Clearly, HTC needs a big win for its smartphone business. As Samsung has established its top-end dominance and OnePlus has delivered flagship-level quality at mid-range prices, HTC's unique hook has diminished of late. The HTC 10 was quite nice, but the HTC U 11 needs to be absolutely brilliant. And not just a big gimmick, like the HTC U Ultra.
Based on the reported specs and features that have leaked so far, at least it sounds like HTC's next flagship will be ultra-powerful, which can't hurt, and will have one or two unique additions that could help it stand out from the crowd.
Curious? Of course you are: here's what we've heard so far.
What we know
>>> It won't be called the HTC 11
Until recently, the best shorthand we had for the new phone (until anything was made official) was the HTC 11 - even though HTC exec Chialing Chang told Engadget point black in January that there would be no phone called the HTC 11. It was being developed under the "HTC Ocean" codename, but now it seems the company will be calling it the HTC U 11 - the flagship phone to slot in above the HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play released earlier this year.
>>> It might lack physical buttons - and will be squeezable
Last autumn, notorious leaker Evan Blass shared an internal concept video for the HTC Ocean (above), which shows a phone without physical volume or home buttons; instead, it has "Sense Touch" sensors on the left and right sides of the phone, which can also be used to navigate between apps. There seems to be a small power button on the bottom, possibly for fingerprint security, but that might be it.
A newer leak, courtesy of Android Headlines, seemingly backed this up, showing how the side-facing sensors would work. You'll be able to activate features, jump into specific apps, and set up your own shortcuts just by giving the phone a squeeze.
An official HTC event invite and follow-up tweet seem to confirm these rumours, so expect to see the squeezable HTC U soon. Expect to see it in a choice of five different colours, too: white, black, blue, red and silver. Not all colours will be available in all countries, though, so you'll have to keep your fingers crossed your favourite makes it on sale in your home territory.
>>> It should run the Snapdragon 835
Keeping with HTC's trend of relying on Qualcomm's latest and greatest mobile processors, the HTC U is expected to use the Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip. The 10nm chip promises faster processing and download speed capabilities, dual camera support, Quick Charge 4 tech, and an Adreno 540 GPU. In other words, it'll fly.
It doesn't necessarily mean we'll be waiting a while for it, either - Samsung and Sony were reported to have vacuumed up the entire initial run of Snapdragon 835s, leaving other companies waiting in line, but according to Qualcomm it has plenty to go around.
>>> It may have 6GB RAM, too
That's kind of an absurd tally for a smartphone, yet once OnePlus made the move to 6GB for both the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, it was only a matter of time before the flagships had to follow. Rumours suggest that the HTC U will pack 6GB RAM to support that Snapdragon 835.
>>> Expect another Quad HD display
No, HTC won't be making the leap to a 4K screen this year – the rumoured spec reports point to a Quad HD display again, just like last year, which should fall in at 2560x1440 resolution. A purported leak points to a 5.5in display this time around, up from 5.2 on the HTC 10, and protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
It may even be curved now on both the left and right like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. It could support HDR video for the first time in an HTC phone, too.
>>> Mmm, Nougat
Android 7 Nougat is almost a certainty for a brand new flagship expected in the coming months, and a leaked spec screenshot suggests that Android 7.1.2 – recently offered in beta to Pixel and Nexus users – is running on a prototype device. Expect the latest and greatest on the version that ships, of course.
>>> Solid shooters planned
One leak for the HTC Ocean suggests that the phone will have a 12-megapixel, f/1.7 back camera and a 16-megapixel selfie shooter up front. That's right: the next HTC will be truly selfie-centric.
Both sound about on par with what we've seen on rival flagships of late, and if that 12MP back camera can hang with the Google Pixel, then it should be quite fine indeed. The latest leaks suggest it'll use the third generation of HTC's Ultrapixel sensor, and super-fast autofocus with optical image stabilisation. There's no word yet on whether HTC will shoot for something like the iPhone 7 Plus's dual-camera array, but expect real-time HDR image processing.
>>> The battery might not be massive
The latest reports suggest HTC is aiming for a 3000mAh battery in the Ocean, which is smaller than we'd like to see in a flagship phone - albeit on par with Samsung's Galaxy S8. At least Quick Charging 3.0 should be on board.
>>> It should sound fantastic
HTC has always made a big deal about sound, and that doesn't look set to change for the U 11. It should arrive with Boomsound speakers, Hi-Res audio support, active noise cancellation through the bundled earphones, and even the ability to record 3D audio.
>>> A Vive phone?
Here's an interesting tidbit: a leaked internal HTC video about a seeming brand transformation briefly shows a smartphone with the name of the company's VR headset on the back. We're not expecting the upcoming phone to arrive Vive-branded and capable of mobile VR, like the Samsung Gear VR and Google's Daydream - but HTC may have a surprise or two up its sleeve.
>>> We should see it soon
The HTC 10 was announced a little later than usual in April 2016, while the HTC One M9 was unveiled in March 2015. The smart money was always on HTC doing something similar for 2017, even with the largely absent set of leaks that usually accompany such a launch leaving us in the dark this year.
HTC's Taiwanese Facebook page gave us a big hint, suggesting an "unexpected surprise" would be coming on the 20th of March. Turns out it wasn't the phone we've been waiting to see, though: merely the sapphire glass version of the HTC U Ultra, which was originally announced as far back as CES in January. You big tease, HTC...
Finally, though, an official invite arrived in our inbox. You can chalk up May 16 as the day you'll finally get an official look at the next HTC U.
All the latest news
>>> 01 May 2017
According to MySmartPrice, retail packaging for the HTC U 11 showed up ahead of schedule, revealing all the hardware highlights. Beyond the Snapdragon 835 CPU, 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, it also mentions 12MP rear and 16MP front cameras, that unique Edge Sense squeezable tech, and a firm focus on audio, with Hi-Res support, Boomsound speakers, 3D audio recording and active noise cancellation for the bundled headphones.
>>> 21 April 2017
Evan Blass dropped a major hint that the new phone would be called the HTC U 11 - and going by his a stellar track record, we're guessing he's probably on the money. That all but guarantees this new phone will usurp the HTC 10 as HTC's flagship phone. He also mentioned a choice of five colours: white, black, blue, red and silver.
>>> 20 April 2017
HTC has officially sent out invites to the unveiling of the HTC U - confirming the name and hinting at what features to expect from the upcoming flagship. It will almost definitely have touch-sensitive side panels that can be squeezed to perform certain tasks, and will be revealed in Taiwan on the 16th of May. That's 7am UK time and 2pm Singapore time, so we're not expecting any local events to take place.
>>> 04 April 2017
Android Headlines dropped a huge HTC Ocean leak, revealing specs and features including the rumoured touch-sensitive sides. The preview materials apparently show how to set up the pressure sensors on the left and right side of the phone, and how squeezing them will let you activate apps or features. Flagship specs including a Snapdragon 835 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 5.5in QHD display with HDR support were also mentioned.
>>> 20 March 2017
That big tease mentioned on HTC's Taiwanese Facebook page last week turned out to be less "unexpected surprise", and more "very expected disappointment". The announcement was merely a sapphire glass version of the HTC U Ultra with 128GB of storage - which had already been revealed previously anyway. Move along, nothing to see here...
>>> 15 March 2017
HTC's Taiwanese Facebook page teased an "unexpected surprise" for the 20th of March - possibly hinting at a reveal date for the HTC 11. Still, with no other regional Facebook pages adding their own teasers, it seems like we could be getting a Taiwan-only announcement next week.
>>> 06 February 2017
A supposed leaked screenshot shows the purported specs of the HTC 11, including a Snapdragon 835 chip and 6GB RAM, showcasing what appears to be a high-powered new flagship device. However, some of the specs seem off (like the display dimensions), so don't put too much stock into everything the image shares - especially as the background matches up exactly with Huawei's EMUI settings screen.
>>> 12 January 2017
So much for the "HTC 11," it seems – company exec Chialin Chang tells Engadget that the company won't release a phone under that moniker this year. However, we're sure to get a flagship that serves as the successor to the HTC 10. Will it be the HTC Ocean instead?
>>> 08 January 2017
Another video leak from Evan Blass, this time with an internal promo video for the Touch Sense functionality. We see how it can be used to scroll through apps in a one-handed mode, which could certainly be helpful.
>>> 07 January 2017
A video leaked by Evan Blass (@evleaks) shows what seems to be a new focus for HTC, on various materials and phone styles to create more of an emotional connection with users… and what's this? A phone with HTC Vive branding on it? Indeed. It would seem that HTC has mobile VR plans on the brain, and perhaps this phone will end up being the HTC 11.
>>> 4 November 2016
According to a noted leaker on Weibo (via Android Pure), the HTC 11 may be equipped with a 5.5in, dual-curved Quad HD display, making it a little larger and a lot curvier than last year's model. Furthermore, the report claims that the phone will have a 12-megapixel back camera with 8 megapixels on the front shooter.
>>> 20 September 2016
Blass gives us what could be our first look at the HTC 11 or HTC Ocean's Touch Sense functionality, with this internal concept video. HTC designer Danelle Vermeulen says it's strictly a concept and isn't a functional device, but Blass has insisted otherwise in the time since.