HTC U11 vs Apple iPhone 7

Alex Kidman 16 May 2017 NEWS

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HTC’s U11 has to take on Apple’s iPhone 7 for the hearts and minds of Australians, but will it be able to do just that?

HTC doesn’t just have to take on its Android competitors with its freshly launched HTC U11. It’s also got to take on the handset maker that still makes the bulk of smartphone profits worldwide in the form of Apple.

Now, there are plenty of fans who are so totally entrenched in either the iOS or Android camps that the thought of opting for a switch to a different mobile OS camp is practically heresy.

For those folks, it wouldn’t matter if HTC’s new handset had a button that dispensed free chocolate ice cream at will, because they’ll never change. Not that the HTC U11 has that particular feature, or if it does, HTC is keeping remarkably mum about it. We’d shout that one from the rooftops if it were true.

Icecream comparisons aside, if you’re in the market for a premium smartphone, you could certainly choose between the HTC U11 and the iPhone 7. But how do the two smartphones actually compare?

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HTC U11 vs Apple iPhone 7: Specifications

HTC U11 Apple iPhone 7
Display 5.5in 4.7in
Resolution 2560x1440 1334x750
ppi 534 326
Software Android 7.1 iOS 10
Storage 64GB+microSD 32/128/256GB
RAM 4GB 2GB
Battery 3000mAh 1960mAh
Front Camera 16MP 7MP
Rear Camera 12MP 12MP
Processor Snapdragon 835 Apple A10 Fusion
Size 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
Weight 169g 138g

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HTC U11 vs Apple iPhone 7: Design

Apple’s design language has slowly evolved, but there’s no missing out on what an iPhone looks like, and for the iPhone 7 relatively little changed. Apple’s big step with that handset has been the introduction of Jet Black and PRODUCT(RED) toned handsets, which certainly stand out.

That’s a good descriptor for the HTC U11 generally, with its own bright red finished phone, although whether we’ll see that handset model sold in Australia remains to be seen. Where Apple has some more restrained designs, the HTC U11 is very much an in-your-face type of phone, for better or worse. As always, it’s an aesthetic and style choice as to which design you prefer.

One area where the HTC U11’s glossy design does somewhat let itself down is in its extreme reflectivity, where it can rapidly become a repository for your fingerprints. Buy a case, or carry a cloth if you want to show off your shiny new phone and not your biometrics.

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HTC U11 vs iPhone 7: Display quality

Apple hasn’t much changed up its approach to screen technology in recent years, with the iPhone 7 sporting a very good quality panel, but one that’s low in resolution compared to many premium handsets, including HTC’s U11. There’s a pretty wide gulf between a handset with a 5.5 inch 2560x1440 display compared to a 4.7 inch 1334x750 display.

That being said, Apple has always been careful to ensure that it sources panels with excellent colour reproduction, and we’re yet to see how the HTC U11’s display compares in this particular aspect. For a smaller screen there’s only so much benefit you’re going to get out of additional pixels unless you have insanely sharp eyesight.

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HTC U11 vs iPhone 7: Processing power

HTC is using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 under the hood, and presuming it can beat the Sony Xperia XZ Premium to market is likely to be the first such handset to offer that processor in the Australian market. Samsung does make Galaxy S8 handsets with the 835, but not for sale in Australia, where we get the Exynos 8995-based model instead.

The 835 is a very high-end processor that brings with it a high-end CAT16 modem as well, which means that the U11 should be a very fast phone on Australia’s mobile networks. The Galaxy S8 managed to get Telstra Blue Tick certification with the same modem, so there’s hope that (presuming Telstra offers the phone) it will pass that test too.

Apple has its own silicon in the form of the A10 Fusion, and that’s a processor that delivers the premium goods both in a benchmark and real world test sense. The iPhone 7 is outclassed in terms of RAM by the HTC U11, but that might not matter all that much depending on the one advantage that Apple has long had over its Android rivals.

Apple builds iOS for a small, well defined range of devices, which allows it to heavily optimise its mobile operating system. Android has to cover a massive range of device approaches and hardware, and then manufacturers (including HTC) put their own touches on top, which can affect performance.

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HTC U11 vs Apple iPhone 7: Camera

HTC hasn’t gone down the dual-lens path that many Android competitors have with the U11, although it does have some solid form in the mobile camera space thanks to its work building the Google Pixel and Pixel XL. It’s particularly keen on the fast focus feature of its new handset, and our ad-hoc testing does suggest that it can manage good focus quite rapidly.

Apple saves its best camera for the iPhone 7 Plus, including dual lens compatibility, but that doesn’t make the iPhone 7 a particular slouch when it comes to optics. Again, its ability to heavily optimise for a set hardware combination also allows it to push even a moderate camera sensor quite hard.

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HTC U11 vs iPhone 7: Verdict

HTC’s delivered (on paper) a very solid premium handset in the HTC U11, and one that, if you’re thinking of switching might meet your iPhone-related needs quite well.

What will be critical here is pricing. Apple always prices iPhones at the very premium end of the market, whereas in the Android space we’re seeing serious competition to once again tip prices under the $1,000 mark. We don’t entirely expect to see the HTC U11 at that kind of price point, with the $1,199 original cost of the HTC U Ultra a likely final local RRP. That’s still cheaper than many iPhone 7 options, especially when you consider that you can’t upgrade the storage on any of Apple’s handsets.

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