HTC U11 Review
(This review used two HTC U11 handsets: a pre-release, dual-sim Taiwanese variant and a single-SIM UK variant running final release firmware. It accurately represented the experience customers got at launch when the phone went on sale.)
HTC U11 Review
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When we reviewed the HTC U Ultra just over three months ago, we said that it felt like a stopgap device, used to fill space before a true 2017 flagship could be launched and grab at least a little bit of the attention its competitors were getting. It seemed obvious that HTC was waiting for a supply of Qualcomm's hot new Snapdragon 835 processor, and so we advised anyone interested in the HTC U Ultra for its looks to hang on for a little while before spending Rs. 60,000. As it turns out, we were exactly right. The HTC U11 is already here and not only is it a lot more powerful than the U Ultra, but it also costs less.
Even if we didn't totally love the colour of the U Ultra unit we got, we liked the fact that HTC had done something completely new and different with its design. Our U11 review unit has exactly the same ultra-glossy rear, but in an even lighter and brighter shade of blue (which for some reason is called Amazing Silver). HTC says that it has developed a new way to bond layers of glass with "highly refractive precious minerals", which gives the material its metallic liquid look. It can also look very different under different types of light. The metal band around the sides is a slightly duller shade of blue, which makes the rear really pop. There's also a Brilliant Black version, but this is the one you'll want if you like showing off.
Despite a higher version number, the HTC Sense skin running on top of Android 7.1 feels exactly the same as what we saw on the U Ultra. It's still fairly versatile, but not the best looking. HTC had announced its Sense Companion AI assistant with much fanfare when the U Ultra launched, and it wasn't even close to fully baked at the time of the U Ultra's launch. We found its functions largely pointless, and the promised voice response features were simply missing. Evidently, it still isn't ready for primetime, and we didn't find any of its barebones features helpful all during our review period. Perhaps it takes longer than a week to learn a user's routine, but even then, it's hard to get excited about weather updates, step counts, and lists of nearby restaurants.
The power and volume buttons are some of the worst I've used in recent memory. The power and volume keys on the $180 Moto E4 Plus I reviewed a while back are much better than those on the U11 Life, which costs twice as much. Then you've got HTC's signature capacitive keys, which I find notable only because they are especially ugly. The U11 Plus, announced alongside the Life, does away with them. This phone should have, too.
It isn't unusual to find flaws in preview smartphone software, and these are typically corrected fairly quickly. We don't have the time or traffic pressure that gadget blogs are under to rush out a review, and in any case, HTC isn't shipping the phone to customers until "late June." It's not in people's hands yet, so waiting seems fair.