What you need to know about the HTC U Ocean and HTC 11
The HTC U ‘Ocean' is official, replacing the long-expected (but never launched) HTC 11 as the company’s 2017 flagship smartphone. Here’s everything we know about the HTC U release date, specs, and price, plus all the latest news and rumours.
(Update: April 20, 2017): In a press release, HTC confirmed the existence of the HTC U smartphone, and even offered up a launch date. Read on to find out more.
The HTC 10 was a return to form for HTC, with an iconic design, slick Android skin and great audio quality. That’s why we’re already looking forward to what’s coming next out of HTC HQ.
But when it comes to HTC U rumours, things aren’t quite as clear as we’d hoped. HTC has revealed that a new phone is coming in May, but details are still thin on the ground. We’ve seen just a handful of leaks to date, leaving us largely in the dark.
So what do we know for sure? Well, the phone is definitely going to be called HTC U. For a time, it was believed that we’d see the HTC 11 this year, but HTC says no such phone is in the works. We’d also heard that the HTC U was being developed under the codename ‘Ocean’, but it now seems certain that this name won’t actually be used in official branding.
For all the latest information about the HTC U, read on.
Latest HTC U News
When does the HTC U come out? May 16, 2017 (reveal)
What’s new about the HTC U? Super-fast Snapdragon 835 chip, Android Nougat?
How much will the HTC U cost? £550+ (estimate)
Related: Samsung Galaxy S8
HTC U RELEASE DATE UK & US – WHEN WILL THE HTC 11 COME OUT?
HTC has confirmed that the HTC U launch date will fall on May 16, 2017. Specifically, we’ll see the launch take place at 7am in London, 2am in New York, and 2pm in Taipei – HTC’s home turf.
Unfortunately, we still don’t have a firm idea of when the phone will actually go on sale. Here’s a brief history of previous HTC flagship releases, for contrast:
- HTC 10 – April 12, 2016
- HTC One M9 – March 1, 2015
- HTC One M8 – March 25, 2014
- HTC One M7 – February 19, 2013
HTC clearly favours the first half of the year, so it’s highly likely that the HTC U will arrive before July. Still, it seems the cogs of manufacturing have moved slower this year. Speaking to TBreak, Chialin Chang, HTC’s President of Smartphones and Connected Devices, explained that the company is having to wait for the right components before debuting a new handset.
“Every time there is a brand new CPU with power that we can leverage, we’re always at the forefront doing that,” he explained. “Some people are talking about the timing, but timing was determined nine months ago. This [the Snapdragon 821 inside the HTC Ultra U is the best CPU out there. When the next flagship CPU comes, HTC will be one of the very first tier doing that.”
“When we will look back, it will be clear why HTC introduced [the Ultra phones]. We want to have a couple of months of leadership before the next flagship CPU comes,” he continued, adding: “But that will be in another period of time – not at MWC. Not for us or any other player, I can tell you that for sure. When the new CPU comes, HTC will have another flagship.”
HTC U FEATURES – WHAT’S NEW ABOUT THE HTC 11?
As usual, we’re expecting some significant hardware and software upgrades for HTC’s 2017 flagship. The latest leak suggests the following specs:
- 5.5-inch screen
- QHD display resolution
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
- Quick Charge 4.0
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB storage
- 12-megapixel dual primary camera
- 8-megapixel selfie camera
- 3,700mAh battery
The following image was also posted in the same leak:
However, that leak comes courtesy of China's Weibo microblogging platform, so we're going to suggest taking it with due caution for now.
Here’s what we reckon we’ll see from the HTC U.
HTC U SCREEN, DESIGN AND CAMERA
The first major rumour related to a handset known only as the ‘HTC Ocean’, which was leaked as a concept by a HTC designer. It included a feature called ‘Sense Touch’ that allowed users to perform functions by swiping or tapping the edge.
That rumour was boosted by the fact that prolific tipster Evan Blass claimed his source says the HTC Ocean is very real:
He's even posted what he claims is an image of the device to Twitter, depicting an all-black handset that appears to have avoided the all-screen front design we've seen from the latest Samsung and LG flagships:
The only other leak we’ve seen so far comes via Weibo, with a leaker suggesting we’ll see the HTC U featuring a 5.5-inch display with a fairly standard QHD resolution – that’s 1,440 x 2,560 pixels. That’s the same resolution used for the HTC 10, although that phone had a smaller 5.2-inch display (and thus would have a higher 565ppi pixel density).
The leak also suggested we’d see a 12-megapixel camera on the rear of the device, with a secondary 8-megapixel camera handling selfies on the front. That’s not really an improvement as far as the primary camera goes, although we’re guessing the imaging technology would be improved. Perhaps a dual module would be introduced à la the iPhone 7 Plus? The good news is that the 8-megapixel selfie snapper is a step up over the 5-megapixel shooter featured on the HTC 10.
We can also take a guess and say with some degree of certainty that the Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip (SoC) will feature in the HTC U. It’s Qualcomm’s newest and most powerful smartphone chip, and has already debuted in the Samsung Galaxy S8 (and is confirmed to appear in an upcoming Sony device too). However, it didn't appear in the LG G6, which could give the HTC U an advantage.
HTC has a history of using Qualcomm fare; the HTC 10 ran on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip, for instance. So it would be entirely unsurprising if the Snapdragon 835 featured in the HTC U, particularly as it’s a brand new chip.
What’s special about the SD835 is that it’s built on a 10nm manufacturing process, which is far more efficient than the 14nm process used for the SD820. This means we’d expect to see more power or better power efficiency from the SD835 – Qualcomm claims improvements of 27% for the former and 40% for the latter. The chip also features Qualcomm’s new Quick Charge 4.0 technology, which should see charging times decrease by 20% compared to the old Quick Charge 3.0.
With all these improvements in mind, we’d be very surprised if the HTC U shipped with anything other than a Snapdragon 835 on board.
It's worth noting that a recently leaked screenshot (via China) suggested that the Huawei P10 would carry the Snapdragon 835, so that's good news.
Related: iPhone 8
HTC U SOFTWARE – ANDROID 7.0 OR ANDROID 8.0?
It’s very likely that the HTC U will run on Android 7.0 Nougat. After all, the HTC 10 is already running on Nougat, despite launching with Android 6.0 Marshmallow on board.
Google announced Nougat in March last year, releasing it in late summer. It added split-screen apps, support for the Vulkan graphics API, and seamless system updates. We gave Android 7.0 Nougat a 4/5 score in our review, praising its richer drop-down menu, impressive gaming power as a result of Vulkan support, and long-awaited app multi-tasking interactions. Here’s our verdict:
“Android 7.0 Nougat is actually a more dramatic change than it at first appears. On the surface, it looks like Google has simply adopted its own versions of features we’ve seen before, such as Multi-Window multi-tasking and customisable drop-down feature toggles.”
It continues: “However, there’s been some important behind-the-scenes progress. The Vulkan API is good news for the future of high-end Android games – if developers find a way to tear themselves away from free-to-play casual projects. And the first steps in multi-tasking that involves two apps directly communicating with one another is exciting – even if its uses right now are limited.”
The alternative would be the HTC U running on Android 8.0, although we’d say that’s unlikely. Google probably won’t have announced the new version of Android by the time the HTC U launches, and even if it has, it almost certainly won’t appear on third-party handsets for many months after the reveal.
Related: CES 2017
HTC U PRICE
Unfortunately, price leaks are very rare, so we probably won’t know the cost of the handset until it goes on sale. But just like the release date, we can take a good guess at how much the HTC U will cost by looking back at the pricing history for previous flagship HTC phones:
- HTC 10 – £569.99
- HTC One M9 – £580
- HTC One M8 – £529.99
- HTC One M7 – £549.99
What’s clear is that top-end HTC smartphones don’t come cheap, but there’s also a trend of the company selling phones between £500 and £600. We reckon it’ll be closer to the top end of that pricing window in 2017, unless the price of the pound rises to pre-June 2016 levels. Somewhere around £599 or higher would be expected, in these post-referendum times. Don't forget that the new Samsung Galaxy S8 starts at £689, so pricing for the HTC U could match that lofty price tag.
SHOULD YOU WAIT FOR THE HTC U?
It’s hard to recommend waiting for the HTC U, because we’ve got no idea if the phone will be good or not. HTC has a mixed track record when it comes to flagships, but we’re hoping to be impressed. With such a short time to go until the launch, it could be worth hanging around to see what HTC has up its sleeve.
But don’t forget that there are plenty of other phones that will be vying for your cash this year too, including the recently announced LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8.These will almost certainly eventually be followed by the OnePlus 4, the iPhone 8, and the Galaxy Note 8.
And there are a whole host of great phones you could currently buy too, including the Samsung Galaxy S7, our 'Phone of the Year' for 2016. We’re also happy to recommend the new Google Pixel and the even newer OnePlus 3T.
Related: Best Android Phones 2016
Watch: OnePlus 3T review
What would you like to see from the HTC U? Let us know in the comments.