Want to launch the camera from the HTC U11? Just squeeze.
When the phone’s pressure-sensitive sides register your tightened grip, it’ll open the app you’ve programmed in.
Say you’ve squeezed the camera app open. You can squeeze again to take a picture. A long squeeze might open and close the flashlight, or toggle Wi-Fi or a voice recording. Or another app of your choice.
What’s going on is an entirely new way to interact with a phone. Called Edge Sense, this feature marks the first time any phonemaker has used touch like this. For HTC, a company that has itself felt the squeeze from larger rivals like Samsung, Apple and LG, the U11’s grippy new feature presents an opportunity to step out of others’ shadows with an industry first.
Giving a phone pressure-sensitive sides is an incredibly interesting innovation, and one that raises a lot of questions: is this a natural way to open shortcuts, or is it better suited to some other task? Will it be accurate, or will mispresses abound? Is it a useless gimmick, or the start of exciting things to come?
I don’t have an answer to that yet, but after my brief time with the phone, I did try out many of the launch options, and I like that an animation of squeezed-in sides lets you know the feature’s working. I found the motion easy to execute, but I did sometimes long-squeeze when I meant to short-squeeze.
I think muscle memory will take care of that down the road. I also think this method of app-launching would only be useful for the apps I open all the time (which takes that voice recorder out of the running).
The bigger question for HTC is if the U11’s fresh look and feel, and high end specs are enough to make a dent in Samsung and Apple’s overwhelming lead — squeeze feature or no. From what I’ve seen of the U11 so far, its premium hardware stands the best chance of any HTC phone in quite awhile.
The rest will come down to performance, and how well HTC can gets its phone in front of buyers.
Price and release date
In the US, the HTC U11 sells for $649 — you’ll be able to pick it up in sapphire blue, amazing silver and brilliant black. Buy the unlocked version from htc.com, and ATT, T-Mobile and Verizon carrier versions from Amazon. The phone will arrive on your doorstep in June.
You’ll also be able to buy the blue and black HTC U11 from Sprint. The phone goes on sale June 9, but early preorders will also get you two Amazon Echo Dot speakers. It’ll cost $0 down and$29 per month for 24 months, for a grand total of $696.
It’s too soon to say how the U11 performs compares to the Galaxy S8 and LG G6, and if buyers connect with its glass design and squeeze effects.
Gorgeous glass design, advanced processor and everything else
The Big Squeeze sure is attention-grabbing, but it’s really one small feature in what’s shaping up to be a pretty good package.
You get a 5.5-inch display with a QHD, or 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution (same as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6), so there’s plenty of screen to interact with.
Then there’s the body itself. The U11 refines the gorgeous “melted” glass design of the U Ultra. It really does look like pools of liquid, and it’s striking.
It’s also highly reflective and smudges up quickly. The phone meets a water-resistant rating of IP67, which helps keep water away for up to 30 minutes and 3 feet (1 meter).
I like that the 12-megapixel rear camera sits flush on the design; it’s good that the lens doesn’t poke out. If you follow camera specs, the U11 uses dual-pixel autofocus technology rather than laser autofocus (this should help it focus faster), and has an aperture of F1.7 (versus F1.8 on the HTC 10).
Your front-facing camera is a 16-megapixel wide-angle lens (150 degrees). Camera images seemed completely usable in my quick tests, but I didn’t have the time to really dig deep into setting or image quality.
Other things to know going in:
- There’s no headset jack so you will need to plug the included earbuds into the USB-C port.
- HTC will also give you an adapter if you prefer to use your own headphones.
- Google Assistant is on board.
- Amazon Alexa assistant will launch with a wake word. (HTC will add this about a month after the U11 goes on sale.)
- Audio quality so far seems loud, clear and rich.
- The Edge Sense squeeze feature happens using ultrasound, which means it will work underwater and through some cases.
- HTC will also make a model in solar red (expect it to sell in select regions).
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