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HTC U Play wants to bring you AI for less (hands-on)

The smaller of HTC's new U phones pairs software smarts with a more pocketable size and midrange price.

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Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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The HTC U Play is the smaller than the new HTC U Ultra, but we wouldn't call it the runt. It's meant to be a more affordable version of HTC's new line of phones that use AI, or artificial intelligence, software to try giving you a more streamlined experience.

We didn't get enough time to set up the phone and see how well its AI works, but we do know that this glass phone -- which comes in shimmering white, pink, blue and black -- is the less expensive, more midrange alternative to the flagship U Ultra. For example, although its 16-megapixel camera sounds heftier than the U Ultra's 12-megapixel "Ultrapbixel" shooter, HTC says that the Ultra's camera will take the crisper photos of the two.

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HTC U Ultra and Play shine on in glass

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The U Play lacks the Ultra's 2-inch strip of screen to display alerts, but it does have the same AI software running on top of Android 7.0.

Preorders began in select markets on January 12 for £399, which converts to $494 and AU$655.

Hardware specs

  • 5.2-inch screen (1,920x1,080 pixels)
  • 2-inch notifications screen (swipable)
  • 16-megapixel front and rear cameras
  • Octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor
  • 32GB and 64GB options (3/4GB RAM)
  • Up to 2T microSD card
  • 2,500mAh battery
  • Fingerprint sensor with NFC
  • Dual-SIM optional
  • Colors: Ice white, sapphire blue, cosmetic pink, brilliant black