There is no denying that HTC really had a rough (and tough) journey in the market and needed a comeback with some exceptional Jokers in the pack to retain it’s place the smartphones race.
With it’s 2016 flagship, HTC 10, the company took a completely different route, and ended up ruling the critics’ list with its top-notch specs and its build quality. But again after HTC 10, they were unable to gain attention from anyone, including the critics. Till now.
With top of the line specs, smooth and flawless software experience and of course with the stunning 3D liquid glass surface, HTC U11 might just be that comeback vehicle. But does it have enough, to make you dip into your wallets? Come, let’s find out!
If you’ve been paying attention to HTC’s wares, you may have noticed that HTC has slowly been increasing its flagships display sizes with every device they have launched. The HTC One M7 came with 4.7 inches, then M8 and One M9 both showcased 5 inches of display, and last year’s HTC 10 displayed 5.2 inches.
Staying with that climb, their latest, the HTC U11 sports a gorgeous 3D glass screen with 5.5 inch display which is supported by QHD (2560×1440) resolution and offers a pixel density of 534 ppi.
Many expected HTC to opt for AMOLED after including that tech in their last big salvo, the Google Pixel; but with HTC U11, HTC decided to stick with the display tech they’re most comfortable (and perhaps happy) with, and fitted a Super LCD 5 panel to their newest flagship.
Where Samsung and Apple are easily crossing the 600nits’ brightness mark, the HTC U11 still stays with 500nits (approx.) which makes usage a little difficult once bright light shines on it or when you are under direct sunlight.
This isn’t a huge drawback as most of the time you won’t need your display to be maxed out, and with its auto brightness option, the device will automatically increase the brightness levels as best possible; or you can manage it manually according to your preference – but it is one of those things you’d wish HTC had covered of their own accord.
The HTC U11 comes with many motion gestures and touch gestures for the ease of use. Some of them are – flip to mute, pick to lower the volume, increase ring volume automatically if your phone is in the pocket or bag, slide with two fingers to zoom in and out, two-finger swipe and many more.
The HTC U11 features a liquid glass surface.
HTC came up with a process called Optical Spectrum Hybrid Deposition in which highly refractive minerals are used to create layers that together form the phone’s back cover.
The 3D curved glass look on both the front and the back are achieved by the heating and bending of the glass using intense pressure which gives the phablet an extremely thin profile. The metal frame goes around the sides of the phone gives it a matte look which bends exquisitely into the glass surfaces.
To remind you, the HTC 10 bore an all-metal body, and the U11 is now all-glass… and a lot of it! It is the most beautiful looking smartphone HTC has ever made.
Yet, as the 3D curve gives you an area and grip to hold comfortably, but on the other side of the coin, glass is a slippery surface – so you really need to take care of this delicate baby as of course it is more brittle than a metal one.
The question which remains unanswered is about the durability and fragility of the device over the previous metal devices which HTC had been producing till now. The combination of glass and the metal body obviously looks at its best but can be easily scratched or cracked. But most of us are careful with our phones, so it shouldn’t actually be an off-putter for most.
The box is stuffed with HTC U11, Headphones (Type-C), Ear-cushions, Wall Socket Plug, Device Manual, Warranty doc, SIM Eject pin, Back cover, Cleaning Cloth, USB Type-C, USB Type-C to 3.5 mm Adapter.
Like the back, front is also covered with Gorilla Glass 5 and is protected with an IP67 rating and is dust, splash and water resistant up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Load up this device with widgets, wallpapers, apps and this device won’t let you take a break from all that it can collate together for you.
With the top-notch Snapdragon 835 and Adreno 540, it packs the first 10 nanometer mobile processor which will give you the fastest speed, extremely powerful graphics experience with longer battery life. Clocked at 2.45 GHz, the octa-core processor on this device will run a mile without any hiccups.
HTC claims that U11 have got 25% faster processing speed, 35% of extra video playback, 8 hours of extra music playback, and 43% of extra browsing via LTE when compared to its predecessor HTC 10.
It shares the same battery size – 3,000 mAh as well as Quick Charge 3.0 that adorned the HTC 10. Under absolute charging conditions like airing room, the HTC U11 charges up to 52% in 30 minutes but conditions like lack of air or very high ambient temperature results in slow charging.
It’s battery life may not compete with the other flagships in the market but it is fairly consistent and above average. Heavy users of the device need to carry a separate power charger with them but with normal usage the device will stretch a day.
The device sports a USB Type-C 3.1 charging port instead of the normal microUSB port which also works as the headphone jack for the device. Yes, just like LeEco, Apple, Motorola and many others, HTC too gave up on the separate jack. But do not worry the box does come with a set of headphones that use the USB Type-C port and they sound good for buds that come wrapped with a phone and if you still don’t want to give up on your old headphones, HTC has also bundled a 3.5 mm to USB Type-C adapter in the box which I am sure will give you a much better audio experience, as it actually sports a built-in Digital-Analog Convertor (DAC) for pumping up the music quality (not the volume, duh).
HTC U11 stores 128 GB of data (with the benefit of expanding it to 2 TB which is humongous amount of storage) and is supported by 6 GB of RAM. So with the hybrid SIM slot you can either use your second SIM or the extended memory.
HTC has plugged in all the sensors currently found on smartphones – including ambient light, proximity which you can find at the front of the device, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, A-GPS and Glonass.
The device supports 4G/VoLTE with the capability of Bluetooth 4.2 and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. HTC doesn’t stop there, it also gives you the features like NFC, Miracast, DLNA, Airplay and Chromecast to stream your media.
One thing which HTC has already done while other manufacturers are still thinking of it, is integrating the AirPlay feature on an Android device. So now you’re not restricted to have an Apple smartphone to play your stuff on an Apple TV or the upcoming Apple HomePod speaker.
HTC Sense runs atop Android 7.1 Nougat which seems to have achieved a perfect blend between the stock Android experience (like that on the Google Pixel) and the intrinsic features that HTC provides with its skin. With the newest Sense UI, HTC has drastically had cut down on its bloatware as well as some of its core apps like browser, calendar etc to let Google take care of the apps hence made its UI very simple and clean.
If you have used any HTC device in the past, you would have experienced a main app drawer where all pre-installed apps can be seen into a single page and can be manually arranged or sorted by install date or alphabetically, so HTC U11 carries on with the same look and feel like the previous devices.
With HTC’s old and consistent Blinkfeed, you can get onto your latest news which obviously interests you or can check the status updates from your friends. HTC has been experimenting and expanding BlinkFeed’s functionality for years now, so you can add ample doses of news feeds and social networks to it.
The people who love to customize every nook and corner of their device, U11 have come up with a powerful theming engine which requires you to log in with a your Facebook account, Gmail, or HTC account. With that you can change many facets of your theme from notification sounds to dialer color scheme and infact the wallpapers in various locations. HTC Sense UI still supports Android’s inherited multi-window functionality but the UI will tell you whether the particular app support multi-window or not.
The HTC U11 also comes with a squeeze feature, which is what HTC is calling its Edge Sense feature where the sides of the device are embedded with pressure sensors. It allows you to do some specific activities just by squeezing your phone. With different intensity of pressure you can assign different tasks to your U11. This is basically how softly or firmly you’ll have to squeeze the phone for the functions to trigger. You can also enable visible or haptic response when you squeeze the phone, which might make it easier to tell if you’ve successfully triggered the feature or not.
With advanced mode, you are able to program two gestures, first one is: short squeeze opens up the camera and a second squeeze clicks the photo which very intelligently delays the trigger between the first and the second squeeze so that the photo clicked should not be in a wobbling motion. Now the second default action is: just squeeze and hold will trigger the Google Assistant voice command and the interesting part is just do the same when your keyboard is open, it will activate voice-to-text typing.
Debuted with HTC U Ultra, the Sense Companion keeps an eye on your behavioral patterns like time, fitness activity, and location and establish recommendations that can benefit you. It gives you suggestions and information based your your interest and daily activities.
Many people were disappointed with the HTC’s 10 camera despite it’s UltraPixel feature.
Clearly unable to fulfill the user’s expectations, a lot of us felt this was the HTC 10’s Achille’s Heel.
So it’s unsurprising that HTC spent some time retooling the HTC U11’s camera setup.
And it is just brilliant.
The 12 megapixel rear camera with HTC UltraPixel 3 takes amazingly stunning pictures in almost every form of lightning conditions. Auto-focus works very quickly, and the ƒ/1.7 aperture with optical and electronic image stabilisation result in jitter-free photography as well as blur-free videos. So, the camera actually lives upto all the asks from smartphone cameras nowadays.
The HDR algorithm on the HTC U11 takes multiple shots in quick succession. Then the said algroithm views, interprets and processes the darkest and brightest areas of the photo, melting things into one single photo with each pixel reworked so as to balance out all the highs and lows (of brightness) into one cohesively balanced image – all this without any slowdown between shots.
Taking this into the realm of videos, this version of HDR also allows the device to use automatically analyze running frames in videos, and eliminate any image noise, on the fly!
So good is the entire processing algorithm that you could see the details and depth of field effects even in close-up shots (which usually are the more detailed and sharper category of photos).
There’s more – you can use the in-built HDR Boost feature to get clearer and detailed images that work amazingly if the subject is stock still. A lot of the newer DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are now bringing this feature into their full-function cameras. For a phone to have this feature already speaks volumes of HTC’s commitment to right their earlier devices’ follies.
You won’t be disappointed with low-light shots either, as they come out to be very natural and sufficiently detailed.
Video recording is smooth without a pinch of lag. The HTC U11 is capable of recording 4K videos and slow motion videos at 1080p@120fps.
HTC not only came out of the dark on the camera setup, but has managed to sit at the table that it’s competitions’ handsets so far lorded over. Devices like the Google Pixel, Galaxy S8 and Huawei P10 now have a real contender on their hands!
DxOMark, a website which provides image quality ratings has awarded the HTC U11 with the highest rating – a 90% of score which leaves behind many top-end flagship smartphones.
The front facing 16 megapixel camera too, does a near-perfect job. It borrows some of the features from its rear camera which includes HDR Boost and UltraPixel, but it lacks the auto focus feature which was seen in its predecessor model HTC 10. Also, low-light photography isn’t stellar this side of the phone.
On the usage front, the HTC U11 has a very easy and simple camera interface. Everything is placed on the left side of the drawer and when the drawer is in hiding mode you can see options like flash toggle, HDR toggle, Gallery shortcut, Video mode, and Front camera.
There’s also a ‘Pro’ mode that enables manual controls for white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, and focus.
The folks at HTC clearly understand that some of us are near-professional grade photographers. Hence, they (HTC) have also enable the U11 to save a RAW version of your photos.
Many flagship devices by HTC feature front facing loudspeakers and the HTC U11 is no exception.
The device carries two loudspeakers – one at the bottom of the device and second built into the earpiece at the top.
HTC has really taken the time to improvise it’s BoomSound Hi-Fi enabled speaker setup, which is now much louder and crisper than it used to be in the HTC 10. The ringtones and notifications sound really high pitched and its four omnidirectional microphones are impressive and visibly effective while making and taking phone calls.
The same woofer and tweeter combo can also be seen here (which was first seen in HTC 10). It helps in achieving appreciably deeper bass tones. With the more improved version you can definitely feel the audio resonating when you hold the device in your hand, In fact, listening to HTC U11 and HTC 10 side by side you realised how much louder and clearer the updated hardware is!
Like I said earlier, the HTC U11 is one of the phone non-Apple phones out there that ship with support for AirPlay streaming out of the box. There have been third party apps on the Google Play Store that achieve this objective, however this feels far more integrated and better incubated. This offering of Apple’s tech is a new ploy in the Android ecosystem.
The new USonic earbuds include noise cancellation that reduces the disturbances and noise around you so that you can listen to your songs with lesser distractions. Internally, it connects with the bevy of microphones built into the phablet, that continuously supervise your environmental sound, capturing them from each side and negates them digitally.
Gaming on this device is a blessing as its supremely smooth and the hardware runs like a Lexus no matter the strain you put on it, but yes, games will be big battery drainers. While playing power-hungry games like Asphalt 8, for 20 minutes continuously, drains off about 20-25% of your battery reserves. No heat or lags, though!
At the front of the U11 sits the fingerprint scanner which is built into the home button. More of a touchpad, the fingerprint scanner works very efficiently and is super fast.
What really helps is actually an overlay that HTC has cleverly included as part of their proprietary Boost+ app – it locks sensitive apps and puts them behind a fingerprint release. The best part? The apps themselves don’t even need to carry this functionality themselves. So any app you like – WhatsApp, photos, banking apps all get secured thanks to Boost+!
Other wise, business utilities and security are set up the usual Android way and you get the usual suite of privacy controls, parental controls, remote locking of the device. Most importantly, locating misplaced devices (which you can do via the Android Device Manager) is enabled via HTC’s Sense website too.