(Pocket-lint) - HTC has announced the U Play, sitting in a new handset family with the U Ultra, positioned under flagship level. While the U Ultra offers close to flagship specs, the U Play is a lower-spec mid-range device, very different from the handset it launched alongside.

There was a wide range of speculation about HTC's 2017 plans, much of which was well wide of the mark, so here's a rundown of all the essential details you need to know about the HTC U Play, formerly codenamed HTC Alpine.

HTC U Play: Design

  • Liquid surface design in four colours
  • Glass and metal body
  • 145.99 x 72.9 x 7.99mm, 145g

The HTC U Play offers a similar body design to the HTC U Ultra, which is really what ties these devices together. HTC is calling this design "liquid surface", as it's designed to look like liquid has flowed over this phone, taking a natural enveloping path over its body, and moving in a direction that's markedly different to the angular and hard metal designs that HTC is known for.

That surface is very glossy, but has depth to it. There are four colours available - black, white, blue, pink - and these appear to shimmer and change as the light hits them. This has been achieved through layering minerals within the glass and it's quite accomplished as they look unique and very eye-catching.

There's a fingerprint sensor to the front flanked with capacitive navigation buttons and no headphone socket, with USB Type-C on the bottom in the metal core of this phone. The signature ridged power button and volume sit to the side, with a SIM and microSD card tray to the top.

HTC U Play: Hardware and display specs

  • MediaTek Helio P10, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage + microSD
  • 5.2-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 423ppi
  • 2500mAh battery

The hardware story sets out the U Play as a mid-range device, opting for a MediaTek Helio P10 chipset with 3GB RAM, rather than a more powerful Qualcomm chipset of the U Ultra. This is paired with 32GB of storage, but there's microSD card support too, which also offers Android's adoptable storage feature.

There's a 5.2-inch display on the front which is Super LCD, but with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, for 423ppi. 

We've mentioned the USB Type-C. That will not only have to handle the audio, but also charging the 2500mAh battery. This isn't a huge battery for a device of this size, but it will offer fast charging. 

HTC U Play: Cameras

  • 16-megapixel, PDAF, OIS, F/2.0 rear camera with flash
  • 16-megapixel, f/2.0 front camera with UltraPixel mode

The HTC U Play has a pair of 16-megapixel cameras. The rear offers optical image stabilisation and phase detection autofocus, with an f/2.0 aperture. It only offers 1080p video capture, however.

The front camera is also 16-megapixels, which sounds a little extreme, but it should give you plenty of detail in good light. In low light there's an UltraPixel mode, which combines four pixels into a cluster, aiming to give you lower resolution, but also lower noise phones in poor lighting.

HTC U Play: Software

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

The HTC U Play launches on Android Nougat with HTC Sense, very much as you'll find on other HTC handsets like the HTC 10. It will, however, be offering Google Assistant.

The big play of the new U phones is the way they are designed to get to know you using AI features, provided by the Companion app. This is designed to learn about how you use the phone and manage the device better for your needs, as well as handling things like notifications in a more sensible way and alerting you to things that matter.

For example, the U Play won't just tell you what the weather forecast is, it will alert you to the fact that the there's going to be a storm and suggest you take an umbrella, in a more active way.

HTC U Play: Release date

  • Launched 12 January
  • Available mid-February

The HTC U Play was announced at HTC's 12 January For U event and will be available in Europe in mid-February. Pricing and more detailed availability are still to be confirmed. 

Writing by Chris Hall.