Want to launch the camera on the HTC U11? Just squeeze.
When the phone’s pressure-sensitive sides register your tightened grip, it’ll open the app you’ve programmed in.
Say you’ve squeezed the camera app open. You can squeeze again to take a picture. A long squeeze might open and close the flashlight, or toggle Wi-Fi or a voice recording. Or another app of your choice.
What’s going on is an entirely new way to interact with a phone. Called Edge Sense, this feature marks the first time any phonemaker has used touch like this. For HTC, a company that has itself felt the squeeze from larger rivals such as Samsung, Apple and LG, the U11’s grippy new feature presents an opportunity to step out of others’ shadows with an industry first.
Giving a phone pressure-sensitive sides is an incredibly interesting innovation, and one that raises a lot of questions: is this a natural way to open shortcuts, or is it better suited to some other task? Will it be accurate or will mispresses abound? Is it a useless gimmick, or the start of exciting things to come?
I don’t have an answer to that yet, but after my brief time with the phone, I did try out many of the launch options, and I like that an animation of squeezed-in sides lets you know the feature’s working. I found the motion easy to execute, but I did sometimes long-squeeze when I meant to short-squeeze.
I think muscle memory will take care of that down the road. I also think this method of app-launching would only be useful for the apps I open all the time (which takes that voice recorder out of the running).
The bigger question for HTC is if the U11’s fresh look and feel, and high end specs are enough to make a dent in Samsung and Apple’s overwhelming lead — squeeze feature or no. From what I’ve seen of the U11 so far, its premium hardware stands the best chance of any HTC phone in quite awhile.
The rest will come down to performance, and how well HTC can gets its phone in front of buyers.
Gorgeous glass design, advanced processor and everything else
The Big Squeeze sure is attention-grabbing, but it’s really one small feature in what’s shaping up to be a pretty good package.
You get a 5.5-inch display with a QHD, or 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution (same as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6), so there’s plenty of screen to interact with.
Then there’s the body itself. The U11 refines the gorgeous “melted” glass design of the U Ultra. It really does look like pools of liquid. It’s striking.
It’s also highly reflective and smudges up quickly. The phone meets a water-resistant rating of IP67, which helps keep water away for up to 30 minutes and 3 feet (1 meter).
I like that the 12-megapixel rear camera sits flush on the design; it’s good that the lens doesn’t poke out. If you follow camera specs, the U11 uses dual-pixel autofocus technology rather than laser autofocus (this should help it focus faster), and has an aperture of f1.7 (versus f1.8 on the HTC 10).
Your front-facing camera is a 16-megapixel wide-angle lens (150 degrees). Camera images seemed completely usable in my quick tests, but I didn’t have the time to really dig deep into setting or image quality.
Full specifications for the HTC U11
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels|
|Dimensions (inches)||6.1 x 3 x 0.31|
|Dimensions (millimeters)||154 x 76 x 7.9|
|Weight (ounces, grams)||6 oz.; 169g|
|Mobile software||Android 7.1.1 Nougat|
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.4GHz+1.9GHz)|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB (varies by region)|
|RAM||4GB, 6GB (varies by region)|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB|
|Fingerprint sensor||Home Button|
|Special features||IP67, dual SIM (some regions)|
Editor’s Note: Review done by Jessica Dolcourt, Author at CNET