HTC U11 first impressions: HTC’s ‘squeezable’ smartphone takes on Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony Xperia XZ Premium

The HTC U11 was launched in India today at a price of Rs 51,990. We spent a little time with the device and here’s what we found out.

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After launching the HTC U11 in Taiwan a month ago, HTC launched its latest flagship smartphone in India today. Touted as the ‘squeezable’ smartphone, the HTC U11 is priced at Rs 51,990. The smartphone will be competing against a range of flagship smartphones including the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, LG G6, and Samsung Galaxy S8 among others. At the launch event today, I got to spend a little time with the new HTC smartphone, and here’s what I drew from my brief experience.

To begin with, the smartphone looks quite beautiful. On the front and back, like its other smartphones in the U-series, the HTC U11 has 3D glass. The rear of the device has, what they call, a liquid surface, which curves and blends very well with the edges of the device. The size of the smartphone’s display is a decent 5.5-inch with a QHD resolution along with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The smartphone is very good to hold in the hand, and despite the glass on the front and back, it has a decent grip. However, the design had a downside to it too. The glass surface – both front and back – are a fingerprint magnet. Especially, with the blue color variant (there is also a black and a red variant of the HTC U11) every touch on the phone leaves a hundred smudges on the phone.

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Moving to the biggest attraction of the phone, which is the HTC’s Edge Sense technology, which the company also called the ‘extended touch beyond the screen’. And this feature is also what gives it the name of the squeezable phone. Essentially, towards the lower half of the smartphone’s edges, the HTC U11 senses your clutch. Which means, users can just squeeze the phone to launch an app. You can customize the force level of your squeeze and assign it to launch an app. For instance, a level 3 squeeze will launch the camera app, and the level 6 squeeze will launch the Snapchat app.

However, the squeeze right now can only be customized for two apps at once. Though, HTC said they are working to allow integration of more apps at once. There’s also something called ‘Squeeze to speak’, which basically allows you to launch ‘Ok Google’ just by a squeeze. So for example, while you are driving, you received a message and you need to urgently reply to it, so you can just use the Google Assistant to type a message.

By the way, HTC U11, currently, is also is the first phone to come pre-installed with support for two digital assistant. The smartphone supports both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Though, in India, Alexa is yet to debut, but when it does, the U11 will be Alexa-ready. ALSO READ: HTC U11 with Snapdragon 835 SoC, Edge Sense technology launched in India, priced at Rs 51,990

Further, it is essential to point out, that during my brief experience with the device, and the HTC Edge Sense, I realized that this particular feature may also be a little problem. Here’s how. Imagine you need to pick up some heavy grocery bags, while you are holding the HTC U11 in the palm. Now, this happens with me a lot of times, that I don’t have a pocket or a bag to keep my phone in, and I just clutch everything in my little palm. But with the U11, that clutching might end up launching your customized apps. Of course, the device does allow you to disable the feature from the settings, but that’s not very practical.

Having said that, I spent a little time swiping through the apps on the HTC U11, and it was a very smooth experience. I found no lag, and I was able to jump from one app to the other pretty swiftly. As is with all HTC phones, the UI is layered with the company’s own custom flavor, and has a feel of a typical Android phone with the tradition drop down on the top. Also worth pointing out is the absence of bloatware on the out-of-box app drawer of the device, which means that the smartphone doesn’t force a bunch of pre-loaded apps on you, unlike many other Android phones.

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Further, another key highlight of the phone is that it is one of the first few phones to launch in India, which features the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. Very recently, Sony Xperia XZ Premium was launched featuring the same chipset, and the upcoming OnePlus 5 will also join the league next week. Besides that, the new chipset on the HTC U11 is accompanied by a powerful 6GB RAM, and an internal storage of 128GB, which is further expandable up to 2TB using a microSD card. Fueling the device is a 3,000mAh battery, that HTC promises would easily last a day. ALSO READ: HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Sony Xperia XZ Premium vs LG G6 vs Google Pixel

The HTC U11 also comes with a very interesting 3D audio and 360-degree audio recording support. Essentially, this feature allows the smartphone to capture 3D sound with acoustic features so that a user can zoom into a particular section of the screen to hear the audio, which would basically heighten the audio coming from that particular part.

Also, worth mention is the fact that, similar to the previous U-series smartphones, the U11 too comes sans the 3.5mm audio jack, replacing that with the USB Type-C port. However, along with Type-C compatible earphones, HTC is also bundling a 3.5mm to Type-C adapter with the device. So if you have a favorite headphone that you refuse to give up on, you can continue to use it with the HTC U11.

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For photography, the HTC U 11 sports a 12-megapixel rear camera with UltraPixel technology, 5-axis OIS, EIS and f/1.7 aperture. The primary camera supports 4K video recording with the aforementioned 360-degree sound recording. I must point out HTC’s incessant mention of HTC’s camera being the highest ranked smartphone at a score of 90 by DXoMark. Additionally, the HTC U11 comes HDR+ ready, which means the smartphone ensures noise-free and sharper image quality.

From my brief usage, I must say, I was quite impressed by the HTC U11’s camera performance. I clicked a bunch of images during my brief time with it, and all the images were crisp, with little to no noise in the images. I noticed the primary camera comes in two modes – Auto and Pro – wherein the latter lets you set contrasts and control HDR when clicking an image. For that matter, despite the 4K support, which is a heavy format, the videos clicked from the phone don’t lag while recording. Though I’d reserve my verdict on the camera performance until we have reviewed the smartphone.

Up front, the HTC U 11 features an even bigger 16-megapixel sensor with 150-degree wide-angle lens. And what I particularly liked about that was that it doesn’t come with those beautification modes, which unarguably look very artificial. And despite the absence of the filter, the images are sharp and natural.

Gathering my thoughts, for the features and specification that it offers, a price tag of almost Rs 52,000 doesn’t really seem too much. In fact, with similar vitals, HTC U11 could stand as a tough competitor for the likes of Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Sony Galaxy S8 duo and the upcoming OnePlus 5. A balance of good design with top-end specifications could give it an edge over the competition. While that’s what my brief encounter with HTC U11 suggests, we would be able to give you a more detailed opinion in our review of the smartphone, which you can expect soon. Keep watching this space! ALSO READ: HTC U11 to Samsung Galaxy S8: Top 5 premium smartphones with dual SIM support 

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Android 7.1 Nougat with HTC Sense
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-Core 2.45GHz 64-bit Processor
12 MP with f/1.7 Aperture
  • Published Date: June 16, 2017 8:09 PM IST
  • Updated Date: June 17, 2017 10:26 AM IST