HTC U11: The Unsung Hero

HTC is a brand that is struggling to revive the reputation that it once had, before Samsung took over the Android throne. HTC was the first manufacturer to make an Android phone and has been providing quality products ever since. However with phones like HTC U Ultra and the M9, HTC certainly lost ground to the massively marketed and better known Samsung flagships. The HTC 10 was a great phone, but the S7 Edge was way more popular, appealed more to the consumer(most of whom weren’t even aware of the HTC 10) and was touted as an overall better device. No wonder the S7 went on to be a major hit, while the HTC 10 further weakened HTC’s position.

An year later and not a lot has changed. Samsung still has a massively marketed phone, the S8 which has reportedly helped Samsung gain record profits. And HTC is out with another fine flagship phone that no one knows about, the U11.

The U11 is a phone with a traditional approach. There’s the traditional 16:9 ratio screen here, huge bezels, capacitive navigation keys on the bottom bezel and no dual camera setup. What makes it stand out though is a squeeze function, which can be used to perform certain actions when the phone is squeezed. Very, very gimmicky.

But the one major pro of the U11 is that it work tremendously well. There is no bezel less display, but the display on the U11 is vibrant and excellent in its own right. The phone has stellar performance, much better than its Samsung competitor. Animations are smooth and app opening times are minimal, akin to the Pixel and OnePlus 5.

The rear facing camera is the highest ever rated by DxoMark and while I would never judge a camera based on just that, I’ve seen what this phone can do and it definitely looks like the best smartphone camera in the market right now. Very surprising, considering previous HTC flagships have historically had mediocre cameras.

Another thing that you’ll love or hate is the back of the phone. The back glass panel is very, very beautiful and if you want a phone that is eye catching, get the U11. Our Amazing Silver unit changed shades when viewed in different angles and it looked amazing. But what sucks about it is that it’s a huge fingerprint magnet and it is pretty much the most slippery phone I’ve ever held. To fix that you’ll have to use a case and that pretty much kills the look of the phone.

One thing about this phone that hasn’t grown on me much is EdgeSense or the Squeeze feature. It’s not very useful, it gets triggered by accident a lot of times and I was thankful there was an option to turn it off completely. HTC does promise to bring out updates to increase the functionality of EdgeSense, so fingers crossed on that one.

Another one of my gripes is that the U11 does not come with a headphone jack. The bundled earphones are great, I agree, but that is still no justification for not having a headphone jack. The 3.5 mm port is not nearly dead, and with other flagships like the S8 and G6 having it, I see no reason why HTC had to show ‘courage’ when they are already in such a dwindling position in the industry.

But all in all, it’s been a pleasant experience using this phone and that’s because this phone gets all the basics right. The software flies, HTC Sense is not obtrusive and works well, the camera is excellent and the display is great. And while the 3000 mAh battery may seem small compared to today’s standards, it gets the job done and I haven’t had to top it up in the middle of the day during my review period. Another factor in favour of this phone are the specs. The Snapdragon 835 CPU and 6 GB of RAM are enough to ensure that this phone is future proof and will easily last for at least 2 years.

So do I recommend the HTC U11? Absolutely. It might not have the flashy bezel less display and design of the S8 and the G6 but what the HTC U11 excels at is getting the job done quickly and reliably. And for that reason alone, I won’t go looking for the sim ejection tool after I’m done with the review.