Review: HTC U11



HTC is back in the running with its new squeezable flagship smartphone – the U11. One look at the shiny new device and you will realize that HTC has a penchant for gorgeous design. The U11 comes with rounded corners, curved edges on the front and back, and an aluminium frame, which is sandwiched between two glass panels.

Of course, with the use of glass at the front and back, you also get a device that is extremely slippery, is a fingerprint magnet and easily attracts smudges along the way. We recommend you get a protective casing for the phone as soon as you buy it. Otherwise, you always run a risk of dropping the phone and causing the device some serious damage in the process. I have been there and done that, and hence, the advisory.

On the front, you get a 5.5-inch Quad HD Super LCD 5 display that comes with a 16:9 aspect ratio. While many companies have gone for taller and narrower displays and some with lesser bezel, HTC has stuck with the more traditional side of things. The quality of the screen itself is fantastic – it is sharp and crisp, has excellent viewing angles, and produces vibrant colours. Outdoor visibility was also quite good.

Just below the screen you will find the capacitive navigation buttons. The home button is a bit recessed, which also acts as a fingerprint scanner, which was quite fast and accurate. Like many companies, HTC has also done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack on the U11. While HTC says the reason for doing this is to provide more room for other, more important components, I am not sure if omitting the 3.5mm jack was a really good idea to begin with.

Inside the box, HTC includes the USonic earbuds, which, I have to admit, sounds better than your typical bundled earbuds. The USonic earbuds also feature active noise cancellation, which is powered by U11. In addition, you also get a USB-C to 3.5 mm adapter. HTC has also included the new BoomSound speaker setup on the U11.

This technology combines both the front-firing earpiece speaker and down-firing loudspeaker for a better sound stage. While many have complained about this kind of a speaker setup, I actually loved the audio quality produced by the U11. On the right edge of the device, you will find the volume rockers and the power button. On the top edge you will find the SIM / microSD card slot.

In terms of specifications, the HTC U11 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, which is backed by 4GB of RAM. It also comes with 64GB of internal storage, which can be further expanded using the microSD card slot. Out of the box, the U11 is powered by Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which has been slightly customized by HTC.

The U11 also comes with a new feature called “Edge Sense”. The device has pressure sensitive areas on its sides that can respond to a one-handed squeeze. Edge Sense can be configured from the Settings menu, to launch an app, turn on the flashlight, launch Google Assistant, or do other things with either a short or long squeeze.

The idea behind the new feature is to make it easier for people to use the U11 single handedly. I found the feature to be quite useful when performing various tasks, such as squeezing the edges to switch on the camera and so on. HTC did mention that it has broader plans for Edge Sense down the line.

When HTC announced the U11, one of the biggest topics of discussion was the device’s camera. The company mentioned that the U11 achieved the highest DxOMark score of all time. The U11’s main camera comes with a 12 MP “UltraPixel 3” sensor, with an f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilization.

Also, while recording video you can get 3D sound via the four mics dotted around the phone and you can also take advantage of Acoustic Focus which will prioritise the audio of the person or subject in a video if you zoom in. The front of the phone also houses a 16MP UltraPixel camera with a 150 degree wide angle lens and an aperture of f/2.0.

Overall, the U11’s camera lives up to the hype and is capable of taking impressive photos. There’s plenty of detail in each shot, and color reproduction is natural and not overly vibrant. Photos taken in low-light conditions are incredibly sharp and well detailed, too. Noise levels are kept under control, and the noise you do see is very fine and compact.

AI assistants are a big part of smartphones right now. Not only does the U11 come with Google’s Assistant on board, it also sports HTC’s new Sense Companion that first launched on the U Ultra. The Sense Companion will give you suggestions based on your location and the time of day, and will learn your usage habits over time and provide information that it thinks you may want to know.

And, as if two AI assistants weren’t enough, the U11 will also support Amazon Alexa, with the update to activate this feature expected to roll out in July. When that update comes, you will certainly not be lacking in choice when it comes to which AI assistant you want to use.

There is a lot to like about the HTC U11 – it comes packed with a fantastic build quality, top-of-the-line specs, and stellar camera. The HTC U11 indeed ticks all the right boxes for most users. The Edge Sense is a value addition, while the inclusion of AI assistants gives you lots of choice. The overall experience is rounded out with a rich audio experience, too. The HTC U11 is truly a compelling package to consider.

Price: AED 2599

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