One month with the HTC U11: Stunning looks and camera, superb audio, and flawless performance

HTC may have failed to satisfy people with its last few devices, but the HTC U11 is a champion in nearly every area while also coming in at one of the lowest prices for a flagship smartphone.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

The HTC U11 is better than the Google Pixel for many reasons and after more than a month it is clear to me the U11 is one of the best Android phones you can purchase today.

I started using the HTC U11 in early June so the new car smell has worn off and it's time to validate my full review rating. While you can save a couple hundred for a mid-tier device, the U11 is worth the $650 ($599 with an HTC discount code). That's a couple hundred less than flagships from Samsung and Apple, but that savings does not mean it compromises in any regard.

As I look back over the last month of use and towards the future, here are several reasons to consider the HTC U11:

  1. Performance: HTC's Sense UI has been one of the fastest and most responsive compared to what we have seen from others. The HTC U11 is extremely responsive all of the time. I never really noticed much lag with my Galaxy S8 Plus, until I started using an HTC U11. If you want a phone that lets you jump around between apps and get things done efficiently, then the U11 is one to consider.
  2. Camera: HTC must have learned some things in developing the camera for the Google Pixel as the HTC U11 offers the best camera HTC has ever provided in a smartphone. The U11 is quick to focus and captures true-to-life colors with its rear camera. I have been pleased with nearly every shot I've taken and the U11 performs as well as the rest of the best.
  3. Audio experiences: The lack of a headphone jack bothered me at first, but with the included USB Type-C USonic noise-cancelling earbuds I quickly forgot about the 3.5mm port. Audio through headphones is incredible and the best I have heard on a mobile phone with volume also so loud I can never go above about 80 percent. The dual BoomSound speakers are also excellent with alarms shattering the quiet in the morning.
  4. Design: IMHO, there is no better looking phone than the HTC U11. Unlike Apple, HTC smartly has all black fronts on all of its phones. However, the back and sides is where you get blown away. The brilliant colored backs are gorgeous and I love grabbing my Sapphire Blue model every day. A Solar Red one just arrived for some testing and it too is stunning. If you like your phone to grab someone's attention, the U11 will do that.
  5. Water resistance: While I don't plan to swim with my phone, the fact that the U11 has a high level of dust and water resistance gives me peace of mind. It also allows me to use it while running, cycling, or hiking without having to pop my SIM in a phone with water resistance.
  6. Software updates: The HTC U11 launched with Android 7.1.1 out of the box so it is running a later version of Android than the Galaxy S8. HTC has a good track record of updates so we should soon see the monthly Android security update. In addition, we expect to see the Amazon Alexa integration that was promoted during the launch of the U11.
  7. Edge Sense: At first I thought the squeeze factor was just going to be another gimmick I would never use. It turns out it is a useful feature to have and I use it every day to launch the camera and squeeze and hold to launch the Google Now cards interface. You can disable the feature if you like, but try it out for a couple of weeks and you may find it as useful as I do.

After testing the Sprint HTC U11 for a couple of days, I ordered my own GSM unlocked Sapphire blue model and have enjoyed using it since it arrived. The only cons I have really seen over the past month are the fine scratches that are now present along the bottom back curve where the phone rests on a table. HTC includes a clear plastic back cover case in the box, but the device is too gorgeous for me to carry in a case so I'll let some wear appear instead.

I look forward to seeing what the Alexa integration adds to the device experience as well as further learning of my daily habits by the HTC Companion.

Related stories:

Editorial standards