If you want a Google Pixel 2 but do not want to spend so much money on a phone, the HTC U11 Life with Android One is the best option. It is one of the “mid-range pixels” made under the auspices of the Android One program, only that it is manufactured by the actual manufacturer of the normal-sized Pixel 2.
For all its highlights, the HTC U11 Life Android One still suffers from some of the same problems as the Pixel 2 and HTC U11, the main one is a supposedly inflated price for what you get. There is a lot that I like about life U11, but there are some things that you have to distrust. Get more information in our review of the HTC U11 Life Android One. If you want a Google Pixel 2 but do not want to spend so much money on a phone, the HTC U11 Life with Android One is the best option. It is one of the “mid-range pixels” made under the auspices of the Android One program, only that it is manufactured by the actual manufacturer of the normal-sized Pixel 2.
For all its highlights, the HTC U11 Life Android One still suffers from some of the same problems as the Pixel 2 and HTC U11, the main one is a supposedly inflated price for what you get. There is a lot that I like about life U11, but there are some things that you have to distrust. Get more information on our HTC U11 Life Android One review.
At half the price of the HTC U11 or Pixel 2, but with many similar advantages, the U11 Life Android One looks great on paper. Run an Android + Oreo stock version, augmented by a full version of HTC Edge Sense and HTC USonic audio adjustment. It comes with guaranteed operating system updates for two years and security patches for three through Google’s Android One program.
It has an IP67 waterproof rating, a relative rarity at this price point, some of the best integrated headphones I’ve ever tested, and a really competitive camera for this level. It borrows the flagship design language of the HTC U11, has an excellent LCD display and pretty decent mid-range specs. But once you scratch the surface, there is something else that needs to be discussed.
HTC U11 Life- Design
Everything starts with the design. While I applaud HTC for imitating its flagship style so faithfully in a mid-tier offer, the U11 Life necessarily makes some concessions at its price. Instead of Gorilla Glass wrapped around an aluminum frame like the U11, the U11 Life puts a Gorilla Glass front on top of a polycarbonate frame with an acrylic back panel.
I would not go so far as to say that life U11 is cheap, but it is clearly plastic. It sounds hollow, it’s very light and the scratches much easier than a phone with crystal bracket. Considering how terribly this phone collects fingerprints, I would recommend using a case, even if its plastic construction makes it less likely to break than glass.
The changes in the choice of material are quite standard in a mid-range phone. The same can be said for the larger bezels, but considering that HTC only managed to reduce the size of its bezel in the next U11 Plus, the HTC U11 Life has basically the same bezel situation as the flagship U11. Unfortunately, the U11 Life does not inherit the BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition speakers found in the larger U11 models.
HTC U11 Life- Hardware
U11 Life uses its large lower bezel to accommodate capacitive navigation buttons and a solid-state fingerprint scanner. The navigation buttons work well and can be constantly turned on or off. It is a pity that HTC does not offer on-screen navigation buttons as an option. The fingerprint scanner is reliable, but not as fast as you would in a more expensive phone.
See also: Huawei Honor 9i, analysis
The USB Type-C port is shifted to the right of the mono background speaker, something my lizard’s brain just could not get used to, no matter how many times it hit the speaker with the USB Type-C charging cable or headphones .
There is a microSD card slot in the nano SIM tray at the top edge of the phone, which allows you to expand the 32 or 64 GB of built-in storage. Those versions come with 3 and 4 GB of RAM respectively, with the 4GB / 64GB version as an exclusive online only available through HTC.com. Considering the minimum price difference between the two, the 4 GB / 64 GB version is the natural choice (I checked the 3 GB / 32 GB version). The midrange Snapdragon 630 chipset is at the heart of U11 Life. While it could have been better to see a 660, the 630 is still used with good results.
With its IP67 rating, the U11 Life can withstand immersion in one meter of fresh water for up to half an hour, which is a good addition for a mid-range phone. Like other previous U11 models, Life does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, although HTC tries to compensate in other ways, which we will discuss later.
The U11 Life is compatible with Bluetooth 5 so you can enjoy greater performance or greater range in compatible accessories. For more information on how Bluetooth 5 works, see Gary’s excellent primer. The U11 Life also supports the detection of keywords always heard, called NFC, VoLTE and Wi-Fi, and Cat. 11 download speeds of up to 600 Mbits / s and loads of up to 75 Mbits / s.
HTC U11 Life- Screen
The 5.2-inch Full HD screen on the HTC U11 Life was a very pleasant surprise. The Super LCD panel offers rich colors, a good dynamic range, stable viewing angles, a decent external visibility, if not exceptional (more than 500 nits), and overall it was much better than I expected.
It was not always very receptive to tactile input, requiring some punctures quite strong at times to register the presses. This is a concession that one must make at lower prices, but it is more than compensated by the overall quality of the screen.
HTC U11 Life- Software
HTC’s Edge Sense is a particularly nice addition to U11 life. Despite the experience of Android One software, HTC managed to get a fully functional version of its compressible board technology on board, something that even the Pixel 2 does not have at this time.
Some may see a pressure sensitive framework as a useless trick, but I found it very intuitive and I used it a lot. The default options are quite useful, with a small squeeze that takes you to the camera application, whether the phone is unlocked or not. While in the camera, a long squeeze changes between the front and rear lenses and a small squeeze takes a picture. Obviously, this is a practical feature when you’re in the water, wearing gloves or when you can not use the camera as usual.
Outside of the camera application, a prolonged squeeze typically starts the Google Assistant (you can, of course, modify any or all of the Edge Sense’s default actions to your liking). The assistant can also be activated through the voice or by pressing the start button for a long time. Unlike the Sense version of U11 Life, HTC Sense Companion and Amazon Alexa are not included in the factory software.
HTC Edge Sense also allows you to enable several compression actions in the application that you can customize at will. It takes a bit of memory to remember everything it does, but once you master it it’s quite useful. You can also adjust the pressure sensitivity of the compression gesture or deactivate it completely if it is not your thing.
The HTC U11 Life runs Android Oreo factory, with a guaranteed update for Android P and Android Q thanks to Android One. Android One devices also have security patches guaranteed for three years, which provides a very healthy life in a phone of medium range. Sad as it may seem, this was quite an unusual situation until Google re-launched Android One for the mid-range market.
The nearby stock version of Android Oreo in the U11 Life runs as smoothly and reliably as you would expect. HTC has never had any real problem with the performance of the software, even with its skin Sense, so this should not be surprising. Here are also several Oreo-specific benefits, such as running in the background and cached data limits to better utilize the phone’s available resources and extend battery life.
HTC U11 Life- Audio
HTC also has its USonic audio tuning baked in the Settings menu. The U11 Life also comes with a pair of excellent USonic C-type USBonic headphones. They can be used with the USonic software to tune the U11 Life audio to your particular listening profile.
If you’re not familiar, HTC USonic essentially uses a sonar to map your ear canal. It really has nothing to do, just insert the super comfortable buds, touch a button to emit a short and ready audio signal. Your USonic active noise canceling headphones are now tuned specifically for your ears. Of course, the tuning can be deactivated at any time.
I am far from being an audiophile, but even my ears can appreciate the richer bass and blunt heights that USonic allows. The deactivation of the function flattens everything a bit, and while this adds more to the mid-range, I prefer the crisp highs and solid bass range that the USonic buttons produce. They are also admirably spatial for the included headphones and have an active noise cancellation to boot, another rare bonus at this price point.
Audio on the HTC U 11 Life is also fine if you want to use the high-end Bluetooth codecs of Android Oreo, such as Sony LDAC or Qualcomm aptX and aptX-HD with compatible wireless headsets. The absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack will become an advantage for many, and there is not even a 3.5mm type C USB adapter in the box. However, HTC sells a digital adapter in its website , which includes an integrated DAC.
Despite the excellence of USonic headphones, their alternative audio options are limited. In addition to the included USonic outbreaks, there are not many type C USB headsets on the market that we really recommend . You can buy the HTC dongle for your wired cans (because a regular “dumb” adapter will not work with the U11 Life) or you can switch to Bluetooth headsets.
It’s also worth noting that the USonic outbreaks will not work with most other phones either. Connect them to the USB Type C port of the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 or Pixel 2 and the audio will continue to come out of the external speakers instead of switching to the outbreaks. This is because HTC uses a digital protocol that is not compatible with many other companies. However, the USonic outbreaks worked well with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.
Even without the problem of wired headphones, there are no BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition stereo speakers on the U11 Life, only the mono speaker on the bottom edge. Although the U11 Life speaker is apparently “built to be heard from the front”, do not expect it to be up to the standards of other U11 devices. I recognize that it is relatively high, it just does not sound good. When it comes to audio in U11 Life, the USonic outbreaks are really your best option.
HTC U11 Life- Performance
In this price range, you should expect less than the star performance, but the U11 Life still performs admirably. Despite its mediocre spec sheet, which it shares to a large extent with the Moto X4, the U11 Life performs decently in benchmarking applications, the results of which can be found below. More important than numbers, in everyday use, the software works in a uniform and stable manner like most smartphones that cost twice as much. It’s just not so fast.
The U11 Life, naturally, is not up to the serious processing tasks of a demanding user, and applications take longer to start than a typical owner would be accustomed. In the course of a week, I never found any circumstance in which U11 Life simply could not handle a task or it took too long to start an application or a menu. It is simply a matter of adjusting your expectations and moving forward.
If you’re worried about performance (and even if it’s not), you may want to extract the extra money to get the version with more storage capacity and RAM, just to be sure. The Snapdragon 630 is a slightly disappointing chipset choice, since considering that the Google Pixel 2 also includes 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM, a U11 Life with a slightly more robust chipset could have been very competitive.
HTC U11 Life- Battery
The result of the Snapdragon 630 is that the U11 Life does a lot with the minimum battery capacity it has. A cell of 2,600 mAh will not excite anyone, but combined with Android Oreo and the small and low resolution screen, the U11 Life regularly has me between 4.5 and 5.5 hours of screen time on. I never worried about him dying before the day was over, but occasionally he came closer later in the night.
With the included 5V / 2A brick, the HTC U11 Life Android One takes a little over an hour and a half to fully charge an exhausted battery. A half hour or so charge will give you 50 percent battery.
As with most options in the middle range, it is a compensation game. I could be sorry for the absence of a more robust chip set that would have brought the U11 Life a little closer to the Pixel 2 in terms of performance, but the Snapdragon 630 does a good job of keeping the lights on as long as it does. But the life of the battery is far from being a strong point of U11 life, and it could even be its weakest point that prohibits audio options beyond integrated headsets.
See also: Huawei Mate 10 Pro analysis
HTC U11 Life- Camera
On the other hand, the camera is a surprising force. The cameras of 16 MP f / 2.0 of the phone in the front and back produce very good pictures for a phone in this price range. There are no deceptions of double bokeh camera or zoom lenses, but the basics have been nailed.
As with virtually any phone these days, the true measure of a camera comes in low light conditions. An aperture f / 2.0 is not very wide, but it is perfectly sufficient for most low-light scenes. However, you will need a fairly stable hand, since U11 Life does not have OIS. However, its phase detection autofocus (rear camera) is reliable.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the low-light photos captured by U11 Life. Having become accustomed to the tendency of the Mate 10 Pro to crush the blacks while erasing all the noise, the U11 Life was a good respite. The noise only sneaks in shots taken in very dark environments, the kind that would defeat almost all phones, no matter the cost. In general terms, U11 life minimized noise to an admirable degree while maintaining good colors and range.
I discovered that the U11 Life tended to slightly underestimate the shots, but you can easily tap to focus and then adjust the exposure compensation slider to make it right for each scene. If you prefer to touch the screen to autoexpose, it is available as an option in the camera settings. The U11 Life struggled a bit with the best times in dark environments, but that’s true for virtually any phone.
The colors are accurate and even without excess saturation, although it is unlikely that they are strong enough for some. The U11 Life captures a good amount of detail with good lighting, but things get a little muddy in the dark. Sooner or later, noise is inevitable. The low-level shooting of the U11 Life was better than I expected and you can see how well it works against the Pixel 2 in the images below.
Daytime shots produce very balanced photos and, like most smart phone cameras nowadays, it is difficult to press a photo on a sunny day. It is also nice to have the same camera on the front and back of the phone, especially for the tilt of the selfie, but a 16 MP trigger seems a little exaggerated. I would have preferred a calmer front camera and the addition of OIS to the main camera.
Both cameras have HDR Boost that manages the dynamic range quite well, even if it slows things down a bit. The camera application is not the fastest thing about U11 life and had notable shutter lag. I would love to convince myself that it was intentional on the part of HTC to avoid camera shake by pressing the shutter button or using Edge Sense, but ultimately it is due to the chipset used. However, it’s something you get used to.
The HTC U11 Life captures 4K videos at 30 fps with a time limit of six minutes and supports recording high-resolution video audio (which is disabled each time you change the video’s quality settings). The HTC camera app has a variety of other modes, including a pro mode with RAW, along with hyperlapse, slow motion (720p at 120 fps), and the usual like panorama and selfie beauty mode.
All things considered, I was hoping that the software experience on the HTC U11 Life Android One was as good as it is, but the performance of the camera was a very pleasant surprise. With a little patience and firm hands, you can get very good pictures of U11 life far beyond what you might have expected from a phone in this price range.
HTC U11 Life- Gallery
HTC U11 life- Specifications
|HTC U11 Life|
|screen||5.2-inch Super LCD
Resolution of 1,920 x 1,080
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 mobile platform
|Micro SD||Yes, up to 2TB|
|Cameras||Main camera: 16 MP sensor with f / 2.0 aperture, PDAF, slow motion video, 4K video recording
Front camera: 16 MP fixed focus sensor with f / 2.0 aperture, 1080p video recording
Ambient light sensor
|Connectivity||USB type C (2.0)
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac (2.4 and 5 GHz)
|Network||2G / 2.5G GSM / GPRS / EDGE
– 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
HTC USonic headphones with active noise cancellation
High resolution audio recording
|software||Android 8.0 Oreo
|Dimensions and weight||149.09 x 72.9 x 8.1 mm
See also: Google Pixel 2 XL analysis
Prices and final thoughts
Should you spend € 350 on the HTC U11 Life? I can not give you a definite “yes”. There are simply many other competing devices in that price range at this time that you would now need to verify first, some of which offer dual cameras and other things that might be beneficial to you such as the presence of a 3.5mm headphone port.
What I can say is that if you buy it, I do not think you will be disappointed. If the problems raised above are not the kind of things that would immediately disconnect you from a phone, U11 Life Android One offers a lot of good things, from software and design to screens and cameras.
My biggest complaint with life U11 is the feeling that it is a bit expensive. That is ultimately due to its chip set and battery size. If and when this phone goes on sale, I would not hesitate to recommend it, assuming I can make peace with its slower performance and a smaller battery.
The HTC U11 Life Android One is already on sale in Europe for € 349 / € 379. The Sense version went on sale in the United States on November 3 unlocked for $ 349 and via T-Mobile for $ 300.
As much as I know that U11 Life is far from being the perfect mid-range phone for everyone, I have really enjoyed my time with him and will be sad to see him. I opened this review with a reference to Pixel 2, and finish it with a reference to a device that I also loved, with defects and everything: the Nexus 5. Somehow, the U11 Life feels like the Nexus 5: it has its flaws , but if you are willing to accept them, a real pleasure awaits you.