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So Ummm, the HTC U Ultra, Eh?

htc u ultra

As you can tell from our HTC U Ultra and U Play coverage, we’ve never touched the new U phones, weren’t under embargo with information on them as they were announced last night, and (obviously) didn’t have any idea what they were when we shared some thoughts earlier in the week on what we’d like to see HTC do in 2017. HTC decided long ago that we weren’t worthy, so we’re left to comment from afar on their new products most seasons. And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of comments when they do come around.

Let’s talk about the HTC U Ultra. 

As I received the press kit last night, later took in the press unveiling, and took some time to read through all that HTC had just announced, I can tell you that this idea about a phone made for “U” and “you,” hasn’t left me convinced. Honestly, I don’t get who this phone is targeting or how HTC thinks selling it the way it is today, is going to make for a successful product.

For one, I don’t know who is going to buy this phone. HTC Elevate members? Maybe they are the “U.” And that’s fine if HTC wants to continue to just play to that passionate base. But think about this – the phone costs an arguably unnecessary $749 out of the gate, is available for pre-order today, and won’t ship for two months. I can’t think of a better way to turn “U” and I off than selling us a device and then asking us to wait a couple of months to get it. Look, humans like instant satisfaction and they also want to feel secure in the company they are buying expensive products from. None of us want to feel like we’re helping fund a start-up HTC Kickstarter campaign, we want our new $749 phones today or next week, or within two at the latest.

htc u ultra

Additionally, you know what’s going to happen between now and mid-March, when the U Ultra is scheduled to ship? LG will have unveiled the G6. Samsung may have unveiled the S8 line. Huawei may have given us the P10. And who knows who else will show off a phone by the end of February at MWC that will become an instant competitor to HTC’s new phone. HTC may have tried to get out of the gate first, but a 2-month wait is way too long in this industry. Couple that wait with the fact that most 2017 flagships are going to ship with 2017’s wave of processors and upgraded specs – the U Ultra is very late 2016 – and it’s about to be a tough Q1 for HTC.

Also, keep in mind that for a phone claiming to be made specifically for “U,” that crowd doesn’t include anyone on Verizon or Sprint. This phone is only sold unlocked as a GSM device. In other words, you can’t buy it anywhere outside of HTC’s store, you won’t find it at your local carrier with an affordable payment plan, and even if it were, your carrier options would be limited to AT&T or T-Mobile.

But enough about the high price, lack of availability, delay in availability, and incoming competition, there is another side to this “U” story that should have HTC fans concerned. For one, this phone sure seems about the least all-around, made-for-all phone I’ve seen in a while. I just got done with my LG V20 review where I talked about it being the ultimate niche product. This phone certainly seems to fall in line with that phone, only it’s even less feature-filled for power users and that niche, making its audience even smaller.

You have a very large 5.7-inch device that has a secondary display which adds to the overall footprint. So you are immediately eliminating anyone not fond of a whale in their pocket or who may want to use a phone with a single hand. But then you have a smallish 3000mAh battery powering that huge display, yet it lacks the removable option of the V20. Before ever touching this phone, you should have battery concerns.

htc u ultra

Outside of the display and battery, I can’t think of a less U-serfriendly option than HTC killing the headphone jack and shipping a specially made pair of USB Type-C headphones in the box. Now, I get that HTC’s included USonic earbuds are supposed to have been custom designed to offer a special audio experience for each individual’s ear, but how many true audioheads are going to want to use in-box earbuds? And what about all those audiophiles who want to use their current high-end headphones? Removing a headphone jack is certainly not something “U” or I have ever asked of a company.

Continuing on, HTC has adopted artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as a part of the U Ultra’s marketing plan and I think their implementation is a stretch at best. During their presentation for the Ultra, HTC talked about their Sense Companion software that is supposed to learn from your use and help you throughout a day. It can tell you what you should pack for your trip, as it analyzes weather, or adjust your time to leave for a road trip as traffic changes, or, recommend a restaurant this weekend, or, well, I think that’s it for now. You know what else already does a really great job of that and has for years? Google Now, which you already all have on your phones. You know what else is pretty bad form? The fact that HTC’s U Ultra pre-order page says specifically that Sense Companion is nothing but an app you’ll install later, some time in 2017. That’s HTC admitting that this machine learning and AI isn’t native, is an app add-on, and won’t be ready even in two months when the phone ships.

I will say that the phone looks pretty and the color choices that HTC is giving us are welcomed changes from the traditional black, silver, and golds. I could really nitpick, though, by suggesting this phone is HTC’s attempt at making a Galaxy S6 Edge+ knockoff years late with the double glass paneling and metal frame, square camera housing, and hump, but we don’t need to go there.

Look, we all know HTC can make a quality phone. The HTC 10 was (and still is) a quality phone. The speakers on the U Ultra should be great, the software experience will be one of the lighter and better from an Android OEM, and the cameras will probably be good too. But when you are HTC and struggling to sell anything, yet are promising a phone made for “U” and me that is months out, lacks or overlooks key features, and might be more niche than LG’s purposely niche V20, I feel like I’m missing something. Am I?

  • Higher_Ground

    D-L has been dead to HTC ever since you guys ripped them to pieces over their Robert Downey Jr. ad campaign.

    “Hipster Troll Carwash” indeed.

  • mstonimiles

    HTC….WTF are U doing?

  • J_wizzles

    Who cares how thin it is? That just says how crappy the battery is.

  • Praz

    It took me a little while to warm up to my HTC 10 (coming from an Xperia Z2 and Z5 Premium). But honestly, the 10 has been one of the best Android phones I’ve ever had. With Android 7.0, most of my minor complaints got taken care of (from a UI / feature perspective). Plus HTC Connect is probably the most feature rich, best implemented way of sending audio / video to other devices. You can send audio from all your apps to Airplay, DLNA, miracast, etc. devices; something I’ve noticed Samsung and Sony phones can’t do. I’m not sure I know of a phone that can do all that with built-in functionality. I agree things like wireless charging and waterproofing are nice to have; and in the case of the U Ultra, they would seem more useful than what HTC is trying to push now. If the U Ultra is not the flagship phone for this year, then I’ll hang on to my 10 for a while longer. But I’m hard pressed to buy any other Android phone (or an iPhone) right now w/o losing functionality that only the 10 has. But that’s just based on my needs. And I agree ..$749 for a phone that still doesn’t have the usual “nice to haves’, a large battery, and features we didn’t necessarily ask for …hmm. Not sure. If this is the only HTC phone coming out this year and they offer the pre-order discount. Maaaybe.

  • Andy Blystone

    Does it include a little charm that lights up as a notification. That would be an instant buy!?!?

  • C Shwizzel

    Great article Kellen. Spot on. We all really wanted to see HTC do something great this year, but this is a fail before it even starts…even laughable…harping on this new AI “Sense Companion” that isn’t even available when I buy the phone?!! Can’t even give them a “nice try” on this one. Yes, the phone looks nice but all of these major issues rank far above aesthetics.

  • Chris Kupsco

    I have been a loyal HTC owner since the Eris days. I love my HTC 10, but seeing that this phone won’t support VZW, HTC has lost me. customer since 2009.

  • Capt. Red Beard

    So this phone is more niche than the V20 but not niche enough for audioheads and audiophiles… and your griping because we got an early preview of whats to come? When the other manufacturers are going to be releasing their phones about the same time or later???

  • droidbeat

    I think what people could be missing is the likelihood that this isn’t the flagship release, which will be announced around MWC.

  • Joey Riz

    agreed

  • Howard Stern ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    would be classic if the heads of HTC happened to see all this instant gold of gifs

  • In the “who’s flagship are you looking forward to the most in 2017” survey, i chose HTC. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/408b43318afdeec35b847c76335415246c4f80ed91190613de1d96b635e7f881.png

  • blindexecutioner

    No headphone jack and it’s huge. I can’t believe HTC is already off my radar for 2017. Oh well.

  • DimStyle

    Looks like a nice phone but HTC always figures a way to mess things up. QHD display!? Cool, add a small(ish) battery for that 5.7 display. A phone for “U” !? sure, so long as you have $750 and buy from us and “U” only use T-Mobile or AT-T. Lighter Android skin!? Sure but we are only going to use the Snapdragon 821 instead of the 835 which will be a second tier processor when this phone finally comes out.

  • jshep23

    Supposedly, HTC is launching 6 to 7 phones this year. We know 4. They say the U Ultra isn’t Flagship, I hope to God it isn’t. But when would their Flagship come out? September?? Against Apple and Pixel, that THEY make?? What are they doing…
    1. U Ultra
    2. U Play
    3. X10
    4. Desire 650

    • Jeff Gordon used the word Flagship in a tweet yesterday, in respect to both Ultra and Play.

  • neural_physics

    What happened to the amazing HTC back in the One M7 and M8 days? This new HTC is terrible.

  • DanG

    They will need to rename it as UB, Ultra Bummed.

  • No Verizon or Sprint support. There goes half the US market.

    • droidbeat

      Stay tuned…

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    Smfh… They had it all figured out with the HTC 10. Just put back the FFS and waterproof the Damn thing with a bigger battery… I mean WTF is this thing? I have no idea how they ended up taking this massive left turn?

    Why is the headphone jack gone? The phone isn’t thinner and the battery is ridiculously small. Isn’t the point of removing the jack gaining more space?

    Why isn’t the phone IPX certified? I mean the last phone your just released on sprint is. What are they even doing?

    Secondary display? Just ripping LGs bad idea off? A useless secondary display on top of an already massive phone… Just put it on the bottom…. WebOs says hi steal some ideas from there at least.

    I think I’m officially off the HTC Bandwagon.

    • Higher_Ground

      samsung contiuum asks for recognition

  • Godzilla

    Love my Pixel XL, but the U is a joke at best. How do you exclude CDMA customers when its so easy to have phones include all customers and network types? This is why many of us expect HTC to eventually go away, bad decision after bad decision.

    • Ismail Akram

      I’m trying hard to love my Pixel XL 😀 feels cheap lighter in hand for someone coming from iPhone 7+ and HTC 10. Vibration motor so cheap feeling like no power to it. oh that Display I really love that one.. Camera is AWESOM and so is performance. I guess I had tough start with phone as it had issue with 4G/LTE and when I got LTE I lost 2G.. I think other than feel Its damn good phone 🙂 but man that feel :-p

  • Aaron

    Now I understand way the Pixel’s cost so much…HTC tax lol. The pixel’s would have probably cost less if Hawaii made them. Don’t get me wrong, HTC made great phones, just expensive ones.

    • Ismail Akram

      I’m pretty sure you don’t understand still 😀 real reason is its competing again iPhone 7/7+ …

      Nexus 6p was bit unique looking phone and Pixel is bland…

  • Orlando aka Pixel XL

    Is the whole phone sapphire or just the back? *128 GB model*

  • illregal

    Even elevate believes this thing has no purpose. I’m sure it feels nice in hand n what not. But wow, what a total miss.

    • Ismail Akram

      I thought they going to release Flagship phone in MWC. and I still think that.. but man if this cost $750 then what that will cost like 😀

      HTC is HIGH

      • droidbeat

        If you can’t afford a flagship phone, there are plenty of value-plays out there.

        • Ismail Akram

          I have Pixel XL 128GB and I also have iPhone 7+ 128GB and my wife have HTC 10. There is only one thing I can really afford it’s smartphones cuz that is my interest

          • droidbeat

            Then don’t complain about the price.

          • Ismail Akram

            U ultra is pretty expensive.

          • droidbeat

            Not relevant.

  • JMonkeYJ

    It’s kinda “funny” that I recently posted about how an overlooked thing I like about the HTC 10 is the durability. And then they release a phone nearly totally made of glass. ;_;

    • Mike

      Who doesn’t love a phone that requires a case before even opening the box?

  • totally agree…

  • eli

    And these are the guys that make the pixel…. I’m gonna stick with my 7 plus….

    • Ismail Akram

      I have 7+ and Pixel XL 😉 Pixel XL feel cheap in hand compared to 7+ and XL feel hollow cuz of that Vibration Motor.. even 7+ didn’t change in design but I think it looks better than my Pixel XL. Fonts on Pixel is not good I really love iPhone fonts.

      Camera on XL no competition 😀 speed benchmarks shows 7+ is faster but real world usage shows Pixel is faster.

      Rest comes to Android and iOS and both are great IMO except iOS is close and you can download stuff like you can do on Android.

      • Higher_Ground

        I have a pixel and an i*hone 7 (the smaller set to your XL set).

        The pixel does not feel at all “cheap” compared to the 7. They both feel premium. They aren’t absolutely equal but they are both nice feeling devices in hand. Go hold a Moto Z if you want to feel cheap.

        At this point the main difference to me is just the GUI and now apple’s flipped the script with IPXX ratings.

        • Ismail Akram

          No intention of trying any 2016 phones :-p now. I have Pixel XL and iPhone 7+ both are best phones both going to give me taste of latest OSes so I want to keep them both until newer version of both come out. But I might try S8, or next HTC flagship or OnePlus next flagship. ( Most probably all of them but not sure if I will keep any for longer like Pixel or iPhone )

          Maybe if this year some company made a phone with AMOLED display, powerful DAC great performance and Camera. That would be real great

  • AvalancheRyder

    How HTC has the nerve to ask $750 for a smartphone in 2017 that doesn’t feature waterproofing is beyond me.

  • LionStone

    Come and join Kellen in his HTC bash party… #stillbitter

  • The Doctor

    U not interested?

    /fail

  • Rod

    David Ruddock writes for DL now?

    • New around here? 🙂

      • Rod

        😛

  • Me

    Is the HTC U Ultra Eh the canadian version?

    • michael arazan

      It’s Ehh aye is real polite

  • MatthewSimmons

    I feel like they are eliminating the headphone jack just because that’s the trend now. If it’s for space saving what are they doing with the extra space? It’s certainly not for adding a larger capacity battery.

    • Me

      That, and the fact that they don’t even have the decency to bundle an adapter with the headphones. HTC is a head scratcher

  • B!

    Though they used to make some pretty good phones, I’ve never been a fan of HTC devices. I only wanted the Thunderbolt because it came with a 32GB SD card & at that time they were like $80. Sense has gotten worse & their cameras are so so.

    Oh well. I wasn’t at all hyped anyway.

  • Johnny Hernandez

    They used to make really good phones but this is just a complete failure. The design looks good but those specs that are dated for that price point.

    • MrUniq

      They used to be the toast of the Android world until Samsung ate their lunch and LG and their middling phones bumped them down further. I don’t know why the insist on competing in the premium market. Seems like they would do better at lower price points where Huawei, LeEco, and Asus exist. I would trust HTC over those companies any day.

  • sc0rch3d

    The One M8 was one of my favorite phones, but alas how the great have fallen.

    • T4rd

      Yup, same here. I might still be using it if I had not switched carriers. It’s very annoying that they dropped the front facing speakers and IR blaster. I got a 6P for the speakers, but still miss the IR every day.

  • usrnamemike

    Dang it Kellen you’re letting that Samsung money get to your head again😂😂😜😜

    • I always forget to get off my Samsung cash pile pillowtop bed before writing stories like this. Will do better next time.

      • usrnamemike

        Gotta be pretty comfy though. 🤑🤑

      • Ryan Davis

        Where does one acquire said bed? Sounds quite comfy.

        • Rod

          Just write good things about Samsung in your blog, and you’ll eventually receive one.

    • JP

      Come on we all know he was funded by Motorola…

  • Knlegend1

    The problem is…why do we need new phones every year when the ones we are using aren’t even close to being perfect? Seems like a waste of an article when we should be looking at the industry as a whole.

    • It’s actually a good point. Phones are really good these days and probably now more than ever don’t need to be replaced every year.

      • Mike Aurin

        Where’s the money in that, though?

        • MKader17

          Exactly. People don’t need a new car ever 3 years, but they buy them anyways. I’m thankful that people do because it gives me great buying opportunities in the used market.

        • Higher_Ground

          some people will need a new phone each year… just not everybody, every year

          Realistically I think this how it’s always worked, though. Few people get a new one every year. I would be interesting to see what the average time is between upgrades and how that’s changed in the past 7 years.

      • jer85008

        Exactly why I still use my Nexus 5x as a daily driver. With all the updates and clean software it’s as good as most of the phones still being released today. I’ll probably keep it until the Pixel 2 comes out (assuming it is refined/waterproof/etc.).

      • droidbeat

        I think you’re right. Except that now I believe they don’t need to be replaced every 6 months. But, need is different that want.

    • Higher_Ground

      Yeah, gone are the days where you’d worry about whether or not the phone would even work on the network. We’ve been with LTE for what feels like ages now, and I don’t think 5G is on the horizon for most folks.

      Sure, you can get this or that gimmick each year, but the core functions have become relatively stable and iterative. Cameras and even screens seemed to have plateaued right now. Other than a killer battery, it’s hard to see how a phone gets substantially better.

  • usrnamemike
  • shamatuu

    the price tag alone is not good for a phone with 2 months of waiting. Why didn’t they wait until in 2 months?. even if they did the price tag is not a good move. it seems to me they don’t want to succeed and yet they try and try like a bunch of brainless people think this will sell and not thinking about their brand in this industry.

    • Also, why not show this off the week before MWC, to at least get out in front of everyone without making us wait 2 months? Why now? Maybe this really is the HTC Kickstarter plan.

      • usrnamemike

        On top of the you can’t even see video of the phone from any YouTube channels I watch only still images. Because of “unfinished software”

      • shamatuu

        i thought kickstarter plan are for not known well companies that will get notice after the fund?

        • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

          He’s being sarcastic

      • droidbeat

        Because that is reserved for the HTC 10 replacement flagship, which will support Verizon and Sprint and include the 835 chip. The U Ultra seems to be a gap-filler with some interesting advancements.

  • triangle8

    +1

  • Paul Hoffman

    Its been all downhill since my very first droid, the HTC Incredible.

    • discopunkk

      The OG Droid Incredible is still one of my favorite phones I’ve had.

      • hkklife

        The last HTC device that truly impressed me was the One Ultra and, before that, the Droid DNA (the last HTC device to feature wireless charging).

        • discopunkk

          The DNA was a nice looking phone.

      • T_Dizzle

        Agreed!

    • Mk

      I was thinking the exact same thing. The problem I had was the lack of updates. I really didn’t appreciate that at all. I loved my Incredible but it seemed like they just forgot about you once you had the phone.

    • T_Dizzle

      It was the last cutting edge and arguably the only great phone they’ve made.

    • Orlando aka Pixel XL

      Mine was the m8.. Loved that phone

    • jshep23

      The DNA was amazing and the M8 and HTC 10 were too

    • romma

      The Dinc was fantastic for it’s day. Especially when it was S-Off’d

    • michael arazan

      THEY PUT A TRACKBALL ON A PHONE, seriously

  • Suicide_Note

    And we have our first insta-fail of 2017. Congratulations, HTC.

    https://media.giphy.com/media/1pofg0cTz5mak/giphy.gif

    • dustin h.

      Men at work! Classic!

    • Ismail Akram

      This is not even a real flagship of HTC. It’s more of prototype of what 2017 flagship will look like.

  • Danmheadache

    After about 2~3 years of experience, I still don’t get why HTC want a phone.
    HTC is literally throwing their money away by making phones that won’t sell.
    Money that was earned through Vive not phones.

  • Erik Tyler

    Everything in this article was my exact initial reaction. It’s DOA… And how can they be so naive and not include Verizon support? Any OEM trying to sell unlocked phones in the US without carrier support need a lesson from Motorola/Lenovo and Google. Cut out the biggest carrier and severely limit carrier compatibility, and you guarantee failure…

  • In my opinion, they are throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. But you know what angers me? The HTC 10 was a genuinely good phone (I had it for a few months before I jumped into Pixel) but they didn’t market the thing. This U Ultra is going the exact same way. No carrier deals, no ads, no promo, nothing. It could be $199 and people wont even hear about it.

    • LionStone

      wow, they’re raging without the headphone jack?

    • MKader17

      I liked the HTC 10 but when it came out I could buy it for $600 or a Moto X Pure for $250. It definitely wasn’t worth another $350. *All prices were on the used market*

      I looked at it again when my wife needed a new phone; I could get both the 10 and the S7 for $400. The S7 is arguably better in every way except for Touchwiz (which I have learned to tame).

      I just don’t see where the phone fits unless you are an HTC fan.

  • plastikman

    Yawn. More trash from HTC. I think they have just become a troll now. Great article, I’m glad DL speaks freely about devices.

  • Dominic D

    To be honest, a headphone jack, bigger battery, and lower price would have made this a perfect device. But alas, HTC can never give us everything we want.

    • Apparently the other “U” people didn’t want any of that user friendly stuff.

      • usrnamemike

        #prollynotforU should be in their ad haha

  • BoFiS

    ugh, no headphone jack, glass back, and huge without corresponding huge battery, NO THANK YOU!

    • Tyler Durden
    • Chris VanAnden

      That’s the problem, they can’t hear what we’re telling them.

    • Mike Aurin

      I just spit water out at the dinner table. I appreciate it.

    • jshep23

      “And this is how you use our phone”

    • KaZx

      you’re holding it wrong – Steve jobs.

  • h4rr4r

    This is a Canadian website?