HTC is getting 2017 off to a flying start with an unseasonably early announcement of its next flagship phone: the HTC U Ultra. This 5.7-inch device inaugurates a new U series of smartphones and is joined by a smaller and lesser HTC U Play, which scales things down to 5.2 inches and a processor spec and humbler camera. HTC is touting a new Sense Companion, which is its take on growing trend for putting AI assistants into smartphones, plus the addition of a second screen at the top of the U Ultra. As with Apple’s new iPhones, the HTC Bolt, and Lenovo’s Moto Z, neither of HTC’s new handsets has a headphone jack.
With a high-end specs, beautiful glass exterior and a couple of features aimed at grabbing interest, the HTC U Ultra is getting out ahead of the other flagships expected to launch in a couple of months. The HTC U Play, for its efforts, is targeting other more price-sensitive markets with a size and spec cut inside the same excellent chassis. Will the pair offer enough just to make people start considering HTC again?
HTC U Ultra & U Play Design
The HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play both feature similar designs with a 3D contoured reflective liquid surface and a curved glass construction coloured with layered minerals.
The U Ultra is the larger and heavier of the two devices, measuring 162.4×79.8mm and weighing 170g, while the U Play measures 146×72.9mm and weighs 145g. Both have a thickness that ranges between 3.5 and 8mm.
The one change on offer for the U series, which ties into the name, is the inclusion of an artificial intelligence layer that permeates throughout the system and is designed to personalize your experience. HTC claims that it has a ‘different philosophy’ on AI, which in this case means it is not going for a full virtual assistant but instead little bits of extra intelligence in a variety of apps.
Both HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play phones feature biometric voice recognition, which means that you can train them to respond to commands given only by you. The biometric capabilties just help authenticate you so you’ll be able to wake the phone from sleep to perform a task, without having to unlock it manually. The U Ultra has four microphones with an always-listening feature, and 3D audio recording, range of around two metres. Both phones are said to ship with HTC’s new USonic earphones which feature microphones in the earbuds to map your ear canals to dynamically adapt audio frequencies to each individual’s ear. Sound can then be customised just depending on the type of music you listen to and ambient noise around you. The earphones support high-resolution audio playback and work over the USB Type-C port.