Over the past year or so HTC has gone from a full bouquet smartphone player to one that is more niche and premium, reverting to the original positioning of the Taiwanese company. Now, the company has shifted focus to the top-end smartphones, and does not offer much in the mid and budget range. Its latest premium. Offering is the HTC U11, a flagship that tries to be different in more ways than one. HTC U11 is a stylish phone, also it is a flashy phone. The model we got for review was a metallic blue, which reminded me of the anodised aluminum which was the rage in the 1980s. That is not to say this is an old-looking phone in anyway. However, this is a phone that will catch the eye of everyone. The shiny metallic back is also a fingerprint magnet. The SIM tray is on top, and the power and volume buttons are on the right. The rear has a largish camera lens with flash, while the front has just the home button which has a fingerprint scanner.
The curved edges and metal chassis offers a great grip. This is a phone that feels so good you would want to squeeze it. And squeeze it you will, to click a photo, bring up an app or just to wake up the phone. Yes, this is the first squeezable phone in the world, and what the squeeze does is customise functions. Those with sturdy hands and a tight squeeze can use this feature to click a picture. Others can activate soft and hard squeezes to do different things, and this is a neat feature of this phone.
HTC U11 is among the few flagships now available with the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. This is the sort of phone that can achieve everything a smartphone user these days wants to do, and that is a lot. So from high-end gaming to simple multi-tasking and 4K video recording, this is a phone that can do it all. For those who are swayed by benchmarks, this is really up there on top next to the iPhone 7 Plus and the OnePlus 5.
One of the best features of the HTC U11 is its camera. The phone does not tout high megapixels, but depends on the third generation HTC UltraPixel technology with 1.4µm pixel size. What is really interesting here is the ƒ/1.7 aperture on the rear camera that makes this phone one of the best performers when it comes to low light. I would say the same when it comes to macro, though I would generally like smartphones to be able to do closer shots.
HTC U11 offers a full Pro mode with easy options to tweak the settings. However, in comparison to a phone like the OnePlus 5, there are fewer options especially when it comes to ISO. But the Pro mode is a good showcase of how fast the camera’s focus settings are. Yes, this is one of the fastest phone cameras when it comes to auto focus.
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HTC has always had a different software play and offered its users a higher degree of customisation via HTC Sense. Now, it has taken an extra step and has brought in the Sense Companion, its own version of a virtual assistant. The Sense Companion can inform you about a lot of things, and it will do so even without being asked, by popping up in the form of a bubble on the screen.
HTC U11 comes with fast charging, which means most of your battery woes can be addressed in under 30 minutes. Anyway, with one 4G SIM active all the time, the phone easily gives about 12 hours of life. Still, I think HTC should have offered a bit more than 3000 mAh as battery is the primary pain point for users these days. This, at the end of the day, is a flagship phone that costs a lot.
The verdict: HTC U11 is a top-end flagship with premium features and performance. I recommend this for those who want to flaunt a phone that is different from the pack and also looks so.