HTC is kicking off 2017 with an unconventional early launch of smartphones under their new “U” series. The company has announced two new handsets under the lineup – the highly rumored and leaked, U Ultra and a mid-ranger U Play. Both these phones ditch the standard headphone jack and pack some new AI-powered software tricks up their sleeves.

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Both the new handsets also feature HTC’s refreshing take on build and design – they flaunt an all-glass exterior, which HTC calls Liquid Surface construction that occasionally provides a pearlescent look under the right light. The frame is, though, still made out of metal. Furthermore, the U Ultra takes some cues from LG’s V series and includes a secondary 2-inch 160 x 1040 Super LCD panel on the top for displaying notifications, shortcuts, what have you. Both of them also rock a fingerprint scanner housed under the home button.

The other big upgrade is in the software and as expected, HTC has added a slew of AI enhancements which can basically predict what you’ll want to do and subsequently, serving up helpful suggestions. It is currently, capable of informing you about various factors such as it will suggest you recharge if it knows you’ll be away from a power outlet for longer than it expects its battery will last or tell you to take the umbrella if there’s a chance of raining. HTC has also included four always-on microphones if you’d like to talk to the virtual assistant which actually, isn’t what Google offers.

In terms of sheer specifications, though, the U Ultra features the usual bevy of hardware – a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821, 4GB of RAM, 64/128GB internal storage which can also be extended up to 2TB, and a rather puny, a non-removable 3000mAh battery. The camera arrangement features a 12-megapixel UltraPixel shooter with OIS, laser autofocus, an aperture of f/1.8 and a 16MP front camera. Additionally, it runs on Google’s latest Android Nougat operating system.

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On the other hand, the U Play comes with a 5.2-inch 1080p display, an Helio P10 processor from MediaTek, 2500mAh battery, 3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB internal storage, and a 16MP rear camera. While we can keep the specs aside for a minute, the biggest disappointment of the U Play is the fact that it runs on Android Marshmallow instead of Nougat. Oh, and both the handsets ditch the headphone jack, so you’ll have to use the USB Type-C port for earphones.

The HTC U Ultra with 64GB storage will go on presale today for a staggering sum of $749 on the company’s website in four color options – blue, black, white, or pink. Shipping in Taiwan will commence by the end of January, although the rest of the world will have to wait until March. The smaller U Play will be available sometime in Spring.

HTC’s new take on design and software will surely turn some heads but definitely, not enough to pull the Taiwanese OEM out of the troubled waters. However, their major flagship of the year is yet to be unveiled and it might be their last bet on the smartphone market.


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Shubham is based out of Ahmedabad, India and is studying to be a Computer Engineer, while specializing in mobile applications. He loves covering what's new in the smartphone space and aims to make it his primary profession some day.