HTC U11 was introduced back in May and I had the privilege to see the launch event in person. Being able to see the HTC U11 in production and how the phone was developed, gave me a good perspective on the company. Read in more detail about that experience HERE.
Luckily, I was given an international version of the HTC U11 to bring back to the US. Since I have had the device I have been for the most part impressed and definitely like HTC U11 over the M10, M9, and so on. Not saying the M Series was bad, but they were not for me. HTC completely started from scratch this time giving us a beautiful design, great camera, and top performer. They added in a few extras like the squeeze feature and assistant. Along with the revisions, HTC pretty much checks off all or most boxes to make this a top competitor. It’s not perfect, but it has my attention.
HTC U 11 Review
Design – The HTC U11 is a new series. We were used to seeing the M Series and seems like those days are gone. We saw a preview of what the U Series is like with the HTC U Ultra, which in my opinion was a solid device. They even carried over the Sapphire Blue. The color and glass are where HTC designers spent a lot of thought. They didn’t want to just give a flat color, but to give an experience when looking at the back glass.
The U11 comes in Amazing Silver, Brilliant Black, Sapphire Blue, Ice White, and Solar Red. In person, the most impressive color is the Solar Red, even though it’s not the one I would pick to purchase. The Solar Red shines like the sun with red, orange, and gold tones. One angle looks red and the other glimmers like a shiny gold bar. It’s pretty cool how they designed this. The other colors have unique features as well. The Ice White looks like a pearl, Brilliant Black has a green hue, and Amazing Silver isn’t a typical silver at all.
Now while the glass looks awesome, it’s one of the best-looking glass backs available, it is a HUGE fingerprint farm. So far I have not encountered any scratches, mostly due to having a Slickwraps skin installed, but while not having the skin installed, no issues with markings.
Mini-rant – While glass backs look really nice, when clean, I don’t want to see any more glass back designs. You can’t enjoy the phone because of worrying if it’s going to get dirty, scratched, or have to have a skin or case on. Not to mention more likely to break if dropped compared to other finishes like metal. /rant
The HTC U11 does not have wireless charging even though having a glass back. Wireless charging is not a deal breaker for me, but might be for others. Even though I don’t use wireless charging much at all, it would have been nice to have it.
The home button and fingerprint sensor are on the front of the device. I tend to like this placement because of working at a desk at work and home. The phone can be left on the desk and still interact with the device. It’s not a dealbreaker, but a preferred placement for the button. However, after using the S8 for a while, the minimal bezel design is amazing and is a reason Samsung chose to place the sensor on the back. Mind, the S8 sensor is in a HORRIBLE spot on the back. Therefore, the HTC button has performed a lot better compared to the S8’s button.
A smartphone’s camera is one of the most important features of a device to me and I know I am not alone. Why do you think companies spend so much effort mastering their cameras. HTC kinda has been a rollercoaster in the camera department. Some years they are spot on and others they miss the mark. This time around, HTC has done a great job. As a matter of fact, the U11 has the best-rated camera to date. That’s matching up against the iPhone 7+, Galaxy S8, and Pixel. That’s nice company and not to mention being the best. It’s really no surprise since HTC basically made the Pixel.
Apart from the quality of the camera, the camera app is just as important to me. It’s got to be feature heavy. I can’t stand having to install separate apps to be able to perform a function. The U11 has everything you need built right into the app.
One of my favorite improvements coming with the HTC U11 and the only phone that has is the combination of Electronic Image Stabilization and Optical Image Stabilization. EIS and OIS together gives a great stable shot for photos and videos. Unfortunately, there’s no stabilization on the front camera. If the front had at least OIS, it would make a great vlogging camera.
Is The Squeeze Feature Useful?
Never would I have thought that we would get a phone that you could squeeze to activate features. Many might call it a gimmick and I can see where they are coming from, but it’s actually got some usefulness to it. I don’t think it would be something I would miss though. The best thing about the squeeze is the ability to program it to open any app and other shortcuts, unlike the Bixby button on the Galaxy S8.
As a matter of fact, the Bixby button down right gets on my nerves at times because of so many accidental presses. There are times that I accidentally squeeze the phone too much on the HTC U11, but not nearly as much compared to the annoying Bixby button. ALSO, the squeeze is fully functional at launch.
I’ve programmed the squeeze to launch the camera app with a short squeeze and with a long squeeze to take a screenshot. What would you like to use the squeeze feature?
HTC has owned the best audio in a smartphone for years now and this year is no exception. What’s impressive is added water resistance and still provide a loud listening experience. It’s not like it was with the front facing speakers, but it is one of the best speakers you’ll hear from a smartphone with water resistance.
BoomSound, it’s not just loud, but it’s clear and balanced. It makes listening to music and videos so much better! Most of the time I catch up on watching YouTube video by watching on my phone and having great sound is nice to have. Something to where I don’t have to cup my hand the right way to hear everything well.
USonic compliments BoomSound nicely. I actually like USonic more than BoomSound because the in-ear listening experience is top notch! The HTC U11 has USB C input for USonic to work the best. By using the USB C connection to allow for not only great sound but for noise cancellation. The U11 has the ability to adapt to the environment around you.
HTC just wins in the sound department. There’s really not another phone out there that competes in this category. If you like great sound quality from a device, this is a phone to consider.
The HTC U11 has been a solid performer. It flies through tasks and has not given any lag. If there is a lag to any degree, it’s the app’s fault. Apps like Facebook can be a bit sluggish on just about any device used, including a computer. The phone is snappy, opens apps swiftly, and runs without overheating.
HTC has toned down their Sense OS skin, which is nice but still needs an app icon design refresh. Some of the icons still look like something from the HTC Droid Incredible. However, because HTC has decided to use Google apps for some of the basics of a gallery app, they use Google Photos. There are no double apps to found that perform the same function. For example, Samsung still has their own browser and gallery apps. That’s a waste of space. HTC has a close to stock Android that you can find on most phones.
With all that said, the closer to stock Android, usually the performance is better compared to phones with heavy skins. Performance plays into how snappy the phone is and how long the battery life lasts. As far as battery life goes, it gets me through the entire day and that’s how I judge battery life on a phone. If I have to plug in midday, it puts a bad taste in my mouth.
Water resistance – It’s almost a must-have feature for a phone to be water resistant. It’s the same protection as we see with the iPhone 7, but not ranked as high as the Galaxy S8. You’re not going to have to worry about the phone being damaged from rain, drops in water, or sweat, etc. It also lets you capture moments like this…
— Josh Bane (@BaneTech) June 17, 2017
SD Card Support – I am so thankful for companies including SD card support. It’s a scam to just have internal storage and jack the price up for higher GB models. It’s great to be able to have 64GBs of internal storage and add my 256GB card.
Carrier Unlocked – The unlocked version supports Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Don’t have to buy through a carrier and can change carriers without worry if it will work on GSM or CDMA.
So Is It Worth Buying? Who’s It For?
With all the competition out there such as the Galaxy S8, LG G6, and OnePlus 5, what does the HTC U11 have to offer over them? Who does the HTC U11 match up with? This is who the HTC U11 is made for…
- Audio heads – It’s got the best sound quality from any 2017 smartphone.
- Minimal bloat – HTC does not add a bunch of extra software.
- People that don’t care about a missing headphone jack.
- People that don’t care about wireless charging.
- Ability to have an unlocked edition that works on AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon.
- Bypassing a carrier to purchase a phone.
- Great audio & video recording.
- Great photos.
There’s not too much of a reason not to get the HTC U11. If you are in the market for a new phone, I’d recommend giving the HTC U11 a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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