HTC has a new top-of-the-line phone to compete with Samsung and Apple. And you don't just tap it — you squeeze it.
The world's first smartphone with "revolutionary squeeze interaction", the U11 sports something called Edge Sense — it's essentially a pressure-sensitive panel on the side of the phone which can be customised to launch different features — load any app, launch the camera or jump into voice-to-text for handsfree messaging. It's a competitor to Samsung's customisable Bixby button, except... without the button. To HTC's credit, it can be customised with short and long squeezes for two separate apps.
The HTC U11 is apparently the best performing phone camera yet, at least according to DxOMark — which has worked with manufacturers on previous phone releases when they've conveniently been the best ever as well. It's built around an impressively specced rear 12-megpixel camera, with a 1/2.55in sensor and a f/1.75 fixed-aperture lens, with what DxO says is fast autofocus and very low noise. The front camera is a 16-megapixel one, too, and the same auto HDR image-blending tech that the rear snapper uses.
Like the other U-Series phones, the U11 has a polished glass back cover that is highly reflective and pearlescent, while the front 5.5-inch LCD has '3D' glass that's curved at the edges. Water resistance is a new addition to the top-end HTC family, with an IP67 rating that means half an hour in a metre of fresh water won't kill it. It's also the first phone sold around the world to only use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor — the Samsung Galaxy S8 beat it to the punch with the 835, but in Australia it's sold with a Samsung-built Exynos chip.
The HTC U11 has two speakers, too — it's not exactly the BoomSound stereo we loved on the older HTC M8, but it's got a tweeter up the top of the phone in the earpiece and a lower-frequency driver down the bottom. The company says it's louder and clearer and with more bass HTC's USonic USB-C earphones, bundled with the U11, are now active noise cancelling to block out the outside world. Sound has always been one of HTC's stronger points, so it's good to see that continued on its latest top-of-the-line handset.
All in all, the U11 looks similar to the previous U Ultra and U Play, but with the processing power and camera you'd expect from an actual flagship smartphone. By the way — get a load of HTC's very... evocative... marketing for the U11's squeeze feature:
You affectionately squeeze the hand of the one you love. A baby intuitively squeezes her mother’s finger. A child squeezes his teddy bear to feel safe at night. Nothing feels as close, connected and personal as the sensation of touch or the warmth of an embrace. And no device is as personal in our lives as our smartphone.