It’s shiny and squeezy, but the device is also supposed to play a role in getting a legacy Taiwanese manufacturer into a rebound from poor smartphone sales. Will the HTC U11 be the change that transforms the 20-year-old brand from “quietly brilliant” to loud, proud and worth a go? Take a look at the phone and see for yourself.
The device, like this year’s U Ultra and U Play, is coated in a glassy, glossy “liquid surface” finish, the result of a vapor deposition of various minerals in a process co-pioneered with Corning. As we’re on the device, we’re not looking for a headphone jack. There’s a USB-C port on Gen 1 of the 3.1 spec, though, and that will let HTC run its BoomSound Hi-Fi enhancements into your headset and a second-generation implementation on the bottom speaker and earpiece.
Four highly directional “3D Audio” microphones at the corners of the device will not only take your wake word requests not only to HTC’s Sense Companion service, but Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa (coming to the US, UK and Germany in the first month of availability) and Baidu DuerOS (mainland China), but also assist in helping out the uSonic earbuds actively cancel out ambient noise without the need for extra batteries — the U11 powers the buds. Talk about a boxed-in experience, though the idea’s quite worthwhile for it.
And hey, you’ve got an adapter for headphones if you want them that badly.
You might be surprised at the company’s radical shift in selfie philosophy. A high sensor size-to-resolution ratio gets inverted with a huge 16-megapixel unit. That said, the 12-megpaixel main camera on the U11 gets the UltraPixel treatment, this being version 3. It incorporates UltraSpeed autofocus (a composite of dual pixel, software optimization, 5-axis optical stabilization), a professional mode with exposures potentially as long as 32 seconds possible and RAW output to boot.
All of that’s good enough to give it a DxOMark Mobile score of 90, beating the Google Pixel to have the highest of any phone.
Furthermore, Acoustic Focus lets you control the sensitivities of microphones to improve the audio experience of videos taken with the HTC U11.
In addition to the above specifications, there’s also Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.2 (no Bluetooth 5 here), a fingerprint sensor on the front and IP67 hardiness towards particulates and liquids — a first for a prime model flagship release from HTC.
Let’s talk Edge Sense — that feature that has run circles around the rumor mills. The company has been able to utilize four pressure sensors running on each side of the U11 to provide for a quick action interface.
The sensor isn’t capacitive to touch, though, so we don’t exactly have what we’d have imagined in a video leaked during the run-up to this device. The company’s president of devices, Chialin Chang, mentioned the video in his keynote and revealed that the internal concept video was created in 2015. There is one reason we’ll get to that might be the reason why we don’t have a feasible working model on this idea.
On their own, the sensors will open up the camera when squeezed and take a shot or begin a clip when squeezed again. This function alone makes underwater pictures easier to take without having to deal with an overwhelmed touchscreen. HTC U11 users can use the pertinent Edge Sense app to set up pressure thresholds that will trigger up to two apps. If it’s a standalone app, you’ll be able to assign it an Edge Sense squeeze.
The phone will come in Amazing Silver, Sapphire Blue, Ice White and Brilliant Black colors. A Solar Red color, brought up late design drafts, is also in the mix. The US’s big four carriers and many other international telcos will be able to take the phone in, depending on where you get it.
Speaking of, certain regions will kick off sales next week. The rest of the world should get in by early June.