HTC U11 Review: This squeezable phone is HTC’s best phone in years


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In an attempt to change its fortune and to outdo its rivals, the Taiwan-based HTC today launched the HTC U11, a new smartphone packed with some flagship grade internals dubbed as HTC U11 featuring a new technology called as Edge Sense. This ‘U’ series marks the next chapter in HTC’s portfolio concentrating more on design following the ‘M’series.

For the starters, this device comes with a new squeeze interaction that lets you launch the camera, send text messages, open email or customize it to launch any application. Having said that, does this hug friendly device has the potential to reverse the fortune of HTC? Let’s find it out.

Unboxing

Inbox contents

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  • HTC U11 smartphone in Amazing Silver color
  • 2-pin Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 compatible charger ( 5V-2A / 9V-1.7A / 12V-1.25A)
  • USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable
  • HTC USonic earphones with Active Noise Cancellation
  • USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio converter
  • SIM card removal tool
  • Clear protective case
  • Quick Start Guide and User Manual

Display, Design, and Hardware

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The HTC U11 sports a 5.5-inch Quad HD Super LCD 5 display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels and a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for protection. The display is bright at the maximum setting, vivid, good color reproduction and viewing angles are also good.

As the display is glossy, it attracts fingerprint and tends to be reflective under direct sunlight or at bright outdoor areas.

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Moving on to the design, HTC replaces the metal unibody with liquid glass surface crafted using Optical Spectrum Hybrid Deposition. And it’s obvious that the smartphone looks ‘beautiful’. This device measures 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm and weighs around 169grams.

The backside of the device is so shiny and captures light from any angle. Additionally, it is prone to fingerprint magnet, so it’s better to carry a cloth or use it with some cases. The HTC U11 is more rounded and features a 3D glass on both front and back. This, in turn, adds more premium feel to it.  We got our hands on the Amazing Silver variant, which has the blend of blue, purple and silver shades. This flagship is not only visually appealing but also the entire ergonomics and build quality is just amazing.

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In contrast to its extraordinary shiny back, the front side of the device looks normal, which is more or less similar to other HTC devices (mostly A9)

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Above the screen, you get a notification LED light, earpiece, a bunch of sensors, microphone, and front facing camera.

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Below the display, you find two capacitive buttons, and a home button with fingerprint scanner integrated into it.

At the right side, you find the volume rocker button and the power button which are made of metal as well. Both these buttons offer good feedback. The left side houses nothing, while on the top you get Hybrid SIM slot (nano + nano / microSD) along with a microphone.

At the bottom, we have a microphone, USB Type-C port, and speaker sitting right next to each other. The phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio jack, instead you get USB Type-C headphones and USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio converter if you want to use your own headphones.

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Moving to the back, we get a rear camera along with two LED dual tone flash. Just below is the HTC branding and another Microphone towards the bottom.

Performance

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HTC’s latest flagship is powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset clocked at 2.45GHz with Adreno 540 taking care of graphic department. It also has 4GB or 6GB of RAM depending on the model. As expected, the performance of the device is butter smooth and handles multi-tasking with ease. We checked few games as well and the result — smooth, no frame drops and no heating issues. Overall, HTC U11 nails in terms of performance.

It tops the charts in most benchmarks. Check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.

HTC U11 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimtied

HTC U11 AnTuTu 6

HTC U11 Basemark OS II

HTC U11 Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

HTC U11 Geekbench 3 Single-Core

Software, UI, and apps

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The HTC U11 is shipped with Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) with HTC Sense UI on top. Just like other HTC phones, you can access options which are on the home screen directly. When you swipe right from the home screen, you will get to access Blinkfeed and theme store. The Blinkfeed offers you the news and other updates in the user’s interest. However, this can be disabled altogether. Additionally, it also offers various themes as well to customize your device.

Talking about the selling point of this device, the HTC U11 comes equipped with an innovative feature called Edge Sense. As the sides, of the phone, are embedded with the pressure sensor, it lets the user interact with the app just by squeezing it. Initially, this feature allows the user to launch the camera app with one squeeze and take a photo with another squeeze. Even though it looks awkward, it works extremely well. However, you can customize the settings by enabling the advanced mode. Basically, there are two gestures available – short squeeze and squeeze and hold actions. In fact, you can adjust your squeeze force level as per your wish.

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It’s a good thing actually that HTC focuses on one-hand-operation in an innovative way. This Edge Sense feature comes handy in the various situation including when you hold anything on one hand or you may want to call someone while you are dragging your luggage.

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Another highlighted feature is the Sense Companion app that acts smart assistant giving recommendations based on user behavior. The more you use the companion app, the smarter it gets by learning about the recommendation you care and don’t’ care about.

Moreover, it also comes with Boost+ app that clears junk files, Boost RAM and helps in managing apps as well. The Power Optimizer helps to manage the power consuming apps. If ‘Foreground’ is applied on any app, it automatically adjusts the screen resolution to save the battery and if the app has ‘Background’ optimization, it won’t run in the background at all.

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The BoomSound toggle lets you adjust audio performance and the USonic lets you create a custom audio profile crafted especially for your own years. The USonic earbuds map inner ear with an advanced sonar-like technology and then adapt the sound profile to your unique biology. Having said that, it works only with the HTC USonic earphones.

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We reviewed the 4GB RAM with 64GB storage version. Out of 64GB, users will get around 52GB of free storage to store their data. If not enough, users can expand the memory through MicroSD card up to 2TB as well.

Camera

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The HTC U11 sports a 12MP HTC UltraPixel 3 on the back with multi-axis optical image stabilization (OIS), dual LED flash and f/1.7 aperture. Just like other HTC devices, the camera UI remains simple without any complications.

In default when you open the camera app, you can access HDR options, a drop-down notification bar that includes various modes including Panorama, Pro, Video, Hyperlapse, Slow Motion, Selfie Photo, Selfie Panorama, Selfie Video, settings, and flash. On the opposite side, you get a toggle to change the camera, Video option, shutter button, and gallery.

Moving on to the real world usage, the camera captures some amazing pictures in daylight conditions with the good amount of detail, with good dynamic range. Moreover, the autofocus speeds are quick as well. The Low light performance is really good and noise is really minimal and kept under control. On the front, this device has a 16MP front facing the camera with an option to record 1080p videos. It takes some good selfies that are appealing to look at, retaining the details to the maximum. Check out some of the camera samples we took (Click the image for the full resolution sample.)

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Check out video samples that shows the phone’s rich audio recording and slow motion 1080p video at 120 fps.

Fingerprint scanner

The fingerprint scanner is located on the front integrated into the home button just below the display. It is active fingerprint and immediately unlocks the phones when the finger is kept on the home button. You can add up to 5 fingerprints. Moreover, it doesn’t recognize your finger properly if it’s wet/sweaty.

Calling and Messaging

The HTC U11 comes with its own dialer UI and TouchPal keyboard for messaging. During calls, the earpiece volume is good and there is no call drop as well. Additionally, you also get an option to select SIMs when calling or sending a text message.

Connectivity

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This flagship supports connectivity options including 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 ac (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, GPS with GLONASS, NFC, USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1.  The 3.5mm audio jack is replaced by USB Type-C audio that also supports HTC USonic with Active Noise Cancellation, HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi edition, 3D Audio recording with 4 microphones, and Hi-Res audio as well.

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Also, it has 4G connectivity with support a lot of bands. The Taiwanese unit we reviewed did not have VoLTE support, but the Indian retail unit might have it. Both the SIMs support 4G, but you can enable 4G only in one SIM at a time, while the other goes to 3G.

Battery

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The HTC U 11 comes juiced with 3000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 under the hood. It lasts for a day easily with casual usage including 4G calls, the Internet browsing, video/songs playback and podcast as well. Further, it also has a Power Saver and Extreme power saving mode to extend the battery life. In here, you can select the battery level so that the power saver is automatically turned on when it reaches the specified levels.

HTC U11 FA One Charge Rating

In our One Charge Test, HTC U11 achieved a rating of 13 hours 38 minutes mainly due to brilliant talk time, which is decent but not the best.

HTC U11 FA One Charge Rating Pie Chart

We will bring you the complete set of battery life test results soon.

Conclusion

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At a price of Rs. 51,990 for the 6GB RAM with 128GB storage version, the U11 is definitely the best smartphone from HTC till date. This new device has a blend of everything that one can ask for including a good display, speedy processor, amazing camera and of course the audio as well. This shiny looking device definitely marks the new chapter for HTC’s success in the smartphone market that can easily compete other flagships like Galaxy S8, Google Pixel, iPhone 7 and others.

Leaving out the rich user experience, the HTC U11 smartphone has an edge over its rivals on the price point. If you are looking out for a good performance, amazing camera, and candy looking device, you can go for HTC U11 blindly. Trust me, you won’t regret! The phone comes in Brilliant Black and Amazing Silver colors in India and will be available in the last week of June through offline stores as well as Amazon.in online.

Pros

  • Brilliant performance
  • Camera is on par or better with competition
  • Great design
  • Edge Sense

Cons

  • No 3.5mm audio jack
  • Slippery
  • Fingerprint magnet
  • Battery life is not impressive
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