HTC launches U Series Ultra and Play smartphones

HTC has noted the popularity of LG's second screen concept and built one of its own... but with AI

HTC U Series
The HTC U Ultra. The company's most powerful phone packs Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 processor and a second screen

The HTC U Series is finally here. Available in two models, we were given a preview of the 5.7-inch HTC U Ultra and 5.2-inch HTC U Play smartphones at an event on Tuesday. Chialin Chang, President of Smartphone and Connected Devices Business at HTC, presented the devices, which will be available later this week.

HTC U Series Play
The 5.2-inch HTC U Play in Sapphire Blue retails for Dh1,799

Both devices are 3D-contoured with a “liquid surface”. As with the Desire 10 and recently released evo, HTC has paid attention to design detail, with the intention of creating something that catches the eye while lying face-down. As with the aforementioned models, a key element here is the reflection of light off the U Series smartphones’ backs.

U Series Ultra AI

Another new feature is the HTC Sense Companion, which incorporates elements of machine and deep learning into the devices. HTC calls it “a personal companion who is consistently learning from the user”. Thanks to four always-on microphones and voice recognition capabilities, it’s always listening. Through AI, the HTC Sense Companion gets to know you through machine learning to present customised and personalised suggestions and quietly support you in your pursuit of brilliance. The HTC U Ultra features a dual display (similar to that seen in the LG V10 and V20) that delivers this prioritised information for you without interrupting the main display.

HTC U Series Ultra second screen
The U Ultra’s second screen flashes AI-driven notifications. These are delivered based on your usage of the device, and can be both reminders or suggestions. Both devices feature a 16MP front camera with a wide-angle lens and optional UltraPixel shooting 

HTC has also brought back the USonic technology we saw in the evo. It uses a sonar technology headset to analyse a person’s unique inner ear to adapt to the shape of their canal and the noise levels in the environment. This adaptive audio feature was developed to work with the built-in Hi-Res audio DAC, which also appears in the 10 and evo. The HTC U Ultra includes four omnidirectional mics that capture positional sound and allow for 360-degree audio recording.

There is no headphone jack.

Camera and under-the-hood specs

The U Series’ main cameras feature optical image stabilization, phase detection autofocus , a dual-tone LED flash and Pro Mode, among others. The HTC U Ultra comes with a 12MP UltraPixel main camera while the HTC U Play features a 16MP main camera. Both devices include a 16MP selfie camera with a wide-angle lens for panoramic selfies and the option to switch to an UltraPixel mode for clearer images in darker environments.

HTC U Series
The HTC U Ultra’s primary camera is 12MP with UltraPixel 2, f/1.8 aperture, OIS and laser autofocus

The HTC U Ultra has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 5.7-inch Quad HD Super LCD 5 display with a dual display of 2.05 inch with Gorilla Glass 5 on the 64GB model and Sapphire Glass on the 128GB model. The HTC U Play is a more compact 5.2 inches with Gorilla Glass and a MediaTek Helio P10 processor.

Both devices will be available in four colours: Brilliant Black, Cosmetic Pink, Ice White and Sapphire Blue. The HTC U Ultra is Dh2,799 for the 64GB model while the U Play retails at Dh1,799. We don’t have any confirmation on the 128GB Ultra yet, but we’ll let you know if/when we do.