We took a look at the HTC U11 earlier this year. While it was a stellar phone, it lacked the design language of a true 2017 flagship. The phone was definitely an improvement over previous HTC models. And six months down the line, we have not got the HTC U11+. How well does it fare and is it a viable upgrade over its predecessor?
Design and build
There is not much to complain about when it comes to the HTC U11+ design. It weighs 188g and comes in at 8.5mm thick which makes it slightly chunky. But yet, it is very comfortable to hold and use with one hand. The taller 18:9 aspect ratio of the screen provides the modern look and the bezel-less feel.
Whereas towards the back, it screams HTC. The back is reflective and smooth made of glass. In addition, the metal frame adds a robust touch to the handset which will make it less prone to damage under more enduring conditions. That being said, the phone’s back and front is likely to pick up micro-scratches over time if used without any protection.
Focusing on more minute design elements, the fingerprint scanner’s placement is very good. It is easy to reach and offers a fluid unlock experience. Whereas the slightly textured power button is also a nice way to distinguish itself from the volume rockers. And to top it off, the phone comes with IP68 water and dust resistance out of the box.
As mentioned before, the HTC U11+ employs the modern 18:9 aspect ratio with a 6-inch screen up front. The screen is an S-LCD6 panel that reproduces color quite accurately and comes coated with Gorilla Glass 5. In addition to this, its usability outside is great and while we are nitpicking, the screen tends to show a very slight blue hue when seen from an angle. For the average user, this is nothing to worry about.
The bezel-less feel is not quite the level of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 but yet, it is enjoyable. Watching videos and movies either online or stored on the phone’s 128GB of internal storage isn’t a problem especially because of its impressive audio output. With Boomsound support, the HTC U11+ is one of the loudest smartphones out there delivering some rich audio through its speakers. It is a stereo experience which we think many other smartphone manufacturers should replicate.
Unfortunately though, the phone’s lack of 3.5mm headphone jack is an omission we cannot wrap our heads around. As an alternative though, HTC provides its U-Sonic headphones with the handset out of the box. These are noise-cancelling earphones and do a great job at delivering sound but also providing a great amount of comfort. They work using the phone’s USB-C port but are strictly only compatible with HTC smartphones. So if you want to try them on any other phone with a USB-C port, you might not be in luck.
As great as a phone can feel, it is nothing without a good user experience. And in the case of the HTC U11+, it is nothing but good. Anything you throw at the phone feels snappy and responsive thanks to a combination of top hardware and software. The phone runs the latest Android 8.0 Oreo software and comes with no additional bloatware. The Sense UI skin on top enhances the overall experience but does not get in the way whatsoever.
For hardware, the phone’s is ticked by Qualcomm’s most recent Snapdragon 835 processor, Adreno 540 GPU and 6GB of RAM. Speed for the phone is no issue but where the phone seems to struggle is keeping applications in memory. This is not something that we have seen on other smartphones in the past but we are hopeful a software update will fix this.
Moving onto a more specific feature, it is Edge Sense. This is HTC’s way of standing out from the crowd and personally, it is nifty. Squeezing the phone to trigger an action is not something I used very extensively but it came in quite handy when launching the camera or snoozing alarms. There is now even an Edge Sense panel for quick access to many applications and I see the feature expanding with time. Where it comes a bit short is during its accidental launches which seemed to happen in my pocket leading to unwanted battery drain.
As for other shortcomings, the WiFi connectivity for the smartphone seemed patchy. It seemed to lose connection very easily when compared to other devices. And due to the phone’s microphone placement, it was easily covered with my pinky-finger during calls which caused some inconvenience.
Arguably, the optics on the HTC U11+ is where it loses out to the competition by a great margin. Its single 12MP camera while good does not reproduce the same level of dynamic range as other flagships do. During the day, you are more than likely to get good pictures but during the night, the phone takes average pictures. More often than not, the photos are blurry because of its slow shutter speed.
That being said, editing the photos gives you a lot of room to improve them. On the video side of things, you will get a 4K video option but it is not anything to be blown away by. Even with minimal movement, footage can be shaky which is a surprise considering the phone comes with optical image stabilization. As far as the front camera is concerned, the phone has an 8MP sensor which performs well all around. For social media sharing, the pictures it takes are nice with some good amount of detail. Skin tones also come out natural looking but for group pictures, the field of view can be limiting at times.
I think that the camera’s software suite also doesn’t provide much value. It is very simple with a lack of modes that I have grown accustomed to with other flagships and in some cases, even value smartphones. Sometimes, less is more but in this case, I feel like the offering is a bit too limited considering this is a flagship phone.
Hidden in the HTC U11+’s body is a larger than average 3930mAh battery. Over daily use, it has a very impressive standby and usage rating. During my time with it, I got six hours of screen on time on a regular basis and did not have to charge my phone through a typical day.
In spite of the glass backing, HTC missed the opportunity to opt with wireless charging support but it was not missed dearly. Thanks to QuickCharge 3.0, the phone went from 0-100% in 1 hour and 45 minutes. While not the fastest charging technology out there, it is definitely not something to sneeze about.
Depending on what you look for in smartphone, the HTC U11+ may or may not be for you. If you are looking for a dependable, snappy and futuristic phone, this phone is a valiant choice. On top of this, you will find unique features like Boomsound and Edge Sense that no other phones have.
But at the same time, its camera and local price might hold you back. The camera by no means is bad but there is no denying the market has seen better. Currently, the phone sells for Dh2849 which is a bit steep considering other options in the market. If priced a few hundred dirhams less, the HTC U11+ would provide very good value for money.