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HTC U Ultra is announced: premium smartphone with sapphire glass, secondary display, AI companion built in

Posted: , by Nikolay Todorov

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HTC U Ultra is announced: premium smartphone with sapphire glass, secondary display, AI companion built in

At a media event held in its homeland of Taiwan, HTC announced a brand new phone – a brand new phone inspired by you and made for you. The name of this new phone is HTC U Ultra and it is part of the company's new U series. Another member of the lineup – the smaller, 5.2-inch HTC U Play – was also shown at the event. 

Design: Liquid Surface reflections meet sapphire glass display protection

The HTC U Ultra has a 5.7-inch main display. Sapphire glass protection costs extra.

The HTC U Ultra has a 5.7-inch main display. Sapphire glass protection costs extra.

While it was never referred to as a flagship during the presentation, the HTC U Ultra packs a number of flagship-worthy features making it stand out in terms of design and functionality. Among them is the sapphire cover glass utilized on the device – a rarity among non-exotic smartphones. Sapphire is known for its extreme resistance to scratching, which is why it is used on premium watches and those diamond-encrusted Vertu handsets. There's just one catch, however: it was clarified that sapphire glass protection will come only on a limited edition HTC U Ultra, which will be made available later this year. The regular U Ultra will come with Gorilla Glass 5 protecting its screen.

Speaking of the screen, it measures 5.7-inches in diagonal and has a resolution of 1440x2560 pixels for super-sharp images. HTC clarifies that the panel is of the Super LCD 5 variety, meaning that it should look a lot like the one on the HTC 10.

To stand out of the crowd, the HTC U Ultra sports what it calls Liquid Surface. In other words, the phone employs an all-glass design with highly reflective surfaces. Interestingly, the coat of paint is applied underneath the glass layer in order to create a different look, all while preserving the vivid color. And now that I've mentioned colors, the phone will be available in four colors: blue, pink, white, and what appears to be a very dark shade of green. 

Meet HTC Sense Companion – your personal AI assistant

As was pointed out during the presentation, the HTC Ultra has a secondary display on top. It is there to deliver app and system notifications, as well as on-time alerts provided by HTC's own AI assistant feature. The latter – named HTC Sense Companion – is deeply integrated in HTC's software and collects data from the user over time. That is done to provide assistance, alerts, and suggestions proactively. In other words, imagine that you have a meeting set for the afternoon. HTC's assistant will advise you to leave early if bad traffic is expected or suggest you to bring an umbrella if weather is about to worsen. The more you use HTC Sense Companion, the better it should become at helping you throughout the day.

Functionally speaking, the secondary screen also appears to act similarly to the one on the LG V20. Images on HTC's web site suggest that it can hold shortcuts to favorite apps and contacts, but we're pretty sure that's not all it can be used for. On a technical note, the screen is 2.05 inches in size, with resolution of 160x1040 pixels. 

The HTC U Ultra boasts a secondary display

The HTC U Ultra boasts a secondary display

HTC USonic: sound tailored to your ears

Another noteworthy feature of the HTC U Ultra is USonic – an audio function that adapts the phone's audio reproduction to the user's ears. This appears to be identical to what the HTC Bolt does with its bundled earphones. In a nutshell, the earphones provided with the U Ultra utilize an ultrasonic beam to scan the internal structure of the user's ear. Then a personalized profile is created – not unlike an advanced equalizer – and is then applied to the audio being played. In other words, sound is matched to the user's ears and hearing for a superior experience. 

Unfortunately, it seems that the U Ultra lacks a 3.5mm jack. The stock earphones plug into its USB Type-C port instead, and according to HTC's web site, a USB to 3.5mm adapter is not included in the box. 

Another disappointment is the lack of front-facing stereo speakers. Instead, the HTC U Ultra takes the BoomSound Hi-Fi approach we first heard on the HTC 10, where a bottom speaker reproduces the lower frequencies while the highs come out of the earpiece.

The HTC U Ultra promises high-fidelity audio recording

The HTC U Ultra promises high-fidelity audio recording

But that's enough about audio reproduction. What about sound recording? The HTC U Ultra is equipped with 4 high-quality, always-on, low-power microphones. Of course, they're there to record high-resolution spacial sound in your videos, but that's not their only purpose. The HTC U Ultra features biometric voice unlock, meaning that it can be unlocked by recognizing your voice. You know, in case your hands are occupied or you just don't feel like using the built-in fingerprint scanner.

HTC Camera: as good as we know it

About the camera on the U Ultra, HTC did not go into technical or functional details during the event. However, the main shooter appears to be similar to (if not the same as) the one used on the HTC 10. Nothing wrong with that, as the HTC 10 takes great shots. Trust us – we know that from experience. In terms of specs, the HTC U Ultra's main cam packs 12MP of resolution and 1.55um pixels, phase-detection autofocus and laser focusing combo, OIS, aperture of F1.8, and scratch-resistant sapphire lens cover. And like it or not, the camera module protrudes quite a lot, but all of that camera gear has to be packed in there somehow.

Meanwhile, the front camera on the HTC U Ultra boasts wide viewing angles, which allows more people to fit into the frame. Resolution of 16MP paired with HTC's UltraPixel tech will hopefully result in clear selfies. Curiously, the camera lets you switch between full-resolution, 16MP mode and 4MP UltraPixel mode with enhanced light sensitivity. 

The HTC U Ultra can fit plenty of people in a selfie

The HTC U Ultra can fit plenty of people in a selfie

Getting technical: HTC U Ultra specs, processor, battery, software

Of course, I must go over the technical details of the HTC U Ultra, as that's the hardware and software that makes it work. Under its hood you'll find a 2.15GHz Snapdragon 821 SoC, paired with 4GB of RAM – a chip combo that also powers the Google Pixel. Unlike the Pixel, however, the U Ultra allows its 64GB of storage to be expanded with a microSD card. Flex storage is supported, meaning that the microSD card can be set to behave as native storage. Neat!

The battery inside the HTC U Ultra is rated at 3000mAh and supports Quick Charge 3.0 – not bad, although a bit more capacity would have been more appropriate for a phone of this class. 

And on the software side of things, the HTC U Ultra runs on Android 7.0 Nougat. Of course, HTC's own custom interface is layered on top of it, meaning that all the software goodies we know from the HTC 10 have likely been transferred onto it.

HTC U Ultra price and release date

As I mentioned above, the HTC U Ultra was never called a flagship during the presentation, yet the price it carries puts it among the most expensive phones on the market. Unlocked, the phone will cost you $749, with shipping within the US set to begin in March. Naturally, the limited edition U Ultra with sapphire glass screen cover will cost you extra. Pre-orders are now live at HTC's web site. 

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posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:35 6

1. waqarzec (Posts: 64; Member since: 09 May 2013)

and its just AWESOME

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:36 13

2. ianbbaa (Posts: 332; Member since: 20 Mar 2013)

I d say falling down of HTC is unstoppable. Were great phones that time but it looks to me that there is no place for them anymore in high - end.

Is that s7 from the back?

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:19 6

14. NoToFanboys (Posts: 2991; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

"This company is going to fail just because I saw their latest phone's pictures and specs"
^that's how you sound right now.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 10:48 9

41. bigdad1963 (Posts: 24; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

No, they choose to go in the direction of failure by doing things like abandoning their best feature (boomsound), putting in a mediocre battery and doing stupid things like getting rid of a headphones jack seemingly because rotten Apple did it. Oh, and don't forget the camera that is largely similar to (if not almost the same as) the one in their last big phone release. Then they have the sd821 when things are right around the corner that will have the 835. I don't want the pixel, but there's nothing in here that makes me think this phone is better than the pixel which has a better camera, probably better battery life & will soon be discounted.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 11:01 2

42. KParks23 (Posts: 679; Member since: 13 Oct 2010)

So many people want this company to make it and have a big comeback but it's just letdown after letdown the 10 was a great phone but 1 good phone in years ain't gonna cut it, no 3.5 jack older processor and small battery ain't gonna cut it make the damn phone a little thicker and put a bigger battery in there wtf.. wait another month and use the 835 this was there chance to get in on the note fiasco and release a multitasking powerhouse but this phone will flop and fade into oblivion.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 12:12

46. saiki4116 (Posts: 405; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)

I wouldn't blame them for lack of 3.5mm, going forward that would be the norm. SD821, that big screen with that big bezels and mediocre battery is disappointing. I could see even blackberry, Nokia coming back, but HTC are not changing their ways.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 17:29

47. TMach (Posts: 466; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)

The Pixel (XL) is easily the best phone around, arguably the Note 7 would have taken the crown but it rather "blew" its chances so we will never really know. I still give the edge to the Pixel due to pure Android. I do agree with you on the whole as SD 821 makes zero sense, battery size could be larger (guess it will depend on how well optimised it is), I read somewhere that the phone is only compatible with its U-Sonic headphones which makes this an absolute fail born of stupidity. For a start in ear headphones do not work for me and I am not about to get rid of my wireless Momentum 2.0 for a phone. One contender definitely out of the running for me as this is a non starter for me. My back up phone (pay as you go) is the HTC 10 and nothing about this would even make me swap it for this as my non daily driver. As for the liquid metal thing....a bit meh!

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 06:36 1

32. Dr.Phil (Posts: 1642; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)

I will admit that this is a disappointing showing from HTC. I was one of those that was hoping HTC would make a comeback this year. When I first heard they were going to roll out a 6 inch phone, I thought this could be their opportunity to capitalize off the Note 7 fiasco and maybe win some people back to their brand. Unfortunately, the final product looks to be something that I don't think will even surpass the V20 in terms of sales.

I wasn't looking for the greatest specs in order for them to be successful, but I was looking for:
- revolutionary design (similar to what was shown in the HTC Ocean concept)
- a better camera than the HTC 10
- some new feature to bring to the phablet space (Note series brought us back the stylus and used it in a way people didn't think you'd want one for, LG V10 brought us back the secondary screen). I was hoping HTC could think of something to bring to this space.

And finally, the same company that brought us the HTC Vive VR headset and the original dual-camera systems I would've thought maybe they would bring something revolutionary to the Google Daydream space. Just my thought.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 22:40

49. BlackhawkFlys (Posts: 609; Member since: 07 May 2014)

No, That's a Note 7

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:38 7

4. Bankz (Posts: 2023; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)

Its Official: HTC is done...for good!

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 08:46 1

35. LanjaKodaka (Posts: 139; Member since: 27 Sep 2016)

They havent announced the HTC 11 yet... How did you decide for yourself ?

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:42 1

5. Bankz (Posts: 2023; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)

Its also official: Glass designs are the new black!

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:42 6

6. alhajiash (Posts: 23; Member since: 10 Jul 2014)

The back of the phone looks like the Note 7s

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:50 3

7. mastachaz (Posts: 43; Member since: 19 Feb 2016)

htc go home , nothing good after m7
still copy apple

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:01 10

10. tedkord (Posts: 14192; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

It's ironic that you accuse them off copying Apple in the same breath that you name the phone that Apple copied.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 11:47

45. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14611; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

OH THE IRONY!!!!!!!!

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 02:50

8. ianbbaa (Posts: 332; Member since: 20 Mar 2013)

Sorry my bad just now i read it is not meant to be a flagship device so waiting for the price and final pre-review. But design kinda disappointing.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:00

9. Bankz (Posts: 2023; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)

Lol, That's what they always say. I learned my lesson the hard way from almost all the other oems. They say a lot of things but don't do any of them. I would also have believed that too (oweing to the use of the SD821) but let's face it, HTC doesn't have the clout to host a seperate event just for a mid ranger. 2, even if they did, launching it at this time of the year can only make me think they're lying 3, HTC wouldn't add all these new AI ish, glass ish, dual display ish features if it were a mid ranger phone tbh..

Point being that I think this is a stop gap release till they can think of what to actually do with their main flagship line, which might actually be till some months time or maybe even not launch at all tbh, making this effectively their flagship line of 2017. I know how these things work, it happend with microsoft, motorola too.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:03

11. GeorgeAF (Posts: 71; Member since: 25 Feb 2014)

So is it 821 or 835 that's ringing the bells in this one?

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:08

12. Bankz (Posts: 2023; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)

Its 821 and a 3,000 mah battery paired with 4gigs of ram.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 09:06

37. GeorgeAF (Posts: 71; Member since: 25 Feb 2014)

Judging by all phones running on 821, it should be sufficient. Not sure about the battery though. I am not familiar with HTC's battery efficiency. 4gig should be more than enough.

posted on 13 Jan 2017, 09:38

51. Tooluka (Posts: 66; Member since: 27 Nov 2014)

If we will believe PA (which we shouldn't in this case) 821 is actually so much worse than 820 that even 400 mAh bigger battery doesn't negate that. Case - Oneplus 3T review by PA, last page.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:08 2

13. bb1rd (Posts: 5; Member since: 12 Jan 2017)

Battery only 3000mAh ? No thanks!

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:20 1

15. Emmanuelz (Posts: 214; Member since: 01 Aug 2013)

So what happened with the HTC phone with no buttons on the side? Is it all b.s?

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:37

19. Bankz (Posts: 2023; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)

The ocean smart was allegedly cancelled. However, there might be some hope as evleaks some weeks back said that the HTC ocean is alive and well. So here's to hoping.
My guts tell me this will most probably be htc's flagship phone though they won't admit it.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:22 3

16. alexp999 (Posts: 77; Member since: 16 Mar 2016)

3000 mAh to power a 5.7 inch plus a ticker display, are they having a laugh!

The HTC 10 had that capacity to power just a 5.2". This should have at least 3500 mAh.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 04:05 1

22. Hyperreal (Posts: 322; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)

yes i wonder how is it possible they put 3000 mAh battery in HTC 10, and the same here in much bigger phone and without headphone jack! it should be 4000 easily.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 05:38

30. trojan_horse (Posts: 5018; Member since: 06 May 2016)

Because HTC is apparently aiming for slimmest.

The HTC 10 has a 3000mAh battery, yes, but with 9mm thickness, so isn't slim enough... by today's standards.

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:24

17. alcheng (Posts: 21; Member since: 10 Nov 2012)

nice phone. now make sure as many phone carrier will carry it as possible.
and please don't do that stupid geographic limited sale strategy.
but the absent of 3.5mm earphone jack is a "duhhhhh"...

posted on 12 Jan 2017, 03:33 1

18. colliflower (Posts: 1; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)

So very much like the honor 8 then.

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