Hands on with the HTC U Ultra and U Play...
There has been no shortage of smartphones unveiled over the last ten years, each with differing levels of features and functions. In recent years however, it's been hard to see what else manufacturers can add to a device that is worth getting excited about. HTC has stepped forward with two new devices, looking to kick the smartphone on, further than any other manufacturer to date.
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, HTC invited me along for an exclusive preview of their new devices. Here's the HTC U Ultra (right) and U Play (left).
In a briefing with Darren Sung, head of global product marketing with HTC, it was explained that the company believes we're entering an industrial revolution; the second machine age.
"This time around however, rather than the multiplication of human labour, it's the multiplication of the human mind," said Sung.
"What is known as AI has brought forward the digitisation of data," he continued. "AI is helpful but it's not helping. It winds up being the centrepiece for asking for a new joke. And that's a bit sad. AI is capable of so much more. We are living in the age of information overload and AI can process that much faster than any human. Even while we sleep. The human brain power is minuscule vs the processor."
HTC says they want to combine AI with U. Sung explained how the combination of AI with a human is invincible as it combines the best of both.
"We are transforming the company from being a smartphone company, to placing you at the centre of your smartphone. We want you to have a personality within your smartphone."
The thought process behind the U Ultra is explained rather simply as "Big / Little". As you'll see from this image, there is the main screen, which you'll be familiar with from any smartphone you've ever seen before. But, you'll also notice the small strip screen in the top right corner.
The main screen is 5.7-inch, 2K display. The small screen is 2-inch.
We are facing into notification overload. The smaller screen is there to prioritise what matters to you. This means that while your main screen may be filled with red notification reminders, your top screen will only show you the things you care about.
This is done with an AI assistant. This remains on the entire time. The notifications are presented, based upon learnings from your previous behaviour and who you interact with the most.
"We want to make this phone powerful, so that it helps you manage specific instances. For example, as we use the smartphone we run out of power. This happens quite a bit. Manufacturers feel they have solved this by putting in a big-ass battery in the phone. We want to try and make a battery more efficient. The AI will know your calendar, know your last event, know how long your commute is and so on. By knowing this, it can let you know when you will run out of battery and suggest when you should charge," explains Sung.
"Voice is the future of phone interaction. This device has the world's best microphone set up on any smartphone. It's always on and always listening, powered by 4 microphones, with a range of 2 meters. We want to make it hear better first. When you tell it to do something, you don't need to unlock it. Biometric voice unlock. Much faster than anything you can do on the touchscreen."
Internally there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 64-bit, quad-core, up to 2.15GHz. There's 64GB storage built in, with the possibility to expand that with a microSD card. It also has 4GB of RAM.
The U Play has a 5.2-inch screen and comes with 32GB storage built in. There's the option to expand that with a microSD card and they've put 3GB or RAM inside there too.
The U Play comes loaded with HTC's Sense Companion, and learns from your behaviour. While it doesn't have the small screen at the top of the device, the impact of Sense Companion can still be felt.
Both phones are encased in a stunning glass body. This is a departure from the metal HTC owners have come to know.
HTC U Play will be available at Three Ireland from March 1st. Price to be confirmed.
Three Ireland will be ranging HTC U Play in both Brilliant Black and Sapphire Blue.
The HTC U Ultra will be available to purchase, sim-free, on the HTC e-store from €749. Find out more at htc.com/ie. Colours available online include Brilliant Black, Saphire Blue and Ice White.