It looks like HTC is having a clear-out before much of it joins the Google family. In its spring cleaning, the Taiwanese company has found not one but two handsets but hasn’t turned up sensible naming conventions. So alongside the bizarrely named HTC U11 Life, along comes the HTC U11 Plus – which sounds remarkably similar to a certain secondary school entry exam.
Fortunately, the throwback name doesn’t translate to a throwback phone. The HTC U11 is one of the best handsets of 2017, and the U11 Plus is an incremental improvement.
HTC U11 Plus: Design
From a distance, there’s not much to tell the HTC U11 Plus from the original U11. Get a little closer, and one thing immediately becomes clear: it’s big. Very big. While the original U11 was quite large at 5.5in, the new handset comes in at 6in – hence the Plus part of the name, I suppose.
This would be more obvious immediately if it weren’t for HTC following Samsung, LG and Google in changing the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 18:9. In other words, it’s tall and thin, which is probably a positive now that apps are beginning to compensate to the new favourite dimensions. That screen is now sporting a 2,880 x 1,440 pixel Super LCD 5 display, which looks very nice indeed.
The squeezy sides are back in a second attempt to seem relevant and, to HTC’s credit, the default action this time is a touch more convincing. Squeezing the sides of the handset brings a wheel up at the side of the screen, allowing you quickly cycle through app shortcuts with one hand. Hardly game changing, but quite neat all the same.
HTC U11 Plus: Specifications
The bigger frame doesn’t translate into much bigger specifications – chiefly because the processor used in the HTC U11 is yet to be bettered. That means the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 does the heavy lifting here again, although in the UK, RAM is bumped up to 6GB, and storage hits 128GB. Other regions get the option of a more modestly kitted out version. Don’t be too grateful though – that means we’re stuck paying £700, which is slightly more expensive than the 6.2in Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is right now.
To be entirely fair, there are improvements over the HTC U11 which may leave you feeling this premium is worth paying. For a start, it’s dual SIM – which was something only the 128GB versions of the U11 had. But, more importantly, the extra half inch of screen means the Taiwanese company has managed to fit in a pretty large battery: 3,930mAh to be exact. The U11 had a 3,000mAh battery, and still managed to last 13 hours and 18 minutes in our tests, so we’re eager to see what the U11 Plus can do, even if it does have more pixels to power.
HTC U11 Plus: Early verdict
The HTC U11 Plus looks like another great phone from HTC – but one that will almost certainly be cruelly overlooked by consumers. As a possible last hurrah for non-Google-stamped HTC handsets, that feels fitting: a potential Samsung flagship rival pulled below the waterline by over-optimistic pricing and too much faith in a brand that has struggled to make an impact for years.
To put the pricing into perspective, you can not only get the HTC U11 cheaper but also – after reality-check price cuts – the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus; the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the OnePlus 5 and the LG G6. From our hands-on time, as good as it looks, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to pay this much for the HTC U11 Plus, when literally any of those will delight in their own way.
We’ll have a full review before the handset launches later this month. An exact date hasn’t been given, but pre-orders open on 20 November, and we’re promised the phone will follow soon after.