HTC just launched a new pair of smartphones that are both impressive and frustrating for US consumers. The flagship U11+ is arguably the best phone HTC has ever made, but it’s curiously not coming to the US. The U11 Life is a competent new Android One addition, but the US models will have HTC Sense, not stock Android. Both are solid devices and the first new models since Google’s $1.1 billion purchase of a major swath of HTC’s phone division. Why is the US market largely missing out? That’s unclear for now, but let’s take a look at the new devices.
Starting with the flagship HTC U11+, we have a 6-inch QHD Super LCD 6 display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. It’s relatively compact for a phone with a 6-inch display, but still thicker than recent flagships. Dimensions are 158.5 x 74.9 x 8.5mm and it weighs a hefty 188g, which is a bit more than the previous U11 at 169g. Like all 18:9 phones we’ve seen this year, the fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back to trim the bezels down to a minimum. It otherwise looks similar to the U11 with the signature “liquid surface” glass back.
Specs include a Snapdragon 835 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (Europe only), with a second model knocking that down to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Both come with microSD support. The rear camera is 12 megapixels at f/1.7 with OIS and the front facing camera is 8 megapixels at f/2.0. It has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. There’s a non-removable 3,930mAh battery with QuickCharge 3.0 support via USB-C. The U11+ comes in “Ceramic Black” and the rumored translucent model turned out to be a prototype that may or may not be produced in 2018. Other colors from the earlier U11 didn’t make the cut. There is no headphone jack, either. Surprised?
The U11+ will ship with Android 8.0 Oreo and HTC Sense, and both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa will be pre-installed. Edge Sense also makes a return, allowing you to squeeze the phone to launch an app of your choice. BoomSound audio is part of the show along with USonic noise cancelling USB-C headphones in the box. Pre-orders start on November 20th at £699 (over $900 US).
The U11 Life looks a lot like the premium U11 from a distance, but it’s a lower priced mid-ranger and HTC’s first Android One device. Not in North America, however, where it will have HTC’s Sense instead. At least this one’s coming to the US. It’s available to order now on HTC’s website for $349 and T-Mobile will carry it starting on November 3rd. Sapphire Blue will be the only color.
The display is a 5.2-inch FHD LCD with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Specs include a Snapdragon 630 with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. A global version will have 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Both models will have microSD support. The rear and front facing cameras are both 16 megapixels at f/2.0. The battery is 2,600mAh and the phone has an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance. Edge Sense, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are also pre-installed. There isn’t a headphone jack, but the same USonic noise cancelling USB-C headphones included with the premium U11+ will come in the box. It even supports 24-bit high-res audio. A nice touch for a budget phone.
Unlike the regular U11 that the Life mimics, the back of the phone is acrylic, not glass. The frame is also plastic instead of aluminum. It looks nice, but surely feels cheaper in the hand. The North American version will launch with Android 7.1.1 Nougat and HTC Sense, while the rest of the world will get an Android One device with stock Android 8.0 Oreo. HTC promises that the North American version will be upgraded to Oreo before December.