The prolonged demise of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 has left something of a vacuum in the high-end Android smartphone arena. HTC seeks to fill that empty ecological niche with its U Ultra smartphone and its 2560x1440, 5.7" display. The phone courageously omits the headphone jack, but packs HTC's new Sense Companion AI assistant and a second 2" screen above the primary screen, in a similar fashion to the Touch Bar on Apple's newest Mac Pro laptops.
The Sense Companion is HTC's competitor to Apple's well-established Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant artificial intelligence helpers. HTC says it can do things like remind the you to leave early for work if the weather forecast calls for snow, or make restaurant recommendations when it knows you'll be taking a trip out of town.
The second screen idea is not an entirely new concept for a smartphone—LG's V10 and V20 handsets have already sported this feature. The smaller display is intended to show things like frequently accessed contacts, messages, and alerts. If the second screen isn't enough to scratch the "looks cool" itch, the phone also sports a "Liquid Surface" design with a glass back and aluminum side panels.
Additional usability features include a quartet of always-on microphones that help the Sense Companion react instantly to voice commands. HTC says the phone learns the users' voice and can be unlocked by voice alone. The Ultra also packs the audio playback enhancement features from last year's HTC Bolt.
The U Ultra is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC. The phone packs 4GB of system memory and 64GB of onboard storage. Storage capacity can be increased by adding a microSD card or waiting for the upcoming special edition with a Sapphire glass screen and 128GB of integrated flash. The primary camera has a 12MP sensor with optical image stabilization. The 16MP forward-facing camera can take wide-angle self-portraits. The handset's battery has a capacity of 3000 mAh, and can be replenished quickly thanks to support for QuickCharge 3.0.
The HTC U Ultra is available for pre-order today, but worldwide shipments are not expected to begin until March. The price is set at a commanding $750, and buyers get the choice of blue, black, pink, and white finishes.