HTC announces U Ultra and U Play: The best of HTC available for pre-sale today

HTC is moving away from its flagship unibody aluminum designs and integrating glass panels in brilliant colors. The HTC U models sport the best of HTC audio and photography.

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Image: HTC

HTC continues to struggle financially and after the recent release of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, made by HTC, I thought we might see them go back to being a silent ODM once again.

With today's news of the HTC U Ultra and U Play, HTC is showing that it will continue to fight for market share in today's competitive smartphone environment.

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The HTC 10, see my full review, was one of the most underrated phones of 2016. My wife uses the one I purchased and absolutely love the phone, while I was a bit disappointed in the camera performance.

The HTC U Ultra looks to improve upon the HTC 10 with its USonic audio capability and HTC Sense Companion feature, while offering a slight improvement in the rear camera. At $749 during the pre-sale event, it is being offered at a fair price (less than a comparable iPhone 7 Plus or Google Pixel XL).

It looks like someone at HTC recognized when HTC is written sideways up the page that the C creates the letter U. HTC then used the U branding throughout the press release with a focus on making its new devices all about "U".

The HTC U looks to be an upgraded HTC 10 with the aluminum unibody replaced by colored curved glass. There is an expected upgrade in specs, the same camera with added phase-detection autofocus, high end audio features, and an improved HTC Sense experience.

HTC U Ultra specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core
  • Display: 5.7 inch 2560x1440 pixels resolution Super LCD 5 with Gorilla Glass 5 or sapphire glass and a small 160x1040 secondary display
  • Operating system: Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC Sense
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB or 128GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: Rear 12 megapixel UltraPixel 2, f/1.8 aperture cameras with OIS. Front 16 megapixel with UltraPixel mode
  • Battery: 3000 mAh with QuickCharge 3.0 charging technology
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, G-Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light, Proximity
  • Dimensions: 162.41 x 79.79 x 7.99 mm and 170 grams

HTC BoomSound stereo speakers and USonic enhanced headset audio is provided. HTC USonic is the technology we saw on the HTC Bolt where the headset analyzes your inner ear and customizes your listening experience. You will also find four microphones for high quality video recording.

A new feature of the HTC U Ultra is the small secondary display above the main display, similar to what we have seen on the LG V10 and V20.

HTC Sense Companion is the AI HTC includes that learns about your over time, similar to what we see Huawei attempting in the Huawei Mate 9. HTC has also added in some functionality to Google Now to improve this voice-activated system.

HTC U Play specifications

  • Processor: MediaTek Helio octa-core
  • Display: 5.2 inch 1080p Super LCD with Gorilla Glass
  • Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow with HTC Sense
  • RAM: 3GB or 4GB
  • Storage: 32GB or 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: Rear 16 megapixel f/2.0 aperture cameras with OIS. Front 16 megapixel with UltraPixel mode
  • Battery: 2500 mAh with fast charging technology
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, G-Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light, Proximity
  • Dimensions: 145.99 x 792.9 x 7.99 mm and 145 grams

The HTC U Ultra will be available today for pre-order on HTC.com for $749. We don't yet have pricing info on the HTC U Play or HTC U Ultra with sapphire glass back. The 64GB Gorilla Glass 5 model is estimated to ship in early March. It will also be offered with HTC Uh-Oh protection with the same limited IPx3 rating as the HTC 10. In some markets, the USonic-compatible USB-C headphones will be included in the box.

Unfortunately, the HTC U handsets are not compatible with Google Daydream. There isn't a ton you can do yet with Daydream, but it's a fun endeavor that the Google Pixel, Moto Z, Huawei Mate 9 Pro, and other phones support.

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