HTC U11 review

A unique phone with great audio performance

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

The HTC U11 is a brilliant phone... but in a world already populated by brilliant phones. From the stunning rear glass to the speedy internals to the strong camera to the insanely good audio to the improved (and smart) battery, it's almost hard to find fault with this phone.

But like its recent predecessors, the HTC U11 struggles to attract the attention it merits. It doesn't have the wow factor of the Samsung Galaxy S8's massive Infinity Display, nor the impressive slow motion video capture and HDR movie playback of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

Since its launch we've also had the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL, Huawei Mate 10 Pro and even the Samsung Galaxy S9, which now makes it a tougher sell.

What HTC has done is create a brilliantly competent phone, and tried to innovate by letting you squeeze the sides… but sadly its headline feature doesn't impress.

If it had come with the improved software that lets you customize the squeeze to whatever you wanted, then this would be a very strong phone... we can see the potential for being able to use pressure as a multi-function button when holding your phone, but we've currently no idea if HTC will integrate it properly.

The same goes for having Alexa functionality built in... it's not there yet. We're not sure why HTC would launch this phone without these key features, but such is the rate of smartphone feature innovation now that it seems any brand is looking to just get something out half-finished and then iterate, rather than wait for it to be fully-baked.

Who's it for?

The HTC U11 is, firstly, one for fans of the brand. Its Sense UI hasn't been overhauled for this new handset, and that will please those who like the intelligence the software offers.

HTC's Sense Companion and Boost+ could be seen as intrusive by some, but anyone who’s accepting of the mission HTC is on will really appreciate this functionality. 

The design is alternative, and while it's a fingerprint magnet, the two-tone curved glass is a badge of honor – this is a phone  that we came to love holding and showing off. 

But ultimately, the HTC U11 is the phone for anyone who wants a good-looking phone that can take great pictures and offers one of the best sonic experiences around. Annoyingly it's still a little expensive for what's on offer, but the price should come down over time.

Should I buy it?

If you're in two minds over whether to buy the HTC U11, then see if you can take it for a test drive. You should only really buy it if you value your audio experience on a smartphone and don't mind using a dongle for your fancy headphones that still have a 3.5mm jack (because they ALL still do).

You'll need to not mind forking out a little more money than it's really worth... but if you wait a month or two the price should have dropped to a more palatable level.

If you're buying this phone for the squeezable sides – don't. Just don't. It's a nice idea, but it's one that seems like a good idea on paper but doesn't really translate. We're looking forward to trying this method of interaction out once it's fully-implemented in July, but for now it's a gimmick.

The HTC U11 is a strong – very strong – phone. But it's still one that will only really impress those who want something that looks a bit different, have an affinity to HTC and respect good quality audio from a phone, rather than a handset that will wow you the second you hold it in your hand.

Not convinced that the HTC U11 is for you? Then give these options a try instead

Samsung Galaxy S8

This is our phone of the year so far, and the reason why is simple: it does everything well, and combines this performance with a stunning look that nothing else on the market is really offering right now.

The Infinity Display is the main event of this phone, and while some are unsure about the new longer screen ratio it's a powerhouse of battery life, gaming prowess and snapping capabilities.

The downside is the sky-high price, and that's where the HTC U11 wins out... but the Galaxy S8 does almost everything HTC's new phone does, and in a slightly slicker package.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 review


Keep an eye on the LG G6, as it’s a handset that will only get better with time… because the price will come down, and that will increase the appeal of this phone no end.

It’s already a strong proposition, as it offers a large display that’s similar to Samsung’s, a decent dual-sensor camera, a smart interface and good build quality.

However, it relies on older hardware, so there aren’t that many jumps forward here… and the price is still rather high as a result.

Read our LG G6 review

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

If you’re not against the design language of the Sony range, then the XZ Premium is a real contender this year. 

The 4K screen is HDR-compatible, so is capable of showing some brilliant movies – and it’ll only get better with time as more mobile-optimized content appears from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

The Super Slomo video capture is awesome as well – it’s a little fiddly perhaps, but the results are just awesome, as you can see below.

Read our Sony Xperia XZ Premium review

First reviewed: May 2017

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.