The HTC U11 has just been unveiled and it’s looking to offer some formidable competition to flagships that have already been announced in 2017. However, HTC has put itself in a bit of a strange situation this year, whereby the launch of this latest flagship is stepping right on the toes of one of its own high-end launches – the HTC U Ultra.

The U Ultra launched back in January but has been rather slow at arriving in regions around the world. Despite the early announcement, the handset was subject to a two month delay before appearing on store shelves. China saw the handset the earliest on March 1st, while Europe, India, Japan, and the US had to wait until midway through the month. Now the HTC U11 is set to appear at US carrier Sprint on June 9th, which is less than a month away. Put another way, the U Ultra will only have been on sale in the US barely four months before the U11 appears to steal its thunder.

So was the U Ultra, as some expected, just a wasted venture? Is there any point in considering the handset anymore now that HTC’s “proper” 2017 flagship is here?

See also:

HTC U 11 hands-on: HTC’s true 2017 flagship

3 weeks ago

On the surface the U Ultra does now seem a little dead in the water. The HTC U11 boasts a faster, next-generation processor, a new IP67 water and dust resistant design, and out of the box software support for some of the industry’s latest virtual assistants. Then there’s the new Edge Sense feature that might be worth something to some customers too. That certainly seems waiting the extra month for now, especially as the U Ultra is still retailing for its rather high RRP in many regions.

With HTC expecting to cut its number of releases in half this year, the company may have convoluted its lineup with two flagship announcements already. Consumers might just be tempted to stick to a manufacturer that has a clearer message.

Once we start looking past some of the headline specifications, we also see a decent amount of crossover between the two smartphones, which probably isn’t so surprising given the closeness of their release dates. For starters, both displays are based on the same Super LCD5 technology with equal QHD (2450 x 1440) resolutions. While the U Ultra is a tad larger at 5.7-inches, compared with the U11’s 5.5-inch display, there’s little to tell between the two here. Furthermore, you’ll find the same 4GB RAM and 64GB memory options onboard the two as well.

Even the camera setup bears some stark similarities. Both phones boast a 12 megapixel rear sensor with optical image stabilization, a dual flash setup, fast autofocusing, and a similar selection of software shooting modes. However, I should point out that these rear cameras aren’t exactly the same. The U Ultra uses a 1.55μm pixel size sensor with an f/1.8 aperture lens, while the U11 uses a different 1.4μm pixel size sensor with a f/1.7 aperture lens, so performance will be slightly different.

 HTC U11HTC U Ultra
Display5.5-inch QHD LCD
(2560x1440)
5.7-inch QHD LCD
(2560x1440) +
2-inch secondary
(1040x160)
SoCSnapdragon 835Snapdragon 821
CPU4x 2.45 GHz Kryo 280 +
4x 1.7 GHz Kryo 280
2x 2.15 GHz Kryo +
2x 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPUAdreno 540Adreno 530
RAM4 / 6GB4 GB
Storage64 / 128 GB with microSD64 / 128 GB with microSD
Cameras12 MP f/1.7 rear
16 MP front
12 MP f/1.8 rear
16 MP front
Battery3,000 mAh3,000 mAh
OSAndroid 7.1Android 7.0

Regardless, we were pretty impressed by the U Ultra’s camera and the selfie setup looks pretty much identical between the two as well. Both phones feature a high resolution 16 megapixel front facing camera for sharper looking selfies.

Many of the smartphones’ extras are similar too. Quick Charge 3.0, a USB Type-C connector with 3.1 speeds, and Hi-Res audio capabilities are shared across both models. With the exception of Alexa, you can also use HTC’s Sense Companion and Google Assistant on the U Ultra, again niggling away at the U11’s advantage. Even the BoomSound Hi-Fi setup uses the same tweeter and woofer combo for powerful speaker sound. Both models even share similar drawbacks, with the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack and a 3,000mAh battery that’s a little on the small size for a phone this big being the most notable complaints about the two.

There are a lot of hardware similarities between the HTC U11 and U Ultra, including some more contentious choices, such as the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack.

Now, given that the HTC U Ultra is still retailing for a flagship price in many countries right now, bar the occasional sale, the U11 seems like the obvious choice. It has all of the key features of the Ultra, plus a few of its own unique selling points, as well as a better processing package and camera, so there’s little to persuade users from holding off their purchase.

With HTC already struggling to keep carriers interested in the US, remember that T-Mobile dropped the HTC 10 after just two months, this double tap release seems almost certain to water down the company’s message as well. How will less spec-savvy consumers be able to tell these phones apart and figure out which is meant to be the competition for the likes of the Galaxy S8 or Apple’s iPhone? It’s now a tough message to get across, especially with the naming scheme, and consumers might just be tempted to stick to a manufacturer that has a clearer message. That is, unless HTC or carriers decide simply to stock just one of the handsets. It’s already looking like Sprint will be the only US carrier to offer the HTC U11, and it’s hard to see many global carriers being keen to have to market another high-end HTC model so soon.

See also:

HTC U Ultra review

March 24, 2017

Before writing the U Ultra off completely, we not long ago saw some Easter sales that dropped the handset’s cost by 20 percent, pricing the phone at just $599, down from $750. If HTC sticks with its recent US discounts and brings these savings to the rest of the world, then there U Ultra suddenly switches from looking like an obsolete model to a pretty great bargain. Of course, at that price we might start looking at the slightly lower cost HTC 10 too, but that’s another issue. The U Ultra does also feature the secondary ticker display, a feature that you won’t find in the U11, and it’s larger size might just keep it relevant for fans of supersized handsets. So perhaps it’s not curtains for the handset just yet.

What do you think about the U Ultra now that that the HTC U11 is here? Would you consider picking the phone up if it saw a notable price drop, or have you got your eyes firmly set on HTC’s more powerful option?

Robert Triggs
Lead Technical Writer at Android Authority, covering the latest trends in consumer electronics and hardware. In his spare moments, you'll probably find him tinkering with audio electronics and programming.
  • RichSPK

    The names are too similar as well. I didn’t realize they were different phones until I read this article.

  • Alvv

    This ultra thing is already outdated without the htc u 11. I was an htc fan but htc has made huge mistakes and the ultra is a waste and costly device for htc. I think they only sell a few of this peace.

  • Stickdoge1414

    The HTC u ultra is a waste of space

    • David Martrano

      That’s what happens when you got hot nuts! The Bolt & Ultra should have never been released. The 11 has much potential as we will find out. No one phone can save was company but this is a good start!

      • paxmos

        I bet none of you have held an Ultra in your hands. I got one from eBay on sale and using a very generous discount coupon from them at $408. Is it good?, absolutely, is it $750 good?, nope. But my point is that people like you should try the phone yourselves first and not blindly listen to all the BS from these so called phone reviewers and bloggers!!!

        • Eduardo Quintero

          Are you having issues with grip on it and battery life? I held my friend’s HTC Ultra (no idea how he even heard of that phone) and I felt it was really slippery to hold, especially with it’s girth. He is also only getting about 3 hrs of screen on time.

  • Jose Reyes

    I I see some massive sales for the HTC U Ultra happening in the future. If it goes low enough I might snag it just as a backup phone.

  • Kris Lynn

    HTC U might seem like a wasted space to many, I for one love it. Doesn’t have bloat ware, fast, has HTC sense And it’s fast. I have no issues with battery life for an every day user.
    I have had the M8, M10 and now the U. Can’t wait for the 11. I do hope that US carriers other than Sprint offer the HTC brand, or HTC continues to sell unlocked phones.
    The Market is flooded with Samsung and Apple. Consumers need more choices.
    Sense is hands down the best. And now Samsung has tried to follow in their foot steps with Bixbey and missed the mark.

    • Didacts

      Bixby and sense are two different things. The HTC U was a rip off. I like HTC but the U 11 is basically the correct buy over the ultra. There are plenty of phones without bloatware. Hell I’d rather have the HTC 10 over the ultra

    • No one is saying the HTC U Ultra is worthless, but that a much better phone came out very soon after it and for a lower price, so who would buy the Ultra now?

  • Marty

    And Samsung made HTC obsolete.

    • illregal

      Not for anyone with a brain.

      • Marty

        What is “brain”?

      • Eduardo Quintero

        May I ask: why?

        • illregal

          Because anyone with half a brain would know HTC makes better devices than Samsung. It’s only the brain dead, tech-tarded that flock to samsung products cuz they saw a commercial with lil wayne pouring champagne on his phone.

          • Tell me when HTC has bezels that are smaller than those from 2012. I had a Pixel before getting the S8+ and the bezels are awful on HTC devices.

          • illregal

            But the bezel has a purpose for usability and grip. Unlike a curved screen. Let me know when you don’t have nasty glare, distorted edges, red tint, and burn in, not to mention Samsung lag. Also the tall screen ratio on the s8 is pointless.

  • Another opinion

    When will Android authority give HTC a chance? Why do you need to have a headline with the words HTC and obsolete in it? I find the build quality of HTC to be superior. I like HTC Sense. I’ll buy a new HTC phone this year just like I bought the HTC before I’m not going to buy a Samsung I’m not going to buy an apple. I like what they build. I don’t work for HTC I just hope they make it and I like their products

    • Edroid

      I agree 💯 I think the HTC 10 was better then S7 and based on what I see right now, the 11 is probably the best phone released this year. That squeeze technology is more then a gimmick.

    • Kunal Narang

      HTC is always the dark horse in every race but they do come up with some good products every now and then, not to mention that their updates are consistent and their Android skin is good.

    • Eduardo Quintero

      They just have to get confidence and spend more money on marketing. Sure they might lose money in short term, but long term they might catch up to Samsung. I 💯 agree that HTC makes beautiful device.

  • Sumpil

    I think HTC should stop making the U Ultra, they will just waste money, leave the current stock to get sold out.

  • Jithin Mathew

    Did someone say Obselete??
    The U Ultra shall be rendered Obselete.
    DELETE!! DELETE!! DELETE!!

    • Kunal Narang

      Brother Nero!

  • Jehozaphat F. Castillo

    sO LONG AS THEY PRICED IT T $599 AND THE U ULTRA ISN’T A BAD PHONE… But hy stop there and maybe a month from now, $499

  • Mike

    Now this is a bot I can work with. Digging the U11!

  • JON @segujer

    creating self competition it’s basically htc Vs HTC 🤔

  • ChrisHD32

    Honestly the U Ultra should of never seen the light of day. I clearly remember when it was revealed and told myself…” Not again HTC”. It was yet another idiotic mistake by HTC. Fortunately the U11 seems more promising but they still fail to listen to consumers. It could of used a bigger battery 3,000mah seems too small for 2017.

    I preordered my device though. I want to support HTC and the phones camera and boomsound set up seems promising.

    • Eduardo Quintero

      Update the specs of HTC 10, add real Boomsound, and add 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s all they really have to do. The end.

  • Shadowstare

    Of course it does. As sooooooon as HTC ‘leaked’ that the Ultra wasn’t the flagship (I knew this because there wasn’t a sense update and because it wasn’t geared to a US audience) the U Ultra was DEAD. Then when it actually dropped and the critics destroyed it, it just confirmed how pointless the U Ultra was. I hope HTC sells a bunch of these so they can re-coop their investment but to me, that U Ultra was a HUGE mistake. They tried to catch the wave of Note 7 users that had to give up their device but missed it terribly.

  • putte40

    I would rather use my old m7 than the ultra. (u11 on the other hand could be good. Dunno, 10 is still rocking.)

  • Terry Evans

    they pretty much did this with the HTC one a9. decent device if you could get it for cheap. looked nice, but battery, camera, and processor were meh. then a few months later comes the HTC 10. which was the same for the m9 also. HTC doesn’t make sense these days.

  • Clem2011

    I wouldn’t say obselete. The SD821 is very capable. They’re pretty much the same phone if you consider everyday performance.

  • Grant D

    Well no shit, Sherlocks. You might as well have asked, between the Oneplus 5 and the S8, will there really be any purpose for the G6? (except that the answer’s “yes” in this case).

  • Joshua

    Wasnt it already obsolete?

  • Neil Huang

    Look at the history of HTC and you”ll see a pattern of how it tries to put out a prototype device on the market, followed by the actual flagship.

    The HTC One A9 was a prototype to the HTC 10, as you can see it brought the change in the body from the M7/8/9 series to its new type with the fingerprint sensor. The HTC 10 is the one where they put all the R&D dollars in, as you can see.

    The U Ultra was a prototype to the HTC U11. It again brings the change in the body where it’s different from the HTC One A9/10, but most of the U Ultra was visual, and you can see that all the R&D dollars were spent in the HTC U11. (Google “Jerry Rig Everything U Ultra” to see how much cost cutting went into the U Ultra).

    It’s a smart business decision actually. The A9 and the U Ultra were put on the market not as real “flagships”, but as new models to get people used to the idea of a change. If HTC put out the HTC 10 or the U11 without these previous models, the change may be considered too drastic for people to swallow.

    With the company losing money and having to re-invent itself, it’s a last resort business decision to release the prototypes (A9 and U Ultra) to get feedback from the customers and public, recuperate as little money possible for their R&D efforts on the prototypes, and to “wet the public’s appetite” so that they are less shocked and more ready to receive their actual flagships (10 and U11), where they expect to make most of their sales.

    To the article: Yes, it’s a no-brainer. U11 has definitely made the U Ultra obsolete.

  • Is it support memory card? The battery could be bigger.

  • Eduardo Quintero

    HTC needs to change leadership and fast. Get someone confident enough to spend on marketing and killing projects that are obviously stupid (HTC Bolt, Desire, U Ultra, U Play) or overpriced. They are capable of making the best phone of the year. But they have to change their structure.

  • Mal Akas

    This is why HTC is finished. I would have waited for the U11 but when I saw the ultra thinking it was their flagship I gave up on HTC and ended up buying the OnePlus 3t. I love this phone and it cost half the price. I realised there is no need waist money on the big boys glass crap.