Layers of highly-refractive precious minerals, heated and bent using extreme pressure: HTC U11’s design isn’t easy but it’s worth it.
FORGET using your touchscreen — an iPhone rival unveiled this week lets users do things like taking selfies by squeezing it.
A short or long squeeze on the side of the HTC U11 can be set up to trigger different actions — such as firing up the camera or launching Google Maps or messages.
And within apps the same gestures can be used for shortcuts such as taking a photo, zooming in on a map or dictating a message.
Bosses say a key use of the feature, known as Edge Sense, will be in taking selfies where holding the phone and trying to press a button is tricky — compared to squeezing the device.
The U11 was unveiled in Taiwan and is the tech giant’s challenger to the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 7.
An Australian price has not yet been announced. The company has reduced the price of its existing U Ultra device down to just $899 but given that HTC likely wants to undercut Samsung’s S8 which goes for $1199, it doesn’t have too much wiggle room when setting the price point for its new premium smartphone.
The device, which also has a touchscreen, has a string of other innovations — including letting users unlock it with their voice.
In fact, HTC has made voice control a key element with four microphones that can pick up your commands from across the room even when the device is locked.
The U11 has two voice assistants built in — including Amazon’s popular Alexa, which is like Apple’s Siri but more advanced.
Dubbed “virtual butlers”, voice assistants are becoming more popular and allow users to, for example, ask for the weather forecast, play music or dictate a message.
Elsewhere, the gadget is not only waterproof but the touchscreen works even when it’s wet — an issue with other devices.
And there is a clever feature when recording videos — dubbed Acoustic Focus.
Thanks to the four microphones, as you zoom in on a person, for example, it will make what they are saying more prominent.
There are also improvements to the camera and battery life.
The main camera comes with optical image stabilisation — which helps smooth shaky photography — and the front-facing “selfie” camera is 16 megapixels — more than the seven on the Samsung S8 and iPhone 7.
The earphones have noise cancellation — meaning they are able to filter out background noise — which is another first for a smartphone.
It comes in five colours: silver, blue, black, white and red.
A mainstream smartphone featuring a “squeezable” interaction has not been attempted before.
The HTC One, the firm’s flagship from 2013, won multiple “phone of the year” awards, but since then the Taiwanese giant has failed to come up with another hit.
It hopes the U11 will change that.
The manufacturer has come under increased pressure from Samsung and Apple, as well as emerging Chinese firms such as OnePlus and Huawei.
The tech firm has enjoyed more notable success in the last year with the launch of its virtual reality headset, Vive.