HTC launches ‘U Ultra’ flagship phone

Last year’s HTC 10 saw plenty of praise and, as expected with a new year, new flagship is in town. Rather than continuing the numbering, HTC has called this one the U Ultra which is sure to raise a few eyebrows. As with Apple’s latest iPhones, Lenovo’s Moto Z and the HTC Bolt, this one doesn’t have a headphone jack. 

The most noticiable visible change is a departure from HTC’s traditional brushed metal look. The company has made a conscious decision to move away from the metal in favour of what it calls Liquid Surface construction – a new all-glass exterior that mimics the properties of liquid. What you can read from that is the phone is rather slippery and owners will want to have have a case.

The other big change is the U Ultra’s second screen, which is a thin 2-inch strip that sits to the right of the front-facing camera to complement the 5/7-inch Quad HD main display. The second screen serves as a landing spot for notifications, reminders, shortcuts to frequent contacts and music playback controls.

In terms of specs, the U Ultra is mostly in keeping with current flagship tier expectations, with a Snapdragon 821, 4GB of RAM, and a choice of 64GB or 128GB of storage. The phone also includes something of a rarity in 2017 – a MicroSD card slot for expansion by up to 2TB extra storage. The camera’s also been upgraded with phase-detect autofocus, but it is otherwise unchanged from the 12-megapixel UltraPixel sensor on the HTC 10. Bizzarely, the U Ultra’s front camera scales to a higher resolution of 16 megapixels, though it has an UltraPixel mode that produces 4-megapixel snaps. The 3,00mAh battery is a bit small for the U Ultra’s large display however.

The biggest aspect that HTC is pushing is the Ultra U’s software and a series of enhancements to the its AI. Basically, the phone is supposed to predict what you’ll want to do and present suggestions. This isn’t things like the iPhone’s suggested Apps based on your location, but more sophisticated suggestions like recommending you charge your phone if it knows you’ll be away from a power outlet for longer than it expects its battery to last, or telling you to wear warm clothes on a cold day. HTC says it also has developed a form of voice-based biometric authentication, but it remains to be seen how precise that will be.

On the lack-of headphone jack, HTC says that its bundled USonic earphones (a rebranded version of the the in-ear headphones included with the HTC Bolt and 10 Evo) have a much improved sound because of the more capable connection provided by the USB-C connection.

The company is yet to announce a UK price or release date for the U Ultra.

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