I’ve spent a little over a week with the HTC U11, and I really like it so far. I’ve been using the Taiwanese model (which isn’t fully compatible with US networks), so I’m waiting for the US version to arrive before I publish my full review of the new HTC flagship. But in the meantime, I wanted to give you my initial thoughts after one week with the HTC U11.
As far as the look and feel are concerned, the phone retains a lot of the design language that we first saw with the HTC U Ultra. But things are a lot more refined on the U11. For starters, the large camera bump found on the U Ultra isn’t present this time around. And, with the U11 featuring a smaller 5.5-inch display, the handling experience is more comfortable.
HTC U Ultra review
The U11 feels quite slippery if you're not using a case
The edges of both the front and back glass curve down to meet the metal frame, which gives the U11 a very seamless feel with no sharp or rough edges, similar to what Samsung has done with the Galaxy S8. It is comfortable to hold, but because it is made mostly of glass and doesn’t have flat sides or chamfered edges to help with the grip, the U11 does feel quite slippery.
The liquid glass surface does look absolutely amazing though, and some of the colors like Solar Red will shift and change colors depending on the angle and the way the light hits it. It is a really cool effect but the mirror-like finish is a huge fingerprint magnet, so you will certainly have to put in the effort to keep the phone looking pristine. HTC does seem to be aware of this, given that included in the box is a clear case that will keep the fingerprint smudges at bay.
Audio sounds incredible on the U11
One thing you will not find on the U11 is a headphone jack, and HTC has been pretty firm on sticking with this decision. I wouldn’t expect them to bring it back any time soon. The biggest reason behind this move has to do with HTC’s belief that it can deliver a better audio experience via the USB Type-C port. I must admit that audio does sound incredible on the U11.
The included USonic earbuds not only sound great, but also feature active noise cancellation that works extremely well for blocking out exterior noise. They are definitely above and beyond the typical pair of earbuds that you’d normally get with a phone.
The USonic earbuds are definitely above and beyond the typical pair of earbuds that you'd normally get with a phone
This time around, HTC has also included a 3.5 mm jack to USB Type-C adapter, which was notably missing from the U Ultra. This means that you can still use your favorite pair of earphones with the device. While my Audio Technica ATH-M50Xs don’t have the highest impedance on a pair of headphones, the U11 drives them with significantly louder and fuller sound, especially compared to what the Galaxy S8 delivers.
The biggest standout feature on the HTC U11 is the Edge Sense technology. The sides of the phone are pressure sensitive, and this allows you to physically squeeze the phone to activate a specific function or open an app like the camera or web browser. Having to squeeze your phone to make it do something does sound weird because it is something we’ve never had to do before, but I do really like this feature. It works well, has a lot of practical uses, and isn’t a gimmick like you may initially think it would be.
HTC U11 Edge Sense: what can it do?
Even though we're using a Taiwanese model, battery life has been very good so far
Because this is the Taiwanese model of the phone and not fully optimized for US networks, that is obviously going to affect network performance and battery life. While we will get more accurate information once I get the US version, with this device, the battery life has been surprisingly good so far. I say surprisingly because the 3,000 mAh unit isn’t the biggest battery we’ve seen on a smartphone, but it has comfortably lasted an entire day with a consistent screen-on time of five hours. That certainly has me feeling optimistic about what the battery life will be with the US model.
The last thing that has really stood out for me is the camera. You might know that the U11 has received the highest DxOMark score ever for a smartphone. While I’m not entire sure how much I buy into those scores, the camera is certainly a huge improvement over the HTC 10, and I have thoroughly enjoyed using it.
Photos are packed with detail, color reproduction is excellent, and dynamic range has been good overall. This is mostly because the camera processes everything as HDR automatically, similar to how the Google Pixel processes photos. Video recording is also great, with the built-in OIS making for some very smooth footage without a lot of noticeable shakes, jitters, or any sort of warping.
My favorite camera feature is the new acoustic focus feature which leverages the four microphones on the U11 to record 360-degree or 3D audio. When you zoom in on a subject, the audio will get louder or more amplified. It’s a very neat effect and simulates the act of you physically getting closer to a concert stage, a person playing an instrument, or whatever else the audio source may be.
This is exactly what HTC needed to capture the attention of consumers
Overall, my initial impressions on the U11 are very positive. This phone has provided a very pleasant experience so far, and offers some new features that really make it stand out. That’s exactly what HTC needed to capture the attention of consumers. While there’s still a lot we didn’t touch on in this post, be on the lookout for our full HTC U11 review, which will be coming in the next few days. HTC has got a lot riding on the success of the U11, and as of right now, they are certainly on the right track to deliver a home run.