With U11, HTC can compete with Samsung, LG for Android bragging rights

the company that has been associated with Android from the start and was once a pioneer of the smartphone world has been having a really tough time as of late. The last few years have seen the company’s fortunes fall, both financially and in terms of brand value and prestige and there have been a lot of reasons for the same – scattered product line-up, poor marketing and overpriced phones.

The U11 though is all set to swoop in like a superhero and save HTC from the wreckage of its own downfall. The device is arguably the best smartphone the company has made in years and comes packed to the gill with unique and interesting features, top of the line hardware and impressive cameras.

The U11 has arrived at just the right time for HTC. The company needed to get this smartphone right after the critical drubbing received by the HTC U Ultra which was widely criticised for being overpriced, underwhelming and lacking any killer feature.

With the U11 on the other hand, HTC seems to have left no stone unturned in their quest for a redemption device. It seems HTC itself knew that after the U Ultra debacle, the U11 had to hit it out of the park. And the company has delivered.
The sleek ‘Liquid Surface’ glass panel is incredibly shiny and reflects light in such a manner that the color of the smartphone changes depending on the angle from which it is viewed. Photos do not do justice to just how unique and elegant the phone looks in real life. Fans of industrial designs might not take to the look much but for most it will truly come across as one of the most striking and distinctive smartphones on sale today.

Comparing the U11’s design to what is arguably the best smartphone on sale today – the Samsung Galaxy S8 – it is literally a case of which side of the phone you are looking at. When it comes to the rear panel, the U11 is arguably the better looking of the two with its light-bending, color changing tricks. However, flip the smartphones over and the Galaxy S8 trumps the U11 with its stunning edge-to-edge display and bezel-less design.

The U11 is not a case of all show and no go. It comes with top of the line specifications that can rival any flagship phone of 2017 – the snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, a healthy sized 3,000mAh battery with Quick charge 3.0 support and 64/128GB of internal storage. The display is a 5.5-inch Quad HD panel which comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on top for protection against scratches.

On the imaging front too, HTC seems to have not pulled any punches with the HTC U11. The smartphone comes with a 12MP camera at the back with dual-pixel auto-focus, 5-axis image stabilisation and an aperture of f/1.7. This is accompanied by a 16MP shooter at the front which comes with an aperture of f/2.0 and 150-degree wide-angle lens. The U11’s camera has received a score of 90 on DxO Mark, which is the highest ever recorded by a smartphone’s camera.

Compare these specs with the Galaxy S8 or the LG G6 and the HTC has nothing to be ashamed off. In fact, the U11 has a myriad of tricks up its sleeve that both of these smartphones lack. Sure the S8 might have an iris scanner and face recognition but the U11 comes with several audio focused features that the S8 lacks as well its own party trick in the form of Edge Sense.

Edge sense allows users to ‘squeeze’ the edges of the smartphone in order to initiate and perform different functions and tasks. The smartphone has pressure sensors on the side which are triggered whenever you ‘squeeze’ the phone. Edge Sense can be used to open the camera in an instant, invoke Google Assistant, turn on the flashlight or open any third-party application of your choosing.

There is also an advanced mode which increases the usability of Edge Sense. It allows you to set up two different actions – one triggered by a short squeeze and the second triggered whenever you squeeze and hold. While Edge Sense sounds like a gimmick at first, it actually is genuinely useful. During my brief hands-on time with the device, I found the motion required to trigger Edge Sense quite natural. I can imagine it becoming a part of my daily routine and becoming second nature quite easily.

The audio features are what, in my opinion, truly set the smartphone apart from the rest of the high-end flagships. HTC is one of the rare few manufacturers left that gives as much importance to audio as to imaging, display, design and so on.

The U11 comes with 4 microphones which help it capture 360 degree sound and record 24-but audio. Additionally the U11 also comes with a really unique and cool feature called Acoustic Focus where-in the smartphone records audio from only the mic closes to the subject with a boost in audio when you zoom in while recording video.
HTC has not only concentrated on audio recording but audio playback as well. HTC’s U Sonic audio technology is found inside the U11 which basically adapts the sound to your ear on the basis of your ear’s structure. The U11 is also the first smartphone in the world that comes with active noise cancelling earphones out of the box. Additionally, the U11 comes with HTC’s trademark Boom Sound speakers which the company claims are 100 percent louder and have a 150 percent improvement in dynamic range than before.

All that already sounds like an audio lovers delight. But the U11 has one more trick up its sleeve and this one is extremely interesting and quite canny. HTC has turned what could have been a major point of criticism for the U11 – the lack of a headphone jack – into a brilliant feature. The USC Type-C to 3.5mm adapter that comes in the U11’s box has a dedicated DAC (digital to analog converter) built-in which greatly amplifies and improves sound quality. This makes sure you get good quality sound even with regular earphones that use the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Another area where the U11 scores over the Samsung Galaxy S8 is voice assistants. While Samsung has tried to enforce Bixby onto S8 users in a very authoritarian manner by including a non-mappable dedicated button, HTC has been very democratic when it comes to voice assistants on the U11. The smartphones comes with three voice assistants on board – Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa And HTC’s own Sense Companion.

All in all, the U11 is undoubtedly HTC’s best smartphone in a long time. It has powerful hardware, impressive cameras, a great display and comes with unique features, a strong focus on audio quality and a design which is distinctive and just gorgeous. Samsung and LG better watch out, the HTC we all knew and loved is back and is seemingly ready for revenge. Whether the market responds or not, we will only know with time. What we do know is that HTC has done what it needed to – release a killer flagship smartphone.