HTC wants you to squeeze its latest smartphone

16 May 2017


I'm sure there's been days where we've all want to strangle our smartphones for one reason or another, and HTC's latest device - the U11 - will let you do just that. Well, technically you're squeezing it, and rather than doing so out of anger, you're doing so to save time: your steely grip can fire up a camera, launch an app, summon Google Assistant, or even turn on the flashlight.

HTC Product Marketing Director Thomas Dexmier says the focus of U11 is innovation, with the aim of giving users a new way to interact with their smartphones.

"We've been innovating for the last 20 years," said Dexmier. "Not everything was great innovation, but we're in the market to shake up the status quo."

Dubbed "Edge Sense", the U11 has haptic sensors embedded in the bottom half of its aluminium frame. Out of the box, the squeeze gesture ostensibly acts as a customisable button, but you can also enable an "advanced" long squeeze that gives you a second action. These actions aren't context sensitive at launch, with a few key exceptions: a squeeze will take a photo when you've got a camera open, and a squeeze will let you start dictating when you're writing a message or email.

Both the short squeeze and long squeeze can be customised, and can be set to open any app you've got installed on your phone. Looking further forward, HTC says it will open up the "squeeze" to developers, which will allow the gesture to trigger a different action in each app.

Since the squeeze gesture relies on pressure rather than touch, it can be used in situations where you wouldn't be able to use the U11's touchscreen: when wearing gloves or underwater, for example. You can also personalise the amount of pressure required to trigger an action: I found that the lightest setting worked best for me, but even then, performing a long squeeze felt a little awkward. The short squeeze was a much more natural gesture. 

One other notable new feature is IP67 water-resistance, making the U11 HTC's first submergible flagship.

HTC is continuing to make use of the "liquid glass" design it introduced with the U Ultra earlier this year, and based on a brief hands-on, it's just as prone to fingerprints. The red option looks lovely though, and the phone will also be available in white, grey, black, and blue. HTC hasn't confirmed what colours we'll see in Australia. 

Oh, and you do get a cleaning cloth in the box.

The lack of a headphone jack is another reoccurring theme from the U Ultra, with HTC expecting you to use the USB Type-C headphones it bundles in the box, Bluetooth headphones, or a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter (that's also bundled this time around). The bundled headphones do however offer active noise cancellation and personalisable sound profiles that adjust to your environment, so this trade-off could be worth it for some.

Other key specifications include a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, a 12MP rear-facing camera (with a f/1.7 aperture and always-on HDR), 16MP selfie camera, a front-facing fingerprint reader, and a 3,000mAh battery. The U11 runs a lightly customised version of Android Nougat.

HTC has yet to confirm local pricing and availability the U11, but says we should know before the month is up. The U11 will be available through Australian telcos, but specifics have yet to be confirmed. Vodafone was the only telco offering the HTC U Ultra on a contract, so it could be a safe bet.

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