Last year we all witnessed the arrival of the HTC 10 which is a decent phone. However, it was not good enough to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, or the Apple iPhone 7 which was also released last year. HTC is back with the HTC U11, this phone has a completely different look and feel to it than that of its predecessor.
The U11 is being billed as an innovative smartphone with squeezable side panels which is extremely fast and responsive and provides a great overall user experience. Does the U11 live up to these standards? Is it worth the money? I will answer all these questions and more in this in-depth review of the U11.
HTC U11 Design:
HTC has always had a reputation for building nicely designed phones, and that trend continues with the U11. If you’re familiar with the HTC brand you’ll know that their premium phones are made primarily of metal. However, HTC decided to change things up a bit with this phone, the U11 is made of glass and metal and it’s IP67 dust and water resistant.
The front panel of the phone is made of Corning Gorilla Glass. HTC refers to the glass on the back panel as liquid metal. Both surfaces were designed to withstand scrapes and scratches.
However, if you drop the phone on a hard surface the glass will probably break. The liquid metal is an attractive, reflective, glass which has a smooth liquid like appearance.
The phone has an aluminum chassis, curved edges on the front and the back, as well as rounded corners. The U11 is easy to hold in one hand, however, it can be a bit slippery. The liquid metal surface on the back panel of the phone looks absolutely stunning, but it collects quite a bit of fingerprints.
Luckily HTC provides a clear plastic case which comes in the box with the phone. The plastic case gives a bit more traction when holding and handling the phone and it will also protect the back panel from collecting fingerprints.
HTC U11 Display Screen:
In 2017 Samsung and LG decided to change the typical 16:9 aspect ratio. This resulted in a longer, narrower phone the size of the bezels are extremely thin on the LG G6 and Galaxy S8. As a result of this, these phones have a bigger display screen in a smaller chassis.
I thought that was brilliant on the part of Samsung and LG, I thought HTC may have done something similar with the U11. However, they decided to stay with the typical 16:9 aspect ratio. But never the less, the U11 features a 5.5-inch Quad HD Super LCD 5 display screen.
The bezels are a bit thick, I think it would have been better to have thinner bezels with a bigger display screen. The colors are extremely vibrant and the picture quality is great when viewing the display screen in direct sunlight.
Located in the typical position directly below the display screen you will find the home button which is also a fingerprint sensor.
The sensor on this phone is extremely responsive, it unlocks the phone immediately after scanning your finger. Next to the home button, you will find the back and recent buttons which are capacitive buttons.
HTC U11 Edge Sense Squeezeable Side Panels:
As I mentioned earlier, the U11 has built in squeezable side panels that can do certain things when squeezed. HTC calls this feature Edge Sense. There are two different gestures, there’s the quick squeeze and the squeeze and hold. You have the ability to configure what gets launched upon performing these gestures.
By squeezing the phone you will have the ability to access your favorite app, turn on the flash light, take a picture, or wake your virtual assistant. This feature is convenient because it will work when the screen is off and it will also work when you’re wearing gloves.
By default, the U11 only recognizes one kind of squeeze and you have to squeeze really hard to get it to work. However, you have the ability to configure the amount of force required to trigger an action. And you have the ability to configure this feature to get the long squeeze and short squeeze working side by side.
HTC U11 Software:
The software on the U11 is very similar to that of its predecessor. The U11 runs on the Android 7.1.1 Nougat operating system with HTC’s Sense which includes some familiar features and functionalities that are present on other HTC phones. Some of these features include the vertical scrolling app drawer, HTC’s theme store, and BlinkFeed.
The HTC Sense does not have most of the pre-installed bloatware that you’ll find on some of the other phones on the market. It’s clean, it’s almost stock Android. However, if you would like to get the U11 with the least amount of pre-installed bloatware, I would recommend getting the unlocked version.
Artificial intelligence has become an important part of smartphone technology. Samsung phones have Bixby, iPhones have Siri, and quite a few of the other phones on the market have the Google Assistant or the Amazon Alexa. The U11 comes equipped with the Google assistant.
However, it also has the HTC Sense Companion which we saw earlier this year when the U Ultra was released. When you use the Sense Companion regularly it will learn your usage habits and it will provide relevant information that it thinks you may be interested in.
The Sense Companion will also give you information based on the time of the day and your location. For example, it can remind you to charge your phone when the battery is low, give you recommendations for various restaurants for lunch or dinner.
The Google Assistant and the Sense Companion are similar but the main difference is that there is no voice dictation component for the Sense Companion.
HTC U11 Camera:
The primary camera on the U11 is a 12MP Ultrapixel camera with a f/1.7 aperture, ultra speed autofocus, OIS, EIS, and dual LED flash. The autofocus feature is extremely fast on the U11, this camera has 1.4um pixels which is smaller than that of its predecessor.
However, the hybrid image stabilization works in conjunction with the f/1.7 aperture to deliver great photos with rich, vibrant colors. This camera takes great photos, even in low light conditions, the U11 is the first phone to feature 5-axis image OIS. This feature was previously reserved for DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
This camera also has the always-on auto HDR which makes it easier to take brighter photos with more details and less noise. Immediately upon opening the camera app the camera will be constantly focusing. This makes it easy to take great photos, but, there’s a slight delay from when you press the shutter button to when the photo is actually taken.
The picture quality of the primary camera on the U11 is comparable to the camera on the OnePlus 5, iPhone 7, and Samsung Galaxy S8.
The camera is capable of recording 4K videos at 30fps along with slow-motion 1080p video at 120fps. The U11 has a new feature which HTC refers to as Acoustic Focus, this feature works in conjunction with the zoom feature.
While you’re recording a video the Acoustic Focus feature will make the audio louder as you’re zooming in on the subject.
The selfie camera on the U11 is a 16MP camera with EIS, which has a 150-degree wide-angle lens and a f/2.0 aperture. This camera takes great selfies with less noise.
HTC U11 Performance And Battery Life:
With the U11, when opening multiple apps and multitasking, there is absolutely no lag at all. The phone manages to maintain its speed and responsiveness regardless of what you’re doing. This is due to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and the 4GB of RAM that the U11 possesses.
There are two variants of the U11, the first variant has 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage and the second variant has 6GB of RAM with 128 GB of storage. The storage of both variants can be expanded up to 2TB via the microSD card slot.
The U11 comes with a 3000mAh non-removable battery, it would have been great if this phone had a bigger battery. However, the battery life is good, because the battery will get you through 1 full day of moderate use on a single charge.
The U11 does not have wireless charging capabilities. However, it has QuickCharge 3.0 which will charge the phone from 0 to 100% in 1 hour and 38 minutes.
My Final Thought:
The U11 is a great premium phone which performs very well. It’s available in the following colors: black, white, blue, red and silver it’s available on amazon.com for $649.00 at the time this review was written. If you’re due for an upgrade, you should consider getting the U11.
However, people who plan on buying and using this phone in the U.S. should know that the U11 is only available on the Sprint network. Please let me know your thoughts about the U11 in the comment section below.