Behind the hype of HTC's new phones

HTC recently unveiled two new flagship phones. Here's the scoop on the AI assistant, missing headphone jack, and more.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP
A driver uses her mobile phone while sitting in traffic in Sacramento, Calif.

Having sent out invites in December for an announcement it was simply calling "U," HTC finally revealed what all the hubbub was about last week. The brand unveiled two new phones: the U Ultra and the U Play. Unfortunately, in some respects, these phones don't live up to the hype — or their high prices.

U Ultra


The Ultra will take on the flagship role once occupied by the HTC 10, a phone that failed to impress or sell. There are several components that HTC hopes will help the Ultra stand out from the competition. With its price starting at $749, "the competition" are big-name lines like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy.

Headphone Jack

Like the iPhone, HTC has eliminated the headphone jack, instead including a set of USonic earphones to use via the phone's USB-C port. This decision, which has already garnered criticism, was partially to enable the earphones to be able to adjust to "your ears' unique architecture" via a sensor.


Also immediately noticeable (and a questionable choice, according to some) is the Ultra's Liquid Surface construction featuring a glass back, which, though eye-catching, is slippery and fragile, making a case mandatory.

Perhaps less controversial is the band's second screen. This 160x1040p strip in the upper right corner above the 5.7" quad-HD primary screen will mostly serve as a place to receive notifications. It comes in blue, black, white, or pink.


Under the hood is a Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB RAM. It's running the Android Nougat OS that may already seem outdated by the time the phones ship in March.

AI Assistant

More compelling is the phone's Sense Companion, an AI component that supposedly will do things like shut off your alarm on holidays and warn you of inclement weather as well as learn things like what kind of restaurants you tend to favor.


Similarly impressive is the Ultra's 12-megapixel Ultra Pixel rear-facing camera. It also comes with a 16-megapixel camera in the front.


It will first be available with 64GB of storage, expandable to 2TB with the MicroSD card slot — with a 128GB model coming in the near future.


The Ultra will only support GSM, so Verizon and Sprint customers are out of luck.

U Play

Also unveiled was the U Play, which has many of the same features (USonic earphones, Sense Companion) paired with lesser specs. It has a smaller 5.2" 1080p screen, a Helio P10 processor, Android Marshmallow OS, and a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera. Though prices and release dates haven't been revealed, it will be available in 32GB and 64GB models.

This story originally appeared on DealNews.

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