The new HTC U11 is here and HTC is hoping that squeezing your device will be the new gesture to reckon with. It’s an extended touch feature that allows you to quickly access applications and functions, almost like having a dedicated button. It’s also the first smartphone to feature multiple AI assistants that are always listening.
Packed with all the basic high-end specifications under the hood such as Qualcomm’s latest chipset, the snapdragon 835 and the option to choose a 4GB RAM + 64GB storage or a 6GB RAM + 128GB storage option. What HTC really wants to sell this time is the new squeeze feature called ‘edge sense’ and multiple AI assistants on one device – the first of its kind.
What is Edge Sense?
While the new HTC U11 features some of the design language used on the HTC U Ultra, it has something new added that could be a make or break for HTC. Using the lower third edge of the device, you can perform a short squeeze or a long squeeze to do things like fire up your camera application, take voice notes and you can even do it without having to unlock your device.
When in camera mode, you can use it as a shutter button, especially when taking selfies, it will no longer be awkward trying to find the volume keys, using countdown timers or even using an on-screen button. The really useful way of using this is when it’s cold and you have gloves on, think Skiing; you can just squeeze device to activate the camera app.
One use-case is also what I like about the Samsung Galaxy S8’s dedicated Bixby button; you can use the squeeze gesture to activate Google assistant or you can reassign it to other apps too, but for voice or AI assistant, you won’t have to do that awkward “Ok Google” in public before using it.
Edge sense will work when your device is asleep too, so you don’t have to wake the HTC U11 before using it. HTC said there will be an app to help configure it in the Google Play store via an update in July after launch and the app will help you configure what happens when you squeeze, for example, you could use it to launch your email app or select an area for zooming in and out of Google maps.
HTC U11 Design – What’s new?
Using what HTC calls ‘liquid design’, the HTC U11 looks and feels premium in hand. Although a little slippery, you still can’t help but tilt the device to reveal a different colour perspective. For example, the new Solar red version is designed to mimic the sun setting when you tilt it – it goes from a nice glossy red to a burnt orange colour. The same applies to the other four colour configurations and the Solar red option will be available during the second wave of release, with the new ‘amazing silver’ colourway available at launch.
On the back and front, the HTC U11 uses 3D glass with a modest 5.5 inch Quad HD display. As per the new wave of HTC devices, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, but HTC will include an adaptor in the box which also has a built-in amp that will enhance the audio experience. The adaptor can also be used with any other devices on the market with a USB-C port.
On durability front, it would definitely need a case and it’s IP67 water and dust resistant rated. Overall, the HTC U11 looks nice and no matter which colour you opt for, it’s definitely eye-catching and stands out from the crowd. If anything, it would have been nice to see something with less bezel like the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6.
Elsewhere under the hood, as mentioned there’s a Snapdragon 835 processor used and this time no matter where you buy from around the globe, you will have the same fast and reliable experience it offers. With the new processor chip also comes fast charging to get up to speed in minutes and super fast CAT16 LTE modem. HTC says you should also see a 45% increase in battery performance when browsing the web and 30% when listening to music.
HTC U11 will be the first smartphone to offer multiple AI assistants
As well as the squeeze feature, HTC also recognises smartphones and tech, in general, are heading towards a world of AI assistants such as the likes of Google, Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Cortana and even Bixby, and instead of sticking with stock Google Assistant or even HTC Sense companion alone, they have opted to use Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa at launch with one more to be announced.
The new voice interaction is built into the device chip itself and will be reliable by being able to pick up voice from up to 1.5meters away. Once struggle Apple’s Siri have is not being able to recognise or pick up voice all the time. Both assistants will always be listening so you can essentially split them into work and home assistants, with Google’s version looking after your work schedule and Alexa connected to your home devices to make your life easier.
HTC also suggested that they see a future where you will be able to unlock your device using voice without entering a pin code or even using fingerprint and that could be a game changer if implemented well. At launch, the HTC U11 new voice interaction will support UK, US and Germany and in Germany, it would actually be in the native language. Coming soon to HTC Sense will be smart alarms, phone usage and optimisation, restaurant recommendations, using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
HTC U11 to offer a better camera performance
The new HTC U11 features a 12 MP primary camera with flash with F/2.0 aperture, OIS, HDR boost for better colour and dynamic range. Its secondary camera or front facing camera is packed with a 16MP sensor with F/1.7 aperture and a 150 degrees wide angle capability for better selfies.
What’s new, though, is the new HTC ultra pixel 3 sensor that will allow faster auto-focus and it will also be focusing at all times so you won’t need to keep tapping on the screen to focus on your subjects. When zooming in and out while recording a video, you will also experience the new Acoustic Focus feature that uses four microphones to capture 3D sound and follow the zoom. The fast focus feature is same as that of Canon’s dual pixel tech.
HTC U11 Audio could be better than Boom Sound as we know it
The headset’s in the box uses sonar wave to help personalise the way you enjoy music or sound in general. It analyses your ear structure within a second to tune the audio just for you. What’s new, however, is that active noise cancellation is now included too and as mentioned you and an adaptor in the box with a built-in amp.
Now, what’s back is Boom sound but better. The new HiFi edition uses the whole front of the device to help amplify bass with front channelling tech. What this means is not only will you get sound firing at you, you will also feel the bass buzzing throughout the device in your hands and should, in turn, sound much better.
When can I get the HTC U11?
The HTC U11 is available in Amazing Silver, Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, and Ice White in the UK from June 2017 onwards, with Solar Red arriving at a later date for £649 from HTC.com/uk.