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HTC U Ultra Unboxing, Quick Review: Big, Bold and Beautiful

We take HTC’s U Ultra out for a spin

HTC is returning to the Philippines. The once dominant force in smartphone innovation and design will be returning as early June, and is bringing several high-end offerings with it. While all eyes are at the HTC U11, today we’ll be taking a look at another of the company’s high-end, flagship offerings, the U Ultra, taking it for a spin in the company’s own backyard in Taipei, Taiwan. Is the phone worth waiting for?

HTC U Ultra

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.7-inch QHD display, 1440 x 2560 resolution panel with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection
  • 64GB of storage, expandable via microSD
  • 12-megapixel rear camera, f/1.8 aperture lens, OIS, laser and phase detection AF, dual LED flash
  • 16-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner, USB Type-C connector
  • 3000mAh battery
  • Android Nougat

Packaging and contents

We’re no stranger to HTC’s packaging on phones, and the box that the U Ultra comes in brings back a lot of memories when we were still unpacking HTC’s all-metal smartphones back in ’09. While HTC’s chosen to go with cheaper hard cardboard than the metal tins that their phones used to come in, the packaging is still unmistakably HTC.

Inside the box, you’ll see the phone, a USB Type-C cable, fast charger and USB Type-C headphones, as well as an included hard plastic case.

Initial impressions: quite unlike what HTC’s built before

When we knew HTC here in the Philippines, the Taiwanese company was creating and selling unibody aluminum smartphones at a time where plastic phones were the norm. But the times are a changin’, and so does the primary design language of the company. For the U Ultra, this means creating a stylish smartphone with a glass and metal design, which isn’t unlike the efforts of its competitors.

What puts the U Ultra apart is its “Liquid Surface” treatment, which gives the phone this deep, glossy shine. The phone just looks amazing, and the deep blue coloration of our review phone shifted depending on how the light hit it. It’s a head turner for sure, and had a few of our tech colleagues here in Taiwan commenting on how nice it looks in person.

HTC’s known for making solidly built phones, and the U Ultra continues that tradition. The way the glass panels and the metal frame fuse together, along with how the rear glass panels curve into said frame is amazingly done.

The only thing that ruins the rear aesthetic of the phone is the camera hump for the 12-megapixel rear camera. And it is ugly, jutting out around 2mm from the frame. We wish HTC would just have made the U Ultra thicker to remove that unsightly camera bump (and add more mAh to its battery).

Once you go around the phone, you’ll notice something’s missing: the power button and volume rocker are on the right side, while the hybrid SIM/microSD tray is located on the top. The speaker grille is on the left of the USB Type-C port.

Yes, folks, HTC managed to find the courage to remove the 3.5mm jack on the phone, joining Apple and Motorola in the war against the supposedly old and outdated analog jack. HTC doesn’t include a USB Type-C adapter for your headphones with the package, though they do throw in their USonic earbuds that works off of the connector.

Moving onto the front, the one thing you’ll notice right away isn’t the large, 5.7-inch, Super LCD5 panel running at QHD resolution – it’s the secondary panel running right on top of it. If shades of LG’s V10 and V20 come to mind, you’re right – it functions exactly the same way, giving you quick looks at your notifications, music or access to your most important contacts at a glance.

Below the display is the fingerprint scanner that acts like the home key, with the capacitive Android navigation keys right below it.

Let’s talk about hardware – the HTC U Ultra is equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor, paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. Those are 2016 flagship specs, which means the phone is still wickedly fast. AnTuTu scores are exactly what you’d expect for a device of this caliber, and the large display means that there’s plenty of real-estate to play with when you’re consuming media.

Probably the biggest flaw that we can see with the U Ultra is battery life. With such a large body, the phone only comes with a 3000mAh battery. While that’s more than enough for a day if you manage your usage well, but we’re honestly stumped at why HTC didn’t add a bigger battery to the phone. There’s more than enough space in the device for a larger battery. Qualcomm’s QuickCharge tech takes a bit of sting out of it, though we still prefer more mAh.

HTC has their own UI overlay that they apply on their phones dubbed SenseUI. But where other manufacturers add unnecessary features and bloatware with their UI, HTC does the complete opposite: they removed bloatware when they saw that Google was doing a better job. The company also added Sense Companion, a supposedly AI-driven virtual assistant that that means to offer suggestions based on your habits. If it does work, we won’t see anything yet since we’ve literally started using the phone just today, so we’ll have to see in the next few days if it really works.

No pricing for the HTC U Ultra has been set as of yet, but HTC did promise that they’ll try to offer the phone under the 30K price point when it officially launches.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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