HTC U11 Review: 3 Months Later…and Counting…

The last time I reviewed a phone, it was the Android phone of the moment. Now, I will be reviewing the most underrated Android flagship phone of the moment. You probably haven’t heard of it yet, or if you did you forgot you ever did. So I’m here to remind you and also show you what you’re probably missing, and could’ve been saving instead, if you got one instead of the other flagships out there, iPhones included.

I’m talking about HTC U11. I have one in Solar Red.

I’ve had this phone since August this year and  it still looks the way it did when I bought it. And now that it’s also updated to Android 8.0 aka Android Oreo, it feels like I got myself a brand new unit. There are several things I like about it, which I think would also be a good focus for this review.

1. Camera

Although HTC U11 still uses a single main/front camera, it doesn’t skimp on quality. I haven’t used my Fuji XT-1 for a while now because I am that satisfied with my HTC U11 camera. Both front and main camera work great and the thing is, its mirror-like back actually helps when I want to use the main camera for group selfies. I’ve also been populating my Instagram with it and not finding any reason to use any filter whatsoever. Colors come out so life-like, using a filter when posting the photos feels so wrong. It takes amazing landscape photos too, and with a super fast autofocus, could capture shots with little to no motion blur. It also creates DSLR-like depth of field and could produce bokeh like you wouldn’t believe it’s from a mobile camera.

Playing with the manual settings

 

details, details, details

Speaking of autofocus, I also love that its squeeze feature lets me take a selfie without doing finger gymnastics especially for group selfies. Whether I’m using the main or front camera, if there’s a spontaneous subject I want to capture, or I’m taking action shots, I usually just squeeze the sides of my HTC U11 to capture moments.

2. Squeezable sides a.k.a. Edge Sense

A lot of people found this a gimmicky feature. I don’t and never did. At this point, most phones (iPhones and Androids) have almost the same features. Or if they ever have a new feature per model, it’s just playing catch up to what others already have. Case in point, *cough*iPhone X*cough*. So to find a phone that actually thinks of another way to manipulate said device one-handedly, in a natural manner, is a two thumbs-up for me.

I personally enjoy the squeeze feature for two things—taking screenshots and taking photos. HTC recently included a few more features that can be triggered using the squeeze function, such as zooming in or out on Google Maps, calling out notifications on Facebook, etc. I also appreciate that they’ve included a squeeze animation that shows you how much pressure you’ve been applying when using the gesture and if it would call out the function you’ve set it to. Speaking of pressure, I also find it smart that HTC managed to really differentiate between short squeeze and squeeze and hold actions.

No wonder this feature is now being used too by Google’s Pixel phones.

3. Audio

This is the best audio experience I’ve ever had in a mobile phone, hands and feet down. One of my pet peeves with the Samsung S7 Edge is that I found its built-in speakers to be lacking in terms of volume. With the HTC U11, I LOVE both the Boomsound speakers of the phone and the bundled HTC USonic with Active Noise Cancellation earphones.

The sound quality is so superb, I don’t even need any external speakers with it. There are two modes you can listen to: Music and Theater. My favorite is Theater, as I think the bass in that mode is thicker. I also think it’s louder of the two. When I’m listening to audio using the USonic earphones, it does become difficult to stop.

4. Battery

I’m used to Samsung S7 Edge’s long battery life so I had high expectations for HTC U11. With 3000 mAh, I find that I can get by with about 90% charge for the whole day if I refrain from playing Battle Bay. That game sucks the life out of my HTC U11 because it uses graphics and Internet at the same time. But with the usual camera usage, Internet browsing, and other app usage combined, my HTC U11 rarely flinches its battery percentage in a day. It is possible to get by half a day with just 60% charge, provided I do no Battle Bay gaming.

I also love that it has quick charging technology in its charging cable, which meant that I can use said cable with any power bank or power outlet that has a USB port. My Samsung S7 Edge had its quick charging feature within its power brick, which meant that unless I was charging using the brick itself then I better prepare to count the hours before I get close to a full charge on my phone.

5. Super LCD Display

Honestly, I don’t know sh*t about this Super LCD thing before HTC U11 and I only learned that such a thing exists when I saw it on the spec sheet. Heh. Coming from an AMOLED experience, like the battery, display quality is one of those things that my Samsung S7 Edge has ingrained on me. Like girl, you can never enjoy an IPS LCD ever again after this I tell you! And indeed, I can’t. But HTC U11’s Super LCD screen was like, biiitch whatchasay you ain’t seen me yet!

The display is stunning and clarity is da bomb I am running out of proper words to describe it. All in all, I just have to say that I can watch series episodes and loads of YouTube vids on it without even wanting to switch to a bigger screen.

So, in the spirit of fairness and equality, I think it’s only proper that I also share the few cons I have with my HTC U11. In case you are on the lookout for a new flagship phone, here are some of the peeves I wish were better made or applied on this phone.

1. Screen size – I am satisfied as it is with the 5.5 inches of screen, BUT in this day and age of bezel-less design, I can’t help but think that a few millimeters of bezels cut off the top and bottom would have been better used to increase screen ratio. Sometimes, I phantom-tap on the menu buttons on the left and right side of the home/fingerprint sensor just because there’s too much space out there that is just, well “poor use of space.”

Although at the time this phone was made, I understand that HTC had some problems procuring bigger screens because they don’t make them. STILL, HTC, puhlease do not ever repeat this kind of screen again in your future flagships!

2. Audio jack – While I don’t hate the lack of audio jack with intense fiery passion as others do, I do think that it would’ve been nice if it was still there. I mean, Samsung and LG both managed to use both USB Type C ports with audio jacks. I am for more options, and looking at how thick the HTC U11 is anyway, I am convinced it could’ve just been squeezed in. And while I also love the bundled HTC USonic earphones, and appreciate the bundled USB Type C port to audio jack dongle, I also like to just plug any type of traditional earphones to my phone without all that dongle shiz.

All that said, I still love my HTC U11 to bits and do not think of replacing it unless needed. By the way, if you’re wondering, I sold my Samsung S7 Edge last November because my previous company had a very specific thing about the brand of mobile phones we use. And I bought an HTC U11 because I was able to play with it before it was officially sold and known around the rumour mill as “Ocean.” I remember being so floored at how insanely good the audio was as I blasted off Spotify from it, and how stunned I was to see that another mobile phone can compete, if not be better, than my Samsung S7 Edge experience.

To top it off, I bought my dual-SIM 64 GB HTC U11 for just NTD 18,300. A flagship phone at less than NTD 20,000 is so hard to have these days so I was shooketh to the coreth! Aaaaand, three months and counting), this phone still shookeths me like no other.

The goodies that come inside the box

P.S.: This is also the first time that I used a clear case for a mobile phone. I’m so happy with my Spigen and how it’s allowed that beautiful golden red to shine through the back. Also, the Gorilla Glass 5 used on the HTC U11’s screen is so reliable I don’t need any screen protector on it! Despite putting it on my back pocket, or sometimes just putting it inside my bag without any pouch, no scratches whatsoever are present on my screen so far.

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