The HTC U11 is the company's new flagship, and you can squeeze it!


Early 2017's HTC U Ultra and U Play were a pair of devices designed to usher the Taiwanese giant into a new era of smartphones. For a number of reasons, however, consumers weren't really happy with this new direction, so up until now HTC was in need of a new hit. Enter the HTC U11 – a solid flagship with a number of unique features, it might just prove to be exactly what HTC needs right now.

At a cursory glance, the U11 looks to be an amalgamation of its predecessor, the HTC 10, and its siblings in the U line, a theory proven right by its peculiar name, seemingly specifically chosen to underscore the device's origins. But look under the surface, and you'll find an entirely new type of user interaction, called Edge Sense, which lets you squeeze the device to perform context-sensitive actions.

But more on that in a bit; first, let's take a look at the HTC U11's specs:

PlatformAndroid 7.1 Nougat
Dimensions, Weight 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 mm, 169 g
Display5.5 inch, Quad HD Super LCD 5 (2560 x 1440)
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM4 GB (6 GB in some Asian countries)
CamerasRear: Dual Pixel 12MP OIS (F1.7)
Front: 16MP (F1.7)
Storage64 GB (128 GB in some Asian countries)
Battery3,000 mAh
Special featuresIP67-certified, Edge Sense


As mentioned, the U11 is something of a mix of old and new: look from the front, and you'll no doubt be reminded of the HTC 10: the screen-to-body ratio is about the same, and so is the off-center button placement below the display. We've also got the front-facing camera and the earpiece, both of which are slightly smaller. What is new, however, is the curved, Gorilla Glass 5 panel, which gives off a much softer impression than its predecessor. The screen itself is a 5.5-inch, Quad-HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) LCD panel, which is an upgrade in terms of size when compared with the HTC 10, while the bezels surrounding it now also come in just one color: black.

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Turn the phone around, however, and you'll see a look strikingly similar to the U Play, but in a slightly bigger package. There's the regular camera sensor and flash module, but the centerpiece is the device's outer shell itself: the U11 comes in a number striking colors with an extra glossy finish, which, just like on the U Ultra and U Play, makes the phone amazingly shiny and impossible to miss. The back of the phone also comes in one of five different colors: black, red, blue, silver, and white, though availability will vary by region.

The metal frame surrounding the device blends seamlessly with the front and back glass panels, giving off a nice impression and making it comfortable to hold as well. On the bottom lies a single speaker, along with a USB-C connector, though, as expected, no 3.5 mm audio jack is present. The right side of the phone houses your regular volume and power buttons, as well as the sensors used by Edge Sense.

Under the hood

With the U11, HTC seems to be going all-out in terms of specs. This is a definite flagship: running inside is the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, coupled with 4 GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage (though a 6 GB/128 GB version will also be available in some Asian markets). In terms of battery, the U11 doesn't really impress that much – 3,000 mAh is okay, but only real-life testing can prove whether it's enough.

The HTC U11 is IP67-certified, which, despite being the same protection as the iPhone 7's, is still less than a few of its flagship competitors. What that means is that the phone is dust- and splash-proof, but submerging it in water may damage it.

HTC also hasn't given up on a thing it was once famous for: audio. While there are no front-facing speakers to be found on its latest flagship, there are still a number of tricks hidden up its sleeve. Firstly, there's a Hi-Res custom DAC, just like on the HTC 10, which is coupled with the company's own BoomSound Hi-Fi edition post-processing technology. Secondly, the phone itself is equipped with four separate microphones which allow for what HTC calls "3D Audio recording".

Just like the U Ultra, the U11 supports the company's own USonic earphones, which automatically adapt to each user's preference. This time around, however, they're also equipped with active noise cancellation, though the USB-C connector remains the same, for obvious reasons. Those who would like to use their own pair will be pleased to learn that HTC is bundling the U11 with a USB-to 3.5 mm adapter in the box.


The rear shooter of the HTC U11 doesn't pack a trendy dual-camera module, but is an evolution on the company's previous offerings instead. It's a third-generation UltraPixel, 12 MP shooter, which in real-life terms means that HTC dropped the laser-assisted autofocus and replaced it with Dual Pixel technology, which should make focusing faster than before. The aperture, at F/1.7, is wider than the HTC 10, but the sensor itself is smaller.

The front camera actually packs more megapixels per photo with its 16 MP sensor. Or in other words, the device's cameras are in a similar configuration to that of the HTC U Ultra, which should be good news for smartphone camera enthusiasts.

The camera software itself packs all the bells and whistles one would expect form a flagship: there's a Pro mode with RAW format support, HDR, a panorama mode, Hyperlapse, slo-mo video (120 fps @ 1080p), and 4K video recording with the aforementioned 3D Audio, as well as a feature HTC calls "Acoustic focus".

Edge Sense

But the standout feature for the phone is indisputably what HTC calls Edge Sense, which is prominent in most, if not all of the U11's marketing, and which presents an entirely new way to interact with your phone. In simple terms, it's essentially a set of pressure sensors along the edges of the device, which trigger certain actions when the user squeezes it.

In reality, it functions like a customizable hardware button: a squeeze performs a user-definable action, like, say, opening an app. Different squeezes may result in a different action, with control being limited to a short or a long squeeze. Users can also adjust how much force is required for a squeeze to register.

Unfortunately, however, squeezing in different spots doesn't yield different results, meaning a top squeeze and a bottom squeeze are equal. However, the functionality is still context-sensitive to an extent, as certain apps can bind it to specific actions when the app is in use. For example, squeezing the frame while inside Camera results in a photo being taken, which can be pretty convenient in certain situations.

Expectations, price and release date

The HTC U11 is the 2017 flagship from the company, following the U Ultra's failure on the market. It does a lot of things right, and it might just be what needed to be done for HTC to become a serious contender in the smartphone race again. Still, it's now up to the company to market it well, as a solid, simple device that both channels the past and looks to the future.

However, the U11 costs $650, which is considerably less than the U Ultra's high asking launch price. Or in other words, the HTC U11 might have just overcome its biggest hurdle already, given that it also costs less than both the Galaxy S8 and LG G6, which are its main competitors. As for availability, HTC said in its press conference that the U11 will be released as early as next week in select regions, while the rest of the world will get it in June.

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