HTC has announced a new family of devices - U - with two new phones, the mid-range U Play and a more premium U Ultra.

Kicking off 2017 in some style, these two new handsets promise to be all about you, while also signalling quite a departure from HTC's previous designs. 

Prior to launch there was huge confusion about these phones - especially this model, the U Ultra, that was going under the name of Ocean Note. To clear things up, here's the full run-down of all the important details on about HTC U Ultra.

  • Liquid surface design, fuses metal and glass
  • Colour and depth from layered minerals
  • 162.41 x 79.79 x 7.99mm, 170g

The design, build and finish of the U Ultra and the U Play are closely matched, which is what really ties these devices together. Moving on from some of the harder metal designs that we've seen from HTC in the past - especially on a device at the level of U Ultra - this new approach is called liquid surface.

Imagine a thick liquid lusciously running over the phone - that's the sort of effect that HTC had in mind. There's a viscous reflectivity to the glass finish, with colours changing as they catch the light. These are glossy phones, but the finish is premium and very good. HTC U Ultra comes in four colours - black, white, blue and pink. Rather than hard angles, it's all about soft curves.

There's a fingerprint scanner to the front and USB Type-C on the bottom, sitting in the metal core of this phone, but there is no 3.5mm headphone socket. 

  • Super LCD 5, 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel, 515ppi display
  • Second 2.05-inch 160 x 1040 pixel display 
  • Option for Sapphire Glass limited edition model

The HTC U Ultra goes big as its name suggests, with a 5.7-inch display and a sharp Quad HD resolution, marking this out as a premium device. It's an LCD panel, unlike the AMOLED of some of the big devices from 2016 and it's topped with Gorilla Glass 5, though there is a limited edition version (with 128GB storage) that will be topped with Sapphire Glass for added protection.

There's a second display on the front, however, sitting above the main display. This is designed for shortcuts and notifications, very much like the LG V20. This can also be used to view details without turning on the main display.

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage + microSD
  • 3000mAh battery

The HTC U Ultra sets out its stall as a top-spec smartphone with one of the latest Qualcomm chips, the Snapdragon 821. This is the same chip as the OnePlus 3T and the Pixel XL, here backed by 4GB of RAM. There's 64GB of storage with microSD expansion offered. 

We mentioned the USB Type-C already, this will be used for charging the 3000mAh battery, as well as handling audio, and fast charging is supported.

There's also Hi-Res audio support and BoomSound Hi-Fi included, as well as 4 mics, enabling 3D sound capture and enhanced voice detection. HTC says these are the most advanced mics they've used on a phone.

  • 12-megapixel, 1.55µm pixels, F/1.8, OIS, PDAF and laser rear camera
  • 16-megapixel front camera with UltraPixel mode

The camera on the HTC U Ultra is the same sensor as the HTC 10, sticking to 12-megapixels. These are large 1.55µm pixels and there's also a large f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation to aid with lower light shooting. Boosting the focusing is phase detection autofocus, working in tandem with laser focusing.

The front camera takes a leap to 16-megapixels, with an UltraPixel mode designed to aid low light shooting. This mode combines 4 pixels together, lowering the resolution, but also aiming to lower low light noise. 

  • Android Nougat with HTC Sense
  • Google Assistant
  • HTC Sense Companion app

The HTC U Ultra launches on Android Nougat with HTC Sense, very much like the HTC 10. However you will also be getting Google Assistant, with HTC claiming that those enhanced mics will make this phone even easier to talk to.

A big part of HTC's "U" philosophy revolves around the HTC Sense Companion app though. This is designed to get to know you and how you use your device, and help with managing your phone to best effect. For example it will make timely suggestions about your battery usage, make recommendations about the weather, rather than just reporting the forecast.

The aim is to have an AI assistant that's more useful, building on the smart stuff that Google Assistant offers, to make sure that your device is doing exactly what you want it to be doing.   

  • Announced 12 January
  • Available mid-February
  • Price to be confirmed

The HTC U Ultra was announced on 12 January at HTC's "For U" event. The U Ultra will be available in mid-February, prices are still to be confirmed. There's no word on where the premium Sapphire Glass version will be made available.