Good for a squeeze

IT is hard to talk about the HTC U11 without calling it the squeezable phone.

The feature has been so heavily touted that it became synonymous with HTC’s latest flagship Android smartphone.

However, there is so much more to this portable than it is quietly brilliant.

The HTC U11 does not carry the same design language that is associated with premium smartphones in 2017. It has a 16:9 display that we are all used to, it has a bezel that frames the phone, dedicated navigation buttons, and regular forwards facing thumbprint reader with no other logging gimmicks.

Some would say that this makes the HTC U11 feel aged, but for the rest of us, the familiarity is welcomed.

That does not mean that HTC did put any effort in its phone’s design. Just like the HTC U series, the HTC U11 features bevelled glass front and back that curves into the metal frame giving it a smooth and seamless look and feel.

The most eye catching design feature of the HTC U11 is its unique back panel. It looks like a large bead of liquid metal, and it comes in five brilliant pearlescent colours. It is so reflective that it makes the perfect mirror for taking selfies with the rear camera, although that also makes the phone’s back a dust and fingerprint magnet.

To remedy this, the phones come with a transparent hard plastic back cover that adds needed grip to the phone and a small polishing cloth to buff out any smudges.

Its 5.5in display is also quite a looker. Underneath the 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5 s a Quad HD display that is comfortable to read on for long periods of time, day or night, which I find great. Its high resolution and colour reproduction also make it excellent for previewing pictures and watching videos. Although, I would prefer a larger screen.

HTC phones are known for their great audio, and the HTC U11 continues that legacy with a more powerful BoomSound system that makes the phone’s speaker sound loud, clear, and a head above its competitors.

You will not find a 3.5mm audio connector on the phone, but HTC makes up for it by not only including a USB-C digital to 3.5mm audio jack adapter but also a pair of HTC USonic earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation.

Using some proprietary technology, the USonic earbuds map can map your inner ear and adapt the sound profile to fit you. At first, I thought it was just marketing spiel, but after using it for myself, I have become a fan.

Another touted selling point of the HTC U11 is its AI companion and the phone’s compatibility with Google’s and Amazon’s AI assistance. Because of geographical restrictions, I could only use Google’s AI assistance here in Malaysia, and after a couple of weeks and several updates, the HTC Sense Companion does little more than count my steps and tell me the weather predictions for Kuala Lumpur while I am in Petaling Jaya.

The brains of the HTC U11 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the latest flagship processor for Android phones. What is more impressive is that this is paired with 128GB of expandable storage and 6GB of memory.

Suffice to say that the phone had no problem with any task I throw at it, and its performance would be a boon for any heavy user. Nevertheless, the back of the HTC U11 can get warm while doing processor heavy tasks such as playing certain games. This is typical with any high powered phones.

My favourite feature on the HTC U11 has to be its camera. Unlike most mobile phone cameras, especially those that are marketed as being the best, the pictures taken with this phone looks natural.

It does not pop with simulated contrast and colour enhancements, which make the pictures looks pleasing.

Combine the bright f1.7 lens and the phone’s fast auto HDR mode, and you get excellent low light and high contrast performance as well.

All this is done with a single 12MP HTC UltraPixel 3 sensor.

The front facing camera is a 16MP sensor with an f2 lens and is less impressive much like the phone’s squeeze feature which is useful, but could have been substituted with an extra button.

Powering the phone is a 3000 mAh battery which on paper seems small. In the weeks I have been using the phone I have never had any problems with its battery life despite moderate to heavy use.

However, the Quick Charge 3.0 feature is helpful to alleviate any worry.

At RM3,099, the HTC U11 is one of the more affordable high-end phone in the market today, and is the most balanced regarding price, features, and performance.