HTC U Ultra handset offers two screens in a pretty package

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 2560×1440, 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.

Comments closed
    • lex-ington
    • 3 years ago

    The note has a pen…to do notes……this don’t have a pen……what niche is this thing supposed to fill again????

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    When it comes to design I would say HTC is the Apple of Taiwan. I’m not sure many folks would pay that much for ‘the other guys’ these days but at least we have a nice option from Taiwan. Asus is great with the innards but chassis materials are usually crap and Acer isn’t known for rock solid electronics. I’m using an Acer phone though, and it’s a fine phone for just $160. The faux metal trim around the edges screams El Cheapo though.

      • Dazrin
      • 3 years ago

      I really liked their first HTC One phone (M7) but I don’t think they have improved on it in subsequent iterations. The M8/M9/M10 were ok but not as nice, this one is a step back as far as I am concerned.

    • brucethemoose
    • 3 years ago

    I was hoping HTC would buck the 3.5mm trend. Guess I was wrong.

    • oldschool_7522
    • 3 years ago

    Does nobody remember? Samsung already tried this. I had one. It was cool but hard to type on.
    [url<]http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/phones/all-other-phones/samsung-continuum-i400-sch-i400zkavzw/#specs[/url<]

    • liquidsquid
    • 3 years ago

    Always listening microphones? Hell, I have(had) that now with the Facebook app on my phone. I got a little suspicious when I took my phone into a very sensitive meeting, and came out with targeted ads about what was discussed in the meeting. VERY concerning. FB was not “running” at the time (app was not executed since phone was turned on)

      • UberGerbil
      • 3 years ago

      In Android, if the app is capable of giving you notifications then it is running, regardless of whether it has a window or appears in the task list. When you close the app, it’s just the UI that closes; not all the associated processes go away. You can see this if you install a process monitor app (eg [url=https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eolwral.osmonitor&hl=en<]OS monitor[/url<]). In fact, I've seen cases where I've installed an app but [i<]never opened it[/i<] (eg I put Skype and Yahoo Weather on a phone but hadn't had a reason to use them yet), yet there are associated processes running. If it's installed, it probably has code running on your device whether you realize it or not.

      • mcarson09
      • 3 years ago

      You need to uninstall everything facebook related, even their browser cookies spy on you when a) You on not logging and b) not on the facebook web site.

    • Kretschmer
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]The Sense Companion is HTC's competitor to Apple's well-established Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant artificial intelligence helpers.[/quote<] I never understand why Android OEMs try and reinvent the wheel with imitation assistants, UI skins, mail apps, gallery apps, etc. You're burning development money and introducing failure points in exchange for questionable monetization and branding potential. I'd much rather see firms churn out top-notch hardware and absolutely stock Android.

      • Chrispy_
      • 3 years ago

      It makes absolutely no sense at all but since the phones sell regardless (due to lack of stock Android options in most company lineups) they seem to get the daft idea that their bastardisation of Android and it’s associated bugs/security holes/update delays is what people want.

      How hard can it be to make a good quality, stock android phone?

      • tacitust
      • 3 years ago

      There must be some reason they do it. It’s not as though they don’t have market research departments or never run usability tests. The answer is likely that there are enough customers out there who do prefer these tailored UIs to make it worth their while adding them.

      • YukaKun
      • 3 years ago

      The simple reason is “differentiation”.

      If they can add an extra “oomph” to their UI experience, they’ll gain market share… Or so does tell the theory.

      Unfortunately, as you can see, no OEM has been really able to nail something “sleek” and “nice” for everyone, but at the same time, you have plenty of option! That is, including the vanilla experience from Google itself.

      Which reminds me… Are they still offering the stripped out versions? I remember Samsung did.

      Cheers!

    • drfish
    • 3 years ago

    All wireless. Less weight than a nomad. Lame.

    • UberGerbil
    • 3 years ago

    I’ll give HTC credit: despite being perennially on the margins marketshare-wise, they don’t just cut all their designers and do me-too phones. That’s [i<]real[/i<] courage. Even their failures tend to be interesting, and the hardware never looks/feels cheap. Shame about the software side, though: I haven't used it recently, but I was never impressed by the Sense skin/shell for Android

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Sense nowadays is so much lighter and closer to stock Android than the days of those heavy skins with flip-clocks and weird “ring” lock screen. That’s part of how they can continually upgrade their flagships before anybody else. It really does feel like they just swap in a few images and a couple extra features (they had call block lists built into their phone/contacts app long before Apple, for example).

        • UberGerbil
        • 3 years ago

        Gah, I hated that flip clock.

        Windows Phone had a really nice generalized call handling implementation (not just call blocking but things like escalation for certain numbers that could “break through” during set quiet times) but I can’t even summon the energy to use my old WP anymore.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          Maybe it’s because HTC worked so closely with Microsoft on Windows phones, but they brought a bunch of really great features (including call escalation) to their Android handsets.

          They had some nice phones with truly terrible cameras at a time where Apple was upping its camera game (in the HTC One m7/m8 and iPhone 5/5S era) and it has haunted them since, and it’s too bad because they have some things that nobody else did.

          I continue to choose my phone based almost entirely on camera quality. HTC made the Pixel, though, so maybe they got that stuff fixed. This fall when I’m done with my iPhone 6S Plus it’ll be interesting to see what’s out there.

        • mcarson09
        • 3 years ago

        But LG’s skin is still lighter and faster. If you perceive lag you just need to turn off the window animations and transitions.

      • brucethemoose
      • 3 years ago

      Have you tried Sense on Android 7?

      Its amazing, and very light. Im not even bothering to run a custom ROM on my 10 anymore, as I can’t think of a reason too.

        • UberGerbil
        • 3 years ago

        As I said, I haven’t used it recently. I guess I should give it another try.

    • UberGerbil
    • 3 years ago

    Still would like to see the Microsoft’s Courier prototype in action. I have misgivings, but the concept is intriguing enough — assuming apps and an OS that actually make good use of the second screen* — that I’d like to see if it’s worth the added weight and bulk.

    * chicken, meet egg and argue about precedence, of course.

    • NTMBK
    • 3 years ago

    Easily broken glass back, no headphone jack, pointless second screen to drain your battery. Terrible.

      • ch┬Áck
      • 3 years ago

      1. Not all glass is fragile and easily breakable. That being said, I still prefer nokia’s space-age polycarbonate bodies.
      2. A tiny OLED screen probably makes 0 impact on usable battery life

        • mcarson09
        • 3 years ago

        1) is so flat out wrong it’s not even funny Smartphone glass breaks very easily no matter how resistant it is. you can google images of the glass backed samsung phones with broken glass.

      • strangerguy
      • 3 years ago

      But-but-but you get more pointless DPI numbers, more pointless overkill SoC, more pointlessly over-thin device, and now we can also feature the worst non-feature of the iPhone 7. That is what consumers want from a non Apple phone at the MSRP of iPhone, right? Right?

      • End User
      • 3 years ago

      Whoops. Wrong comment to reply to. Sorry.

    • oomjcv
    • 3 years ago

    That phone rendering/image shows the ‘correct’ date. Is that by chance or have I always overlooked other renderings that were made to show the date the article was published?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Most images in press releases that show a date are made to reflect the date of publication. That’s not for the subsequent articles, but something a lot of companies do on their own. I caught on to it a couple years back, and I’ve started integrating the practice into the occasional training video.

        • UberGerbil
        • 3 years ago

        Once upon a time, Timex (I think) pioneered the practice of always [url=https://youtu.be/yd1JbFpTz24<]showing their wristwatches[/url<] with the time set to 10 minutes past 10, so that the hands nicely framed the company name (which was just below the 12).

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          Always good practice to make the photos look as good as possible.

      • DPete27
      • 3 years ago

      Wouldn’t you flip if it showed 1/13 tomorrow?!?!

        • derFunkenstein
        • 3 years ago

        Now I’m going to have to come back and check.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    LG tried this dual-screen thing with the V10. I thought it looked interesting, but never tried it. I think it’s an interesting concept and a better alternative to Samsung/Moto’s always-on display.

      • mcarson09
      • 3 years ago

      If you cover up the ambient sensor the smaller screen does turn off By the way The v20 has a ES9218 Quad DAC which is supposed to do 130dB SNR with 124dB DNR and -112dB THD+N. The HTC design is more of a copy of the V20’s second screen, being more readable and not so much the V10. I have both the V10 and V20 by the way.

    • Takeshi7
    • 3 years ago

    no removable battery, no headphone jack, no way I’d ever buy it.

      • Ari Atari
      • 3 years ago

      Which is why the LG V20 that came out a few months ago does the mini screen with a headphone jack and removable battery. I was actually confused after reading the article wondering how LG became HTC.

      EDIT: Oh, and a microSD slot too.

        • mcarson09
        • 3 years ago

        And the LG V10 did it before that ;D I up voted you anyways. I have the V10 and V20 and the V20 is worth the upgrade just for the better battery life alone not mention the dual rear cameras.

          • Ari Atari
          • 3 years ago

          The wide angle camera never interested me. The manual camera controls, however, I don’t think I could live without anymore.

        • Takeshi7
        • 3 years ago

        I have a V20. I guess I’ll be buying LG phones exclusively from now on since they’re the only ones who have all these features.

    • End User
    • 3 years ago

    Audio output is handled by USB 3.1 Gen 1, Type-C. No 3.5mm port. The future is here.

      • godforsaken
      • 3 years ago

      don’t shoot the messenger

        • mcarson09
        • 3 years ago

        Shoot him dead in the head!

          • End User
          • 3 years ago

          So nice and friendly.

      • mcarson09
      • 3 years ago

      The DACs connected to the V10 and V20 are so much better.

        • End User
        • 3 years ago

        Is there something preventing awesome DACs from being used with USB either on the phone or the headset?

        Edit: do you even need a DAC when using USB headphones?

          • vipw
          • 3 years ago

          > do you even need a DAC when using USB headphones?

          Of course you do. USB provides a serial interface that carries digital information.

          Speakers are based on providing current to an electromagnet at the same frequency of the desired audio wave.

          The DAC has to convert the digital signal to the appropriate analog signal that moves the speaker. DACs can be extremely small, so it’s no problem including it in the headphones.

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            Ah. Ok then. Headphones with a good quality DAC mean you don’t have to worry about the quality of the DAC in the phone.

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            It turns out you don’t need a DAC. The new DSR9BT headphones from Audio-Technica are 100% digital:

            [url<]http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/5/14091470/audio-technica-dsr9bt-sr9-dsr7bt-bluetooth-headphones-ces-2017[/url<]

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            at some point the digital signal has to be converted to analog.

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            [url=http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/headphones/6117c014c965cd1a/index.html<][quote<]Exclusive Pure Digital Drive system keeps audio signal completely digital from source to driver for exceptionally pure sound[/quote<][/url<]

      • the
      • 3 years ago

      Does this use the new analog audio alt-mode of Type-C or does it use a USB based DAC for headphones?

      • ronch
      • 3 years ago

      Aren’t you a huge Apple fan? And isn’t Apple the one that first ditched the 3.5mm jack?

        • End User
        • 3 years ago

        I’m platform agnostic and pro progress.

    • DPete27
    • 3 years ago

    Second screen…because 5.7″ wasn’t big enough.

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