(Pocket-lint) - HTC's big play with the HTC U11 is being able to squeeze the phone as a new method of interaction. It's a natural motion and works well for one-handed use is the argument, giving the company's new flagship something different.
Apple doesn't have squeeze. Samsung? No squeeze control to be found. But, here's the thing: it doesn't matter. HTC doesn't need squeeze, which it calls Edge Sense, because it's a gimmick.
Having lived with the HTC U11 for a couple of weeks, the squeeze isn't the please - it's the feature to try and hook you in. So while Edge Sense may have grabbed your attention, join us as we explain why it's everything else about the HTC U11 that's really good and, ultimately, the reason this phone is worthy of your attention.
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The HTC U11 brings with it some of the core components you want from a flagship: there's loads of power for a fast and fuss-free operation, a good display, great camera performance, and attention to detail in the audio offering which puts HTC above its flagship rivals.
All that comes wrapped in unique design, with the wonderful colours offered by those new glass backs. It's a design you really want to show off, because it draws plenty of admiration for good reason.
You'll notice we've not really mentioned HTC's unique addition, the ability to squeeze using Edge Sense. Sure, it's something that only HTC offers, but for us it doesn't add anything to the experience, and doesn't make this a better phone. Other down points
In summary, HTC really does very little wrong in the HTC U11. This is a 2017 flagship that's up there with the best, but we suspect that many will be distracted by Samsung's aggressive marketing and glamorous new looks over a "squeezable" phone. That's a real shame, because the HTC U11 would be a perfect phone for a great many people.
Alternatives to consider...
Samsung Galaxy S8+
The phone that everyone is talking about is the Samsung Galaxy S8. The S8+ is the more natural rival to the HTC U11 thanks to its size. Aside from great design, it's all about that new display with the 18.5:9 aspect and those curved edges. Power, performance and a great camera, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the slickest phones around, but also the most expensive. The fingerprint scanner and sound quality don't match the HTC U11 though.
Read the full review: Samsung S8+ review
First out of the gate with this new 18:9 aspect ratio display with HDR was the LG G6. It's compact, it's affordable and it has a great wide-angle camera on the rear, which are the real selling points for the LG G6. It's not as nice to use as the HTC U11, however, and it's not as powerful, using older hardware.
Read the full article: LG G6 review
Google Pixel XL
The Pixel XL is the mac-daddy of Android phones. It's pure, enhanced Android with all of Google's latest tricks packed in to a fast, powerful device with a brilliant camera. It's running older hardware now and it's still pretty pricey considering that older arrangement, but it's first in line for updates.
Read the full article: Google Pixel XL review
iPhone 7 Plus
If you want it all but without the Android part, the 7 Plus is your current best bet, offering a consistently good experience. It's excellently built, has a great camera system, lasts more than a day per charge and offers the best apps available anywhere. The design does look dated, though.
Read the full article: Apple iPhone 7 Plus review
- Unique colour designs that look eye-catching
- Lots of power for fluid operation
- Great sound quality
- Battery life could be longer
- Edge Sense "squeeze" feature is a gimmick
- Sense Companion feels unnecessary
HTC U11 review: Design
- 153.99 x 75.99 x 9.1mm; 168g
- Liquid surface glass finish in five colour options
HTC has undergone a major shift in smartphone design in 2017. Having owned the metal phone space with the unibody HTC One M7 in 2013, it's become a little passé. Everyone now offers metals phones, from the most expensive iPhone down to the budget offerings of the Moto G. At the top end it's expected, at the bottom it's aspirational as a badge of good value.
For HTC, 2016 saw the move to a chamfered body in the HTC 10. We loved the serious look of it, but in the dark gunmetal version there was nothing that really screamed out "look at me, look at me" which is what you need when you're competing with the likes of Samsung.
HTC's answer in the U11 is the liquid surface design which uses glass, but in a way that's unique on phones. It's the sort of finish you might find on a piece of art, with metal elements introduced to the glass in the manufacturing process to create hues that have a depth you don't get elsewhere. For HTC, flat colours are out, and a much more extrovert range of almost two-tone colours is in.
The result is on one hand beautiful, but on the other slightly hard work. With a super glossy finish, this is a phone that needs polishing to look its best. It will probably need a case to preserve its glory, too, so good job there's one of those in the box - but putting it on is a little like wrapping your car to protect the paintwork, while obscuring some of its natural glory.
From the front there's little to differentiate the U11 from the HTC 10. It's uniformly black, with only a few punctuations to the glass for the front fingerprint scanner and the ear speaker, but the new phone is now waterproofed (it has an IP67 rating). We've used it in the rain and got it soaked, and it's perfectly happy in those conditions.
The quality of the build also can't be faulted. This is a tightly designed phone with every curve and join accurately made and neatly finished. It might not have that new-age Samsung and LG tallness to its screen aspect ratio, but it's still a thin and light phone that we've found perfectly usable in one hand.