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May 15, 2017

HTC U 11 ‘Ocean’: Release date, specs and rumours

by John_A

HTC started 2017 with the launch of the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play. Although the U Ultra has flagship specs, it’s not actually HTC’s flagship device for 2017, with a higher-spec device due to be launched very soon.

So what can we expect from HTC’s next flagship handset? We’re sifting through the rumours to build a picture of HTC’s next superphone.

HTC Ocean: The name

The HTC Ocean first appeared when a video surfaced showing an HTC handset with no physical controls, instead relying solely on gestures, touch and voice. No sooner had Evan Blass shared the HTC Ocean concept video, but another familiar name in HTC leaks joined the party. In isolation, a single leak could be dismissed, but with @LlabTooFeR adding three codenames to the mix, it made things more real.

The Ocean Note launched as the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play was codenamed Alpine – perhaps one of the other devices on this list, but HTC Ocean still exists.

Just eliminate some questionsHTC U Ultra (Ocean Note) – not 2017 flagshipHTC Ocean Master – cancelledHTC Ocean – presumably 2017 flagship

— LlabTooFeR (@LlabTooFeR) January 14, 2017

Chialin Chang, HTC’s president of smartphone and connected devices business, confirmed in an interview with Engadget that it wouldn’t be called HTC 11. More recently however, VentureBeat claimed sources had said the new device will be called HTC U 11, tying the two names together. 

HTC U 11 sort of makes sense, and ties into HTC’s own promotion of the forthcoming launch.

HTC

  • HTC U Ultra review: Premium phablet packed with power
  • HTC U Play preview: Mid-range specs, but plenty bling

HTC U 11: Touch navigation and a new UI

  • Touch sensitive frame
  • Sense Edge feature
  • AI supported interaction

The original leaked video purports to demonstrate the “Sense Touch” user interface and was discovered on Danelle Vermeulen’s website. Vermeulen is a visual and motion designer, although it is declared that the phone is a concept, raising some doubts as to how much can be drawn from this video in terms of design.

The video suggests that there will be touch-sensitive zones around the phone and demonstrates a heavier use of voice than we might typically go for. Although this looks like a concept, regular leaker Evan Blass took to Twitter again to say that HTC Ocean exists in late 2016.

No. Source: “Ocean is real and alive.” https://t.co/aBUrpNYR5R

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) October 18, 2016

More recently, this Sense Touch UI has seen a second appearance in another video. This appears to be much more professionally produced and is obviously an HTC handset, from the on-screen icons and the 10:08 time on the display, HTC’s signature.

Remember the HTC Ocean? (https://t.co/q5ghm3vQ8Z) pic.twitter.com/GtpqowETjM

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) January 8, 2017

The interesting thing about this second video is that it shows people doing something with the handset, swiping down the edges to scroll through apps. This is said to be thanks to a touch-sensitive frame, according to detail leaks from Venture Beat.

What perhaps pulls the video leak down is that the rear of the phone, seen out of focus in several shots, looks a lot like the HTC One A9, so it’s probably a dummy being used and not too useful from a design point of view.

However, this “edge” feature has appeared again, shared by @evleaks.

Well will you look at that… [via https://t.co/TYCFYN7Jgf%5D pic.twitter.com/LHcljPVcBV

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) February 27, 2017

This leak appears to show a menu option for Edge Sense, suggesting that this is how you’ll control that edge feature. It’s starting to look and feel a lot like the Edge Screen feature offered by Samsung, but here triggered though the touch-sensitive frame.

The invite released by HTC itself also hints at the touch-sensitive frame, with the words “squeeze for the brilliant” at the top and the “u” we mentioned previously with slightly caved in sides. It’s a huge hint at the new technology reported to be coming, as is a tweet with a video also released by HTC at the time of the invite.

@evleaks

HTC U 11: Design

  • IP57 rating expected
  • Touch-sensitive frame
  • Glossy finish reflected

As this is an HTC flagship, we’d fully expect a full metal unibody and the recent launch of the HTC Bolt (Sprint) or HTC 10 Evo (everywhere else) introduces another missing feature and that’s waterproofing. We’d expect HTC flagship to carry an IP57 rating, but we’d also expect it to lose the 3.5mm headphone socket in the process – with the U Ultra and U Play launching without a 3.5mm headphone jack, that’s pretty much guaranteed.

Photo leaks have been few and far between, though Evan Blass did recently tweet a couple of pictures showing what is claimed to be the HTC U 11. It appears to show a glossy finish, a capacitive button on the front and a circular camera lens on the rear with a flash on the left. Blass has also suggested the device will come in five colours.

That first leak of the design also looks a lot like the more recent video mock-up shared by 91 Mobiles which shares the same layout of buttons. Interestingly, 91 Mobiles talks about metal unibody as we’d expect, yet the detail of the video shows a different texture between the sides of the phone and the rear. Like the Blass image, it’s very reflective, looking quite different to HTC’s previous unibody phones.

That might mean that the design is closer to the HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play than it is to the HTC 10.

HTC U 11: Hardware and specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 predicted
  • 64GB storage + microSD expected
  • USB Type-C and no 3.5mm headphone socket

There’s an interview with Chialin Chang, HTC’s head of devices, in which the exec says: “When the next flagship CPU comes, HTC will be one of the very first tier doing that.” That CPU is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.

The SD835 has been suggested by Venture Beat and the timing fits with Qualcomm’s release schedules. We’ve also seen the leak of what looks like an official spec sheet. This appears to confirm a lot of what we’ve already seen leaked, but it’s worth noting that this is a dual SIM 128GB phone and that might be limited in its release. 

This suggests 6GB RAM and 128GB storage with microSD support, but we’re sure there will be a lower-tier device than this too.

Mysmartprice.com

We’ve mentioned USB Type-C already and that’s a certainty. Having developed its excellent USonic Hi-Res USB Type-C headphones and the funky auto-tuning feature, we’d expect this and BoomSound HiFi edition on board. 3D audio recording will be on board thanks to four microphones placed around the device.

So far HTC’s 2017 handsets have placed a fingerprint sensor on the front, as per 2016, and we’d expect the HTC U 11 to be the same.

Pocket-lint

HTC U 11: Display

  • 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Gorilla Glass 5

HTC opted for a 5.2-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution on the HTC 10. There’s a question over whether HTC will opt for LCD; AMOLED was used for the Pixel, and HTC used AMOLED in the One A9 too.

A rumour suggesting details of the display says it will be 5.5-inches, with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. So far, so Pixel XL. With HTC putting that display into Google’s phone, it’s no surprise to see it mentioned again. This is confirmed by the leaked spec sheet above.

The leaked photos suggest that this is going to be a regular aspect, i.e., 16:9 and that it isn’t going to be curved at the edges like the latest Samsung phones, but keep the 2.5D glass that HTC had on the HTC 10.

HTC U 11: Software

  • Android Nougat and HTC Sense 9
  • Google Assistant
  • HTC Sense Companion
  • Edge Sense

One thing that’s certain is that HTC’s next flagship will launch with Android Nougat. For the HTC 10 the company took a lighter approach, stripping away a lot of the additional bloat for a cleaner Android experience, turning to stock Android apps rather than duplicating with its own and that’s the software build on the HTC U Ultra and U Play.

We’d expect that to include the full Google Assistant. The talk from that concept video revolves around some of the things that Google Assistant already offers and with HTC Sense Companion, a new app designed to make your phone more personal using AI, all these things fit together nicely.

As menu support for the new Edge Sense feature has already leaked and there’s more established discussion about the touch-sensitive frame, this looks like HTC’s major push on this handset.

  • What is Google Assistant, how does it work, and when can you use it?

HTC U 11: Cameras

  • 12-megapixel rear camera, 1.55µm pixels, f/1.7
  • 16-megapixel front camera with UltraPixel mode expected

With HTC fitting the Google Pixel with a pair of excellent cameras, however, it would be no surprise for HTC to use the same hardware again. That’s suggested in a rumour appearing on Weibo, saying that “HTC 11” will have a 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, the same as the Google Pixel, although the U devices opted for a 16-megapixel front camera with a pixel combining UltraPixel mode.

It’s this latter arrangement – 12MP rear and 16MP front – that’s supported by Venture Beat, who also adds that it will have a newer Sony sensor than the HTC U Ultra. The U Ultra camera is good, so the HTC U should be a good performer too.

The leaked spec sheets sees HTC calling it UltraPixel 3, saying it’s a 12-megapixel rear camera with f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilisation. The front camera appears as 16-megapixels.

HTC U 11: Release date

The HTC U 11 “Ocean” will be announced officially on 16 May 2017 at 7AM London time and 2AM New York time. We’re expecting it to be live streamed, so hopefully you’ll be able to tune in and watch the unveiling of HTC’s newest handset.

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