HTC IS THE TROUBLED smartphone industry darling. Despite having a rich legacy behind it, for whatever reason, it just hasn't been able to make its last few years of smartphone releases work. Now, with the HTC U11, HTC's follow-up to the excellent HTC 10, the Taiwanese company is bringing the big guns: a Snapdragon 835 processor, up to 128GB storage and, wait for it, squeezy tech.
In addition to innovative input methods, HTC is also bucking the LG/Samsung trend of making long phones with 18:9+ aspect ratios. Instead, on firsts impression, the HTC U11 is actually a bit underwhelming. It isn't particularly thin at 7.9mm, it hasn't got narrow bezels, and it looks a bit squat with its 71.4 per cent screen to bezel ratio. It could easily be mistaken for an HTC U Ultra from the back or a Huawei P10 Plus from the front. Don't get us wrong, these are all premium looking and feeling phones, but as premium as the U11 is, it isn't quite showcasing futuristic, standout design like the Galaxy S8.
It does manage to impress with its colours though, in particular, the new Solar Red and Amazing Silver. The prior looks stunning, changing hue as you change your viewing angle.
Save for Edge Sense, the official name for the squeeze tech either side of the phone, the inputs dotted around the HTC U11 are very traditional. To the right is a volume rocker and power button, down at the base is a USB-C port and there's a SIM card tray with room for a microSD card as well. You'll notice that there's no 3.5mm headphone jack on here, though the U11 does ship with an adapter/DAC, complete with Hi-Res audio support.
The Liquid Surface design looks sleek and the U11 has curved Gorilla Glass 5 around the back, elegantly moulded to seamlessly transition into the metal frame. In the hand, it does feel excellent, with attention to detail paid to elements like the power button - sporting a texture so a thumb can easily distinguish it from the volume rocker.
An unavoidable by-product of a glass back plate is a fingerprint-loving smartphone. It's better than the HTC U Play, for example, but it is still worth mentioning. In the box, there's also a case which is a nice touch, though frustratingly, its hard plastic scratches incredibly easily.
Despite all the glass, the U11 doesn't feel fragile thanks to excellent weighting, the knowledge it's IP67 water and dust resistant and the blasted metal frame holding everything together. This frame also provides a good amount of grip and a soft curve, making it comfortable to hold for long periods. The fact it has a bit of side-bezel is actually not a bad thing for handheld ergonomics, though the upper and lower bezel could have been a little more tapered.
Below the screen sits a fingerprint scanner that doubles up as a home button while either side of it are capacitive navigation buttons. Using ultrasound technology, the sides and screen of the HTC U11 can be interacted with even when wet.
QHD resolution paired with a 5.5insize equates to a tried and tested screen spec. It's the same size and resolution found on the Google Pixel XL, Huawei P10 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.
This is a good thing, delivering a pixel density of 534 pixels-per-inch. The HTC U11's screen, therefore looks incredibly sharp and the SLCD technology looks much better than it did on the HTC 10. It has excellent viewing angles, decent brightness levels and a host of display options.
Dive into the settings and you can customise the phone's screen colour temperature, turn on Night Mode, in other words, apply a blue light filter, and control the display and font size, shrinking or blowing up the UI as you see fit.
With the glass feeling rich to thumb over and interaction being responsive, while not as punchy as an AMOLED display, and despite no HDR video support, in isolation, the U11's display is perfectly competent, with no notable shortcomings.
Next: User interface and Edge Sense