After months of leaks and steadily building anticipation, we’ve finally laid eyes on HTC’s latest flagship phone, the U11. And with fantastic audio, an improved virtual assistant and some cool new colourways, it’s got much to recommend it.
Undoubtedly the most exciting feature, however, is HTC’s brand-new Edge Sense technology. Touted as the first-ever squeezable phone, the U 11 lets you perform key functions simply by squeezing the sides of the phone.
But how does this work? And what else is new about the phone? Read on and we’ll tell you five things you need to know.
1) Edge Sense “squeeze” technology
The feature that sets the HTC U11 apart from other handsets is its Edge Sense technology, Or less formally, its “squeeze” function. As the name suggests, you squeeze the sides of the phone to quickly access additional functions, depending on which app you’re in.
So, for example, if you’re on the homescreen you can squeeze the phone to switch on the flashlight or activate the voice commands app. Or, if you’re scrolling through Facebook, you can squeeze the phone to ‘like’ a status or photo. In Google Maps? Squeeze to zoom in.
The function you activate with your squeeze depends on how long you press down for. So, if you’re in the camera app and apply a light squeeze, the U11 will take a photo.
If you hold down for a few moments longer, you can switch between the front and rear cameras, meaning that you don’t have to faff about with the touchscreen.
Impressively the squeeze function even works when you’re wearing gloves. So you’ll be able to take snowy selfies or zoom in on Google Maps without freezing your fingers off.
The bad news is that Edge Sense won’t be on board the phone when the phone initially hits shop shelves. But we’re assured it’s coming soon, with a trial version set to be made available in July.
2) Voice commands
Like most smartphone-makers, HTC has put its virtual assistant technology front and centre for its latest flagship by including not one, but two voice assistants on the HTC U11.
The HTC Companion, which debuted on the U Ultra earlier this year, combines Google Assistant, which is great for navigation and web searches, and Amazon Alexa, which is best-in-class for shopping, to give you the best of both worlds.
The U11 has four microphones with an always-on mic feature that works from up to 1.5-metres away. So you can use it without having to stand right next to the phone.
Better still, HTC has assured us that despite the fact that Companion is always listening, it uses very little of the phone’s battery.
3) Improved sound quality but no headphone jack
The U11 comes loaded with HTC uSonic one-touch calibration. In layman’s terms, that means it will quickly adapt to your own unique way of hearing. It also features noise cancellation technology, which promises to keep the intrusive ‘click-clack’ sound of morning train commute at bay.
HTC’s BoomSound speakers are back and this time around they’re bigger and better than ever. Rather than having the speakers positioned at the edges of the phone as with earlier HTC handsets, the U11 effectively turns the whole handset into a single large speaker to create a fuller, richer sound.
HTC took the lead from Apple earlier this year by releasing the U Ultra without the traditional 3.5mm headphone port. So it’s no surprise that the U 11 is sans headphone jack too.
Still, those without wireless earbuds will be pleased to learn that HTC will be including an adaptor with the phone, so you can still listen to music without having to splash out on a new pair of headphones. Better still, the adaptor comes with a built-in amplifier to further improve the sound quality.
4) Liquid surface finish in five different colourways
Looks aren’t everything. But in a world where everyone has a nigh-on identical smartphone slab in their hands, it makes a really nice change to see a handset that stands out visually.
Like the U Ultra before it, the U11 has a ‘liquid surface’ finish, meaning that the phones have a pearlescent quality and appear to change colour depending on how they catch the light.
Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black and Ice White, first seen on the U Ultra range, will be joined by two brand-new colourways, dubbed Amazing Silver and Solari. HTC has really gone to town with these two models, using the liquid surface finish to make the phones look completely different colours, depending on which way you look at it.
No prizes for guessing that Amazing Silver is silver. But, hold it up to the light and it looks blue. Tilt it away from the light and you’d swear blind it’s purple.
Our favourite is the Solari colourway, which looks red when held upright. But, put it down and it looks gold.
5) Price and availability
The U11 is currently available to pre-order for £649 on HTC's website. We're expecting contract deals to be announced in the next few weeks. We'll keep you posted.