Just a few days after the start of 2017, HTC launched two new smartphones, the U Ultra and the U Play. The U Ultra is its major hope for capturing your attention over the coming months, and while the U Play shares a similar look, it’ll likely be a more reasonably priced alternative.
Here’s everything you need to know about the two new HTC phones.
It’s all about U
What’s with all the U business? HTC is using the letter U everywhere: In the name, in the promotional images, the videos, and in the features itself. The U Ultra and U Play are all about you, due to the inclusion of HTC’s first artificially intelligent assistant, called the Sense Companion.
AI assistants are everywhere at the moment, and HTC’s Sense Companion provides many of the same features we’ve seen elsewhere, but implements them in a different way. For example, instead of it simply telling you the weather when you ask, it’ll tell you to dress warmly. When you’re out and about and it’s the time you normally eat, Sense Companion may recommend a restaurant based on your preferences as you walk by.
Sense Companion has voice recognition that makes use of the four omnidirectional microphones inside the U Ultra’s body, and can be commanded to navigate the phone, make calls, send messages, or turn off alarms. It also integrates with some third-party apps, and machine learning means the Sense Assistant should get more useful the more you use it.
It’s part of both the U Ultra and U Play.
HTC U Ultra
You certainly won’t mistake the U Ultra for any other phone. HTC has used a 3D contoured glass body with what it calls “liquid surface,” and other special processes to make it shimmer, shine, and reflect light in an eye-catching way. It looks fantastic. Like the LG V20, the U Ultra has two displays, a main 5.7-inch Super LCD with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, and a second 2.05-inch screen with a 160 x 1040 pixel resolution above it, where notifications and short cuts are shown.
Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC Sense over the top is the main operating system, and the phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM. The phone comes with either 64GB or 128GB of internal memory, plus space for a MicroSD card. If you select the 128GB model, it comes with a sapphire glass screen for extra protection against scratches, rather than the Gorilla Glass 5 over the 64GB model.
Audio fans will be sad to note there’s no 3.5mm headphone socket on the device. However, the U Ultra does support hi-res audio files, and comes with USonic, a feature that tailors the sound of your headphones to your ears, enhancing the sound based on the way you should be listening to music.
There are two cameras on the U Ultra. A 12-megapixel UltraPixel 2 cam on the back, with laser autofocus, an f/1.8 aperture, and 4K video recording; while on the front is a 16-megapixel selfie camera with 1080p video recording. Depending on the lighting, the front cam has a 4-megapixel UltraPixel mode, that may help in lowlight situations. Finally, HTC has placed a 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 inside the U Ultra.
HTC U Play
The U Play shares the U Ultra’s gorgeous shimmering glass body, but is smaller and lighter than the flagship model, coming with a 5.2-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution display, and weighing 145 grams compared to the U Ultra’s 170 grams. You don’t get the second display on the U Play. It also uses the same Android operating system, but the exact version hasn’t been confirmed yet. HTC Sense Companion is onboard ready to help out.
A MediaTek Helio P10 processor with either 3GB or 4GB of RAM powers the phone, with a choice of 32GB or 64GB internal storage. Different regions and carriers will get different versions of the phone, so don’t expect to be able to walk in and choose between them. You may only get one option.
The U Play’s front camera is the same as the U Ultra’s, with 16-megapixels and a 4-megapixel UltraPixel mode; but the 16-megapixel rear camera has an f/2.0 aperture, no laser autofocus, and no 4K video recording. The battery has been reduced in capacity to 2,500mAh, with normal fast charging through a USB Type-C connector.
Where to buy one?
HTC offers the U Ultra through its own online store in the United States. Pre-orders begin on January 12, with the U Ultra priced at $750. It’s unlocked and suitable for use on AT&T or T-Mobile’s network, with deliveries expected in mid-March. The U Play isn’t listed yet.
Prices in the U.K. won’t be announced until February, but we do know the U Ultra and U Play will be sold through the Dixons Carphone retail stores, and through Amazon, HTC.com, and Very.co.uk.