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Flagship HTC U Ultra Smartphone Has Second Screen For Notifications

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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HTC makes serious Android smartphone play with HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play

HTC has drawn its attention away from its recent VR focus by launching two new AI-assisted smartphones, the HTC U Play and the dual screen HTC U Ultra.

In addition to a 5.7 inch display, the U Ultra has a secondary screen display located just above. Here, the smartphone will show notifications so the user is not distracted from what they are doing on the main screen.

It is promised that the smartphone will learn which alerts are the most important and relevant, such as priority contacts and favourite applications.

HTC U Ultra (5)

HTC Ultra U

AI is a central theme to the Ultra. It runs Android 7.0 but also feature the HTC Sense Companion which can optimise power consumption once it has a greater understanding of how the owner uses their device.

Underneath its ‘liquid surface glass design’ is a The HTC U Ultra is more advanced, offering a 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor, 4GB or RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, which can be expanded by up to 2TB using a MicroSD card slot. The 128GB variant is available as a premium edition that protects the screen using sapphire glass, not just Gorilla Glass.

There is a 12 megapixel rear facing camera, supplemented by a 16 megapixel front facing lens for super-powered selfies and video, as well as four microphones for 3D audio. These additional mics have another benefit – they allow users to use voice commands from across the room, even in low power.

The U Play is a little less powerful. It has a similar design but a smaller 5.2 inch screen with no additional display and the maximum internal capacity is half that of the U Ultra. It does however have twin 16 megapixel cameras and 4GB of RAM.

In recent times, HTC has struggled to recapture the success it enjoyed during the early years of Android when its Sense UI was considered superior to off the shelf Android. This is despite a succession of critically acclaimed devices such as the HTC One and HTC 10.

HTC U Ultra & U Play

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HTC U Ultra (1)

HTC revival?

This has led it to focus on VR and its Vive headset. Analysts suggest price could be the key to whether HTC can compete with Samsung’s Galaxy range and the Google Pixel.

“HTC has long been rumoured to be working on a smartphone that matches the expansively proportioned, but ill-fated, Samsung Galaxy Note range – and with its U Ultra and Play handsets, it’s done just that,” said Ernest Doku, mobile expert at uSwitch, who also expressed concerns that AI features are not what people want just yet.

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“HTC has always built devices that turn heads, and with their slick-looking glass finish, these two are no different – although it’s to be seen whether the dual ‘notification’ screen offers much in the practicality stakes. Otherwise, these handsets tick all the boxes from a looks and functionality standpoint.”

“It is certainly heartening that with these handsets HTC is making headway in the smartphone market – despite a subdued foray into the VR space with the Vive.

“Of course, with Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8 launches on the horizon, pricing will be absolutely key to maintaining relevance.”

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