back to article HTC's 2017 flagship U11 woos audiophiles and bundles Alexa

It made everyone's favourite Android just three years ago, the "Alfa Romeo of phones", but today finds HTC like Sony, hanging on in the market despite shareholder pressure to bail out. The wraps came off HTC's flagship for 2017, the U11, this morning. Don't expect too much change from previous years, which provided a solid …

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Ironically, the features mentioned regarding the headphones would have most audiophiles ignoring it.

However, the haac style recording would be a blast. That is useful.

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Holmes

Orlowski - fancy mentioning whether there is any micro sd card slot? I assume the battery is non-removable? Spelling out whether the usb-c earphones means they've done an apple and removed the headphone jack, on a phone supposedly marketed at audiophiles?

I had to spend another 85 seconds of my life googling it for myself.

(answers - can thankfully take uSD, non-removable batt, no 3.5mm headphone jack - i assume it instead comes with an easy-to-lose usb-c to 3.5mm adaptor... EDIT: oh yeah, i see that was mentioned in a picture caption in the article.)

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Anonymous Coward

another 85 seconds of my life googling

Apparently for you "a picture is NOT worth a thousand words"

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@AC, re: "a picture is worth a thousand words"

Unless you're totally blind & can't see the picture to get the information it's supposed to relay.

As far as a screen reader can read to me, there's zero mention of any headphone jack. If I hadn't already read an article elsewhere that DID give that little detail, I'd never know it from this article.

Please don't be flippant with that thousand words thing, it doesn't hold true for *everyone* after all.

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Meh

Re: another 85 seconds of my life googling

Nope, not really worth a thousand words, hence why I asked for it to be spelled out, for me the pictures just raised more questions than they answered for me.

For example - my first thought was that it's possible that HTC sell a separate USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor with built in DAC. like the LG G5 for example - that had a dedicated 3.5mm jack already, and you could purchase (for over a hundred quid) the additional DAC-and-3.5mm-jack as an add-on. Is the U11 like this, do you need to pay-to-play or is it included in the box? One cannot tell from the picture alone. It also seems odd that plugging in an adaptor would produce such a noticable (and presumably passive) power drain that the user needs to be informed that they should remove it when not in use. Why would this be? Can HTC not control power over peripherals, or is the battery life that dire that they need to make excuses?

My LG V20 supports USB-C audio, but also comes with a dedicated 3.5mm socket. It's also marketed at audiophiles with a quad-DAC onboard, no adaptors needed. It also doesn't power the DACs when no sound equipment is connected.

I also can't see an obvious microSD card slot anywhere on the images, and naturally if you're an audiophile you're going to need a few hundred GB for your .flac collection. If Samsung removed it then bought it back, a second tier manufacturer like HTC might just think removal is a sensible idea. Article not clear.

As a constructive suggestion - virtually every other site doing a phone review lists a big old list of specifications at the end. Heck, you can put it on a second page and serve up double the adverts to your readers too (for the 2% of reg readers that can't use adblockers). Time for El Reg to follow suit, in my humble opinion, for those of us who prefer the detail.

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Anonymous Coward

Also posting conjecture.

"HTC like Sony, hanging on in the market despite shareholder pressure to bail out."

He also fails to mention active noise cancellation has been something that Sony has included as standard since the Z3, and of course supported HD LDAC (coming ito everything else n Android O) since the Z4.

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(Written by Reg staff)

MicroSD cards are so standard on Android phones I'd mention it if there wasn't one.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: another 85 seconds of my life googling

"virtually every other site doing a phone review lists a big old list of specifications at the end."

This isn't a review. That's coming.

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Longtime HTC devotee

Looks quite nice. I can see uses for the squeeze - mainly quick camera access.

Not sure about that case though. And I don't want Alexa. I guess its useful for people that do.

Anyway - not due an upgrade from my 10 til next year. I will wait. I hope HTC do well though - it would be a shame to lose them.

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Alexa

Stopped reading right there...

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Re: Alexa

Same here. Ive been HTC forever, but now that this is coming bundled with Alexa, yeahhhh im sure it can be turned off.....but is is REALLY off OFF?.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alexa

I thought of Alexa toolbar before Alexa the assistant, but both invade your privacy.

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Re: Alexa

"Stopped reading right there"

just to immediately run to the nearest new HTC customer and shout out "Alexa, order two tons of creamed corn. Alexa. confirm purchase.".

xkcd.com/1807/

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MJS

Re: Alexa

Out of interest... ...if compulsory Alexa forced you away from HTC, where would you head? Asking for a never-had-anything-but-HTC friend who can't get on with his better half's Samsung.

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PTW
FAIL

Awesome!

The USB-C to 3.5mm convertor uses power, what a fantastic technological leap over the 3.5mm 4 ring jack. I'll leave you to decide in what direction

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Re: Awesome!

The DAC requires power whether it is built into your phone or built into an adapter. You think the 3.5mm output built into phones magically work without power?

I assume the warning is because the adapter they are using isn't smart enough to tell when headphones are plugged in? Otherwise such a warning would be rather pointless, since the draw of the DAC in the adapter is hopefully a lot less than everything else that's powered up when playing music.

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Re: Awesome!

DAC is already built in - how else would speakers get their signal. Removal of 3.5mm jack makes no sense for majority of users. Alexa - I guess Amazon paid them. It'd be nice it could not just be disabled but removed altogether - waste of storage space and battery life.

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Re: Awesome!

The DAC for the 3.5mm jack is separate from the DAC for speakers. Or at least they are in the iPhones previous to the 7, I don't know about other ones.

Even if they aren't, presumably the internal DAC would be unpowered if you are outputting audio via USB-C, and instead the dongle's DAC is powered, so my point stands regardless of how many internal DACs the phone may have.

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Can Alexa...

... be removed without flashing the ROM and going to stock Droid?

My last 3 phones have been HTC as I really like them. But I really, REALLY don't want the Amazon creepware...

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Unhappy

Ultrasound

The bundled digital USB-C "USonic" headphones contain a built-in DAC, and also have active noise cancellation. They also have one additional feature, beaming ultrasound into your ear on first use, to tune an equaliser profile most suited to your age and earplugs.
Anything above 8KHz is ultrasound to me now.

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Re: Ultrasound

Pardon?

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Two tone shell

I quite liked that back in '99 on the Nokia 7110.

Not so sure about it now.

Also, with squeezeUI (it's cool for cats) and the triple-your-money voice assistant it seems a very odd hector. And I've got a G5 with the "friends" gimmi^W capability.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Two tone shell

I have a more advanced version of this feature on my phone.

It uses squeeze gestures to increase and decrease volume, and to turn power on and off. There are separate squeeze-sensitive areas for each function, identified by raised metal strips to make them easier to find without looking. Plus there is a satisfying haptic feedback so that you know when it has been activated.

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Trollface

Re: Two tone shell

I also has a couple of Sonys (in fact one was SonyEricsson, so a while ago) in the past that had dedicated camera squeeze haptic feedback areas that were really useful.

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HAAC lost - I don't think so

> The former Nokia phone team at Microsoft hasn't skimped on anything here. Both models have a high resolution (1440 x 2560 pixel) AMOLED display, wireless charging, removable battery, expandable storage, HAAC rich audio recording, and the same stellar 20MP main imaging unit.

From a Register review - https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/12/08/microsoft_lumia_950_review_lumia_950xl_review/

I can vouch for it too since I replaced a Lumia 1020 - which had brilliant audio recording - with a 950 - which has even better audio recording.

We were at a concert recently and both made a couple of short recordings; what struck me was the stability of the video, both on the screen and of the resulting video of course. We saw other screens (all the time); they just judder and shake and wobble and must produce the most sick-inducing results.

As for audio, I have watched peoples video of concerts and am utterly staggered by the fact that they pay twice or three times what I did for a phone and get garbage audio, distorted and, and, just awful, while our phones produce very clear, if perhaps quiet results (for a Rock concert at least). Recordings of her Karaoke efforts (because she can actually hold a tune) are so clear I am constantly impressed by it.

So, HAAC is present and correct on Lumias it seems.

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Re: HAAC lost - I don't think so

Remind me when the next Lumia is is due out?

Think that was rather Andrews point.

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This is a flagship model? Really?

So I have several cellphone holders that hold the phone by the edges. How is the idiotic squeezing thing going to interact with these?

Not that I'm a customer anyway due to HTC Sense, Alexa and the lack of headphone jack.

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Windows

4 microphones

Function Handle_mic_setup()

{

typeset -A mic_stub MIC1 MIC2 MIC3 MIC4

typeset -A mic_usrs NSA FBI CIA GCHQ

index=0

for unit in ${mic_stub[*]}

do

connect_mic ${mic_stub[$index]} ${mic_usrs[$index]}

index++

done

return

}

/copyright withheld.

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"Bundled" software

If I want Alexa, Facebook, Twitter or whatever else then I can simply install it myself. HTC should not be baking this performance / space / privacy sapping crap into the firmware.

If they absolutely must install this shit, then at least do it in the writable user data partition where it can be permanently removed. Not hidden, deleted.

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Re: "Bundled" software

If I want Alexa, Facebook, Twitter or whatever else then I can simply install it myself. HTC should not be baking this performance / space / privacy sapping crap into the firmware.

I imagine that in the case of the Alexa functionality HTC are receiving some sort of backhander from Amazon for including it. If that's the case then I doubt that it can easily be removed.

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It's a bit meh really isn't it. I've got the S8 and it's a bit meh whereas my S7 before it was quite a good upgrade. So we are in the era of 'meh' phones with nothing interesting or revolutionary in them and let's face it apart from a battery that lasts a week what could they put in a phone to make them any better than they are? Certainly not stupid personal assistants I'll never dream of using or high quality audio I'd want to hear through speakers in the right environment.

HTC have the software right and there's are the only phones I've had that can do DLNA without extra software which I miss having. They have crap build quality though and even worse support. So nice try HTC but I think you're finished after this one,you should have looked after your customers better before.

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Screwing over customers is why I only purchased a HTC phone once and will never buy one again... I had the original top end Desire HD back in 2010-2011 and got really annoyed with the non 'sense' overlay that meant you had multiple baked in versions of the same apps... then they promised they were going to upgrade the OS to the latest version of android and reneged on that promise... then they just stopped supporting it entirely after less than a year.

I made the phone last until 2014 and purchased a motorola that was as near to vanilla android as you could get outside of a Nexus. Compared to the battery draining bloatware bundled with most manufacturers phones it was a refreshing breath of fresh air... and ensures that I will NEVER purchase a phone bundled with that kind of bloatware again. Current phone is a Wileyfox Storm... and it looks like they're screwing over their customers in the same way... it's ok if you purchased the cheaper Swift... but purchase the higher spec Storm and they're washing their hands of it. We shall see if they continue this trend with the newer swift range and screw over customers like HTC do... if Wileyfox treat their customers like HTC do... I can only hope they go the same way HTC seem destined too.

When I replace my phone in a year or so... Probably take a look at the motorola range again.

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Replying to myself here... I'm perfectly sane... honest.

My Wileyfox Storm has just received the Nougat update and is currently installing as I type this... They've restored a little faith for me now. It was feeling like they'd abandoned the Storm users entirely.

Perhaps I'll take another look at Wileyfox for my next upgrade in a year or so.

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Thumb Down

Does it work?

Taiwan and China have long ago perfected the manufacturing of top-specification phones, but they don't work. Bad radio firmware, CPU & GPU governor stutter, stuttering calls, missing texts, file corruption, DnD broken, crashes, security vulnerabilities, and junk custom OSes that can never be upgraded. They essentially contract a few Android hackers to throw together an OS then call it done. How about holding off on the review until you've used the phone, OK? This crap is expensive.

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Coat

iridescent

That two-tone paint is horrible - you see it on some cars too, mostly BMW "twatmobile" minis parked in airport departure lounges for the purpose of free viral selfie advertising.

Just as pretty as oil on a wet road.

De gustibus and all that - OK I'll get my coat

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M7S
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Coat

HTC gets there first with a portable audio device

that goes to 11.

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Hotel California on Youtube

Can't help notice that they tested the audio quality by playing YouTube video of Eagles' Hotel California. Although it mentioned an HQ-FLAC audio but being streamed on YouTube means the audio format is AAC with 192 kbps bitrate. LOL :-)

The real challenge is whether the gadget can playback a DSD file with higher than 5,000 kbps bitrate.

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