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HTC U11 Review


Posted: , by Stephen Schenck Stephen Schenck



Interface and Functionality

Squeezing your phone is a novel form of input, but is it really practical?

The U11's interface is mostly familiar HTC fare, with one important addition: Edge Sense. The U11's one big “gimmick,” Edge Sense consists of a series of pressure sensors built into the sides of the handset, adjacent to the screen. These strain gauges detect when you're giving the phone a squeeze, and allow you to trigger a software effect in response.

By default, HTC makes the smart choice of linking this action to quick-launching the U11's camera – and another squeeze serves to act as the shutter button. You can also configure a squeeze to take a screenshot, toggle the flashlight, or open the app of your choice. And just to add a little more flexibility to the mix, you can set up two separate actions: one for a short squeeze, and one for a longer squeeze-and-release.

Initially, we had some reservations with what HTC was shooting for here, as it seemed like a really extravagant way to implement what the Galaxy S7 Active or, more recently, the BlackBerry KEYone had done with a simple, straightforward button.

But after using Edge Sense for a while, we began to appreciate its value a little more. Say you're taking a picture at an awkward angle: there are plenty of situations where it might be a little awkward to reach around for a dedicated shutter button (much less press an on-screen button), yet it's no problem at all to give the phone a little squeeze. And while the whole squeeze interaction feels unnatural at first, the ability to customize the pressure level at which Edge Sense is triggered really does help make the feature more accessible.

Other helping-hands that ease you into familiarity with the new system include on-screen visual cues that reflect the force with which you're squeezing the phone; they're handy to have at first, but you'll probably want to toggle them off eventually.

Processor and Memory

HTC spares little expense arming the U11 with some of the best silicon around

HTC equips the U11 with what's arguably the best processor you can expect to find on an Android smartphone this season: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. That's the same chip you'll find in US variants of the Galaxy S8, and its presence here instantly puts the U11 up on a pedestal among the handful of the most powerful phones you can buy.

That's paired with a totally adequate 4GB of RAM, as well as very-nice-to-see 64GB base level for flash storage. In international markets, you might just also find an even better-equipped U11 with 6GB of RAM and a hefty 128GB of storage, but for the vast majority of users, you're looking at 4/64. And really, we can't expect many of you will be hurting for more.

In day-to-day operation, the U11 flies briskly from task to task, and in our time with the phone we never found ourselves asking more from its performance. The 64GB of internal storage is also likely to keep us satisfied for a long time to come, and even when that free space starts running out, there's always support for microSD expansion to add capacity in spades.


Even with an exclusive carrier partner, this phone is easy to get working on the network of your choice

The U11 boasts the usual assortment of support for cellular bands, and with the right SIM shouldn't have much difficulty operating on the carrier of your choice. Here in the US, the handset's being offered as an exclusive through Sprint, so if you're looking for the path of least resistance, that's the network you'll be working with. But that said, HTC's also selling the U11 unlocked, and not only will this version of the phone work with GSM operators like T-Mobile and AT&T, but also Sprint's CDMA rival Verizon.

We spent a few days with the Sprint version of the phone, and had no problems pulling down signal in the greater Boston area, though speeds weren't always great, often topping out around 2Mbps despite a full signal gauge. That's probably more Sprint's fault than HTC's though.

We also operated a version of the U11 manufactured for the Taiwan market – so, understandably, one not optimized for US networks. Despite that setback, we were still able to maintain an LTE connection with T-Mobile, not to mention pulling down speeds north of 20Mbps. Make sure you double-check band support with HTC before thinking about importing a U11 and expecting it to work at home, but there's a good chance you'll get decent functionality out of it.

For wired connectivity, we've got a USB Type-C port, just like on other recent U-series HTC phones. And like those, this port does triple duty, serving as a data conduit, charging the phone, and letting you attach headphones – but we'll talk more about that last one in the review's Multimedia section.


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PhoneArena rating:
8.2Very good
Display5.5 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels (534 ppi) S-LCD 5
Camera12 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2450 MHz, Kryo 280 processor
Size6.06 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches
(153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 mm)
5.96 oz  (169 g)

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