The Good It’s a performance monster, it’s gorgeous front and back, it’s water-resistant, it’s big-screen. The HTC U11 ticks the boxes that matter.
The Bad The HTC U11’s squeezable sides feel more gimmicky than novel, as does HTC's virtual assistant. The stunning glass rear is prone to smudging, and the battery felt very thirsty.
The Bottom Line You won’t be picking this one up for squeezable sides. You’ll be picking up the HTC U11 for the performance and the design.
HTC U11's gimmicky features distract from pure power
It's getting harder and harder to make an impression when it feels like every major phone manufacturer is gunning for the super-powered, top-tier flagship title. The HTC U11 ($649.00 at Amazon.com) has tried to get you to sit up and take notice with features like squeezable sides that can launch an app and a virtual companion that promises to learn your preferences and make life easier. But the irony is that those bundled extras don't speak as loud as stunning design, a 2,560x1,440 resolution (QHD) screen to rival the Samsung Galaxy 8, quality of life perks like water resistance and an obscenely fast octa-core processor.
The trouble with the pressure-sensitive squeezable sides and the virtual assistant is that they feel like in-the-way gimmicks more than they feel like innovations. I relied more on Google Assistant than HTC's own Sense Companion, which offers up tailored recommendations for restaurants, smart alarms based on your calendar, reminders to charge (oh so important) and other tidbits. Much like the squeeze, it was fun to test out, but I found it getting in the way more than I found it handy to have around. With Amazon Alexa functionality, it feels like HTC is banking on other virtual assistants too.
At $649, £649 or AU$999, it's also doing everything for less than the other usual suspects like the Galaxy S8 ($539.80 at Amazon.com) or the LG G6 ($700.00 at Amazon.com). Even with those extra features turned off, you can't ignore performance like this at that price. The U11 is a good phone and a worthy buy, but not because of its forgettable "perks".
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