With the U11, HTC showed it hasn't completely lost its mojo. A pair of great cameras, a playful and premium glass design and pressure-sensitive sides that enable new features proved the company still has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Understandably, HTC is keen to keep riding this wave and leveraging the U11 pedigree to put its phones into more people's hands. That's manifested itself in two new devices: The mid-range U11 Life and a sequel of sorts, the U11+. As with any "plus" handset, you've no doubt deduced what the main upgrade is already. Yep, it's got a larger display, but as a whole, the increase in handset size is practically imperceptible. If anything, the U11+ is just more refined, and that, by design, makes room for a bigger screen. Perhaps, then, it's what the U11 could've, or should've been.
Let's get the most obvious change out of the way. The 5.5-inch, Quad HD display of the U11 has been usurped by a 6-inch Super LCD 6 number with a Quad HD+ resolution (2,880 x 1,440). That's an 18:9 aspect ratio, if you were wondering, and HDR10 support will arrive via a software update before the end of the year. Only, listing out the specifications doesn't tell the whole tale. With the bigger screen comes a notably slicker design.
The U11+ measures up at 158.5 x 74.9 x 8.5mm, or roughly 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches. That makes it slightly taller and thicker than the U11, and actually a bit narrower. It's also a hair heavier at 188g (around 6.6 ounces) compared with the U11's weight of 169g (just under 6 ounces). None of these differences mean much, though, as they feel nigh identical in-hand. So how has HTC achieved this and still managed to squeeze an extra 0.5 inches of display into the thing? By jumping on the bandwagon of most manufacturers -- from Samsung to Apple to LG and more -- and eliminating as much bezel as humanly possible.
To do this, HTC had to move the fingerprint sensor from the front of the U11 to the back of the U11+, freeing up that area to accommodate more display, and then shaving millimeters of bezel wherever viable. The result is a seriously slick-looking machine that stands proudly beside the flagship devices already rocking this trend. And that's the main takeaway right there. Forget the bigger screen: The U11+ is primarily just a neater, prettier U11.
If there's one trade-off, it's that the U11+ only comes in the one color. A safe, deep black; no dynamic, light-catching blue or red options like the U11. The color's officially called "Ceramic Black," but this has nothing to do with actual ceramic. The black model still looks luxurious thanks to its "3D liquid glass" back -- though this material has proven to be quite fragile (the rear of our U11 review unit cracked after receiving the most minor of knocks). Well, it looks great until you put your hands on it anyway, after which it's more like a glass table that's been attacked by a toddler's greasy mitts that've just rifled through a bag of sticky sweets.
Truth be told there is a translucent, almost retro model that shows off the device's NFC coil and a few other internal components. But contrary to rumor, this is a prototype that HTC may or may not decide to put into production at some point next year.
Aside from a fresh design, there are a handful of other improvements the U11+ brings, including a bigger batter capacity (3,930mAh, up from 3,000mAh on the U11). Some of this extra juice will be eliminated by the larger display, of course, so don't go thinking you'll get a ton of extra use out of the thing before it demands a recharge. With the U11+ being taller, the acoustics of the frame are different. HTC says this has led to a 30 percent increase in the max volume of the device's BoomSound speakers, and the company chucked in a slightly better subwoofer for good measure, too.
Whereas the U11 boasted an IP67 dust- and water-resistant rating, the U11+ surpasses that with an IP68 certification. In simple terms, it's slightly more resilient to water damage. The U11+ also ships with Android 8.0 Oreo (with a layer of HTC Sense paint on top and Bluetooth 5.0 support), which hasn't reached the U11 yet. Being, in theory, a bigger handset, HTC has added some software features to improve the one-handed experience. You can swipe down anywhere on the home screen to bring down the notification drawer, for example, or give the pressure-sensitive sides a quick squeeze to bring up a special app launcher. This wheel is customizable and has tons of slots available for easy-to-reach app shortcuts, but neither of these features really eradicate the need to use both hands in the majority of scenarios.
It's also worth noting that the "Edge Sense" sides of the U11 and U11+ have become much more useful since the former was launched. Squeezing them in different ways doesn't just launch the front-facing camera or summon an assistant. It's more a remappable button these days that offers bespoke functionality in a number of apps. You can use the gesture to zoom in on Google Maps, say, or turn the pages in the Kindle app, with more actions being added all the time.
Under the hood, the U11+ is almost carbon copy of the well-equipped U11. We're talking a beefy octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor paired with 6GB of RAM and 128 gigs of expandable storage. This is the configuration the majority of Europe will receive, anyway, with a down-sized 4/64GB version coming to other markets. The U11's excellent 12-megapixel primary camera has made the transition faithfully, and HTC says it's actually a little better on the U11+ thanks to some fresh software optimization. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, has taken a hit.
Where the U11's 16MP selfie-cam sits, the U11+ has an 8MP shooter, but still with a wide field of view. You gotta think something had to give in trimming the fat from the top bezel. Otherwise, you still have your choice between HTC's Sense Companion, the Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, and a pair of USonic noise-cancelling USB-C earbuds included in the box.
If all this sounds pretty tempting, hold your horses. There are no plans as yet to bring the U11+ to the US, and in most markets the device will only be sold online by HTC, meaning you have to pay for the thing outright. And it's not exactly cheap. Pre-orders of the new handset will start on November 20th, and in the UK it'll cost £699 (nearly $927). That's £100 more than the U11, and puts the U11+ in the same territory as the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8. Still, there are more than a few even pricier handsets out there, making the U11+ a seriously competitive option if you're into the slick new look and other upgrades.
- This article originally appeared on Engadget.