HTC U 11: Everything we know so far

Specs seemingly confirmed – Curvy, light on buttons, and heavy on power? Yes, please!

03 May 2017
by Stuff Staff

Last year’s HTC 10 was a welcome return to flagship form for the smartphone stalwart after the underwhelming HTC One M9, but can the company go even bigger this year?

Clearly, HTC needs a big win for its smartphone business. As Samsung has established its top-end dominance and OnePlus has delivered flagship-level quality at mid-range prices, HTC’s unique hook has diminished of late. The HTC 10 was quite nice, but the HTC U 11 needs to be absolutely brilliant. And not just a big gimmick, like the HTC U Ultra.

Based on the reported specs and features that have leaked so far, at least it sounds like HTC’s next flagship will be ultra-powerful, which can’t hurt, and will have one or two unique additions that could help it stand out from the crowd.

Curious? Of course you are: here’s what we’ve heard so far.

WHAT WE KNOW

>>> It won’t be called the HTC 11

Until recently, the best shorthand we had for the new phone (until anything was made official) was the HTC 11 – even though HTC exec Chialing Chang told Engadget point black in January that there would be no phone called the HTC 11. It was being developed under the “HTC Ocean” codename, but now it seems the company will be calling it the HTC U 11 – the flagship phone to slot in above the HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play released earlier this year.

>>> It might lack physical buttons – and will be squeezable

Last autumn, notorious leaker Evan Blass shared an internal concept video for the HTC Ocean (above), which shows a phone without physical volume or home buttons; instead, it has “Sense Touch” sensors on the left and right sides of the phone, which can also be used to navigate between apps. There seems to be a small power button on the bottom, possibly for fingerprint security, but that might be it.

A newer leak, courtesy of Android Headlines, seemingly backed this up, showing how the side-facing sensors would work. You’ll be able to activate features, jump into specific apps, and set up your own shortcuts just by giving the phone a squeeze.

An official HTC event invite and follow-up tweet seem to confirm these rumours, so expect to see the squeezable HTC U soon. Expect to see it in a choice of five different colours, too: white, black, blue, red and silver. Not all colours will be available in all countries, though, so you’ll have to keep your fingers crossed your favourite makes it on sale in your home territory.

>>> It should run the Snapdragon 835

Keeping with HTC’s trend of relying on Qualcomm’s latest and greatest mobile processors, the HTC U is expected to use the Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip. The 10nm chip promises faster processing and download speed capabilities, dual camera support, Quick Charge 4 tech, and an Adreno 540 GPU. In other words, it’ll fly.

It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be waiting a while for it, either – Samsung and Sony were reported to have vacuumed up the entire initial run of Snapdragon 835s, leaving other companies waiting in line, but according to Qualcomm it has plenty to go around.

>>> It may have 6GB RAM, too

That’s kind of an absurd tally for a smartphone, yet once OnePlus made the move to 6GB for both the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, it was only a matter of time before the flagships had to follow. Rumours suggest that the HTC U will pack 6GB RAM to support that Snapdragon 835.

>>> Expect another Quad HD display

No, HTC won’t be making the leap to a 4K screen this year – the rumoured spec reports point to a Quad HD display again, just like last year, which should fall in at 2560×1440 resolution. A purported leak points to a 5.5in display this time around, up from 5.2 on the HTC 10, and protected by Gorilla Glass 5.

It may even be curved now on both the left and right like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. It could support HDR video for the first time in an HTC phone, too.

>>> Mmm, Nougat

Android 7 Nougat is almost a certainty for a brand new flagship expected in the coming months, and a leaked spec screenshot suggests that Android 7.1.2 – recently offered in beta to Pixel and Nexus users – is running on a prototype device. Expect the latest and greatest on the version that ships, of course.

>>> Solid shooters planned

One leak for the HTC Ocean suggests that the phone will have a 12-megapixel, f/1.7 back camera and a 16-megapixel selfie shooter up front. That’s right: the next HTC will be truly selfie-centric.

Both sound about on par with what we’ve seen on rival flagships of late, and if that 12MP back camera can hang with the Google Pixel, then it should be quite fine indeed. The latest leaks suggest it’ll use the third generation of HTC’s Ultrapixel sensor, and super-fast autofocus with optical image stabilisation. There’s no word yet on whether HTC will shoot for something like the iPhone 7 Plus’s dual-camera array, but expect real-time HDR image processing.

>>> The battery might not be massive

The latest reports suggest HTC is aiming for a 3000mAh battery in the Ocean, which is smaller than we’d like to see in a flagship phone – albeit on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S8. At least Quick Charging 3.0 should be on board.

>>> It should sound fantastic

HTC has always made a big deal about sound, and that doesn’t look set to change for the U 11. It should arrive with Boomsound speakers, Hi-Res audio support, active noise cancellation through the bundled earphones, and even the ability to record 3D audio.

>>> A Vive phone?

Here’s an interesting tidbit: a leaked internal HTC video about a seeming brand transformation briefly shows a smartphone with the name of the company’s VR headset on the back. We’re not expecting the upcoming phone to arrive Vive-branded and capable of mobile VR, like the Samsung Gear VR and Google’s Daydream – but HTC may have a surprise or two up its sleeve.

>>> We should see it soon

The HTC 10 was announced a little later than usual in April 2016, while the HTC One M9 was unveiled in March 2015. The smart money was always on HTC doing something similar for 2017, even with the largely absent set of leaks that usually accompany such a launch leaving us in the dark this year.

HTC’s Taiwanese Facebook page gave us a big hint, suggesting an “unexpected surprise” would be coming on the 20th of March. Turns out it wasn’t the phone we’ve been waiting to see, though: merely the sapphire glass version of the HTC U Ultra, which was originally announced as far back as CES in January. You big tease, HTC…

Finally, though, an official invite arrived in our inbox. You can chalk up May 16 as the day you’ll finally get an official look at the next HTC U.

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