Saturday, 24 June 2017 15:56

HTC U11 – my main squeeze (review)


HTC has a world first – the addition of Edge Sense to a flagship class phone which means one can now say, “She’s my main squeeze.”

The squeeze, sorry Edge Sense, is HTC’s pioneering new addition to a touch screen interface. While it is early days for squeeze, it is potentially far more than a gimmick and I can see it being adopted more and more by app developers as a new way to interact with a phone. While it will not replace touch, it will offer faster access and higher levels of intuitiveness.

The phone hardware is up there with the best: 5.5” QHD IPS display, latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4/64GB/microSD, 12MP big-pixel rear camera, 3000mAh battery, and IP67 rating. There is nothing missing from iTWire’s flagship paradigm that it measures against. It even has the highest DXOMARK camera rating of 90, taking the Google Pixel/XL's crown.

But herein lies the rub. Apart from Squeeze — which don’t get me wrong, every smartphone maker will try to emulate — it is paddling in a highly competitive flagship market. It is well specified, attractive enough (especially the Sapphire Blue and Solar Red), and well-priced at $999 if you compare it to the similarly specified Samsung S8 ($1199), Huawei P10 Plus ($1099), Sony XZ Premium ($1099) or even an iPhone 7 ($1229).

HTC U11 colours

The catch 22 is that HTC is not seen as such a desirable brand as say Samsung, Apple or Sony – all of which spend the equivalent of a small country’s GDP on marketing, So, my advice is buy with your head and wallet, not your heart because something has brand cred.

Spoiler alert: My head says to my heart, “Shut up and love this phone.”

The “U” nomenclature is a play on “You” from its highly reflective (yes, you can check your face/hair in it) fingerprint magnet, Gorilla Glass 5, liquid glass-clad front and gently curved back to its intuitive interface, BoomSound, USonic audio, and HTC Sense AI companion that is devoted to “U”.

Out of the Box. HTC U11

  • HTC U11
  • A clear bumper case – use it.
  • Qualcomm Quick Charger 5V/2.5A, or 9V/1.7A or 12V/1.25A (many other companies charge extra for this).
  • USB-A to USB-C cable.
  • USB-C headset (premium).
  • USB-C to 3.5mm dongle with built in DAC.
  • Cleaning cloth for the fingerprint magnet – sorry, liquid glass.

HTC U11 box

Setup is easy and you can avoid signing into Google and HTC’s own cloud which is important in some Asian countries, and can help you to preserve some semblance of privacy.

The first impression is that it is elegant but in a “plain Jane” way. The front is totally black, curved edges, bereft of the logo, and branding is subtly on the back.

Second impressions are how damned fast and responsive it is – HTC knows how to tune the OS to the new 835 processor as it did so well with the Google Pixel and Nexus it has made.


I am testing a new format for this review: the specifications have an added column for comments – what’s good and bad, above or below iTWire’s flagship paradigm. I try not to compare it too much with other brands – rather the “paradigm”. Hopefully, it will save a few words later.





Available in single and dual sim

Telcos are demanding single sim models


5.5”; Quad HD, 2560 x 1440, 534 ppi; Super LCD 5 (HTCs own design to reduce the air gap); Gorilla Glass 5 front and back; display personalisation; Curved edge glass.

One of the better IPS screens, but it is a fingerprint magnet. Bright colours, dark blacks - user-definable colours.

Like all IPS daylight readability is an issue.

No always on display but has a notification LED


71.4% screen to body ratio

This is a traditional 16:9 design with largish bezels top and bottom but it scores major points as the capacitive keys are part of the bezel, not the screen.

IP rating


6 = No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust tight). A vacuum must be applied.

7 = The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water up to 1m for 30 minutes

The clear bumper case (supplied) and glass screen protector are recommended.

Some phones this year have IP68 – that only means an additional .5 metre depth.


Qualcomm 835

Eight-core (4x2.45 GHz Kryo & 4x1.9 GHz Kryo)

Adreno 540 GPU

The best you can get. In independent tests, it was amongst the fastest flagships generally coming just under the Samsung GS8 Exynos chip.






To 256GB, OTG to 2TB external devices

There is a model with 6GB/128GB for China.



12MP BSI sensor, 1.4 µm pixels

f/1.7 lens

“Motion Eye” predictive capture

HDR Auto

True optical image stabilisation (OIS)

UltraSpeed Autofocus (dual pixel phase detection)

4K at 30fps recording

Hi-res audio recording and acoustic focus

Dual LED flash

Pro mode allows up to 32-second exposure


Slow-mo 120 fps

When I first saw these specs I said this is a winner. It matches the 1.4 µm and f/1.7 of Samsung’s GS8.

Google Pixel has 1.5 µm pixels and was the highest DXOMARK of 89 until this came along.

Add true OIS — not EIS — and this is a clear leader.



16MP, BSI sensor, 1.12 µm pixels

f/2.0 wide-angle lens




1080p @30fps video record

Can have HRD or screen fill flash for very low light. It would be perfect if it allowed concurrent use. Still, it produces some of the best selfies I have seen.


Cat 16 (1Gbps/75Mbps)


2 and 3CA (carrier aggregation)


Wi-Fi Calling

There are no Australian carriers supporting Cat 16 so the best you will get is about 200Mbps.


Wi-Fi AC dual band 2x2 MU-MIMO

Wi-Di, DLNA, Chromecast, Airplay

Bluetooth 4.2 and aptX



Amazing Wi-Fi, getting 866Mbps on the 5GHz band from a D-Link AC5300 tri-band router. Compared to 256Mbps on GS8.


Fingerprint in right side power button

USB 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbps with DisplayPort compatibility

Edge sensor for added interface use

Notification LED

Handy to have DisplayPort output, but you will need to find a USB-C to DP dongle.


High-Resolution Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD)

BoomSound stereo front facing speakers

No 3.5mm jack but dongle supplied

Hi-Res – four mics

USonic active noise cancelling ear buds

Alexa coming soon – until then it is OK Google

Nice to see lossless Hi-Res as well as lossy MP3 etc.
The 3.5mm dongle is good but you can’t charge at the same time.

One of the better sounding phones I have tested – a slab of audio excellence.



Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charger supplied

5V/2.5A, or 9V/1.7A or 12V/1.25A

No Wireless charge.

Seventy-three-hour endurance rating equates to an 18-hour day – you will need to charge and Quick Charge does 53% in 30 minutes – an hour overall.


Android 7.1.1

HTC Sense

With guaranteed upgrade to 8.x.

HTC Sense companion, while still embryonic, will help the phone to become more useful in a way Google Assistant cannot.



153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm


It is a big phone in comparison to the svelte Samsung S8 and feels wide in the hand.


Amazing Silver, Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Ice White, Solar Red – all come with a black front

Depends on Single and Dual sim and retailer

Speed – heaps

Geekbench 4 multicore tests place it on par with the Samsung Galaxy S8 (835 version) and slightly faster than the Sony XZ Premium (also 835). It means HTC know how to tune the OS to the processor. The difference between last years Snapdragon 821 (Google Pixel) and the 835 are amazing – Pixel comes in at 4152 and U11 at 6125. The fastest is the Samsung GS8 with Exynos at 6338.

The Adreno 540 performs the same as any other smartphone.

VR: I suspect that as all Daydream phones so far have AMOLED screens (Pixel XL, Axon 7, GS8/+, Moto Z), and this is LCD it will not have VR compatibility.

In use, I often commented how quick it was and even under huge load and playing 4K content it was flawless.

Edge Sense – so squeezy

HYC U11 squuze cameraThe sides of the phone have embedded pressure sensors. HTC has released a developer’s SDK to allow apps to use context-sensitive squeezes.

You can set up the squeeze feature and adjust the force required to suit your grip.

You can allocate two gestures – short press and long press to an app (it must recognise it). In the camera app, for example, the short squeeze opens the app and long squeeze takes the shot (it delays the shot a couple of seconds so you can compose it).



Sense Companion

HYC U11 batteryI did not have a lot of time to explore this but HTC has made it plain that it is no ordinary assistant.

The Companion App requires full permissions so that its AI engine can make recommendations based on location, calendar events, phone usage, and fitness/activity data. It is no different to what Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, Bixby etc., all want and try to do.

It takes behavioural data points like location, time, and fitness activity, and makes recommendations e.g. if you normally leave work at 6 pm and your calendar shows going to dinner at 8 pm it could remind you based on battery use to top it up first.

To be honest, it is yet another AI app and its usefulness will depend on how well you train it and how well HTC develops it. Given all the trouble that Cortana, Bixby, Alexa and even Siri had in understanding Australian localisation I think it is a big ask. Still HTC are determined.

Sense UI

HTC’s overlay over Android mainly relates to iconography – it comes loaded with the stock Google Android Apps and not much more. Bloatware begone.

But there are gesture controls like double tap to wake, app shortcuts, Blinkfeed, theming, Boost+ power use, Power optimiser and more.

It is a light skin over Android, as it should be, to allow for full Android functionality and Google Android OTA updates.


HTC U11 hiresHTC has one front facing “tweeter” (the earpiece slot) and one down firing mid-range (on the bottom) that also acts as a sub. The sound is acceptable quality and can be overly loud. It offers Theatre and Music modes that either boost treble, or try to balance out the stereo effect and split the sound spectrum equally between the two disparate speakers.

Commendable is the hi-res sound support (although that is a standard feature of the Snapdragon 835).

The USB-C USonic buds feature active noise cancellation (ANC) and use the microphones in the phone to create the negative noise signal in the buds. Sonar sensors in the earbuds detect the echo in your ear canals and create an optimal profile – clever.

My take – USonic is as good as the average wireless Bluetooth ANC headphones and eats traditional buds for breakfast.

In tests with a Pioneer AV amp/Jamo speakers and Sennheiser PXC-550 Bluetooth headphones, it outputs a clear, clean, unadulterated sound signal covering most of the 20Hz to the 20KHz range.

In hands-free speakerphone use, calls were clear and loud enough and callers commented that it was clear at their end – courtesy of the four mics.

Camera – the best so far

HTC U11 cameraIt has scored the DXOMARK of 90, the highest so far.

I use a series of about 100 shots in a reference library displayed on a colour calibrated monitor to do comparisons. Apologies for not “publishing” shots here but the typical screen resolution for publication simply destroys the subtle nuances you see on a calibrated screen.

All being equal, it certainly beats the Samsung Galaxy S8 (DXOMARK 88) and Google Pixel (89) but I found it hard to prefer one over the other. It uses the 1.4µm pixels, a f/1.7 OIS, lens, and Dual Pixel Autofocus – all the same as the GS8. On paper, there is nothing between them. GSMArena has a shootout between both cameras here.

Where it gets the precious two extra points is from the amazing post processing built into the Snapdragon 835, the dual LED flash, and possibly the app is better tuned.

  • In daylight, good natural light with HDR: Shots were amazing bringing out details in shadows and natural colours – perhaps not as saturated as the GS8.
  • In daylight, early evening: The HTC was marginally behind the GS8 – the latter uses HDR, Flash and OIS, where the former uses HRD or flash and OIS.
  • Indoors, natural office light (500 lumens): The HTC had slightly less detail but slightly fuller colour
  • Indoors, low light: HTC had slightly more natural colours but had a bit too much contrast – the GS8 tend to amp colour up in post processing.

Yes, the HTC is the winner by a hair's breadth. I looked at the Pixel reference shots and, while they were also excellent, the lower powered Snapdragon 821 is outclassed now in post processing power.

Selfie: HTC’s 16MP selfie is excellent with screen fill flash and HDR and a two-second countdown delay after pressing the shutter.

Video: 4K – better HDR detail, but noisier than the GS8. Samsung had faster OIS. 

Camera conclusion: Both use very similar technology but the HTC edges ahead - you will be thrilled with the HTC or the GS8 …


  • Everything you could want from the flagship paradigm.
  • Strong camera – if not the strongest.
  • Strong audio and amazing buds.
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charger supplied.
  • Edge Sense – squeeze is a differentiator albeit very early days.
  • Good value.
  • Latest tech (as of June 2017).
  • Good, albeit plain looks.


  • Incredible liquid glass fingerprint magnet.
  • Battery life good but not exceptional.
  • Still unable to have auto HDR and auto flash at the same time – GS8 can!
  • No wireless charge or AMOLED always on screen like the GS8.
  • I the glass front and back but let's see how it fares in drop tests (Gorilla Glass 5 should withstand 1.5 m drops).
  • No 3.5mm jack but dongle supplied (can't charge at the same time).
  • It is a bigger device, but not overly so.

HTC U11 header


Love it – especially the solar red, that is what my head/heart says. It is a very worthy contender for best Android smartphone of the year. Put HTC U11 back on the top of your shopping list.

I must say that as a reviewer, especially since 2013 when I started writing for iTWire, phones have come an incredibly long way. There is nothing wrong, sorry mostly everything right, with the current 2016/2017 flagship smartphones and some amazing mid-range value and performance like the OPPO R9s Plus.

So, I could give this a 10 out of 10 but I think we need a new rating system because the GS8, for example, has Wireless Charging and the amazing 18:9 AMOLED screen – it deserves brownie points.

On the other hand, HTC U11 has Edge Sense and that camera deserves brownie points too.

Until I work out how to be quantitative rather than subjective, let’s just say it would bring a smile to any flagship buyer to see it under the Xmas tree.

It is the best smartphone HTC has ever made and totally restored my faith in this long-term, iconic, Taiwanese brand.

Subscribe to ITWIRE UPDATE Newsletter here

Active Vs. Passive DWDM Solutions

An active approach to your growing optical transport network & connectivity needs.

Building dark fibre network infrastructure using WDM technology used to be considered a complex challenge that only carriers have the means to implement.

This has led many enterprises to build passive networks, which are inferior in quality and ultimately limit their future growth.

Why are passive solutions considered inferior? And what makes active solutions great?

Read more about these two solutions, and how PacketLight fits into all this.


WEBINAR INVITE 8th & 10th September: 5G Performing At The Edge

Don't miss the only 5G and edge performance-focused event in the industry!

Edge computing will play a critical part within digital transformation initiatives across every industry sector. It promises operational speed and efficiency, improved customer service, and reduced operational costs.

This coupled with the new capabilities 5G brings opens up huge opportunities for both network operators and enterprise organisations.

But these technologies will only reach their full potential with assured delivery and performance – with a trust model in place.

With this in mind, we are pleased to announce a two-part digital event, sponsored by Accedian, on the 8th & 10th of September titled 5G: Performing at the Edge.


Ray Shaw

joomla stats

Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

Share News tips for the iTWire Journalists? Your tip will be anonymous




Guest Opinion

Guest Interviews

Guest Reviews

Guest Research

Guest Research & Case Studies

Channel News