HTC has pulled off another one with the HTC U11. The new design breaks away from the unibody construction of the HTC 10 and incorporates a combination of glass and metal with one heck of a paint job using their 3D liquid glass surface.
The squeezable HTC U11 design incorporates Edge Sense technology. Squeezing the phone allows you to quickly access to your camera, take photos, start/stop recording video any just about anything else you want to map to it.
Go ahead Squeeze it
The squeezable design is somewhat of a novelty we’ll admit but it does come in handy. You can set the sensitivity of the squeeze as well as assign different actions to it like taking a picture/video or open Google Assistant or voice to text.
The HTC U11 is also the first phone to integrate Amazon Alexa hands-free functionality into it. You can access and operate Alexa just the same way you would normally but from your phone, just download the free HTC Alexa app from the Google Play store.
We’ve been living with the phone for the past few weeks and loving the device overall. The device is clean, free from tons of bloatware. Though we’re not huge fans of the HTC Sense UI/UX but the design is clean and works well with little to no lagginess. The phone is quite quick and snappy.
The HTC isn’t the largest phone on the market, it matches the iPhone 8 at 5.5″ but at a considerably less expensive price point than the iPhone X or iPhone 8 (256GB) which come in at a thousand dollars.
It’s a love it or hate it deal as it goes with anything that is extreme. Like most any super glossy surface, it’s going to be a fingerprint magnet and the U11 is no different. An oleo-phobic coating would have been much appreciated. Due to it’s reflective nature the U11 pulls in whatever is around you and changes significantly in different lighting situations. Indoors it will appear darker, outdoors much more of a brilliant blue. Because it absorbs its surroundings, the U11 is constantly changing appearance. We typically look for black devices where possible, however we are loving the sapphire blue.
The edges and back and corners are nicely rounded and smooth the phone can be somewhat slippery. We can’t help but feel a little anxiety when using this phone naked and prefer to use the clear case that HTC provides. To be fair, the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 are even thinner but we also prefer running them with a case as well. At what point is thin too thin? Perhaps this is why HTC has settled on this thickness.
The case doesn’t cover the edges for button and squeezing access but it does provide some extra surface area to grab onto. Still, the sides are so smooth that even with the provided case, the sides make it a bit slippery to hold if you only grab the edges.
The curved glass spills over the edges for a really beautiful beveled and rounded finish. The screen content however does not spill over the edges and you’ll see a traditional flat with borders LCD screen. The glass runs about 1/3 of the overall thickness of the phone so it seems similar to the Galaxy S8 and Note 8’s physically. The U11 measures 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm and weighs 169g, 8g more than the HTC 10.
The phone feels great with excellent production quality, a little thin but they all feel thin to us. Subtly hidden radio bands are distributed around every side of the U11 but it’s hardly noticeable and seems that this distribution of radios would lessen or deaden the chance of attenuation issues.
We’re pleased to see and feel a more refined and polished design from the decidedly industrial look of the HTC 10, which in it’s own right is a great phone. However the bathtub style aluminum unibody design promoted heat and on a summer day, the device could get extremely hot. The U11 uses a sandwiched design.
Behind the wheel driving the U11 is the Snapdragon 835 64-bit Octacore CPU up to 2.45Ghz. It comes in two sizes a 64GB and 128 GB model that come with 4G RAM. A 128GB/6GB RAM variant is available in select countries. An available microSD slot allows for up to 256GB of additional storage space very helpful for all the huge file sizes that come along with all that beautiful 4k video and HDR photos.
The U11 comes with HTC’s 5.5″ 3D curved glass screen that provides a better full-frame video experience with a True-to-life color reproduction. The 5.5″ screen is a Quad HD Super LCD 5 at 590 ppi which does require a bit more power than the OLED or SAMOLED counterparts, but reproduces color much more naturally in our opinion.
In the Box you’ll find the HTC U11, HTC Rapid Charger 3.0, USB Type-C Cable, USB-C Digital to 3.5mm Audio Jack Adapter, HTC Clear Case, HTC USonic™ Adaptive Earphones, Dust Cloth, SIM tray/card Tool. Ships with Android 7.1, testing completed under Android 7.1.1.
Battery life is good with the 3000mAh battery. You’ll have enough power to make it through a day depending on your usage. However the U11 can burn off quite a bit of power with just the action of continually searching for a WiFi connection; as can be the case with the Facebook app that typically uses a lot of battery power over the course of a day. Fortunately the U11 supports Quick Charge 3.0 which makes life much more tolerable for topping off your battery or charging up from dead.
Transferring files and backing up is faster than ever with a USB 3.1 Gen 1, Type C connection native. The fingerprint scanner, capacitive back and menu buttons are unchanged from a few generations of HTC phones. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it I guess.
Like the iPhone, the HTC U11 is IP67 certified for water resistance but not shock resistance. Not a huge deal for us since waterproofing is more important for us, especially since we would prefer to use this phone with a case.
Oddly the HTC U11 comes in unlocked flavors for AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile but is apparently carrier locked for Sprint. Americans are screaming for a time where you can purchase any phone you want and take it to any carrier you want, the Europeans are absolutely correct…
A 12MP main camera, rear firing ƒ/1.7 aperture uses HTC’s UltraPixel 3 with with 1.4μm pixel technology to achieve the highest DXO Mark Mobile of 90, the “highest rated smartphone ever in DxOMark history” to date.
Launching the camera is fast fast fast
Firing up the camera is almost instant and the overall camera performance is excellent on the U11. HTC has improved the camera quality stepping up their game substantially from the cameras on the One A9, One M9, HTC 10. The HDR photo lag is virtually a thing of the past as the phone is very responsive and is able to keep up with your movements with the integration of HDR Boost. Automatic HDR Boost balances your pictures by taking multiple shots and properly meter the darkest darks and brightest brights without any hesitation.
Even taking or 4k video which typically on smartphones tends to generate some camera movement lag which the U11 has all but removed as well. There seems to be about a half second or less of lag taking 4k video. The lag isn’t anything specific to HTC since we’ve seen this type of lag before on other devices like the LG V20 as well. It doesn’t seem to affect video recording at all, just in the viewfinder/screen. We’re impressed with the performance of both video/audio as well as the photo quality on the U11.
Tired of clicking the screen a furiously trying to get the camera to focus properly? The U11 is able to autofocus and do it quickly. That’s because it uses the same full sensor auto-focus technology found in many full size DSLR cameras.
A fatty 16MP ƒ/2.0 aperture front firing camera uses HDR Boost and UltraPixel light sensitivity to keep you looking like you. If you’re going to be taking selfies all the time, may as well look good. You can even take Full HD 1080p video selfies. There are even dedicated selfie video and selfie panorama buttons.
Sound and Audio Recording
Sound quality on the U11 is exceptional. We hate to gush so much but when it’s good, it’s good. HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi edition and the two asymmetrical speakers are able to provide very full sound and loud volume.
There’s no dedicated audio port so you’ll have to go wireless or use the USB Type C adapter or the HTC USonic headphones with a native Type C plug. The HTC USonic headphones sound really great and feature integrated Active Noise Cancellation along with the ability to fine tune your listening experience. The beauty of a 3.5mm audio jack is that it can be waterproofed, is the most common headphone jack and doesn’t lean 100% on a sound driver to output the audio.
Instead of going with uniform stereo speakers, HTC has opted to run with a tweeter that uses an acoustic chamber for richer and louder sound across highs and mids. On the bottom is a newly designed woofer that really makes the music shine. Just think about your home AV system. Speakers are great, but a quality sub-woofer will sell the full sound experience.
A total of four microphones one on top, bottom, front-top and rear-back mic’s along with Active noise cancellation provide beautiful 3D audio recordings for your videos.
The Edge Sense functionality is just the tip of the iceberg on why you might consider the U11. The redesigned U11 leaves behind the HTC 10’s bathtub unibody structure for a new more polished and refined construction. The new 3D liquid glass surface looks amazing and sets the phone apart from the pack with it’s unique paint job.
The U11 doesn’t just look good, it performs very well; Beautiful Quad HD LCD screen gives rich robust natural color reproduction, awesome camera performance verified by the highest rated smartphone ever in DxOMark history, Dual speaker with BoomSound HiFi edition speakers and 360 degree audio recording support.
HTC U11 unlocked 64GB / 128GB – $649.00 / $729.00