HTC U11 Life release date, news and features

HTC's squeezy flagship gets some fresh tweaks

It's a sad fact of cellular life that there's something about "lite" versions of flagship smartphones which is invariably disappointing.

With the launch of U11 Plus, HTC has joined the bezel-less smartphone trend.

From a distance, you can barely tell the difference between the flagship U11 and the U11 Life. Think of it as a one-handed mode. The 5.2-inch display doesn't pack the punch of OLED, but it's bright and colors are good, as are viewing angles. But the most interesting part about all this is that The Verge claimed HTC repurposed Muskie into the new HTC U11+. It's still a fingerprint magnet, though.

It comes in at 149.09 x 72.9 x 8.1mm and 142g, and it has an IP67 certified water and dust resistant build. Once that's done you can plug in the bundled USonic headphones which have active noise cancellation; it's not as good as what you'd find on a set of Bose, but considering they'd cost the same again as the U11 life itself it's a great added-extra. It has two versions namely - Android One and HTC Sense wherein the latter has HTC's UI on top of Android 7.1 Nougat while the former has the stock Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.

Connectivity options of the phone are 4G VoLTE, WiFi 802.11 ac (2.4 & 5GHz), NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS + GLONASS and USB-C 3.1 Gen 1.

We'll be sure to put it to the test in our full review, but on paper those are the sort of specs we'd expect from a phone one or two steps down from a flagship.

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In terms of hardware, the U11 Plus follows in the footsteps of the original U11 by housing Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor.

The HTC U11 Life works very well with Google Assistant's hands-free launch phrase.

Something that separates the U11+ from other handsets on the market is a feature called Edge Sense. If HTC can do it then so can you. I don't see that in the HTC U11 Life and it will be interesting to see if it appeals to the masses.

Cameras: Rear 16 megapixel, f/2.0 aperture camera. It's got an f/2.0 aperture, HDR Boost and can even record video in 4K - not bad for a pretty cheap phone. On the front, there's fixed-focus and 1080p recording. Also, since the life is not a Google phone, you can actually customize what the squeeze does, and even separate long squeezes and short squeezes as different gestures.

Mini versions of phones have all but gone away with only really Sony offering this type of device with, most recently, the Xperia XZ1 Compact. Low-light performance is more of a struggle: the photo of my cat in the gallery below ended up with blur because of the low shutter speed the U11 life opted for. Read about both new HTC phones here. So the U11 life is sort of like a "light" version of the HTC U11.

The midrange smartphone space is a challenging place. The cost of smartphones has gone up a lot in the a year ago or so. Yet there's no one, single highlight around which the value proposition can coalesce. That may not make for the most exciting handset, but it's refreshing in the midrange all the same. T-Mobile's $300 sticker makes a strongly compelling case, and I prefer the U11 life to Motorola's Moto X4.

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