HTC unveils HTC U Play and HTC U Ultra

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HTC unveiled two new smartphones today: the HTC U Play and HTC U Ultra, with both phones using an aluminum frame paired with a curved glass back. Underneath the rear glass are layers of colored minerals that reflect light in interesting ways and add visual depth, creating what HTC calls a “liquid surface” that gives the phones an iridescent sheen. Each phone comes in four different colors: Brilliant Black, Cosmetic Pink, Ice White, and Sapphire Blue.

Both phones have a single-piece volume rocker and highly textured power button on the right edge. There’s also a single downward-firing speaker and a microphone on the bottom edge. Unlike most phones that use a symmetrical pattern of slits to conceal these components, the HTC U phones just use a small circular hole for the microphone. Neither phone includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, instead using the USB Type-C port for audio.

HTC unveils HTC U Play and HTC U UltraThe smaller U Play comes with a 5.2-inch 1080p (423PPI) IPS LCD display that’s covered with Gorilla Glass. The more expensive U Ultra includes HTC’s “Dual Display” that combines a larger 5.7-inch 1440p (515PPI) IPS LCD with a secondary 2.0-inch 160×1040 IPS color LCD in the upper bezel, similar to LG’s V20. This secondary screen displays contextual shortcuts to favorite contacts or apps, reminders, and notifications among other things.

The HTC U Play has a 16MP rear camera with phase detect autofocus (PDAF) and optical image stabilization (OIS) paired with an f/2.0 lens that has a wide-angle 28mm equivalent focal length. The circular camera module sits proud of the rear glass and has a circular dual-tone LED flash offset to one side. Around front is a 16MP selfie camera that uses an UltraPixel branded sensor with larger pixels to boost low-light performance. It also has an f/2.0 lens and a wide-angle 28mm equivalent focal length that’s useful for squeezing more people into a group shot. Both the front and rear cameras have an automatic HDR mode that improves dynamic range for scenes with dark shadows and bright lights without user intervention.

HTC unveils HTC U Play and HTC U Ultra

HTC U Pay Specs

[table style=”table-striped”]

Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow
HTC Sense
Display 5.2-inch Super LCD, 1920×1080
Gorilla Glass
Processor MediaTek Helio P10
Storage 32/46GB
Expandable microSD card
Rear Camera 16MP BSI f/2.0, OIS, PDAF
Dual-tone flash, 1080p video at 30fps
Front Camera 16MP BSI f/2.0
UltraPixel mode, 1080p video
Charging USB-C
5V/2A speeds
Battery 2500 mAh
Connectivity USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Water resistance No
Security One-touch fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 145.99 x 72.9 x 7.99 mm
Weight 145 g

The HTC U Ultra’s front-facing camera is similar to the U Play’s, but the rear camera uses a 12MP sensor with larger 1.55µm pixels. While the specifications are similar to the HTC 10’s rear camera, which uses the Sony IMX377 Exmor R sensor, the U Ultra is likely using the Sony IMX378 Exmor RS sensor that’s found in Google’s Pixel phones, because it includes an upgraded hybrid autofocus system that combines PDAF with laser AF, which the IMX377 sensor does not support, to improve performance over a broader range of lighting conditions. The U Ultra’s rear camera has OIS to help remove hand shake during long-exposure shots and is paired with a larger aperture f/1.8 lens that should help it capture more light. The U Ultra’s rear camera module is square and sticks out farther than the U Play’s camera, which is likely a consequence of using a lens with a larger aperture.

Both phones have a pill-shaped, capacitive-touch fingerprint scanner on the front that doubles as a home button, with capacitive navigation buttons to either side. The fingerprint sensor and buttons are not centered in the lower bezel, however. Instead, they sit very close to the lower edge, making them a little harder to use. While we have not seen inside these phones yet, this design concession is likely to make room for the display/touch controller(s). Other OEMs have found ways to relocate these components to reduce bezel size or make room for navigation buttons, but HTC does not appear to be using those methods here.

The U Play’s MediaTek Helio P10 SoC includes eight Cortex-A53 CPUs and a Mali-T860MP2 GPU for limited gaming. The U Ultra steps up to a Snapdragon 821 SoC; however, like Google’s Pixel phones, it uses the same peak CPU frequencies as the lower-clocked Snapdragon 820. It’s a curious design choice, but it should not have a noticeable impact on everyday performance.

The U Ultra has a few other upgrades over the U Play too. While it’s possible to use voice commands on both phones to answer calls, dismiss alarms, and send messages, for example, only the U Ultra can respond if it’s asleep with the screen locked, a feature likely enabled by Snapdragon 821’s low-power DSP. HTC’s BoomSound feature is also exclusive to the U Ultra, which uses the earpiece on the front of the phone as a tweeter and the downward-firing speaker for lower frequencies.

The HTC U Play will be available in select markets around the globe in Q1 2017, for an undisclosed price, with options for either 3GB or 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. Meanwhile, the HTC U Ultra, which comes with either 64GB of internal storage and Gorilla Glass 5 covering the front or 128GB of storage and harder sapphire glass, is available for pre-order in the US January 12, exclusively at, starting at $749.

HTC U Ultra Specs

[table style=”table-striped”]

Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat
HTC Sense
Display 5.7-inch Super LCD 5, 2560×1440
2-inch secondary, 160×1040
Gorilla Glass 5
Processor Snapdragon 821 quad-core, 2.15GHz
Storage 64/128GB
Expandable microSD card
Rear Camera 12MP UltraPixel 2, 1.55-micron pixel, f/.1.8, OIS
PDAF, Laser AF, dual-tone flash
4K video with 3D audio
Slow motion 720p at 120fps
hi-res audio
Front Camera 16MP, BSI
UltraPixel mode, 1080p video
Charging USB-C
Quick Charge 3.0
Battery 3000 mAh
Connectivity USB 3.1 Gen 1, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Water resistance No
Security One-touch fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 162.41 x 79.79 x 7.99 mm
Weight 170g

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