The latest 2017 flagships all have one or two unique features that help them stand out from the crowd. Whether we’re talking about an 18:9 aspect ratio display, a dual camera setup, or a secondary screen, it’s really great to see smartphone manufacturers experiment with new features in an attempt to be more compelling to consumers.

In the case of the recently announced HTC U11, that distinctive feature comes in the form of Edge Sense, which lets you squeeze the phone to enable specific activities. If that sounds weird to you, that’s because it is. No other manufacturers are doing anything like this at the moment. It does take some getting used to, but we’ve found that it can be quite intuitive and useful after some use. To help you better understand and navigate this feature, we’re taking a closer look at Edge Sense on the HTC U11.

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Getting started

In order to start using the pressure sensitive sides of the U11, you’ll first need to set it up in the Settings menu. Alternatively, you can choose to go through the setup process when you’re setting up the phone for the first time. To start, you will have to set the intensity of the squeeze, or as HTC calls it, the “squeeze force level”. This is basically how hard or soft you’ll have to squeeze the phone for the functions to trigger. You set this by squeezing the phone as hard as you want, and that will be the force you will need each time.

You can hit the plus or minus button on the setup screen to fine tune the level of the squeeze. From here, you can test the squeeze force level by sending virtual balloons into the air to make sure that it is exactly what you want. Something to keep in mind is that you don’t want to set the squeeze to be too soft, as this may result in accidental squeezes. At the same time, you don’t want to set the squeeze force level too high either, which could make it difficult to trigger.

You can also enable visual or haptic feedback when you squeeze the phone, which might make it easier to tell if you’ve successfully triggered the feature or not.

What it can do

Edge Sense is set to launch the camera by default. A single squeeze launches the camera app, while another squeeze will let you snap a photo. You can keep it this way if you’d like, or you can change it to open a specific app. Edge Sense can be programmed to launch Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps, or basically any other application, and it can also perform actions like taking a screenshot, turning on the flashlight, starting a voice recording, or launching the HTC Sense companion.

To get more out of Edge Sense, there’s also an advanced mode that will let you perform two different functions based on short and long squeezes. For example, you can set the short squeeze to launch the camera, and a squeeze and hold can be used to open Google Assistant. That is just an example of course, and you have the ability to set the short and long squeeze to launch any app or perform any function of your choice.

If you do use the advanced mode to control the camera and the Google Assistant, you will also gain some additional functionality within those apps. Once the camera app is launched, a short squeeze will let you take a photo as before, but a long squeeze can be used to switch between the front and rear cameras. With Google Assistant, if you are typing a message in an email, text message, or any input field that would require the keyboard, you can finish the text using your voice by activating voice-to-text with a short or long squeeze.

One of the biggest benefits of Edge Sense is that it allows you interact with the phone when it’s wet or submerged in water, when touch input on the display isn’t the most reliable. If you want to take a photo, open an application, or turn on the camera flash, you can do so easily by squeezing the phone. All of this is possible thanks to the HTC U11’s IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.

Final thoughts

Edge Sense is certainly one of the most interesting ways we’ve been able to interact with phones in a long time. Squeezing your phone may sound like a weird thing to do at first, but I’ll admit that it feels quite intuitive. I thoroughly enjoy using it as a shortcut to Google Assistant.

What do you think about Edge Sense? Is it a game changing smartphone feature or just another gimmick? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.