REVIEW: HTC U11 Life, The Best Bits of The U11 In A Smaller Package
Nine months after the release of the U11, HTC has brought out a smaller version of its U11, the HTC U11 Life. It has most of the flagship features the U11 has in a tinier package.
These features include EdgeSense, USonic, 16MP Camera weather resistance and no headphone jack.
It is powered by Android One, the Google backed OS.
At first look this phone is pretty, it looks like the U11 shrunk in a wash.
The phone is sleek with a metallic backing. What I love about this phone is it feels so smooth and light when you hold it.
It has a single round camera at the back with a front facing camera and home button which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner.
The screen is 5.2 inches with FHD 1080p and Corning Gorilla Glass. This phone also does not come with a headphone jack but a USB-C port and USB 2.0 port.
You can get it in either metallic blue or black. The phone is weather resistant as well as dust and water resistant with an IP rating of 67.
This phone is built around being a mini-U11 packed with the main features in a smaller, affordable device.
One of those is Edge Sense, where the user squeezes the sides of the phone activating certain apps such as Google Assistant and its camera.
You can either give a short squeeze or a squeeze and hold to activate actions. For example, when the phone is locked a quick squeeze opens the camera and a long squeeze takes a photo.
Users can customise what is opened via Edge Sense so if you want to post a story on Instagram you can programme the phone when in the settings app.
When you’re turning on the phone for the first time you have the option to activate and programme EdgeSense. It directs you on how to use the application and it’s an easy process to follow.
I enjoyed using EdgeSense especially when accessing the camera, you don’t need to faff about trying to unlock your device, open the camera app and then take a photo. One quick squeeze and the phone is ready to take a picture.
USonic With Active Noise Cancellation
Another flagship feature in the U11 Life is the USonic with active noise cancellation.
The U11 Life comes with USonic earbuds in the box giving users what the company says is ‘the most personal listening experience on a smartphone that adapts to your ears, in addition to built-in Active Noise Cancellation.’
Active noise cancellation reduces disruptions and distractions around a user so you don’t have outside and background sounds interfering with your audio.
When you try on the earbuds you can create your own audio profile to get a personal experience that suits your hearing.
The earbuds map a user’s inner ear with sonar like technology and adapts the sound profile to what HTC says is a user’s ‘unique biology’ meaning every ear is different. The noise cancellation works by continually monitoring environmental sound levels and adjusting the sound accordingly.
The set-up is simple, plug in your headphones, put them in and the phone will play music to create a profile.
You can also make different audio profiles so more than one person can use the HTC USonic.
HTC says the audio is 24-bit and from what I’ve experienced it sounds like it. When listening to music with these earbuds compared to run of the mill headphones the sound is clearer and the bass is deeper.
When in loud areas such as walking through a train station or the gym, I can’t hear anything when the volume is around 50 per cent.
Small features like this make using the U11 Life an enjoyable experience.
The front and rear camera are both 16MP.
The rear camera uses Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and HDR Boost and the rear camera has UltraPixel light sensitivity.
PDAF gives the camera fast focus speeds with a reduced blur so users can take quick clear photos without the need to stand around and press the screen hoping for the camera to adapt.
This is all well and good, but can they take good photos? The answer is yes.
For the front camera, the selfies are clear in both low light and normal lighting. PDAF works like a charm and a small feature like this makes a whole world of difference when wanting to a quick snap.
Testing the front camera via Snapchat (I’m addicted what can I say?) the image is clear, and the camera is responsive.
For the miniature version of a flagship phone the camera does its job well.
Good news for all you Android nerds, the U11 Life is pre-loaded with Android 8.0 Oreo so there is no need to download new software.
For the specs it has 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The phone takes roughly 12GB of that storage of system files and apps.
Its CPU is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 630. Its OS is Android 8.0 Oreo with Android One.
The phone has a bright vivid screen it is quick and responsive even switching between apps there was no lag whatsoever.
Using the phone and messaging apps was a breeze and everything you want when it comes to a smartphone. The calling is clear, and the keyboard is responsive.
As a self-proclaimed Apple user, whenever I use an Android I take advantage of the SwiftKey when messaging people.
This software was originally made for lower end phones but now big companies such as HTC are implementing Android One into their products, like the U11 Life.
The Android One as explained by Android Central, “gives you a clean, Google-sanctioned software experience.”
You will get all the basic Google apps such as photos, Gmail, Maps, Calendar and the new G Pay.
If you want Google Assistant, Google Home or Google Translate you’ll need to download them. It is a bit surprising to see Assistant is not already installed on the phone as Google has been pushing its Assistant and smart speakers down everybody’s throats in the past 6 months.
I have really enjoyed using a phone based on Google, since a lot of my apps are Google it makes sense to have a Google OS.
The differences between the U11 and U11 life
Below is a table showing the main differences between the U11 and the U11 life.
The HTC U11 Life is priced at $599. It is available exclusively through Vodafone either outright or via plans.
For reference, the HTC U11 is priced at $999.
For more than half the price of the U11 you will get its flagship features, a 16MP camera and a smaller device
This is a good-looking smartphone both on the inside and outside.
Android One is a breeze to use and for someone who uses several Google apps having a Google centric phone makes life a little bit easier.
EdgeSense is a fun feature, a bit finnicky at first to handle but adds ease to the smartphone.
The camera isn’t the best on the market but for a junior flagship phone, it gets the job done.
If you’re counting your cash but want something akin to a flagship phone grab yourself A HTC U11 Life.