The past few flagship devices from Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC have been modifications of the 2013 release of its well-received HTC One. That device established the company as a leader in smartphone audio and gave Android users a phone that could keep up with the design and build of Apple’s iPhones.
But the momentum HTC had gained from being one of the first to offer inexpensive Android phones was fading. Its next flagship phone failed to compete with increasing competition, and the release after was a commercial disaster. While it received nearly universal high marks, its current HTC 10 flagship is also struggling to sell.
HTC is finally taking a new approach with today’s announcement of the HTC U Ultra, a device sure to polarize the company’s small but hardcore following.
The HTC U Ultra will run on Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC Sense and will feature the company’s first attempt at AI with Sense Companion.
The U Ultra has a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) display with either Gorilla Glass 5 or Sapphire Glass. Yes, the “unbreakable” glass Apple ditched at the last moment will be available on the 128GB model of the HTC U Ultra. The device also takes some lessons from Samsung and LG, and comes outfitted with a second 2-inch display for quick notification alerts.
It will also be the company’s first flagship that does not include a 3.5mm headphone jack. That is big news for the audiophiles with legacy hardware that turn to HTC for its dedicated digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which outputs higher resolution sound than those built-in to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. Instead, HTC will include its USB-C compatible USonic earbuds. This change shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. The HTC Bolt, released at the end of last year, also nixed the auxiliary port in favor of USB-C. HTC included a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box for that device. No word on whether it will do the same with the U Ultra.
The HTC U Ultra is coated in 3D-curved glass, or what the company calls “liquid surface,” another massive shift away from its previous aluminum-crafted devices. The company’s early release means it will forgo Qualcomm’s new 835 processor for the familiar 821. The device will also have 4GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage with the surprising addition of a microSD card slot for up to 2TB of space. The phone’s 12-megapixel, f/1.8 camera is similar to the one found in the HTC 10, but now has phase-detect autofocus. The front-facing camera actually has higher resolution than the primary snapper, sporting an impressive 16 megapixels.
The shiny flagship device will be available in four striking colors with typical smartphone names: Brilliant Black, Cosmetic Pink, Ice White, and Sapphire Blue. The 64GB U Ultra goes on pre-sale today for $750. It will be released in Taiwan by the end of this month, while the rest of us will need to wait until March.
HTC also announced today the U Play, a mid-range version of the U Ultra.
H/T The Verge