HTC announces U Ultra and U Play smartphones with HTC Sense Companion AI

HTC has announced a new premium smartphone for 2017, with little by way of fanfare. Called the U Ultra, this latest device from HTC features a 5.7-inch display and HTC’s take on a virtual assistant, not to mention a second screen above the regular one. Oh, and it doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Starting with the screens, you get a 5.7-inch Super LCD 5 screen with a QHD resolution. Above it is a second, 2-inch screen with a resolution of 160x1040, which will be used to show contacts, reminders, music controls, etc.

The internals are made up of a Snapdragon 821, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of onboard storage. MicroSD cards up to 2TB in size can be used to expand the storage.

The 64GB variant will come with Gorilla Glass 5 protection while the 128GB version will come with Sapphire glass. Sapphire glass is found over the fingerprint sensors on the iPhone and also on the Apple Watch. While it is more scratch resistant than normal glass, sapphire glass is also more brittle.

The rear camera is a 12MP UltraPixel 2 sensor that’s very similar to the one on HTC’s previous flagship, the HTC 10. The front camera, strangely enough, is a 16MP unit with a 4MP UltraPixel mode.

The rear camera can record slow-motion video up to 120fps at 720p. It can also record 4K video with “3D Audio” and “Hi-res audio”. The 3D Audio recording occurs via 4 microphones on the device while Hi-res audio is only limited to stereo recording.

The phone draws power from a rather underwhelming 3,000 mAh battery.

Connectivity comes in the form of USB 3.1 Gen 1 over a Type-C port, Bluetooth 4.2, dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and NFC.

HTC U Play Tech2 720

Alongside the HTC U Ultra, HTC also announced the HTC U Play, a device with a 5.2-inch screen (Full HD), 2,500 mAh battery, a Helio P10 SoC, 3GB or 4GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of storage and a 16MP rear camera. The front camera appears to be similar to the one on the HTC U Ultra. Internal storage can also be expanded by up to 2TB via a microSD card.

While connectivity options remain the same, USB connectivity is limited to USB 2.0 mode (over a Type-C connector), limiting data transfer speeds and functionality.

Disappointingly, the U Play comes with Android 6.0, but the flagship U Ultra at least ships with Android 7.0 out of the box.

HTC has dumped the all-metal aesthetic that it’s been using on its flagships for a while now. Instead, you get a glossy-surfaced all-glass finish that HTC calls ‘Liquid Construction’.

Besides the hardware and design, the phones come with some interesting features, not least of which is HTC Sense Companion, an onboard AI a la Google Now and Siri. The Sense Companion is different from AI like Google Now and Siri in that it's meant to learn your habits and tune the phone's behaviour accordingly. For example, HTC says the phone will learn your travel route and let you know when your phone needs to be charged.

The phone features voice recognition, so it can actually recognise your voice and respond to commands. Technology called USonic apparently analyses your ears and determines how best to modulate a headset for the best listening experience.

HTC's trademark BoomSound speakers, which are only available on the U Ultra, feature HTC’s now standard tweeters-on-top and woofer-below configuration.

Pricing and availability details are unknown at this time, though The Verge reports that the device will sell for $749 in the US.


Published Date: Jan 12, 2017 04:49 pm | Updated Date: Jan 12, 2017 04:49 pm