HTC on Tuesday announced its latest high-end smartphone, the HTC U11.
The newest flagship from the Taiwanese phone maker doesn’t come off like a groundbreaking upgrade from past HTC phones at first blush, but it does pack a host of little things worth noting.
I was able to spend a short time with the HTC U11 prior to its launch on Tuesday. Here’s a rundown of my initial impressions:
• It’s gorgeous. The HTC U11 is still a rectangle, but its all-glass back has a sheen to it that immediately catches the eye. Each finish is nice and deep — especially that dark blue — and light dances right off it.
• The way that back curves into the metal sides furthers its “object of desire” vibe. Those metal sides are sturdy, the camera bump isn’t big, and the whole thing is fairly thin. The phone has a little bit of heft to it, but again, that helps the device feel expensive.
• That said, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has made it so that any phone without a super-wide display looks dated. The U11’s side bezels are slim enough, but there’s a good deal of “not-screen” space on the top and bottom. It’s still attractive, but mostly by yesterday’s standards.
• It’s also a fingerprint magnet. Seriously, the mere thought of touching this phone is likely to smudge it. It’s likely to be slippery, too.
• The phone is IP67 water-resistant. That’s table stakes today, but the HTC 10 didn’t have it.
• If you’re wondering about the name: HTC recently switched its top-end phones to the “U” branding — seen with this year’s HTC U Ultra, for instance — but this phone is the successor to last year’s hero device, the HTC 10. So HTC mashed the two names together: U11.
• There’s no headphone jack, which is still annoying. The U11 isn’t the thinnest phone around, so ditching the jack isn’t saving that much space. And keeping it wouldn’t preclude you from using Bluetooth or USB-C. The U Ultra didn’t have it either, though, so at least HTC is consistent. And there is a 3.5mm dongle in the box.
• HTC is also throwing a pair of noise-cancelling USB-C earbuds in the box. I wasn’t able to test them, but HTC says the earbuds are able to customize their sound to the shape of your ear. Whatever the case, if you’re going to push the jack away, emphasizing what its replacement does well — noise-cancelling over USB-C doesn’t require a separate battery — is a good way to go about it.
• It’ll have actual Alexa support baked in. Huawei technically added Amazon’s assistant to its Mate 9 phone earlier this year, but only through a separate app. HTC says the U11 will work with Alexa the same way an Echo does — just say the wake word, and you can talk to it. This is kind of a big deal!