new HTC phones. In the world of smartphones, HTC doesn't represent what it used to. They are leaders in virtual reality with their Vive device. The company recently sold its phone manufacturing facility in Shanghai to boost their investment into their Vive virtual reality business. Although the company said the sale of the Shanghai plant would not affect its mobile division, it is clear in which direction the company is headed in.
Just recently, HTC announced that they marked an 18.03% decline in revenue this year compared to the last one. It seems that the HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play sales aren't that great, and they aren't helping the company to get back on track. The two phones were launched in January, but many were left disappointed with the last year's processor and a steep price that can be compared to the price of Snapdragon 835 powered Galaxy S8.
In March, the company announced their previously teased a "big surprise" - a limited edition of the U Ultra with a sapphire glass screen and 128GB of internal storage. However, the Taiwanese company set a steep price for the device - $946, which is around $200 more than the regular U Ultra. This means that for almost $1000 you'll get a phone with a Snapdragon 821, 4GB of RAM, 12MP main camera, 16MP selfie shooter, and 3,000 mAh battery.
Now, the HTC U11 is officially launched, and the company believes that this is the phone which will win over customers.
HTC says that they wanted to focus on innovation in the world of smartphones which is why they introduced the Edge Sense feature. They claim that since 2007 and the launch of the first iPhone we haven't seen any innovations in the way we interact with our smartphones.
HTC representative explained to me that they were lead by the idea that a simple gesture like hand squeeze, which comes naturally to us, is something that no one thought of using until now.
This is also the reason why the new HTC U11 doesn't have a curved display - instead of it, they enabled a bigger area of interaction with the phone.
The Edge Sense feature allows you to control a number of customizable actions with gestures that you perform on the phone's metal frame (instead of the screen). You are able to perform actions such as launching the camera or turning Wi-Fi Hotspot by simply squeezing the edges of the device. This functionality includes squeezing the device for different periods of time to enable different functions.
I tried this feature and what I like about it that you can calibrate the intensity of the squeeze. It is quite simple to use it, but it does take some time to adjust to it simply because we are not used to it. You can modify this functionality and completely personalize it. There are numerous actions that you can enable to work with the Edge Sense.
HTC believes that the majority of users will use the Edge Sense technology for selfies. I tried this, and it is very simple. You just squeeze your phone, the camera opens, and takes a selfie. As mentioned earlier, this technology will take some time to get used to it cause with different intensity and period of squeezing you open different functions.
The Edge Sense feature is based on ultrasound technology, which means that you will be able to use it under water and in the pouring rain. The HTC U11 has an IP67 certificate.
The HTC U11 is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835, the first 10nm processor. The device comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, expandable up to 2TB with a microSD card.
HTC says that this version of the phone will be standard and launched globally. However, some parts of Asia might get a 6GB of RAM or 128GB of internal storage version of the phone.
The HTC U11 comes with a 5.5-inch display, 2560x1440 resolution, Gorilla Glass 5. There's no AMOLED display, but HTC is confident in that decision. Instead, the HTC U11 comes with liquid surface design 3D glass with dimensional reflection. However, this also means that the device cannot run Google Daydream, the VR platform.
The phone has a 3,000 mAh battery, the same battery capacity as the HTC 10. The battery supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 so although there's no improvement in the battery size compared to the last year's flagship, you will be able to charge your phone quickly.
Some expected that the HTC U11 would come with dual rear camera setup, but that's not happening. The rear camera has 12MP, a f/1.7 aperture with HDR boost. The front shooter has 16MP and f/2.0 aperture.
One of the new features is the Acoustic Focus which will use four microphones to focus the source of the sound. Let's say you are in a club and want to snap a photo. The camera will automatically focus the source of the sound.
The front camera doesn't have optical stabilization, but HTC says that the electronics in charge of that.
I didn't spend enough time with the phone, for now, to make my judgment about the camera, but to be honest, my first impression weren't mind-blowing. The Google Pixel and Galaxy S8 have amazing cameras so I am not convinced that the HTC U11 can beat that, especially with the Google Pixel 2 launch coming later this year.
First of all, the big question - does the HTC U11 have a 3.5mm headphone jack? No, it doesn't. However, the phone comes with an adapter which is compatible with other devices as well and converts the sound from digital to analog.
HTC's new U Sonic active noise cancellation headset is also included in the package.
HTC's phones are known for their immersive sound, and the HTC U11 is no exception. The sound is clear and immersive. I played a couple of songs while using headsets and without them. The result is the same - the sound is extremely impressive.
HTC did some rearranging of the speakers, and they basically transformed the entire phone into a speaker, so it really feels that the sound is coming from every angle of the phone. This is something they certainly deserve credit for.
HTC U11 runs Android 7.1 Nougat. The company said they integrated four microphones so the users can easily communicate with a virtual assistant. Along with the HTC Sense Companion, the U11 will have support for Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.
The HTC U11 is available in four colors - blue, white, black and a new color which the company named Amazing Silver. All the colors look very attractive and especially effective is the Amazing Silver, which is, depending on the lighting, a combination of silver and blue. Chosen markets will also get a Solar Red color.
The colors look extremely good, but as with every glass surface, it is inevitable to smudge the phone with fingerprints. But HTC thought of that too, and a transparent case comes with the phone.
You will definitely want to use some case cause although the glass surface looks good, it is also fragile.
Price and availability
The HTC U11 will be available in certain countries starting next week and in the begging of June in the rest of the world.
HTC didn't mention the price during the press conference, but it should be announced soon and we will update you when it does.