HTC U Ul­tra

Android Advisor - - Contents -

You might be wait­ing pa­tiently for the HTC 11 but the Tai­wanese firm has a new range of smart­phones to tempt you with first. The new mid-range U hand­sets con­sist of the smaller U Play and this, the higher-end U Ul­tra. We got some time with the phones ahead of the an­nounce­ment so here’s our HTC U Ul­tra hands-on re­view.

Re­lease date and price

At our brief­ing, HTC said the U Ul­tra re­lease date will land around ‘mid-Fe­bru­ary’ in Europe, al­though it should be avail­able in Asia prior to that.

It’s yet to be dis­closed as to how much it will cost but Car­phone Ware­house has a pre­reg­is­tra­tion

page. What we do know is that the new U range sits be­low the HTC 10 flag­ship and the firm de­scribes the U Ul­tra as ‘up­per mid-range’.

Go­ing by pre­vi­ous HTC phones like the HTC One A9, we’re es­ti­mat­ing the SIM-free price for the U Ul­tra at £450- to £500.


HTC con­sid­ers it­self ‘the mas­ter of metal’ but the de­sign mantra of the U se­ries phones is ‘Liq­uid Sur­face’, achieved with glass.

Al­though the U Ul­tra has a metal frame sim­i­lar to re­cent de­vices, the big sell­ing point here is the eye-catch­ing rear cover which is ‘ul­tra thin’ and ‘vis­ually sheer’ us­ing ‘3-axis sym­me­try’.

It’s nice to see HTC do some­thing dif­fer­ent and the U Ul­tra is cer­tainly that. While HTC’s phones have typ­i­cally been vari­a­tions of grey with a sleek brushed fin­ish, the U Ul­tra is al­to­gether more strik­ing.

Whether it’s strik­ing in good way will de­pend on your per­sonal taste. There are four colours to choose from and we like the Sap­phire Blue and Bril­liant Black op­tion, the lat­ter has a slightly green tint. How­ever, the pearles­cent Ice White and Cos­metic Pink colours are more gar­ish but per­haps that’s what you’re af­ter.

The curved glass makes for a com­fort­able fit in the hand and al­though the ma­te­rial may be strong the metal and harder to scratch, it has var­i­ous down­sides. The lack of fric­tion makes the de­vice slip­pery, it’s a fin­ger­print mag­net and, we sus­pect, prone to shat­ter­ing if you drop it. A clear case is in­cluded in the box to help with some of

these is­sues. A Sap­phire Glass lim­ited edi­tion of the U Ul­tra will be avail­able fea­tur­ing 128GB and Sap­phire front glass.

You may have no­ticed the lack of a head­phone jack on the U Ul­tra so HTC is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Ap­ple and Mo­torola on this front. It’s a shame that the USB-C to head­phone jack don­gle is not in­cluded. How­ever, you do get a pair of USonic head­phones which utilise the re­versible port. The U Ul­tra re­tains HTC’s BoomSound stereo speak­ers but like the flag­ship 10, only one faces for­ward.


The HTC U Ul­tra is a ph­ablet by the firm’s own ad­mis­sion with a 5.7in LCD 5 screen that has a Quad HD (2560x1440) res­o­lu­tion. While that’s pretty nor­mal for to­day’s stan­dard, the Ul­tra has some­thing more dis­tinct about it.

Rem­i­nis­cent of the LG V10/V20, the phone has a sec­ond screen above the main one which is 2in (1040x160) which is there for var­i­ous rea­sons. In short, it’s able to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and short­cuts, and so on.

For starters, it can pro­vide no­ti­fi­ca­tions with­out in­ter­fer­ing with the main screen – handy if you’re busy play­ing a game or some­thing. You can also scroll through dif­fer­ent pan­els to get the weather, cal­en­dar, apps and con­tacts.

With­out need­ing to switch the main dis­play on (lift or dou­ble tap), the sec­ond screen will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion such as the time, date, weather and bat­tery per­cent­age.

De­spite ru­mours of the new Snap­dragon 835 pro­ces­sor, the U Ul­tra has the older Qual­comm Snap­dragon 821 which is still a high-end chip. Be­hind that glossy ex­te­rior are 4GB of RAM and 64GB of stor­age which can be added to with the mi­croSD card slot.

As men­tioned ear­lier, there’s just a USB-C port (no head­phone jack) and the U Ul­tra fea­tures a fin­ger­print scan­ner which dou­bles as a home but­ton and a 3000mAh bat­tery.

HTC typ­i­cally has round cam­eras but the U Ul­tra has a square mod­ule which sticks out a fair way. The firm said it has re­sponded to pre­vi­ous crit­i­cism here with a 12Mp Ul­traPixel cam­era, which has 1.55μm, and f/1.8 aper­ture, op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion (OIS) and dual auto-fo­cus (Phase De­tec­tion and laser).

At the front is a whop­ping 16Mp cam­era so you can get nice high-res­o­lu­tion self­ies. How­ever, you can switch it into an Ul­traPixel mode for sit­u­a­tions

with poor light – this com­bines four pix­els into one. Some hands-on time with both cam­eras sug­gest the U Ul­tra will be a de­cent op­tion for pho­tog­ra­phy but we’ll need to test it out fur­ther.


As you’d ex­pect from a new smartphone in 2017, the HTC U Ul­tra comes pre­loaded with An­droid 7.0 Nougat which is the lat­est ver­sion of Google’s mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

While not a huge amount has changed with the UI since the HTC 10, the big new sell­ing point is AI in­te­gra­tion. With the rise of sys­tems like Amazon’s Alexa and Google As­sis­tant, HTC has cre­ated its own voice as­sis­tant but it says it’s not a ri­val to the afore­men­tioned.

The main rea­son for this seems to be the fact that it doesn’t talk back to you so doesn’t have that

level of in­ter­ac­tion. What it does do it lis­ten and learn, then help where pos­si­ble.

All of this man­i­fests in the HTC Sense Com­pan­ion, an app on the phone which links into the Phone, Con­tacts and No­ti­fi­ca­tions on the U Ul­tra and U Play to start with. HTC is also look­ing at bring­ing it to the HTC 10.

It’s the kind of thing we need to test with our own ac­count, in­for­ma­tion and habits but it the­ory it will do all kinds of things start­ing with no­ti­fi­ca­tions via that sec­ond screen. HTC calls it a ‘com­pan­ion that pro­vides thought­ful re­minders and sug­ges­tions’.

Four al­ways lis­ten­ing mi­cro­phones mean you can in­ter­act with it any time hands-free (handy if you re­mem­ber some­thing you need re­mind­ing about while driv­ing, for ex­am­ple) and use your voice to un­lock the de­vice. HTC claims it won’t al­low some­one else to send a text with voice.

As well as man­ag­ing things like stor­age and mem­ory, the built-in AI will aim to be more help­ful. Ex­am­ples in­clude letting you know that it will rain tomorrow fol­low­ing a few days of dry weather and giv­ing you a re­minder to charge the de­vice dur­ing the day if you’re go­ing to run out of power in the evening when you’ll need it.

Set­ting pri­or­ity con­tacts for no­ti­fi­ca­tions will help but the phone will sug­gest changes if you’re missing out a fre­quently con­tacted per­son.

You can also dis­miss or snooze and alarm with your voice and the as­sis­tant will do things like sug­gest a change of alarm time if it’s some­thing like a bank hol­i­day the next day so you don’t get wo­ken up at your nor­mal time.

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