HTC U11: The squeezable smartphone that's not a gimmick

Hands-on with the latest smartphone from HTC

HTC U11: The squeezable smartphone that's not a gimmick

Image: @jesskellynt

HTC's new flagship device is called the HTC U11, but nicknamed The Squeeze. The unique selling point of this phone is that it's squeezable. As I sat in the briefing for this phone, I willed it to be more than a gimmick. Thankfully, it is. 

Out of the box, the HTC U11 looks like most other high-end phones on the market today. It has a 5.5-inch screen and a beautiful unibody design. The back of the phone is covered in what is called 'liquid glass'. It has been designed to reflect different colours depending on the lighting. It's rather lovely. 

Squeeze

The stand-out feature on this phone is the squeezable sides. I know as I write this, eyes will roll and many will wonder what purpose it serves, but I have been so impressed by it. 

By squeezing the phone in one of two ways, the user can activate features on the phone. I set up the review model so that a short squeeze will activate the camera. Once opened, another short squeeze will take photos, meaning I don't have to readjust my hands to capture photos. 

A longer squeeze now opens the Photos app on the device. What's nice about the U11 is that users can decide what type of squeeze executes what type of function. It's possible to programme it to open any app on your phone. 

I was worried that this would be a gimmick that I'd use once and then never think about it again. This is genuinely not the case, however. I really like using the squeeze feature for capturing photos. It feels very natural and is much easier and quicker than the traditional on-screen button. 

Performance 

It looks and feels like a standard Android phone during setup, with some basic personalisation available. 

From a usability point of view, it's a powerhouse. Internally there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM. There's 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with a microSD card. 

The slight curve in the glass back means the phone sits very comfortably in the hand. While the screen is rather wide, it is still possible to text with one hand. 

The camera is very impressive. The U11 has a 12MP, UltraPixel 3 rear-facing camera that comes complete with optical image stabilisation (OIS).

The front-facing 'selfie' camera is 16 megapixels and can also be controlled with voice-command.

I was disappointed to see that there is no headphone jack on this phone. As an iPhone 7 user, I can't tell you how frustrating I find the lack of jack port. It means it's not possible to listen to music whilst charging. I also need to have two pairs of headphones on me at all times - one for my phone and one for my laptop. Not ideal. 

There is an adaptor in the box, however, for those unwilling to carry two pairs.

The bottom line is that this is an excellent smartphone. It performs any and every task incredibly well. This would rank well as a high-end smartphone, regardless of the 'squeeze' feature, but this is a useful addition to the smartphone world. 

I have been fairly critical of HTC in the past for lacking any real 'wow' factor. While this may not knock the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Huawei P10 from the top spots in my smartphone rankings, it's definitely sitting within the top 5. 

The HTC U11 is available to buy at Vodafone and Three Ireland starting from €149.99 on the €60 tariff, and in Meteor in the coming weeks. The Sapphire Blue is available exclusively on the Vodafone network (available at Vodafone and the Carphone Warehouse), while the Brilliant Black will be available on Three Ireland, Meteor and Carphone Warehouse. The HTC U11 can be purchased now, sim free on www.htc.com/ie from €749 and in a range of five colours.