HTC announces U Ultra and U Play smartphones

Alex Kidman 12 January 2017 NEWS


HTC wants to know a lot more about U.

It was hardly a secret that HTC was going to announce multiple phones at its HTC U launch event held today. Indeed, many specifications, some more fanciful than others, had leaked prior to the official launch, pointing to new premium handsets as well as the option for other lower specification devices.

What HTC has opted for is both a rebranding strategy for its premium lines under the HTC U banner, as well as launching two new Android handsets. At the top of its premium range sits the HTC U Ultra, a Snapdragon 821-based Android 7.0 phone, and then a little lower down the specification tree, the HTC U Play, running on a Mediatek Helio P10. HTC describes the HTC U Play as the "cousin" of the HTC U Ultra, which at least suggests an expanded U family tree coming later in the year.

The HTC U Ultra also stands out for having a secondary screen for simple information from quick contacts access, app launching and contextual information. It’s a similar idea to the Edge display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, or LG’s V20 smartphone.


The "U" part of the designation comes from HTC betting heavily on personalised AI-based assistants as a key sales strategy. As part of its Sense UI, both phones will feature the HTC Sense Assistant. It’s a voice-controlled system with four always-on microphones that HTC claims will be faster and more accurate than Google Now thanks to the inclusion of secondary information sources. HTC says that the HTC Sense Assistant will learn your particular quirks over time, becoming ever more accurate as it does so. Depending on your viewpoint, that’s either impressive technology or creepily intrusive.

Both phones will feature front-facing 16MP cameras that can emulate HTC's "Ultrapixel" low light camera mode, although dropping into that mode will reduce effective resolution to only 4MP. At the rear the HTC U Ultra features a 12MP Ultrapixel sensor, while the HTC U Play will come with a standard 16MP sensor.

HTC hasn’t yet shared information on the Australian pricing of the HTC U Ultra or HTC U Play. Given the proximity to Mobile World Congress, it seems likely that HTC is going to try to get the HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play to market fairly rapidly, and their specifications would suggest premium, $1,000+ pricing for the Ultra and sub-$1,000 pricing for the Play.

You can read the full details of the HTC U Play here, and for the HTC U Ultra we’ve got the full specification details as well as some hands-on impressions of HTC's latest flagship phone.

HTC U Ultra U Play
Screen size 5.7in 5.2in
Storage 64/128GB 32/64Gb
Weight 170g 145g
Processor Snapdragon 821 MediaTek Helio P10
Rear camera 12MP 16MP
Front camera 16MP 16MP
Battery 3000mAh 2500mAh
Resolution 2560x1440 1920x1080
Display density 515ppi 423ppi

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