HTC U11 Review: The Definition of Mediocrity
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Our verdict of the HTC U11:
The HTC U11 is an expensive flagship device that does a lot of things well, but it just can't compete with other high-end devices.
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HTC can’t seem to figure out what they want their flagship device to look like. Whereas Samsung and others tend to have a distinct look, this year’s HTC U11 is drastically different from last year’s HTC 10 HTC 10 Review HTC 10 Review There's little to complain about with the HTC 10, aside from the mediocre battery life and quiet speakers. But there's nothing about it to get excited about, either. Read More , which was in turn a good deal different from the HTC One M9 HTC One M9 Review and Giveaway HTC One M9 Review and Giveaway Metal design? Check. Expandable storage? Check. All the most powerful internals? Check. On paper, the HTC One M9 is one beast of a phone. Read More . And don’t get me started on the bizarre naming convention.

While last year’s device was standard and unoriginal, HTC has really taken some risks this time around with the U11 — like adding a squeezable frame. Some of those risks paid off, and some didn’t.

Let’s dive in.

Specifications

  • Color: Sapphire Blue, Amazing Silver, Brilliant Black, or Solar Red
  • Price: $650 on Amazon at time of writing ($730 for the higher specced model)
  • Dimensions: 153.9mm x 75.9mm x 7.9mm (6.06in x 2.99in x 0.31in)
  • Weight: 169g (6.0oz)
  • Processor: 64-bit, octa-core, 2.45Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • RAM: 4GB or 6GB
  • Storage: 64GB or 128GB
  • Screen: 5.5″ Quad HD (2560px x 1440px) LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Cameras: 12MP f/1.7 rear-facing camera, 16MP f/2.0 front-facing camera
  • Speakers: Single speaker on the bottom
  • Battery: 3,000mAh battery, charged via USB Type-C with Quick Charge 3.0
  • Operating System: HTC Sense, based on Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Extras: Fingerprint scanner, IP67 water resistance, LED notification light, NFC, microSD card slot

Hardware

HTC U11 Review: The Definition of Mediocrity HTC 1

On the front, the HTC U11 looks quite standard. It has a 5.5″ Quad HD display, which makes for extremely crisp pictures and video. It gets relatively bright too, for viewing in direct sunlight, and it’s made of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which should means it’s durable.

It also has curved edges on the front, which lead to a very smooth experience when swiping around the edges of the phone — and it just feels great to hold. The screen doesn’t wrap around the edge, like on the Samsung Galaxy S8 The Greatest Smartphone You Shouldn't Buy: Samsung Galaxy S8 Review (and Giveaway!) The Greatest Smartphone You Shouldn't Buy: Samsung Galaxy S8 Review (and Giveaway!) The $800 Samsung Galaxy S8 is, without question, the best smartphone ever made. But you probably shouldn't buy one. Read More , but the bezel does fold smoothly over into the rest of the phone.

Along the base of the front, you’ll find the fingerprint scanner – which doubles as the Home button – and two capacitive keys for Back and Recents. There’s no option for software keys here, making HTC one of the last major smartphone manufacturers to remain clinging on to capacitive keys.

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It’s 7.9mm thick, which is average for a smartphone nowadays, and it has just the tiniest camera bump on the back. The right side is home to the power button and volume rocker. The top has the Nano SIM card slot and microSD card slot.

The left side is bare, and the bottom has a USB Type-C port and a slit for the speaker. That speaker produces some pretty good-quality audio for a smartphone, but it’s a little quieter than other devices.

HTC U11 Review: The Definition of Mediocrity HTC 3

You may notice that something is missing here — the headphone jack. HTC has followed in the footsteps of Apple and Motorola and decided to ditch the headphone jack. Thankfully, it ships with HTC’s USonic headphones (which plug in via USB Type-C) and a Type-C to headphone adapter for using your old headphones.

The USonic headphones are quite good, though. They claim to use a radar-like technology to map out your inner ear and customize how the audio is played. They’re comfortable and have solid audio quality, so unless you’re a dedicated audiophile with your own expensive headphones The 10 Best Wired Headphones The 10 Best Wired Headphones Looking for the best wired headphones? We've covered 10, ranging from ultra budget to super high end! Read More , they’d probably work fine for you.

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Now we get to the back of the device, which is one of my larger gripes with the U11. HTC calls the rear design “liquid glass” because it’s extremely reflective, glossy, and made of glass. I think it looks cheap. It smudges up with fingerprints instantly, and it just doesn’t look that great, or feel particularly premium.

Obviously, that’s my opinion, and I think others may love the liquid glass look – but it’s not for me. Other phones with more matte metal designs, like the OnePlus 5 OnePlus 5 Review: Seriously, This is the Best Android Right Now OnePlus 5 Review: Seriously, This is the Best Android Right Now This is the best Android phone on the market. It has a solid design, amazing cameras, intuitive software, and it's cheaper than other flagship devices. Read More , look infinitely sleeker to me.

On the rear, you’ll also see the 12MP camera, which has a f/1.7 aperture for shooting well in low-light, and it has Optical Image Stabilization. Those features together lead to some really great photo capabilities.

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On the front, you’ll find a 16MP f/2.0 wide-angle camera, which allows for some gorgeous selfies in good lighting. However, in low-light, it struggles a bit more, lacking the large aperture and OIS of the rear camera. Still, these two cameras are really high-end, and you’d be more than happy with them.

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The U11 also comes with a cheap, see-through, hard-plastic case that avoids the sides of the phone so you can still use the new squeeze feature and feel those rounded edges. It might save your phone from the accidental fall or two, but it’s just so ugly. You could certainly find a better case online.

Software

While the HTC U11 runs Android 7.1 Nougat, it looks a good deal different thanks to HTC’s Sense interface. The default launcher has Blinkfeed off to the left, which is a stream of news, social media updates, and calendar info — just like Google’s launcher.

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The homescreen itself is customizable through HTC’s theme store, and the app drawer looks weirdly archaic. Of course, this can all be changed with a custom launcher What Is the Best Free Android Launcher? What Is the Best Free Android Launcher? Nova launcher, Apex launcher, and dodol launcher are all solid free launchers, but which is the best? We put them to the test. Read More , but this is what you get out of the box. Even HTC’s custom icons, like the Phone and Messages apps, look a little off.

And those apps aren’t the same ones you’ll find in stock Android; HTC has given them a Sense makeover.

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Thankfully, the U11 doesn’t come with much bloatware. There’s a Boost+ app for managing your storage, RAM, and apps (though clearing your RAM might not help you much Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More ). There’s a Help app for troubleshooting your device, the TouchPad keyboard app, a Themes app, the HTC Sense Companion, and a Weather app.

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The HTC Sense Companion is supposed to learn from your habits and remind you of useful things — kind of like what Google Assistant does on other Android phones. Strangely enough, the HTC U11 actually comes with Google Assistant as well. And it comes with Amazon’s Alexa.

You’re not short of virtual assistants here, though the Sense Companion doesn’t seem to do searches like the other two. Still, it feels redundant having so many of these apps. Google’s apps can basically do everything that Sense Companion can do, and it can do voice searches like Alexa can, too.

If you’re happy with Google Assistant 10 Things You Didn't Know Google Assistant Could Do 10 Things You Didn't Know Google Assistant Could Do Android's version of Siri -- Google Assistant -- is more powerful than most people realize. Read More , I don’t see why you’d bother with Sense Companion or Alexa – but it’s nice to have a choice.

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HTC has baked some other features into the U11 as well, though. Edge Sense is probably the main one that’s been grabbing people’s attention. You can squeeze the device to activate any app you choose. It certainly works, but is it necessary?

I didn’t find myself using it at all. It’s one of those things that’s so invisible that you forget about it. It’s also not as fluid as it sounds. Squeezing your device tightly isn’t a very natural thing to do while using it, and on the downside, just gripping it tightly while it’s locked could wake it up.

You can adjust the amount of force needed to activate Edge Sense, but I couldn’t find any level that made it comfortable to use. Setting it high meant that I had to really squeeze with all my might to activate it, while setting it low meant that if I gripped my phone tightly so that I wouldn’t drop it, it would activate.

But there are other tweaks here as well. Double-tap-to-wake and double-tap-to-sleep are great, but swipe-up-to-unlock is useless if your phone is locked with a PIN or fingerprint Should You Use a Fingerprint or a PIN to Lock Your Phone? Should You Use a Fingerprint or a PIN to Lock Your Phone? Should you secure your phone with a fingerprint or a PIN? No one is likely to guess your fingerprint, but is it really more secure? Could a PIN be more secure? Read More .

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You can customize the U11 pretty thoroughly with HTC’s different themes, which is a cool addition that’s not available in stock Android. They can change not only the icons and wallpaper, but also the clock, font, sounds, and so on.

Performance

Powered by the fastest processor currently available, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, this phone is no slack. It’s quick, it can multi-task, and it can play all the games 10 Best Free Android Games of the Year 10 Best Free Android Games of the Year Did you miss out on an Android game that you should be playing? Our end-of-year roundup is a handy checklist to know what your thumbs should be tapping on. Read More .

The base model comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which is quite standard nowadays, and likely suits your needs. If you want to splurge, you can go up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but that’s probably overkill for most people.

Battery Life

With a 3,000mAh battery, the HTC U11 is average. In everyday usage, I would get through the day just fine, but definitely couldn’t go for two. That’s about what you can expect from any flagship smartphone nowadays.

Thankfully, the U11 has Quick Charge 3.0 on-board, which means it charges up super fast. And the USB Type-C What Is USB Type-C? What Is USB Type-C? Ah, the USB plug. It is as ubiquitous now as it is notorious for never being able to be plugged in right the first time. Read More port is the future standard that all manufacturers will soon be moving to — and that’s great, because I can’t be the only one who was tired of microUSB cables not being reversible.

Should You Buy the HTC U11?

The U11 is really a mixed bag. The cameras are great, the display and front of the device are great, the internals are powerful, it comes with a great pair of headphones, it’s water-resistant – but it’s lacking in a lot of other areas.

Its back panel is smudgy and cheap-looking, it still uses capacitive keys, the Sense interface looks dated, the speaker is quiet, the squeeze feature is gimmicky, and it has no headphone jack.

While it gets some things right, I think there are much better smartphones you can get for this price.

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Enter the Competition!

HTC U11 Giveaway

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  1. Jane Gorton
    September 28, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Great review. Fantastic prize, thank you x

  2. Rose Freitag
    September 25, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Wow great features!

  3. Rose Freitag
    September 25, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Wow, looks like some great features!

  4. Sumeet Kumar
    September 15, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I didnt knew there are so many fans of HTC, until i read the comments!!

    Dear Makeuseof Team!
    There are so many smartphone reviews on your site, from famous brands to chinese one, however, I haven't seem camera samples of most of those phones (TBH! G5's review is the only review that i remember in which you have included 2 pictures taken from camera), nor the benchmarks. Its a request that kindly add them in your next smartphone Review.

  5. Vanishree
    September 15, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Best smartphone ?

  6. Vanishree
    September 15, 2017 at 10:51 am

    One of the best smartphone?

  7. Brian Aiello
    September 13, 2017 at 5:11 am

    I've long been a fan of HTC. They've been a leader in innovation and I've always enjoyed their phones.

  8. Godel
    September 12, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    From techradar.com review: "The final element is the HTC U11’s Boomsound speaker setup. There are two speakers, but HTC has stuck with the plan of splitting the sound between high-end and mid/bass levels, with the former coming out the earpiece and the latter firing downwards at the bottom of the phone. This means it’s easy to cover the loudest speaker, and when holding the phone in the hand the sound quality doesn’t work as well."

    So it does have two speakers but it doesn't have stereo.

  9. Ashton
    September 12, 2017 at 9:53 am

    If they remove jack they should add usb>jack adapter or smth.. ffs.. those designers..

    Glad there's so many phone giveaways though. Could use a new podcast phone ;P

    • MK
      September 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

      There is an included adapter in the box.

      • Ashton
        September 20, 2017 at 9:34 am

        Thought they only added headphones. In that case I see no issue with no jack.

  10. Ian
    September 8, 2017 at 1:06 am

    Did those of you flaming the review actually read it before ranting ?
    There is a lot praised in this review so stop whining when someone actually finds something they don't like.

    Edge sense is a problem when it interferes with a basic handling of the phone so fundamental that it actually dictates the form factor of that and virtually every other mobile phone.
    If there was some way of better differentiating an intentional use or squeeze vs simply picking it up that isn't just applying pressure, then it could be improved.
    If you have a consistent amount of grip when handling the phone it might work better for you, it just doesn't work for the reviewer and they made it clear why.

    The quality of the audio was in fact praised, with the only thing said against it as being the volume of the speaker which they described only as "quieter", a very minor complaint and certainly not stated to be bad or a problem.
    Not all speakers are going to be equal in volume, and if the only thing someone can find fault with is that then you should be pleased.

    The criticism of the camera comes from the selfie camera lacking physical features present on the rear one, a very fair point.
    Again not some outright bashing of the camera, but pointing out specifics which some don't even nail with the main one.

    In short, not a lot was actually criticised.
    You really need to take a look at what you are saying before accusing others of bias.

  11. Walid Mahmoud
    September 7, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    It's like a dream to have u11
    This is the best smartphone ever made
    So brilliant
    Keep going HTC
    I support you forever ?

  12. Walid Mahmoud
    September 7, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    It's a dream to have u11,
    Best smartphone ever,
    Keep going HTC

  13. Ant Biggs
    September 7, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    The HTC U11 has better cameras, better software, it's faster, has better fingerprint scanner placement and better audio and speakers than the s8. The squeeze feature is really useful, the amazing silver and the solar red are the best looking premium feeling phones out. The screen is bright and vibrant, nobody cares about the s8's curved sides, all that does is distort the picture around the edges and also you lose some of the picture anyway due to the aspect ratio. The HTC U11 is the best all round package out right now and if you as a reviewer can't see or admit that then your reviews aren't honest so I'd look to do something else as a job.

  14. Andischatz
    September 7, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    The reviewer clearly hasn't used the phone, tried its amazing camera or listened to its speakers. Also, try turning on the torch functionality at night in the dark with a single squeeze of the phone before calling Edge Sense ”gimmicky”.

  15. Emrah Demirel
    September 7, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    I'm hardly write comments on webpage etc but can't stop myself; you are just a moron!

  16. William
    September 7, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    No clue at all this reviewer.
    Clearly hasn't used the phone and of he has he was comatosed

  17. Lol
    September 7, 2017 at 11:51 am

    This person clearly doesnt need to write reviews. And clearly has not even seen a U 11. Clickbait is clickbait

  18. Dinesh
    September 7, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Fantastic review

  19. Prav
    September 7, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Totally agree with you guys. The review is pathetic horrible and unknowledgeable. Looks like someone went on GSM arena and Tech crunch and made their own opinion. Where are the photos taken from this phone?
    Btw have you ever heard of Boom sound?

  20. Amir
    September 7, 2017 at 7:27 am

    The only thing mediocre here is the this review. The author clearly hasn't used the device. If you are looking for a good and real review of this device, look ANYwhere else!

  21. Jonny
    September 7, 2017 at 3:52 am

    What the heck is this"review"?
    It has one single speaker? Lmao NO. it has stereo which can be really loud
    How about the 3D microphones?
    Did you actually used this phone more than an hour?

  22. Cristiano Rodrigues
    September 7, 2017 at 12:18 am

    "the speaker is quiet"
    LOL

  23. Alex
    September 6, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    I mean, one single speaker??? Are you ok? Your review is all wrong, you talk about the bad things of this phone, but you don't mention a lot of good things. Do you even have a HTC U11?

  24. WTF
    September 6, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    What a bizarre review. Did this guy even have a U11?

  25. Sochima
    September 6, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    This is the most biased and idiotic review I've ever come across. The U11 is the best smartphone this year.

  26. Swatantra
    September 6, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Thank you for all HTC U11:
    The HTC Giveaway Organisers.
    I hope to win this one.

  27. Hsjsjs
    September 6, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    This is a review or just your opinion? This phone is more than good, totally a beast.