HTC U11+ hands-on: a welcome addition

 

HTC has just presented the exciting HTC U11+ alongside the U11 Life. Will HTC’s 6-inch,18:9 format phablet be just a niche choice among the top smartphones of 2017, or will it outshine the rest in its category? Find out in our hands-on review.

HTC U11+ release date and price

Is it coming or not? The rumor mill had been chattering about the possibility of a Plus version of the HTC U11 for some time, then the reliable leaker Evan Blass threw everyone off a bit with this Tweet:

Well, we all make mistakes sometimes. The HTC U11+ arrived after all on November 2, alongside the Android One equipped HTC U11 Life. The HTC U11+ will be released starting later this month in Ceramic Black, and in a Translucent Black in the first quarter of next year. With the latter variant, you can actually see the inner workings of the phone, which is a clever touch.

Our American readers will be sad to hear that, according to The Verge, HTC has no plans to bring the HTC U11+ to the US, though it will be available in Europe, Asia and other markets globally. The HTC U11+ with 6 GB of RAM alone will be available for purchase on November 20 in the UK for £699, which is around $ 925. In Europe, the price will be equivalent at €799.

HTC U11+ design and build quality

With regard to the design, there are hardly any changes compared to the U11 at first sight, apart from the front-filling display and the fingerprint sensor being placed on the back.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus 1855 The fingerprint scanner migrated to the back. / © AndroidPIT

Only once you pick it up can you notice that the aluminum frame of the U11+ is wider and more robust. It is also noticeable that the frame is less rounded and appears more flat. This adds to the ergonomics of the 188 gram smartphone.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus 1845 Typical of HTC, there’s a textured power button. / © AndroidPIT

The design of the HTC U11+ seems more elegant and coherent than its predecessor, thanks in part to the more restrained coloring and the new 2:1 proportion. In addition, the smartphone offers better protection against dust and water, moving up from IP67 to IP68 certification. That means an improvement from a maximum of 30 minutes and 1 meter resistance to fresh water to protection against indefinite immersion in at least 1.5 meters of water.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus 1843 Headphones have to be plugged into a USB Type-C port. / © AndroidPIT

HTC U11+ display

In 2017, 18:9 display formats have been all the rage among manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Google and Huawei. Now, HTC has jumped on the bandwagon a bit late to the party with the HTC U11+, though it retains some of HTC’s peculiarities, like Super LCD technology in the display. The 6-inch screen has a 1,440 x 2,880 resolution and covers the DCI-P3 color space. In addition, it should be HDR10 compatible, but this may only come post-launch with a software update since HTC has yet to negotiate with content providers like Netflix and Amazon.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus vs Google Pixel2 XL 1907 Google Pixel 2 XL (left) und HTC U11+ (right) / © AndroidPIT

HTC U11+ special features

Like the HTC U11, Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2, the U11 + also has a squeezable sides. HTC calls this Edge Sense, while Google calls this feature Active Edge. HTC has further refined the software for the U11+ so that it can now be configured in many ways. Not only can various apps and voice assistants can be launched with a squeeze, but even functions in an app can be controlled that way. For example, the camera can be launched from directly inside the Facebook app by squeezing so that the photo taken can be edited directly inside the Facebook app and posted immediately.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus interface 2021 Still in the beta phase for now, but it’s possible that it could be ready for the December launch. / © AndroidPIT

For HTC U11 users, this feature will arrive later via an update.

HTC U11+ software

While the technical updates are minor, HTC has tweaked and optimized the software for the U11+. The most obvious change is that HTC Sense is now based on the new version of Android, Android 8.0 Oreo. Once again, you’ll find three assistants on board Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and HTC Companion.

A new software feature was added, a dial-shaped one-handed control menu. It features two levels of app shortcuts to keep you from having to swipe around the app drawer and homescreens to open your frequently used apps. 

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus interface 1999 Practical, one-handed control. / © AndroidPIT

Above the dial, there’s space for a monthly calendar. Sadly, the calendar can’t be replaced by another widget, but that could come in future updates. As a reminder, in the beginning, you could use Edge Sense to trigger the assistant.

Another handy gimmick is the two-sided navigation bar, which can be arranged as you please. Screenshot and screen recording functions can be put there, as an example.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus interface 2005 The two-sided navigation bar in action. / © AndroidPIT

HTC U11+ performance

The HTC U11+ has inherited its technical specs from its predecessor. The processor is the Snapdragon 835 from Qualcomm, and depending on the market, memory configurations include 6 GB of RAM with 128 GB of UFS 2.1 storage and 4 GB of RAM with 64 GB of storage, expandable by up to 2 TB via MicroSD.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 LG V30 Galaxy Note8 Pixel2 plus Huawei Mate10 pro 1977 In terms of performance, we expect the HTC U11 to be able to keep up with the competition. / © AndroidPIT

Since the devices that were available for this hands-on were pre-production models, we were unable to do any meaningful benchmarking. But, we expect performance to be on par with the HTC U11 since the specs are the same with the exception of different amounts of storage and RAM available.

HTC U11+ audio

Of course, the U11 with Plus can do what the HTC U11 can do without Plus. Here, HTC passes along Boom Sound, USonic headphones and four microphones for both Active Noise Cancelling and 3D audio recording. In our final review, we’ll find out if any aspect of the experience has changed, testing it with or without headphones, during calls and during entertainment use.

HTC U11+ camera

For the camera, HTC sticks to the tried and true. The U11+ has a 12.2 MP main camera with an aperture of f / 1.7 and a focal length of 28mm (small picture equivalent). When it comes to stabilization, HTC once again relies on the duo of optical and electronic image stabilization. The front camera has an 8 MP sensor with a f / 2.0 aperture with a focal length of 28mm (also small picture equivalent). We already saw what this combination was capable of in our review of its predecessor.

AndroidPIT HTC U11 Plus interface 2037 Can the camera of the HTC U11+ keep up with the competitors? / © AndroidPIT

We will find out in an upcoming comparison if the camera software will be able to keep up with newer competitors like the Galaxy Note 8, Google Pixel 2 (XL) and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, so stay tuned.

HTC U11+ battery

The HTC U11+ is packing a 3,930 mAh battery. With that kind of capacity, the phablet is hot on the heels of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro with its round 4,000 mAh. HTC relies on both Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 and USB Power Delivery for fast charging. Check out our article on the differences between these fast charging technologies in this article.

In our final review, we’ll see how long the phablet can hold out on 3,930 mAh, how it stacks up to the competition and which fast charging technology works quickest with it.

HTC U11+ technical specifications

Dimensions: 158.5 x 74.9 x 8.5 mm
Weight: 188 g
Battery size: 3930 mAh
Screen size: 6 in
Display technology: LCD
Screen: 2880 x 1440 pixels (537 ppi)
Front camera: 8 megapixels
Rear camera: 12.2 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 8.0 – Oreo
User interface: HTC Sense
RAM: 6 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.45 GHz
Connectivity:
HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Early Verdict

Despite testing a pre-production model, the HTC U11+ showed the potential of becoming one of the top smartphones of the year. It’s a high quality, powerful device. The new “App Dial” is a practical addition which puts app shortcuts within thumb’s reach for one-handed convenience.

It’s still too early to give a final verdict, of course. When we tested the HTC U11+, it still didn’t have the final software, and even after the launch in a few weeks there could still be some changes here and there. Overall, it’s a very promising phablet with a 6-inch display and it can be considered an insider’s pick among the top smartphones of 2017, just like its predecessor, the HTC U11.

HTC U11+

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