HTC. Google bought their smartphone division a couple of months ago, and this purchase has brought more than a nice Pixel 2. It’s brought a new phone from HTC, the U11 Life.
First of all, let me get one thing straight. This is not the new HTC U11. Think of it instead as a less flagship-y version, one that normal beings can afford and want. It’s part of the Android One program, a program Google use for phones that get the latest updates first and run complete stock Android, although manufacturers are allowed to tweak it slightly for hardware differences. As such, the Life will be one of the first phones to ship with Android Oreo.
Now you’re interested? Great! Let me tell you some more. The Life has a 5.2 inch display, is water resistant to IP67 (an absolute steal for the price point) and 16 MP back and front camera. The two things you won’t like, though are the processor and the battery.
The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630. In case you don’t know what this means, allow me to talk you through it. Qualcomm has a range of Snapdragon 600 processors for midrange smartphones, and since the latest is actually 635, the Life’s processor is not great but not too bad either.
The battery is 2,600 mAh, and in practice that will get you about 4 and a half hours of screen-on time. While this should get the average Facebook-and-WhatsApp user through the day, you definately want to go for something else if you play a lot of games on your phone, you do resource-intensive stuff or count on your phone to get you through two or three days in one go.
But, as I said earlier, the phone is a complete steal. As well as the IP67 water rating we talked about earlier, the phone supports HTC’s Active Edge tech, has USB-C and does NFC too. The Active Edge feature is better than on the Pixel 2 because you can map the squeezing now instead of just having it activate Google Assistant.
The last thing I want to talk about are the included USB-C earphones. Not only do they apparently sound great, they have a feature where they use echolocation to map out your inner ear and then fine-tune the sound experience to that. Do note that the USB-C protocal they use is rarely found elsewhere, so you can’t use them on other phones and if you want a 3.5-mm adaptor then you need to buy one from HTC.
So there you have it. Great phone right? And all in a €350 package! The main problem (leaving processor and battery issues aside) is that this phone is for Europe only. There will be a US version, but it will be running HTC’s Sense version of Android, which isn’t great. Plus, you don’t get fast upgrades. If you do want a budget phone with great features and Android One, I reccomend the also-new Moto X4 Android One. Not only is it great quality for small price, it’s also the first non-Google phone to support Project Fi, Google’s Mobile Virtual Network.