HTC’s U Ultra promises an AI-based smartphone revolution.
HTC U Ultra: What is it?
While 2016 was an unremarkable year for HTC in terms of smartphones, launching the HTC 10 as its premium flagship and slightly reworking the HTC A9 into the Telstra Signature Premium handset, the Taiwanese manufacturer has come into 2017 with all guns blazing, announcing two new handsets under the HTC U branding. The premium model in the new HTC U family will be the HTC U Ultra.
The HTC U Ultra is an Android 7.0 ("Nougat") device with an all-new design style that HTC refers to as "Liquid Surface". It’s not a full metal body, but instead a finish available in multiple rather striking colours.
Underneath the display HTC has opted for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC. That’s the same underlying core as the Google Pixel phones, so we should expect similar levels of performance, especially as HTC was the OEM behind the Pixel phones in any case. It does mean that phones running on Qualcomm’s even newer Snapdragon 835 may outpace it, although that’s an as-yet-untested SoC.
As should be expected of any genuinely new handset for 2017, the HTC U runs on Android 7.0 ("Nougat") with HTC’s own Sense overlay. While Sense started life as a complete refresh launcher (as did most Android launchers of the time), HTC has toned Sense down to reflect more of a pure Android feel, although it still has its own unique touches. Key amongst those is HTC's Sense Companion, an AI-driven assistant that enables voice recognition that HTC claims leaps over and above Google's own Google Now integration.
The HTC U Ultra features a 5.7 inch Quad HD (2560x1440) pixel display which incorporates HTC’s new "Dual Display" feature. Similar to the dual displays found in the LG V20, or even the edge display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, this is a small LCD strip that displays additional information, from recent contacts to time, weather or frequently used applications.
On the camera front, the HTC U Ultra will feature HTC's 12MP "Ultrapixel" sensor on the back. HTC is promising even more low light accuracy for the rear camera on the HTC U Ultra with inbuilt laser autofocus and optical image stabilisation. On the front you'll find a 16MP sensor that can also emulate the Ultrapixel effect for better low light selfies, although the resolution does drop down to an effective 4MP when you do so.
While many tipped that Samsung would follow Apple’s path with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and drop the headphone socket, HTC’s beaten them to the punch, as the HTC U Ultra is an entirely headphone-socket-free zone. That means that audio chores are handled via Bluetooth and USB C connectivity only. HTC confirmed to finder that a set of USB C headphones would be included in the retail box. If you want to use your own headphones you’ll need to spend extra on a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor.
The standard model of the HTC U Ultra will come with 64GB of available memory, although HTC will also produce a 128GB variant for some markets that also features sapphire glass as distinct from the Gorilla Glass 5 found on the 64GB model. It's not clear if the 128GB variant will ship to Australia officially, and the same is true for the dual SIM version of the HTC Ultra U.
HTC U Ultra: Australian release date
The HTC U Ultra is available now on contract from Vodafone. It can also be purchased from selected retailers around the country.
HTC U Ultra: Price
The HTC U Ultra will retail for $899 in Australia through JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman. If you're looking to nab the HTC U Ultra on a plan, your only option at launch will be Vodafone. The HTC U Ultra is available in Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Ice White and Cosmetic Pink through Vodafone.
|Plan||Data||Plan cost p/month||Handset repayment p/month||Total plan cost|
|MyMix Red Global||8GB||$80||$8||$88|
|MyMix Red Data||10GB||$80||$8||$88|
|MyMix Red Global||21GB||$120||$0||$120|
|MyMix Red Data||25GB||$120||$0||$120|
|MyMix Red Global||20GB||$100||$0||$100|
|MyMix Red Data||22GB||$100||$0||$100|
HTC U Ultra: Review
The HTC U Ultra is one seriously pretty phone, and that's the key reason to opt for this particular phone.
We still love the visual appeal of the U Ultra as much as we did when we first laid eyes on it, and it’s easily the best feature of the phone.
HTC U Ultra Specifications
|Rear camera||12MP f/1.8 Ultrapixel 2|
|Front camera||16MP with 4MP Ultrapixel mode|