HTC has officially announced its new flagship smartphone, the HTC U11. The successor to last year’s HTC 10 features a 5.5-inch, Quad HD display, Snapdragon 835 processor, and new glass and metal design. But its marquee feature is something the company calls Edge Sense, which enables a new way to interact with your phone by letting you squeeze the sides of the device to perform different functions.
The feature uses sensors built into the sides of the phone, just below the volume and power keys, to detect pressure as the user squeezes the phone. The phone doesn’t actually squeeze of course, but you’ll see an on screen cue as visual feedback that you’re activating the feature. Users can configure all kinds of actions — launching an app or a function within an app — triggered by either short or long squeezes.
It sounds gimmicky — and probably is — but HTC isn’t afraid to try unconventional features to stand out in a market where it’s already hard to differentiate and make a dent in Samsung and Apple's overwhelming lead. If anything it aims to make it easier to do basic tasks or launch frequent apps with one hand, but it remains to be seen whether it works reliably and feels natural in day to day use.
In terms of design the U11 is similar to the U Ultra from earlier this year, featuring a metal and glass body with curved panels that blend into the metal frame.
There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, instead relying on its USB Type-C port for charging, data transfer, and audio using the included USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. Other specs include 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage with support for microSD cards, a 12-megapixel camera with optical stabilization and dual-pixel autofocus, and a 3,000mAh battery. The U11 is also rated for IP67 water and dust resistance.
On the software side the device will run Android 7.1, at launch, and HTC claims he U11 is the first smartphone to be able to use a "hands-free wake word" to access Amazon's Alexa, so you can say a voice command without having to first open an app or even unlock the phone. It can be set to respond to “Alexa” or “OK Google” so you don’t have to commit to one assistant exclusively for hands free use.
HTC is partnering with Sprint in the US as the exclusive carrier partner for the U11, though an unlocked version is also available from HTC.com and Amazon for $649.