HTC U11 review: A fragile, squeezable flagship

 

HTC introduced the “U” smartphone line back in January with the U Ultra and U Play handsets, and those were just a taste of what the company had coming. The U11 is HTC’s newest flagship and follow-up to last year’s HTC 10, and it looks significantly different from last year’s device. With an all-glass back and no headphone jack, the U11 chooses which of the typical flagship design choices it wanted to keep and forgoes others. It supports Google Assistant as well as HTC’s own Sense Companion AI, with Amazon Alexa support coming soon after it ships in the US on June 9. The HTC 10 was one of our favorite flagship smartphones last year, and the U11 is a thoughtful upgrade from that, even if its design is polarizing.

Design

The U11 smartphone looks and feels flashier than the HTC 10, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. Ars’ Ron Amadeo appreciated the simple yet solid metal design of HTC’s 2016 flagship, but the company certainly deviated from that blueprint with this device. The U11 has an all-glass back that makes it strikingly shiny but also a wild collector of fingerprints. That shine complements the bold colors it comes in (red, sapphire, silver, and black), but every time it catches your eye, you’ll be compelled to wipe down the phone.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: HTC U11
SCREEN 5.5″ 2560×1440 LCD
OS Android 7.1.1 with HTC Sense
CPU Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, up to 2.45GHz
RAM 4GB
GPU Adreno 540
STORAGE 64GB (expandable up to 2TB with microSD card)
NETWORKING 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, GLONASS, NFC
BANDS GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CDMA2000: 800/1900
3G UMTS: 850/AWS/900/1900/2100 MHz
LTE (FDD): 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/66
PORTS 1 USB 3.1 Type-C
CAMERA Rear: 12MP HTC UltraPixel 3, UltraSpeed AF, OIS, f/1.7, 4K video recording
Front: 16MP front camera
SIZE 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm (6.05 x 2.98 x .31 inches)
WEIGHT 169 g (5.96 ounces)
BATTERY 3000 mAh, Quick Charge 3.0
STARTING PRICE $650
OTHER PERKS Edge Sensor, fingerprint sensor, ambient light sensor, G-sensor, gyro-sensor, voice commands with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, Motion Launch

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 has an all-glass design, and while glass is pretty, it’s not as durable as metal, especially for devices that you use and abuse every day. The U11’s back is the main glass part of the handset, and technically the device still has a unibody design—you just can’t tell by the placement of the glass as it sits atop the aluminum underneath. The bold back colors aren’t built into the glass, but rather they slide underneath the glass, so they won’t fade as some metal finishes can with time and use. They can’t be scratched off either.

The handset’s aluminum body peeks through on its sides where the few buttons and connectivity options live: on the right are the power button and volume rocker, on the top lies the SIM/microSD card slot, and on the bottom is the single USB Type-C port. You can’t see them, but eight tiny pressure sensors are hidden in the device’s lower sides—those are the sensors you “squeeze” to activate Edge Sense features and apps, which we’ll discuss more in a later section. The handset is IP67 water-resistant, and Edge Sense can even be used when the device is wet.Image result for HTC U11 review: A fragile, squeezable flagship

The screen and front panel are where the U11 looks a bit dated. Hugging the 5.5-inch, 2560×1440 display are chunky top and bottom bezels and a set of hardware navigation buttons. This is a stark contrast from recent flagship designs that favor paper-thin bezels to allow maximum screen space. The typical Android back and app-drawer capacitive buttons are on either side of the physical home button/fingerprint sensor. This is another contrast, as both new Android smartphones and iPhones have started to move away from physical home buttons.

One similarity the U11 has with the iPhone 7 is the lack of headphone jack. Included in the box is a USB Type-C-to-3.5mm audio jack, so you can connect your wired headphones to the device with the adaptor. HTC also includes its own headphones in the box that have active noise cancelling; thanks to power over USB Type-C, the headphones don’t need their own battery to provide active noise cancelling.

Edge Sense

The U11’s most interesting feature is Edge Sense, or the squeezable nature of the handset. When holding the device naturally with one hand, you can squeeze both sides to initiate an action. Edge Sense has two customizable pressure points—a short squeeze or a long squeeze. Upon setting up the feature, you’re asked to adjust the pressure level for your own hand. For example, the natural amount of pressure I put on the device’s edges is different from what my boyfriend would, so you can set up Edge Sense to recognize a base level of pressure that feels natural for you. After setting it up on my review unit, Edge Sense worked well in that my squeezes were always recognized and software never mistook grabbing and handling of the smartphone for a squeeze.

At any time, you can use the Edge Sense settings to customize short- and long-squeeze actions. These are your current options: bring up the camera app, take a screenshot (my personal favorite), launch HTC Sense Companion, launch an app of your choosing, start an instant voice recording, turn on your Wi-Fi hotspot, or turn on the flashlight. Those are all practical uses for Edge Sense, and the ability to set it to bring up any app you want is convenient.

HTC told Ars that convenience is the main idea behind Edge Sense. The company wanted to address the ergonomic issues plaguing large smartphones (not being able to reach all your apps with one hand, etc.) without compromising the seamlessness of the device. HTC didn’t want to add another button to the edge of the U11, like Samsung did on the Galaxy S8 with its dedicated Bixby button. So the company found a different solution that would allow more functionality without cluttering the device’s sides.

As mentioned above, Edge Sense works even when the U11 is wet, since it’s all based on the pressure of your hand. Since it doesn’t recognize the presence of skin either, Edge Sense will also work when you’re wearing gloves. Even if you put a case over the U11, you can go back into the Edge Sense settings and adjust the pressure sensitivity so the feature works even while the case is on.

Overall, I enjoyed using Edge Sense more than I thought I would. I appreciate this design choice over adding another button or two to the sides of the U11, and I appreciate even more that it’s fully customizable. Unlike Samsung’s Bixby button that really only has one use, HTC’s Edge Sense can be what you want it to be. If you’re not a huge fan of Edge Sense, you can turn it off as well—and since there are no extra physical buttons, you won’t even know Edge Sense exists if you disable it entirely.

Cameras

The solid 12MP rear camera and 16MP front-facing camera from the HTC 10 have carried over to the U11. Most of the pictures I took outside in natural light are bright and full of color. With photos taken in sunlight on the HTC 10, colors sometimes appeared gray and washed-out, but that didn’t happen as much on the U11. There were a few times when the camera brightened the sunlight a bit too much, producing colors that weren’t as rich as those produced by the Galaxy S7 Edge—but instances of that issue were few and far between. Low-light photos continue to be noticeably brighter than those taken with the S7 Edge.

Software

The app drawer is pretty cluttered when you boot up the U11 for the first time. Many of the pre-installed apps are Google products, but a number of HTC apps are squeezed in as well: Boost+ for optimizing power and managing apps, HTC Help for troubleshooting, Themes for decorating your phone’s UI, and the like. Having so many apps already installed on the device before you even get to customize it is annoying, but the good news is that most of them can be uninstalled easily.

The biggest piece of HTC software on the U11 is the Sense Companion AI, which learns about you, your interests, and your phone habits to provide all kinds of suggestions, like where to go to dinner, with whom to share a photo, and which apps to delete.

As you use the U11, the AI learns how you use your phone, and a small blue orb will float into the display when it has a suggestion for you. You can also go into the HTC Sense Companion app to see a full list of the most recent suggestions if you tend to ignore the orb. Those tips are presented much like Google Now info cards are, with little doodles and text with information like traffic updates, weather changes, and more.

Where HTC’s AI comes in handy is for device optimization: HTC told Ars that Sense Companion may tell you that you have 20 apps on your U11 that you haven’t used in a month and suggest deleting them so you have more space. Over time, Sense Companion will also be smart enough to remind you to charge your smartphone during free times of the day when you have a busy schedule. Allowing Sense Companion access to your calendar will help it understand your schedule and suggest times to charge up on days when you have back-to-back meetings.

A note about Amazon’s Alexa: our review unit didn’t have Alexa yet. According to HTC, U11 devices will receive Alexa through an update to the Alexa Android app. Unlike Huawei’s integration with Alexa, you won’t need to open an app to access Amazon’s virtual assistant—the wake word “Alexa” will be enough to trigger a response. But the Alexa app will be necessary to configure and personalize the virtual assistant. Our review unit had Google Assistant only, which you can access by saying “OK Google” or long-pressing the home button.

A great feature that HTC brought over from the HTC 10 is adoptable storage. Introduced in Android 6.0, this feature lets the device “merge” internal and microSD card storage. The U11 comes with 64GB of onboard storage, but with the help of a microSD card, it could mimic a handset with up to 2TB of internal storage. After inserting a microSD card, you just have to go into the device settings and format the card’s storage as internal. Then the system will move apps and programs around as needed automatically, rather than making you manually choose where everything needs to be.

Software and security updates

The U11 has the April 1, 2017 security patch and will receive Android O, but HTC didn’t say when. The company also told Ars that smaller updates will depend on “carrier lab approval, scale, and urgency of the update.” Our review unit is a U11 on Sprint, and HTC says that model will get its first update at the end of this month or early July.

The U11 ships with the latest version of Android, which is great, especially since Samsung’s and LG’s flagships don’t (the S8 and the G6 ship with Android 7.0). But in the past, HTC’s major Android updates have been quite carrier-dependent. The unlocked HTC 10 received Nougat three months after the software’s initial launch, while the T-Mobile model waited five months for it. Updates only got worse from there, with the Sprint model waiting six months and the Verizon model waiting seven months for Nougat.

If you want the fastest update to Android O in the future, you should probably go with the unlocked version of the U11. Otherwise, it’s hard to say when your model will get the latest version of Android.

Even worse for HTC is the uncertainty of its security updates. There’s no guarantee that all U11 models will receive every security update in a timely fashion. Not only is that terrible in comparison to Samsung, LG, and Google, which all provide monthly security updates to their flagships, but HTC has also had legal troubles in the past surrounding this issue. In 2013, the FTC reached a settlement with HTC that required the company to patch notable security holes in millions of its Android smartphones and tablets. HTC is subject to a security review for 20 years after that settlement as well.

Listing image by Valentina Palladino

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review: A Tough Flagship Choice For Rs 59,990

Sony has entered the flagship smartphone race with a bang with its Xperia XZ Premium. The latest flagship Sony smartphone comes loaded with Sony’s in-house technology and is a step-up effort by the company to challenge the current market-ruling flagships by other companies, be it the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Apple iPhone 7Plus.

Now it is not easy to stand-up to the market champions and call them out for a duel. So naturally, Sony could not leave anything to chance. The technology features that come with the smartphone are not to be taken lightly but how well do they contribute to an overall flagship smartphone experience? Let’s find out in this review.

What’s Cool?

Sony has focussed on three core segments to make the Xperia XZ Premium stand out from the competitors – its display, camera and processor.

To begin with, the Xperia XZ Premium comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. This is the first smartphone in India to offer the latest Qualcomm flagship processor, beating others (the OnePlus 5 that made claims to take this spot). Now as soon as this processor’s name pops up, you can be assured that the smartphone will not be under-par in performance.

Coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage and a support for Android 7.0 Nougat, the phone is extremely smooth to operate and till date, we have not found it lagging in any task. The storage is optimum to store as much data as you want and if you find it not up to your liking, there is always an option to expand it to 256GB using external micro SD card.

With the processor power and the sharp display, the Xperia XZ Premium is a treat to watch videos and play games on. Speaking of the display, Sony has introduced its 4K HDR proprietary technology in the 5.5-inch display of the XZ Premium, which it claims to have brought down from its Bravia range of televisions. The display is sharp, crisp and at a pixel density of 807 PPI, delivers a great experience.

The smartphone is IP 65/68 certified dust and water resistance and we put it to test by taking the phone on a river rafting spree. Make no mistake, the Xperia XZ Premium will surprise you by its ability to work in water. There is also a ‘Glove mode’ on the phone that allows you to have a better touch-screen experience while wearing gloves.

A commendable feature is the placement of the fingerprint sensor of the Xperia XZ Premium on its power button. This comes as a refreshing change from the standard home button integrated fingerprint sensor and is not at all as irritating as the ones placed at the back, like the one on the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Snapdragon 835 Processor, Xperia XZ Premium, Sony Flagship Smartphone, Android Smartphone, Smartphone ReviewSony Xperia XZ Premium – Fingerprint Scanner. (Photo: Siddhartha Safaya/ News18.com)

The Xperia XZ Premium is powered by a 3,230 mAh battery. Now, this is nothing that a smartphone can boast about but it easily gets you through a day of heavy usage and so we would rate it on the good side. Plus point, the battery performance is enhanced by Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 and Sony’s own Qnovo Adaptive Charging, both of which aid in quick charging of the smartphone’s battery. The Xperia XZ Premium supports USB Type-C connectivity.

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S8: Top 10 Features You Will Absolutely Love

Sony has repeatedly mentioned the camera capabilities of the smartphone, which, are not something to be missed. Though we would only comment upon limited features of the Xperia XZ Premium camera in this section, these features will certainly up your photography game. Sony has included its Exmor RS Sensor in its 19-megapixel primary and 13-megapixel front cameras. The interesting features that these cameras carry are Super-Slow Motion recording at 960 fps, Predictive Capture and Augmented Reality capabilities. There is also a dedicated camera key at the bottom-right of the phone for easier photo-capturing.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Snapdragon 835 Processor, Xperia XZ Premium, Sony Flagship Smartphone, Android Smartphone, Smartphone ReviewSony Xperia XZ Premium – Primary Camera. (Photo: Siddhartha Safaya/ News18.com)

You can have a gist of what Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s Super-Slow Motion recording can do by having a look at the Video review of the phone. It is one thing to look at an edited Slow-motion and another to shoot it yourself. The Super-Slow Motion recording will certainly expand the ‘what to shoot’ options for anyone and comes as something that you’d really look forward to in this smartphone.

Predictive Capturing, on the other hand, takes multiple shots of the image that you just clicked. This happens seconds before and seconds after you capture the image. It works just like Apple’s ‘Live Images’ and lets you select the best image for your click.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Snapdragon 835 Processor, Xperia XZ Premium, Sony Flagship Smartphone, Android Smartphone, Smartphone ReviewSony Xperia XZ Premium – Camera Key. (Photo: Siddhartha Safaya/ News18.com)

Also read: HTC U11 Review: It Squeezes Into the iPhone 7 & Samsung Galaxy S8 Territory

What’s not so Cool?

One thing that nobody would like about the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is that the phone is practically a fingerprint magnet. Touch it once and your fingerprint is visible enough for it to hold its credibility in a court case.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Snapdragon 835 Processor, Xperia XZ Premium, Sony Flagship Smartphone, Android Smartphone, Smartphone ReviewSony Xperia XZ Premium – Fingerprints. (Photo: Siddhartha Safaya/ News18.com)

Also, Sony has used its standard design mantra for this flagship phone. The ‘loop surface’ are not something unique and apart from the extremely glossy and reflective finish, the design will only excite a long-time Sony aficionado. A good and easy way for Sony to go off the signature design would have been to reduce the bezel size on the Xperia XZ Premium.

Now coming back to the camera of the Xperia XZ Premium, well, a subtle way of mentioning its performance is that the camera is not as good as Sony claims it to be. Apart from the features mentioned in the above section, the Xperia XZ Premium does not score very well on the camera front. Simply put, at the price at which the smartphone is available, you would expect a lot more than what you get. One mentionable downside for professional photographers, the camera’s shutter speed cannot be increased to more than 1 on Manual mode.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Snapdragon 835 Processor, Xperia XZ Premium, Sony Flagship Smartphone, Android Smartphone, Smartphone ReviewSony Xperia XZ Premium – Selfie Camera. (Photo: Siddhartha Safaya/ News18.com)

Verdict

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is undoubtedly a very good smartphone to have, especially if you are done with the regular Samsung and Apple flagship offerings. It is a loaded device, looks elegant and overall promises a good smartphone experience.

Yet the price tag on the Sony flagship is a bit too top-notch. There are some major chunks of refinement missing from the smartphone for it to have touched the Rs 59,990 price list. Considering the competitors are Samsung’s revolutionary flagship with the Bezel-less design and Apple’s trustworthy flagship offering, the USP of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium can only be its inbuilt Technology features.

HTC U11 review: A flagship device that’s well worth the money

Rating: *****

Price: Rs 51, 990

Specifications: 5.5-inch IPS LCD (2560 x 1440 pixels), Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage (expandable), hybrid dual SIM, 12MP primary camera with OIS, 16MP front camera, 4G with VoLTE, dual band WiFi ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, fingerprint scanner, dual speakers, IP67 certified, USB Type-C, Android 7.0, 3,000mAh battery, 169 grams.
HTC’s U series of smartphones (U Ultra and U Play), did not receive a favourable response, which we think was due to the steep pricing. Now it seems that someone at HTC has had a change of heart. This is probably why the recently launched HTC U11 — their latest flagship smartphone — is priced at an aggressive Rs 51,990.

With the U11, HTC continues with the ‘liquid glass’ surface design that we saw on the earlier U series devices. It has a mirror-like surface which gives the phone different hues depending on the ambient light. Obviously, this also makes it prone to fingerprints and smudges. You will need to use it with a case and helpfully, HTC provides a transparent soft case in the box. The rear has a slight curve which makes it comfortable to hold and at 169 grams, the U11 feels well balanced. The 3.5mm jack is gone (much to our chagrin) but HTC does provide a USB type C to 3.5mm adapter in the box.

One of the headlining features on this HTC flagship is ‘Edge Sense’. The phone has a pressure sensitive frame (the bottom half on both sides) that can be setup to perform a function when you ‘squeeze’ the phone. This works even if the phone is locked. You can change how hard you need to squeeze it for the action. Set it too light and it might trigger when you normally hold the phone. Too hard and you’ll need your full grip strength. Using this squeeze function, you can choose to launch the camera, take a screenshot, turn on the flashlight and so on. In advanced mode, you can set one function for a short squeeze and another for squeeze and hold. It sounds like a gimmick but it works really well once you identify the squeeze force level comfortable for you. Kudos to HTC for this perfect implementation of a new method of interaction with a smartphone.

Up front is a 5.5-inch 2k display (super LCD 5) with slim bezels, excellent brightness and vivid colours. As is usual with HTC devices, the screen is great for watching videos, browsing the web, reading text as well as playing games. Even though this is protected by Gorilla Glass 5, we recommend you get a screen protector from the start. Under the screen is the physical home button with integrated fingerprint scanner, flanked by the recent/back buttons. The fingerprint scanner is one of the best we have used — works from any angle and unlocked the phone 10 out of 10 times in our usage.

HTC U11 review: A flagship device that's well worth the money

The U11 is a powerhouse in specifications – you get the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage. It runs HTC’s Sense UI based on the latest Android 7.1. As for benchmarks, it performs at par with the OnePlus 5’s 8GB variant — this is one of the fastest Android phones around. Needless to say, it will deliver seamless performance with real world usage. We faced no issues in playing any game, 4k video, running multiple apps (over 30 apps simultaneously) and switching between them. The battery back up from 3,000mAh battery was as expected too — a full day with normal use. With heavy usage, you might have to charge the phone by the evening. Thankfully it supports QuickCharge 3.0 and HTC bundled a QC 3.0 adapter in the box. With the supplied cable and charger, it goes from 10% to 75% in an hour.

Camera test specialists DxOMark have given the HTC U11’s camera a score of 90 — the highest awarded to any smartphone till date. The U11 has a 12MP rear camera with OIS, f1.7, phase and laser autofocus — all of these combined deliver stellar results. Daylight, indoors or lowlight: it does not matter with the U11. It consistently delivers crisp photos with good details and rich colour. On the software front, there is a pro mode (with RAW format support), panorama mode and auto mode for photos while for videos you get normal, hyperlapse and slow motion.

Video recording quality is also best in class along with 3D audio recording, courtesy the 4 microphones. With the ‘acoustic focus’ audio feature, you can zoom in on a particular audio source while recording video (to record audio from only that source instead of 360-degree sound). In our opinion, the HTC U11’s camera stands neck and neck with our current favorites: SamsungS8/S8+, iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel. The front wide angle 16MP camera is no slouch either — the image quality is fantastic with minimal noise.

There are several other features on the HTC U11 that deserve mention. The loud dual loudspeaker output, IP67 certification for water and dust resistance, support for Google Assistant, HTC Sense Companion, bundled USonic headphones with active noise cancellation and up to 2TB storage expansion support. These features make the U11 stand out from the current crop. It doesn’t have an IR emitter though — would have been a welcome addition.

The aggressive pricing is a sensible move from HTC. At Rs 51,990, this is a flagship well worth the money. Yes, the OnePlus 5 does offer better specifications (you can get 8GB RAM for `37,999), but the HTC U11 has a number of advantages. With the Samsung Galaxy S8 still priced at Rs 57,900 (4GB RAM, 64GB storage), the HTC U11 has no other competition. We highly recommend it to anyone looking for a flagship device.

Nokia has an Android flagship in the works to challenge the Galaxy S8

 

HMD, the Chinese firm that paid big bucks to slap the Nokia brand onto Android phones, has big plans. It unveiled a new Nokia 3310 to rapturous applause at MWC, as well as a line of mid-level Android devices.

According to a new report out of China, that’s not all. HMD is said to be working on two flagship phones that will pack Qualcomm’s cutting-edge Snapdragon 835, the same chip that (probably) powers the upcoming Galaxy S8.Nokia phones 2017

The report, from Chinese site MyDrivers, says that Nokia will be unveiling an all-metal flagship phone with dual cameras, a big screen, and a Snapdragon 835 under the hood. Those are eerily similar specs to what the Galaxy S8 is set to launch with, and close to basically every other Android flagship that launches this year.

Differentiation is going to be particularly hard because HMD can’t use the Nokia PureView camera tech that the company used to be famous for. One of the only reasons for buying one of Nokia’s Lumia Android phones was the camera, but that brand and expertise were bought up by Microsoft. It’s unclear who is going to be making the lenses and sensors for Nokia’s new phones, but it’s unlikely to be anyone you’ve heard of.

That’s not all, as Nokia is rumored to also be working on a second “flagship” device with a smaller screen but more or less the same specs. It’s set to get the same Snapdragon processor, up to 6GB of RAM (!!!!) and a good camera setup. If that comes to fruition, it could be a good option, since one trend the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8 are likely to follow is increased screen size.

 

Next Flagship Smartphone: The 11 Won’t Quite Take HTC To Heaven

At first there was supposed to be a high-end smartphone called the HTC 11. Then rumors piled up saying the 11, an obvious successor to the HTC 10 of 2016, wasn’t happening. Now we’re getting reports that the sagging Taiwanese brand will release its 11 as early as today. HTC declined comment last week on what a publicist calls its “roadmap,” but the company normally rolls out its landmark phones in the first half of each year. Taiwan’s Liberty Times online says HTC has announced to its fan club a “surprise” that’s due today.

The question consumers will ask is why care. Android phones all look and perform about the same and HTC is a fading brand.

A HTC logo hangs from a beam during the Mobile World Congress on the third day of the MWC in Barcelona, on March 1, 2017. (JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

The 11 or the same idea under a another name would probably expand on the 10, which has a camera made for selfies and a battery designed to last two days.

Reviews of the HTC 10 were passable. But the smartphone developer that has fallen from a 2011 world market share peak of 10.7% to around 1% now got tougher reviews earlier this year for its high-end HTC U Ultra. The device also known as Ocean Note began selling in January but was described as too similar to Android peers to help HTC make a market share comeback. It looks like phones by the big Korean brands and uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor that much of the market will soon replace with something faster, per this Forbes reviewer. Some commentators also found the battery too small for the amount of power required.

The HTC 11, or whatever they call the next model, could easily face the same rack of competitive setbacks. The Android smartphone market is saturated with little game-changing technology no matter who you are, market analysts warn. HTC will compete not only with Samsung but also Chinese developers such as Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi. “We expect to see another rectangle with Android and various minor software upgrades, whether HTC calls it the 11 model or something different,” says Neil Mawston, global wireless practice executive director with Strategy Analytics in the United Kingdom.

Specifically, the 5.5-inch HTC 11 would use a Snapdragon 835 processor, run on Android 7.1 and come with two cameras: 8 megapixels on the front and 12 in the back, says Aaron Lin, analyst with the Taipei market research firm Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute.

But against the cynicism of consumers and reviewers, HTC could turn around and surprise us with something else altogether. “To me, the bigger question is whether there is a new flagship coming from HTC this year, especially given how the U Ultra took a bit of a beating by reviewers for its price, battery life, and design,” says Bryan Ma, devices research vice president tech market research firm IDC in Singapore. “In that sense, HTC needs a strong trophy product to help cement a perception that it can still play on the leading edge of the industry.”

 

HTC’s next flagship revealed in biggest leak yet

 

HTC released its U Ultra and U Play earlier this year, but we’ve known for some time the company still had something big in the works.

And while there’s been quite a few leaks and rumours about the upcoming flagship phone, known under the name ‘HTC U Ocean’ or HTC 11, we’re yet to see anything revelatory.

Until now, that is, Prolific tipster Evan Blass, otherwise known as @evleaks, has posted a photo which he claims shows the new HTC flagship in all its glory.

Related: HTC 11

Yes, it seems the HTC 11 will be known as the HTC U, according to Blass, who also tweeted a photo of the new phone:

 HTC logo

The image reveals what looks to be glass on the front and back, but without the screen being switched on, it’s hard to tell exactly where the display begins and ends.

That said, it does seem as though there will be significant bezels on the phone, unlike recent flagship offerings from Samsung and LG.

It also looks like there’ll be a physical home button on the front of the device – so no rear fingerprint scanner as with the Galaxy S8, then.

Blass links to a previous article which lists some specs for the phone, seemingly confirming those specs as accurate – though there’s been no official word from HTC at this point.

Among the rumoured specs are a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 display, a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB RAM, and a 12-megapixel rear camera.

HTC is also said to have included pressure-sensitive edges which allow for extra control, such as taking a photo, and scrolling.

Blass is generally one of the most reliable leakers, so while there’s no way to confirm the picture and specs as accurate, we’re fairly sure Blass is on the money here – but use the usual caution as this is still an unconfirmed leak.

 

HTC U 11 ‘Ocean’: What’s the story on HTC’s next flagship?

 

With the HTC 10 getting long in the tooth, and 2017 fully underway, it’s time to look forward to the next big thing from HTC.

HTC has already started making waves, with the launch of the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play. Although the U Ultra has flagship specs, it’s not actually HTC’s flagship device for 2017, with a higher-spec device expected during the year.

So what can we expect from HTC’s next flagship handset? We’re sifting through the rumours to build a picture of HTC’s next superphone.

The HTC Ocean first appeared when a video surfaced showing an HTC handset with no physical controls, instead relying solely on gestures, touch and voice. No sooner had Evan Blass shared the HTC Ocean concept video, but another familiar name in HTC leaks joined the party. In isolation, a single leak could be dismissed, but with @LlabTooFeR adding three codenames to the mix, it made things more real.HTC U 11 'Ocean': What's the story on HTC's next flagship?

The Ocean Note launched as the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play was codenamed Alpine – perhaps one of the other devices on this list, but HTC Ocean still exists.

As for the final go-to-market name, we don’t know officially yet, but Chialin Chang, HTC’s president of smartphone and connected devices business, confirmed in an interview with Engadget that it wouldn’t be called HTC 11.

There have been plenty of suggestions that it will be called the HTC U though, adopting some of the features of the U devices that have already launched. This name is further supported by an invite from HTC with a “U” being the main focus.

More recently however, Evan Blass of VentureBeat has claimed sources have said the new device will be called HTC U 11, tying the two names together. It goes slightly against what Engadget reported in that HTC 11 wouldn’t be a market name but HTC U 11 is a little different so still plausible.

There has also been a HTC Vive branded handset appearing in what appears to be an HTC promo video however, which might suggest that HTC is making a bigger play to VR with its flagship handset, so the name is currently still unconfirmed.

  • HTC U Ultra preview: Premium phablet packed with power
  • HTC U Play preview: Mid-range specs, but plenty bling
  • Touch sensitive frame
  • Sense Edge feature
  • AI supported interaction

The original leaked video purports to demonstrate the “Sense Touch” user interface and was discovered on Danelle Vermeulen’s website. Vermeulen is a visual and motion designer, although it is declared that the phone is a concept, raising some doubts as to how much can be drawn from this video in terms of design.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdwcWvEbiDs?ecver=1]

The video suggests that there will be touch-sensitive zones around the phone and demonstrates a heavier use of voice than we might typically go for. Although this looks like a concept, regular leaker Evan Blass took to Twitter again to say that HTC Ocean exists in late 2016.

More recently, this Sense Touch UI has seen a second appearance in another video. This appears to be much more professionally produced and is obviously an HTC handset, from the on-screen icons and the 10:08 time on the display, HTC’s signature.

The interesting thing about this second video is that it shows people doing something with the handset, swiping down the edges to scroll through apps. This is said to be thanks to a touch-sensitive frame, according to detail leaks from Venture Beat.

What perhaps pulls the video leak down is that the rear of the phone, seen out of focus in several shots, looks a lot like the HTC One A9, so it’s probably a dummy being used and not too useful from a design point of view.

However, this “edge” feature has appeared again, shared by @evleaks.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

This leak appears to show a menu option for Edge Sense, suggesting that this is how you’ll control that edge feature. It’s starting to look and feel a lot like the Edge Screen feature offered by Samsung, but here triggered though the touch-sensitive frame.

The invite release by HTC itself also hints at the touch-sensitive frame, with the words “squeeze for the brilliant” at the top and the “u” we mentioned previously with slightly caved in sides. It’s a huge hint at the new technology reported to be coming, as is a tweet with a video also released by HTC at the time of the invite.

@EVLEAKSHTC Vive phone
  • Metal likely
  • IP57 rating expected
  • Touch-sensitive frame

As this is an HTC flagship, we’d fully expect a full metal unibody and the recent launch of the HTC Bolt (Sprint) or HTC 10 Evo (everywhere else) introduces another missing feature and that’s waterproofing. We’d expect HTC flagship to carry an IP57 rating, but we’d also expect it to lose the 3.5mm headphone socket in the process – with the U Ultra and U Play launching without a 3.5mm headphone jack, that’s pretty much guaranteed.

Photo leaks have been few and far between, though Evan Blass did recently tweet a couple of pictures showing what is claimed to be press shots of the HTC U 11. It appears to show a glossy finish, a capacitive button on the front and a circular camera lens on the rear with a flash on the left. Blass has also suggested the device will come in five colours.

In the tweet from HTC announcing the event date though, the video posted shows a device with a screen that seems to take up the entire front of the device, putting into question the button seen on the shots from Blass. In the video, the hand holding the device gives it a small squeeze indicating something will happen but it doesn’t show what.

There has also been an interesting video that focuses on personalisation, showing off three different design approaches, called chemical, fabric and litmus.

Previously leaked photos showed off the HTC U Ultra so we’re waiting to see a few more leaks on top of Blass’s tweet for the new device. All we know at present, is that the rumours suggest a 5.5-inch size, along with that touch sensitive frame that will allow you to squeeze and swipe with customisable gestures.

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 predicted
  • 64GB storage + microSD expected
  • USB Type-C and no 3.5mm headphone socket

HTC used the SD821 in the U Ultra, but also said to us that this wasn’t the flagship, suggesting there’s a 2017 device with higher spec coming, likely to be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. There’s an interview with Chialin Chang, HTC’s head of devices, in which the exec says: “When the next flagship CPU comes, HTC will be one of the very first tier doing that.”

The SD835 has been suggested by Venture Beat and the timing makes us think this is correct. We’d expect at least 4GB of RAM and storage from 64GB, with support for microSD card expansion.

These stats are also repeated in an AuTuTu screenshot appearing in Weibo, but we’ve seen plenty of AnTuTu screen being faked in recent times.

We’ve mentioned USB Type-C already and that’s a certainity. Having developed its excellent USonic Hi-Res USB Type-C headphones and the funky auto-tuning feature, we’d expect this and BoomSound HiFi edition on board. It’s also thought 3D audio recording will be on board thanks to four microphones placed around the device.

So far HTC’s 2017 handsets have placed a fingerprint sensor on the front, as per 2016, and we’d expect the HTC U 11 to be the same.

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POCKET-LINThtc 10 evo15
  • 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 pixels likely
  • Could have curved edges

HTC opted for a 5.2-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution on the HTC 10. There’s a question over whether HTC will opt for LCD; AMOLED was used for the Pixel, and HTC used AMOLED in the One A9 too.

A rumour suggesting details of the display says it will be 5.5-inches, with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. So far, so Pixel XL. With HTC putting that display into Google’s phone, it’s no surprise to see it mentioned again. However, the interesting suggestion is that it will be curved, i.e., fairly close to the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. That would be a change of direction for HTC, but might allow some of the smart interaction that’s being demoed in those videos – the Edge Sense.

This size has been suggested by Venture Beat too, so we’re pretty confident this is what you’ll get.

  • Android Nougat and HTC Sense 9
  • Google Assistant
  • HTC Sense Companion
  • Edge Sense

One thing that’s certain is that HTC’s next flagship will launch with Android Nougat. For the HTC 10 the company took a lighter approach, stripping away a lot of the additional bloat for a cleaner Android experience, turning to stock Android apps rather than duplicating with its own and that’s the software build on the HTC U Ultra and U Play.

We’d expect that to include the full Google Assistant. The talk from that concept video revolves around some of the things that Google Assistant already offers and with HTC Sense Companion, a new app designed to make your phone more personal using AI, all these things fit together nicely.

As menu support for the new Edge Sense feature has already leaked and there’s more established discussion about the touch-sensitive frame, this looks like HTC’s major push on this handset.

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  • 12-megapixel rear camera, 1.55µm pixels, f/1.8 likely
  • 16-megapixel front camera with UltraPixel mode expected

HTC’s track record with cameras has been a little rocky over the past few years. Currently, there’s no indication of where the company might turn. The leaked video, however, did feature a dual camera setup on the rear of the HTC Ocean. A dual camera also appears on the rear of the Vive handset.

HTC was one of the first companies to put a dual camera on a smartphone with the HTC One M8. That wasn’t a huge success, but things have moved on and recently we’ve seen the likes of Apple adding a dual camera to the iPhone 7 Plus, although, we still think that dual cameras aren’t perhaps worth the return.

With HTC fitting the Google Pixel with a pair of excellent cameras, however, it would be no surprise for HTC to use the same hardware again. That’s suggested in a rumour appearing on Weibo, saying that “HTC 11” will have a 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, the same as the Google Pixel, although the U devices opted for a 16-megapixel front camera with a pixel combining UltraPixel mode.

It’s this latter arrangement – 12MP rear and 16MP front – that’s supported by Venture Beat, who also adds that it will have a newer Sony sensor than the HTC U Ultra. The U Ultra camera is good, so the HTC U should be a good performer too.

 

HTC lowers Q1 loss, pins hopes on key flagship launch

 

HTC talked up the benefits of cost savings in Q1, acknowledging it is “pinning a lot of hope” on a smartphone launch scheduled for next week.

The struggling Taiwan-headquartered smartphone maker is expected to unveil its 2017 flagship on 16 May, following rivals including Samsung, Xiaomi, LG and Sony, which have already shown their hands. Reports suggest HTC’s device will feature an innovative touch interface, with sensors around the body of the unit, which can be used to control functions.

In a conference call, Chialin Chang, president of HTC’s Smartphones and Connected Devices business unit, reiterated the company is looking to “make sure that we have continued traction in the flagship and premium” section of the market.

The vendor’s decision not to play in the lower cost segments of the smartphone market means it is unlikely to see a strong recovery in sales and volumes when compared to its heyday – although profitability will benefit.

HTC reported a loss of TWD2 billion ($66 million) for Q1 2017, reduced from TWD2.6 billion in the prior-year period, on revenue of TWD14.5 billion, down from TWD14.8 billion. Operating expenses were trimmed to TWD4.7 billion from TWD6.2 billion.

The company previously revealed sales for April 2017 – the first month of the second quarter – were down 18 per cent year-on-year to TWD4.7 billion.

HTC provided little additional detail on its Vive VR business. Chang said the development of the market, including the launch of 5G, stands to change the shape of the market.

“It’s our belief it will tie into not just the smartphones, it’s applications including virtual reality or mixed reality,” he said.

 

Nokia 8 Will Reportedly Be the Nokia Flagship Phone, Not Nokia 9

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • New images tip the Nokia 8 to sport a bezel-less design
  • It is also tipped to sport an iris scanner
  • The Nokia 8 flagship may be launched this month

The rumoured Nokia 9 has been been the go-to name for tipsters for the upcoming Nokia flagship phone for several months, but it now seems the Nokia 8 will be flagship instead. A report from China suggests the Nokia 8 will sit on top of the Nokia foodchain instead of the oft-leaked Nokia 9. The report substantiates its claims with images and marketing materials of the Nokia 8, complete with design details. If true, this would suggest the Nokia 9 might be launched sometime later this year, after the Nokia 8 is revealed, in order to compete with iPhone 8 and its ilk.

In the report by Chinese site CNMO, the Nokia 8 is seen sporting a bezel-less design, apart from a USB Type-C port and dual speakers at the bottom edge of the smartphone. Another image also shows a unique thin vertical camera strip at the back of the smartphone on the left side, something that does not fall in line with previous rumours seen about the Nokia 8.Nokia 8 Will Reportedly Be the Nokia Flagship Phone, Not Nokia 9

The smartphone is also tipped to sport an iris scanner, again, something that was tipped to arrive on the Nokia 9. All of this seems to suggest that the Nokia 8 will be the true flagship that will be unveiled this year, and not Nokia 9.

Whatever the phone is called, the Nokia flagship device is expected to be launched as soon as this month. It is expected to be IP68 water resistant, support dual-SIM slots, and a fingerprint scanner as well. The smartphone is expected to feature a 5.3-inch QHD display, will be powered by the Snapdragon 835 SoC paired with 4GB or 6GB of RAM (some rumours even point to an 8GB RAM variant), and support 64GB of inbuilt storage with microSD card slot for expansion.

The smartphone will sport a 13-megapixel dual camera setup at the back and a 13-megapixel front camera as well. The dimensions are expected to be at 151.55×73.7mm. The Nokia 8 or Nokia 9 is expected to be priced at EUR 749, while the India price is tipped to be at Rs. 44,999.