HTC's new phone: AI tech, second screen, no 3.5mm jack

It looks like HTC's next-gen U Ultra smartphone could be something quite exciting.

3 minutes & 3 seconds read time

HTC hasn't been doing too well in the smartphone business over the last couple of years, but it looks like their new flagship smartphone could be something that's actually very exciting.

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The latest HTC flagship smartphone which will be called the U Ultra, featuring a 5.7-inch display that is accompanied by a smaller U Play smartphone with a 5.2-inch display. HTC will be pushing something they're calling Sense Companion, which is an AI assistant that is similar to Google Assistant on the new Pixel smartphones.

But wait, there's more: HTC are reportedly removing the 3.5mm jack in another courageous move, following Apple with the new iPhone 7, Levovo's Moto Z, and HTC's own Bolt smartphone not featuring a headphone jack.

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HTC has used a new all-glass exterior that it calls Liquid Surface construction, with the company putting a lot of R&D time into the material - which mimics the properties of liquid, but just the look. This means you'll get some beautiful reflections in the right light on your new HTC smartphone, but how will it feel in your hand on a hot day or lots of typing away on social media and texts?

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There's reportedly a second screen on the new U Ultra, where HTC has slid in a 2-inch strip that is positioned in the top right hand corner of the screen, to the left of the front-facing camera. This strip will be used as a landing spot for notifications, with quick access to your favorite contacts, and music playback control.

As for specs, we're looking at Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB storage - but HTC has included a microSD card slot, allowing for up to 2TB of additional storage. HTC has also upgraded the camera, with phase-detect autofocus - but for the most part, it's still the same 12-megapixel UltraPixel camera from the HTC 10.

We have a 3000mAh battery in the U Ultra handset, while the U Play rocks a 2500mAh battery - but the U Play handset drops Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 for the Helio P10 processor from MediaTek. It also reduces the storage options to 32GB and 64GB, and has a slightly less quality camera. The higher-end U Ultra smartphone will include Google's latest Android 7 Nougat software - but we don't know if its 7.0, 7.1, or 7.1.1 - while the U Play will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

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The AI side of the phone sounds intriguing, as it will feature AI enhancements that will have the smartphone predicting what you'll do next - suggesting things for you. Once you've let the phone get to know you, in the same way Google Now works, it will remind you to chrage your smartphone when it knows you are going to be away from a charger for a long period of time - such as a meeting, or when you're travelling.

Not only that, but it will suggest clothing for the weather of that day - so expect your new HTC phone to tell you to wear that jacket tomorrow, because it's going to be cold.

Now, onto the missing 3.5mm jack which is inexcusable in my opinion. HTC says it has will be including USonic earphones, a rebranded version of their in-ear headphones that it throws in the package for both the HTC Bolt and 10 Evo smartphones. The improved sound is improved thanks to the digital USB-C interconnect - strangely, the HTC USonic headphones will only work with a HTC smartphone, even though it uses the USB-C standard. HTC explains:

We removed the headphone jack because we believe the audio experience on the phone can be so much more than just the simple transmission of sound. The sonar-like capabilities of USonic wouldn't be possible with a 3.5mm headphone jack. We have microphones built into both earbuds that "listen" for sonic pulses, which can then adjust your audio to match your ears' unique architecture. We believe the market is ready to push audio into new innovations that benefit consumers' listening experience.

You can pre-order the HTC U Ultra with 64GB of RAM for $749, with color choices of blue, black, white, and pink. They'll begin deliveries in Taiwan by the end of January, but you'll have to wait until March in other parts of the world.

HTC will also be launching a limited edition U Ultra smartphone with what should be a beautiful sapphire glass screen on the front, and 128GB of storage. But of course, there's no details on pricing or launch for the limited edition U Ultra just yet.


Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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