Who wants a squeezable phone? The HTC U11 is here
HTC has debuted the world's first "squeezable" smartphone. The U11, the company's flagship handset for 2017, arrived this week, bringing with it frame-mounted pressure sensors for claimed easier one-handed use.
As I explored in my report for Digital Journal, the U11's squeezable Edge Sense tech is apparently a ploy to make big displays easier to use. It's a bold move for HTC, a company that in recent years has developed well-reviewed Android flagships but failed to translate the praise into sales.
I'm not sure the U11 is going to change this, and it could even drop the positive reviews.
The problem with niche interaction methods is that most people simply won't use them. Why bother stretching your hand to "squeeze" your phone's frame at an awkward angle? The phone doesn't actually squeeze as Edge Sense is really just some pressure sensors arranged to detect micrometre distortions of the frame. Capping it all off, the 5.5-inch panel isn't really very large anymore.
Ignoring the bizarre Edge Sense and the strange "U" name, HTC's 2017 flagship does come with a plethora of other more notable hardware. There's Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. HTC's 12MP UltraPixel camera returns for another year, now claiming a world-leading score of 90 in the DXOMark benchmark. That's better than the Google Pixel, but UltraPixel systems are known to deliver variable results in real-world testing.
The U11 certainly stands out against the other flagship Android devices this year. I think it does so for the wrong reasons though, incorporating niche tech that's unlikely to resonate with wide audiences. Even HTC doesn't sound overly optimistic: the company's first stated aims are getting people familiar with the system, which surely stands for any new technology. There's no word on whether we'll see Edge Sense crop up again with future handsets. I expect to see it make it a few brief appearances in the next 12 months, before it vanishes into obscurity.
If you want to give the U11 a go, it'll retail at $649 unlocked. In the U.S., carrier contracts will be offered exclusively from Sprint. Pricing and availability will vary by region and four different handset colours will be offered.
Visit HTC's website to learn more about the U11. For further details, see my report for Digital Journal.