HTC has lifted the lid on its U 11 flagship phone for 2017, debuting a new way to interact with your handset by squeezing the sides to access key features fast.
Billed as an intuitive technology that will “fundamentally change the way you use your device”, Extended Touch is enabled by pressure-sensitive pads in the left and right-hand sides of the lower portion of the phone.
The squeeze function will initially be restricted to HTC’s own, built-in apps, with the promise of support for third-party apps in the future.
Functionality of Extended Touch largely depends on the application you’ve got open at the time and how long you squeeze.
For instance, if you’re in the camera app, you can squeeze the sides gently to take a photo. A longer squeeze will flip the camera, switching it to selfie mode.
If you’re sending a text and you’ve got the keyboard on the screen at the time, squeezing the sides will activate voice-to-text, so you can dictate your messages.
And if you’re on the sleep screen at any time, a long squeeze will activate the Google Assistant app. On the homescreen? You can fire up any app with a squeeze or turn the torch on and off.
According to HTC, this physical activation system for Google Assistant is much less hit-and-miss than calling up the voice-activated digital personal assistant with the phrase ‘OK Google’.
The phone-maker also claims that Extended Touch isn’t hampered if you’re wearing gloves. And isn’t affected when the screen gets wet either.
In keeping with the industry-wide move towards extending the breadth of functions you can use through voice commands, HTC’s Companion has been improved for the U 11.
The voice assistant, which debuted on the HTC U Ultra, now combines Amazon’s Alexa with Google Assistant. The upshot is that it now understands more commands and allows you to do more with your voice alone.
Google Assistant is perhaps the best-in-class voice assistant for navigation and general searches, while Amazon’s Alexa is superior for shopping and home automation.
Unlike the HTC 10, the U 11 is also water-resistant and comes with IP67 certification. That means it can be submerged in one metre of static water for up to 30 minutes and come out right as rain.
The U 11’s camera is the same 12-megapixel lens as the HTC 10 and features a f/1.7 large aperture. The result is that it lets in more light for better snaps in low-light conditions.
An improved Ultra Pixel 3 sensor means the camera focuses in less than 0.3 seconds and it’s equipped with optical image stabilisation for minimising the ‘shakycam’ effect in your mini movies.
The phone also debuts HTC’s Acoustic Focus feature.
HTC says this will automatically adjust the recording volume when you zoom in on your subject in while recording video, so the audio is amplified in sync with how close you are to the action.
Thus, if you zoom in while filming, not only will the picture be magnified, the sound will be too.
At the front, there’s a 16-megapixel camera, which features a 150-degree wide-angle selfie mode aimed at making it easier to get better group shots when you’re posing with your kith and kin.
We’ve also got enhanced HTC USonic audio to look forward to, with noise cancellation technology.
As with the iPhone 7, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. But the phone comes with an audio adaptor, which is a bit larger than you’d expect to make room for a built-in amplifier to improve the sound quality.
HTC’s own BoomSound speaker technology is on board too. But the difference this time around is that it’s more powerful.
Instead of having speakers positioned at the edges of the phone as with earlier HTC top-end phones, the U 11 “makes use of the entire device as a resonating speaker chamber".
Other features include a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, Android 7.1, 64GB of internal storage, microSD card support up to 2TB and a 3,000mAh battery.
All colour options have a Liquid Surface finish, which means the colour of the handset appears to change depending on how it catches the light.