HTC's already made one great phone this year, but now it's decided to have a second crack at the whip with the ritzy new U11+.
A bigger, better version of the already impressive U11, the HTC U11+ has its sights on the top echelon of flagship smartphones. Its huge 6in display, gorgeous glass design and superb camera are all meant to reign triumphant over the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL and Samsung Galaxy Note 8. If only you’d ignore their fancy wiles and cast your eyes in its handsome direction…
So is the HTC U11+ an underdog extraordinaire or just another ‘coulda been a contender’? I went hands-on with the new smartphone to find out.
HTC U11+ display: not bezel-less, but not half bad
If you really want to boil things down, then the HTC U11+ is the U11 with a better screen. It’s not quite an edge-to-edge affair like we’ve seen with the Galaxy S8, Pixel 2 XL and iPhone X, but it is bigger at 6in and has an 18:9 aspect ratio that’s all the rage right now.
Unlike all those phones I mentioned earlier, the HTC U11+ uses an LCD panel instead of an OLED one. That means it’s unlikely to achieve the same calibre of contrast and colour accuracy. It’ll still support a wider DCI-P3 colour gamut and HDR 10 in the near future, but ultimately you’re looking at a screen that’s not quite on par with the best that 2017 has to offer. Given the HTC U11’s greatest shortcoming was its display, this isn’t an ideal turn of events.
Then again, the U11+ is unarguably a better phone than its predecessor. Visuals are bold, bright and sharp to behold and viewing angles also held up on first impressions. More importantly, having a hulking great 6in display to roll through your YouTube subscriptions on and sneak in the odd Stranger Things episode on the train is a neat step up from the 5.5in affair you got with the standard U11. So there’s really not a whole lot to complain about here.
If you are upgrading to a HTC U11+, just be aware its charms are mostly found elsewhere. Or, to be more specific, on its backside.
HTC U11+ Design and software: upgraded to Oreo
Yep. The truly lush, Liquid Glass design that made the HTC U11 one the most gorgeous phones of the year so far is back on the U11+. Haven’t seen it before? You’re gonna love it.
Thanks to the way HTC bakes different coloured layers into the U11+’s glass back, it gives off all manner of lovely reflections when you hold it to the light. It’s a whole lot more impressive than the iPhone 8’s glass aesthetic and happily holds a candle to the Samsung S8’s shimmering vibes. I only wish the HTC U11+ wasn’t only available in ceramic black right now, as you appreciate the effect a whole lot more when it’s done in red or blue. All the same, I adored the U11’s build and the same applies all over again here.
Ignoring the nagging absence of a headphone port - you’ll have to use a pair of bundled-in USB-C buds or go wireless - it feels solid in your hands at 188g and doesn’t require too much finger-stretching thanks to a shapely 158.5 x 74.9 x 8.5m construction. HTC has even added in a few nimble software tweaks that build on this phone’s squeezable nature and help account for its larger design.
Again, as with the HTC U11, squeezing the sides of the U11+ allows you to pull off several neat tricks without pressing a button. From snapping a quick selfie to awakening Google Assistant for voice-enabled AI bantz, this is a nice touch that works well and makes your phone that little bit easier to use. The same goes for a new scroll wheel that allows you to flick through apps with your thumb instead of stretching down to the bottom of your phone.
This stuff is all built on top of Android 8.0 Oreo, so improved battery life, more notification controls and picture-in-picture mode are bundled into the mix as well. So that gets a hearty thumbs up from yours truly.
HTC U11+ performance & camera: picture perfect
There’s nothing to sniff about with the HTC U11+’s internals either. They’re all par for the flagship course, with a Snapdragon 835 processor and a sizeable 3930mAh battery. How much RAM you get depends whether you opt for 64GB or 128GB internal storage, which net you 4GB or 6GB of the stuff respectively.
What does that all add up to? A supremely accomplished phone, that’s what. One that should be able to flit between Snapchat, Gmail and Riptide GP 2 with no trouble at all given the HTC U11 had almost exactly the same setup. It’s the U11+’s bumper battery that's really piqued my interest here though, as HTC is promising a 30% boost in stamina over the standard U11. So that should ensure it’ll last for a good day despite the bigger screen.
As for this phone’s camera, HTC has done the smart thing and stuck with the same 12MP setup that the served the U11 so well. That means you get optical image stabilisation, an f/1.7 aperture and HDR boost, and these things should all combine in the best possible fashion given we thought the U11 had the best smartphone camera of 2017 just a couple of months ago.
That test took place before the Pixel 2 and iPhone X hit stores though, so I can’t wait to see whether the HTC U11+ is still on top come Christmas. Considering the U11+’s selfie cam has been fine-tuned with an 8MP sensor featuring an 85-degree field-of-view, there’s every chance it this could be the case.
HTC U11+ Initial Verdict
The HTC U11 was a phone that went out on a limb, doing its own Liquid Glass thing while most other manufacturers chased the dream of an edge-to-edge display. Nothing the HTC U11+ does really change this state of play, but its bumper screen and battery do smooth out those rough edges a little further. And of course, you’re still getting some wicked fast internals and one of the best smartphone cameras money can buy here.
All of this makes the HTC U11+ a more viable rival to the raft of new iPhones and Pixels we’ve seen of late. Is it the perfect smartphone? No. But I admire it all the same and can’t wait to get my hands on it for a full review.
If you're already convinced, you can head to Flipkart post 7 February and buy one for yourself for ₹56,990 in silver (Ceramic Black coming soon).