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HTC U11 Life Review

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HTC U11 Life Review

James Shisiah

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What We Love

  • Android 8.0 Oreo.
  • Fantastic 16MP cameras.
  • Front mounted fingerprint reader.
  • IP67 certified Water and dust proof.
  • Edge sense functionality
  • Bright LCD screen.

Overview

HTC U11 Life is the smaller sibling, more accessible and budget-friendly version of the HTC U11 flagship. By this, the HTC U11 Life offers you most of the premium features, at a lower price. The 5.2-inches gadget boasts impressive 16MP cameras, a powerful octa-core processor, a long-lasting battery life, and an IP67 rated body designed to survive in harsh weather. HTC is known to go beyond conventional ways to bring new features to the smartphone industry. Edge Sense is one of the unique and quite useful features HTC introduced with the HTC 11, and it’s also prevalent in the HTC U11 Life. With Edge Sense, a simple squeeze on the sides of your phone lets you do so much more. Let’s dive into a detailed review of the HTC U11 Life, shall we?

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Unboxing

This being a trimmed down version of the HTC U11 flagship, we found the packaging to mimic a flagship gadget. When you cut open the box, you will be greeted with the HTC U11 Life in sapphire blue. Below the phone compartment in the box, we have the general user manual and quick setup guide. Surprisingly, the HTC U11 Life brings you the same accessories that come with the flagship HTC U11. The accessories include the Adaptive Usonic headsets that provide an immersive and personalized listening experience, USB Type C cable, and the Turbocharging adapter.

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Design

The premium feel you get when the HTC U11 Life lands in your hand is unimaginable. Despite being heavy on features, the gadget is relatively light, weighing only 142g. The symmetrical design is not only beautiful but ensures you maintain a comfortable grip on your gadget no matter how you hold it. The whole body is made of glass as a continuation of liquid surface design philosophy introduced by HTC. The back is made of acrylic glass that’s highly reflective and pleasing to the eye.

Just like the HTC U11 flagship, the back camera is symmetrically placed at the center towards the upper part of the gadget, with the LED flash to its left. We have the nano-SIM & storage card tray, as well as the noise cancellation mic to the top edge. The power button, together with the volume rockers sit on the right edge. The bottom halves of the left and right edge are your Edge Sense squeeze area. The bottom edge hosts the USB Type-C port, handsfree speaker, and your microphone.

To the front, we have the display. The upper part of the display has the typical features like the earpiece, notification LED, proximity sensor, and the front camera. The HTC U11 Life lacks the operating system embedded navigation keys, rather it has the physical capacitive navigation keys just below the display. It all has the home key that doubles up as your fingerprint scanner; this sits at the bottom center of the display, in between the back and the recent apps key. That sums up our tour around the hardware.

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Camera

If you are looking for a reason to purchase the HTC U11 Life, here are 16 mega reasons, pun intended. Yes, this affordably priced smartphone features 16MP cameras: 16MP f/2.0 with LED flash on the back, and 16MP f/2.0 on the front. This made me fall in love with my HTC U11 Life. For a phone in this price range, I was pleasantly surprised by the stunningly clear photos and color balance on the HTC U11 Life. There’s no oversaturation in colors which certainly gives marks to any camera. Its dynamic range is staggering good and comparable to the current flagship in the market today. It’s even impressive that both cameras have HDR boost, meaning you get good photos both with the back camera and the selfie camera.

Evidently, the camera sensor on the HTC U11 Life has been trimmed down to fit the phone in the price range. This means the phone will struggle with low light balance, hence noise in photos taken in extremely dark environments. Nevertheless, all phones tend to struggle with shooting in low light, so this is a compromise we are willing to live with. The camera app is also a major highlight. Edge Sense has been wired into the app allowing you to take pictures faster by only squeezing on the sides of the gadget. This means, you can capture moments without having to touch the screen, while on the go, when it is raining, with your gloves on; thanks to the IP67 water and dust resistance. Just pick up your phone and squeeze to launch the camera, another squeeze to capture a moment; no moment should escape you, no matter the weather condition or where you are. The Phase Detection Autofocus ensures super-fast focus with reduced blur.  

Both cameras are impressive video shooters. The back camera can shoot 4k (2160p) videos at 30fps. The front camera can shoot full high definition 1080p videos at 30fps. Whether you are shooting with the front or back camera, the high-resolution audio will certainly impress you. The noise cancellation technology brings about the clearest videos you will get on a phone in this price range.

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Display

A crystal-clear display is one of the most useful features a smartphone must have. It’s one of the main things I consider when am out shopping for a phone, because it goes without doubt that, your phones’ display is the most used feature. The HTC U11 Life performs well in the display department. Unlike its bigger brother, the flagship HTC U11 that has a larger 5.5-inch display, the U11 Life boasts only a 5.2-inch display which fits perfectly in one hand. This is full high definition super LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. With a pixel density of 424 PPI and a screen to body ratio of 16:9, you get to see more content with high clarity on a compact gadget. The screen has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection to ward off scratches and preserve the durability of the screen. This ensures your screen survives minor accidental drops.

The display responded well to multi-touch, although we found the Edge Sense quite useful in performing most of the tasks. The Super LCD screen guarantees exceptional outdoor visibility, which I didn’t expect from a device at this price point. The vibrant videos and clear images on the HTC U11 Life are decent enough. The overall display quality on the HTC U11 Life is great.

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Battery

Apart from a great display, battery life is a determining factor when purchasing a smartphone. A large battery capacity will last longer which is what we always want on our smartphones. The HTC U11 Life boasts a 2600mAh. Of course, this is a small capacity compared to the 4100mAh in the LG X Power, but the power efficiency from the Snapdragon 630 processor in the U11 Life tends to promise more screen time. Given the display is only 5.2 inches, there’s no much strain on the battery. To satisfy the IP67 water and dust resistance, the battery cannot be removed. With a fully charged battery in the morning, the phone managed a full day of average usage. Good thing is that, the HTC U11 Life comes with a turbocharger in the box for fast charging; half an hour of charging will give you up to 50% of juice. One and a half hour will fully charge your battery.

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Storage

In terms of storage, there are two variations of the HTC U11 Life; 32GB variant that has 3GB RAM, and a 64GB variant that has 4GB of RAM. We always prefer more storage, so we went with the 64GB version. Nevertheless, the 32GB variant is also a great version and will serve you just well. Surprisingly, the device also features a microSD card slot for memory expansion up to 2TB with an external memory card. With Android 8.0 Oreo, the phone automatically adopts the SD card and turns it into a part of the internal storage.

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Performance

Players in the smartphone industry are always trying to outshine each other in matters performance with new processors coming out occasionally. Speed is always a factor in every smartphone, no one wants a phone that lags or takes an eternity to change content on the screen when swiped. The HTC U11 Life packs a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor offers the top performance you would expect from a phone at this price point. The processor is not only powerful but also power efficient, giving up to 2 hours more than you would get on the HTC 10, which is HTC’s former flagship.

The HTC 10 ships with Android 8.0 Oreo and all the beautiful features that Google has to offer, including the Google voice-activated assistant and Google Now on Tap. In this case, you can launch the AI assistant either with your voice or by simply squeezing the edges. Quite impressive! As expected from HTC smartphones, the HTC Sense UI skin runs on top of the Android operating system. This brings about unique features like app icons and notification panel.

The Edge Sense is one of the major highlights in the HTC ecosystem. Having been introduced with the HTC U11 flagship, we were pleasantly impressed that the feature was brought to the affordable HTC U11 Life. This feature allows you to do so much more without interacting with the screen. Once programmed appropriately, you can launch an app, perform an action in an app, zoom into an image without touching the screen. You can also take pictures from third-party cameras in apps like Instagram, Facebook, and more. With a long squeeze, you can switch between front and rear camera.

In the audio department, HTC goes overboard. The HTC U11 Life ships with a Type-C Usonic headset which promises impressive and adaptable sound quality. The adaptability comes from the Usonic settings app, which sonar to map your earbuds to your ears. This ensures that the sound emitted from your headsets is personalized just for your ears only. You have the option to turn off the tuning.

While the HTC U11 Life is an affordable version of the HTC U11 flagship, it doesn’t pack the flagship power hungry features. Regardless of that, the performance was amazingly good. Here is a list of specifications.

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Specifications

  • Wi-Fi/ GSM/ HSPA/ LTE.
  • 5.2-inches Super LCD.
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
  • Android 8.0 Oreo.
  • Back Camera: 16MP, f/2.0, LED flash.
  • Front Camera: 16MP, f/2.0.
  • Battery: 2600mAh Non-removable Li-Ion.
  • Processor: Octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630.
  • GPU: Adreno 508.
  • Memory: 64GB, 4GB RAM or 32GB, 3GB RAM. microSD up to 2TB.
  • GPS, A-GPS.
  • Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Sensors: Fingerprint (front-mounted), gyro, proximity, accelerometer, compass.

HTC U11 Life Accessories