HTC Asks its Fan Community to Combat Online Criticism, Offers Merchandise in Return

HTC’s latest U11 has been received with mixed reactions by the Android community. With good audio but no headphone jack and a new-ish design that scraps years of HTC’s expertise with metal, many fans and spectators threw quite a bit of skepticism its way.

There are many arguments one could make to discredit or devalue HTC’s new product, from its hardware decisions to its gimmicky “squeezing” features — and HTC knows this, so it found a way to at least combat it on online boards, comments sections and other social battlefields. According to information from their VIP community, presented in a reddit post, HTC has taken to ask its community of fans to duke it out online against dissenters of the phone in what we can only describe as literal shilling.

Image Credit: u/ShadowCodeGaming

Elevate is HTC’s private online community, members-only, for the company’s “top fans” and supporters. To join Elevate, you must request access by emailing HTC, and telling them why you are “HTC’s most passionate fan”. With admission requirements like those, you’d expect HTC Elevate members to be quite dedicated indeed. After all, they are the ones getting the latest product news, opportunities to access exclusive events or partner with HTC, and have direct access to HTC team members. But now, they are asking their users to “mobilize and combat some of the negative things out there about the U11”. As seen in the screenshot above, provided by reddit user u/ShadowCodeGaming, HTC wants users to post regularly in comments sections of blogs and social media, and then report back to Elevate so that they can keep track of the shilling.Image result for HTC Asks its Fan Community to Combat Online Criticism, Offers Merchandise in Return

Of course, HTC is actually rewarding people who go through that trouble (though, to be honest, if you are in a VIP HTC community, you’d probably do it for free), as they’ll be sending out “swag goodies” here and there to people who participate. The company doesn’t shy away from the implication that it encourages a network of shills, by saying that such actions are “what [elevate members] do best”, and calls it “sharing the good word about all things HTC — fanboy preaching, essentially.

We hope that this operation is limited in scope, and we’ll certainly keep an eye out for Elevate members in our comments sections from now on.

 

Amazon reportedly working on proper Android ‘Ice’ smartphones with Google’s apps

 

Amazon might be taking another shot at building its own smartphones, according to a new report from NDTV’s Gadget 360And unlike the company’s failed Fire Phone, the new smartphones — allegedly branded “Ice” — would have access to the full line of Google services and apps, including the Play Store.

The report notes that the Ice line would be targeted at emerging markets like India, instead of the more US-facing focus of the original Fire Phone. As such, the rumored specs for one of the Ice phones fall in line with that goal: a screen between 5.2 and 5.5 inches, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a Snapdragon 435 processor. Gadget 360 claims that this specific model would retail for roughly $93 at launch, although that price could change before launch.

Per Gadget 360’s source, the Ice phone doesn’t have Alexa support, but, like the price, details aren’t finalized which means software, too, could change in the future.

The original Fire Phone was a failure for a multitude of reasons, including a focus on gimmicky features, an expensive price tag, exclusivity to AT&T, and a bizarre operating system. It sold extremely poorly, even with Amazon slashing prices only weeks after launch. But perhaps the biggest failure was the dearth of apps by not using Google Mobile Services, in essence leaving customers with a confusingly skinned Android phone that didn’t really run any Android apps. It sounds like Amazon is taking a different approach with the Ice line, by embracing Google’s services and targeting a different slice of the smartphone market than the Apple-and-Samsung-dominated high-end segment.

If the Ice rumors are true, Amazon could have a big opportunity in emerging market places. Google has made no secret of its desire to put Android phones in the hands of “the next billion users” with initiatives like Android Go and Android One; an Amazon hardware push would certainly go a long way toward getting Google

 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium First Impressions

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Sony Xperia XZ Premium was launched earlier this week
  • The Xperia XZ Premium price in India is Rs. 59,990
  • The flagship smartphone will go on sale on June 12

Sony is known for its well-built and good looking smartphones and its latest smartphone is no exception. Sony on Thursday launched its premium device Xperia XZ Premium which does true justice to its ‘Premium’ moniker. To say the least, the smartphone bears a premium price tag of Rs. 59,990, which goes in line with the specifications this smartphone has to offer. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with features like 4K HDR display, a camera with 960fps video recording capability, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, and a reflective mirror-like ‘loop surface’ design with a 2.5D curved glass finish protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Currently listed for pre-orders on Amazon.in, the smartphone will be available in the country starting June 12.

Gadgets360 got a chance to spend some time with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium at its launch event earlier this week, and here are our first impressions.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Design
Let’s start with the most noticeable aspect of the smartphone, design. The first glance Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s front panel will remind you of other recent Xperia smartphones. However, this one comes with its own distinct identity, as it also bears a ‘glass loop surface’ that is quite reflective. Also on the front is the 2.5D curved glass panel with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. It will not be an exaggeration if we say that Xperia XZ Premium can even be used as a mirror. In our opinion, the reflective look was a bit too gaudy, but, it’s a personal opinion and the look may be suitable for some.

Unfortunately, the reflective design doesn’t just stop at aesthetics. With ‘glass loop surface’, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is immensely slippery and it attracts fingerprints very easily – leading you to keep cleaning it now and then. If you want to save yourself from this extra care, a back cover can possibly be used, however it will conceal the premium looks of the device.

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium follows the design principle of its Xperia siblings to have a fingerprint sensor embedded on the power button on the right panel of the smartphone. Below it are the volume rockers. This kind of setup was last seen on Sony Xperia XZs and Xperia Z5, so there’s nothing new here. We found the fingerprint scanner worked well enough to unlock the device instantly, and its placement on the power button was convenient enough. On the top of the device, Sony has gone the traditional way of providing the 3.5mm audio jack, while the latest USB Type-C port can be found at the bottom. The right side of the smartphone also carries a dedicated camera button, while the left side is dominated by just the combined SIM card and microSD card slot.

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a firm grip considering its 7.9mm thickness, but its 191-gram weight makes it a little too hefty for prolonged usage. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with dust and water resistance, which is a great addition. We will reserve our thoughts about the ergonomics of the smartphone until our detailed review.

sony xperia xz premium 2 gadgets360 Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Display
The display technology used in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is claimed to be the same one as used on the company’s BRAVIA televisions. The company boasted a lot about the display of the smartphone at the launch event. It’s a 5.5-inch 4K (2160×3840 pixels) HDR display. Since most of the apps and content available today for smartphones are still in full-HD resolution, you won’t notice the real capability of the display, until you open images and videos shot in 4K UHD on the smartphone. The images and videos look crisp with a vibrant colour gamut. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a vivid colour display that offers good legibility even in bright sunlight, and we had no complaints on this front in our time spent with the smartphone.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Camera and Performance
One of the highlighted features of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is its Motion Eye camera technology that has been incorporated into the rear 19-megapixel shooter. The 19-megapixel rear camera is capable of shooting slow-motion videos at 960fps (frames per second), which is far ahead of the competition, many of which max out at 240fps. Sony has equipped a three-stage CMOS image sensor to make its 960fps slow-motion recording possible.

We shot quite a few slow-motion videos in our limited time with the smartphone, and we were impressed by the results. Again, we will reserve our final judgement on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s camera until our review. Inside the camera app, there are two options in a dedicated toggle for slow-motion recording. Either the entire video can be recorded in slow-motion, or a normal-paced video can be shot intermittently with the slow-motion mode as per your preference. The camera app is pretty standard in terms of features like a manual mode, Superior Auto mode, Panorama, and 4K video mode.

Coming to the front-facing camera, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s 13-megapixel camera seemed capable enough, but, we’ll have to reserve our judgement about the quality of the output for our detailed review.

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is the first smartphone that comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in India. Talking about the performance, the smartphone is quite responsive without any issues while multitasking. The device packs 4GB of RAM with 64GB of inbuilt storage, which is expandable using microSD card (up to 256GB). While the device did not give any issues with performance and multitasking, we would know its actual performance capabilities after the benchmark tests.

sony xperia xz premium 3 gadgets360 Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony has packed the Xperia XZ Premium with the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat. It supports dual-SIM cards, both Nano-SIM, with 4G VoLTE support and High-Res audio feature. It is powered by a 3230mAh battery under the hood that supports Quick Charge 3.0 technology. Sony has provided ‘Stamina Mode’ to monitor the battery usage while saving it at the same time. Now, keeping in mind the 4K HDR display, the battery may have a very hard time providing enough juice, but, we can only detail its real-life performance in our review. The smartphone ships with a quick charger, which is claimed by the company to charge 60 percent of the battery in just 45 minutes.

Final Verdict
Sony’s new smartphone declares a challenge to most current flagship with the ‘Premium’ in its name. At its price, it will compete with the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8+, LG G6, Google Pixel, and Google Pixel XL. As far as the price is concerned, the smartphone does not seem to fall short of its claims, as it does indeed offer top-of-the-line specifications and a premium body. In the meantime, companies like OnePlus and Xiaomi are gearing to launch Snapdragon 835-powered OnePlus 5 and Mi 6 respectively in the Indian market, only to make the competition among high-end smartphones more fierce.

So, is the Sony Xperia XZ Premium worth buying at its price tag? It’s too early to say. While the camera and display are its biggest highlights, its real-life performance remains to be seen on fronts. Stay tuned to catch our detailed review of Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

Disclosure: Sony sponsored the correspondent’s flights and hotel for the launch event.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS

Display

5.50-inch

Processor

octa-core

Front Camera

13-megapixel

Resolution

2160×3840 pixels

RAM

4GB

OS

Android 7.0

Storage

64GB

Rear Camera

19-megapixel

Battery Capacity

3230mAh

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  • SAMSUNG Galaxy S8 (Maple Gold, 64GB, 4GB RAM) – OFFER
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  • Apple iPhone 7 (Red, 128GB) –
    Rs. 61,990

LeEco Unit Leshi Scraps Plans to Issue Bonds

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • LeEco’s Leshi has scrapped plans to issue CNY 2 billion worth of bonds
  • No reason given for the cancellation by the Leshi Internet
  • In May, LeEco said it will cut over 300 jobs at its US business

Leshi Internet Information & Technology, a listed unit of Chinese conglomerate LeEco, has scrapped plans to issue CNY 2 billion ($294 million) worth of bonds.

Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp Beijing’s update on its bond issue plans were posted on the Shenzhen stock exchange website, with no reason given for the cancellation.Image result for LeEco Unit Leshi Scraps Plans to Issue Bonds

In its prospectus issued in September last year, Leshi said proceeds of the bonds, with maturities of up to five years, would be used to boost the company’s working capital.

Company executives were not immediately available for comment.

Leshi’s parent LeEco, founded by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, has been suffering a cash crunch due to its heady expansion from video streaming to TV sets, smartphones, sports and even electric vehicles in a little over a decade.

In May, LeEco said it will cut over 300 jobs at its US business, amounting to almost three-quarters of its local workforce, as it streamlined global operations in response to a shortage of cash.

Robot Joins Dubai Police Force to Fight Real Life Crime

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Dubai police is not deploying robocops for patrolling the city
  • “These kind of robots can work 24/7. They won’t ask you for leave.”
  • Dubai Police wants robots to make up 25% of its patrolling force by 2030

A robotic policeman which can help identify wanted criminals and collect evidence has joined Dubai’s police force and will patrol busy areas in the city, as part of a government programme aimed at replacing some human crime-fighters with machines.

If the “Robocop” experiment is successful, Dubai Police says it wants the unarmed robots to make up 25 percent of its patrolling force by 2030.

Clad in the colours of the Dubai Police uniform, the life-size robot, which can shake hands and perform a military salute, is the lighter side of a government plan to use technology to improve services and security ahead of Dubai hosting Expo 2020.

“These kind of robots can work 24/7. They won’t ask you for leave, sick leave or maternity leave. It can work around the clock,” said Brigadier Khalid Nasser Al Razooqi, director general of the Smart Services Department at Dubai Police.Robot Joins Dubai Police Force to Fight Real Life Crime

The first automated policeman in the Middle East, the robot on wheels is equipped with cameras and facial recognition software.

It can compare faces with a police database and flag matches to headquarters. It can read vehicle licence plates and its video feed can help police watch for risks such as unattended bags in popular areas of Dubai, a financial and tourism hub.

Members of the public can also talk to the robot to report a crime or communicate with it using a touch screen computer embedded in its chest. Built by Barcelona-based PAL Robotics, and programmed by Dubai Police, the cost of the robot has not been disclosed.

Most people are not nervous about talking to a robot and some even seem to prefer it, Razooqi said.

“We now see the new generations who are using smart devices – they love to use these kind of tools. A lot of them have seen the Robocop movie and they said: you guys, you have done it.”

 

70 Percent Mobile Apps Share Your Data With Third-Party Services: Study

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 70% of smartphone apps are reporting personal data to third-party cos.
  • Some of the information these apps are collecting is necessary
  • Lumen Privacy Monitor analyses and reports the traffic apps send out

More than 70 percent of smartphone apps are reporting personal data to third-party tracking companies like Google Analytics, the Facebook Graph API or Crashlytics, warns a new study.

When people install a new Android or iOS app, it asks the user’s permission before accessing personal information. Some of the information these apps are collecting are necessary for them to work properly: A map app wouldn’t be nearly as useful if it couldn’t use GPS data to get a location.

But once an app has permission to collect that information, it can share your data with anyone the app’s developer wants to – letting third-party companies track where you are, how fast you are moving and what you are doing.

To get a picture of what data are being collected and transmitted from people’s smartphones, the researchers from IMDEA Networks Institute in Spain developed a free Android app of their own, called the Lumen Privacy Monitor.

It analyses the traffic apps send out, to report which applications and online services actively harvest personal data.

Because Lumen is about transparency, a phone user can see the information installed apps collect in real time and with whom they share these data.70 Percent Mobile Apps Share Your Data With Third-Party Services: Study

“We try to show the details of apps’ hidden behaviour in an easy-to-understand way. It’s about research, too, so we ask users if they’ll allow us to collect some data about what Lumen observes their apps are doing – but that doesn’t include any personal or privacy-sensitive data,” the researchers said in a statement released by the institute.

This unique access to data allowed the researchers to study how mobile apps collect users’ personal data and with whom they share data at an unprecedented scale.

More than 1,600 people who have used Lumen since October 2015 allowed the researchers to analyse more than 5,000 apps.

“We discovered 598 internet sites likely to be tracking users for advertising purposes, including social media services like Facebook, large Internet companies like Google and Yahoo, and online marketing companies under the umbrella of internet service providers like Verizon Wireless,” the study said.

More than 70 percent of the apps were connected to at least one tracker, and 15 percent of them were connected to five or more trackers, the findings showed.

“Tracking users on their mobile devices is just part of a larger problem. More than half of the app-trackers we identified also track users through websites. Thanks to this technique, called ‘cross-device’ tracking, these services can build a much more complete profile of your online persona,” the researchers said.

 

Google Trusted Contacts Review

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trusted Contacts lets you share location
  • It lets people you trust track your location
  • It’s useful when, say, you are returning home late

Safety isn’t something anyone should take for granted, no matter where they live. Whether you’re returning home after a late night with friends, or simply returning late from work during rush hour, there’s a good chance you might have received calls from loved ones asking where you are. Annoying as these calls or texts might be, they only show that someone cares about you.

There’s no shortage of ways to let people know where you are. You can share your location via practically any messaging app, or just let your loved ones know where you are via calls or texts. If you are in a crowded bus or train and can’t use your phone, you can simply use an app such as Google’s Trusted Contacts to do this for you.

Trusted Contacts lets you create a list of, well, trusted contacts, who can access your location anytime, anywhere. Instead of calling or texting you, they simply click a button and find out where you are. This is a very useful feature from a safety standpoint. You’ll be asked if you want to share your location, so you know who is looking for you, but if you don’t respond, the details will be shared to the trusted contact anyway, as a safety feature.

We installed the app on an Android phone (the iOS version is still in the works) and added a couple of trusted contacts. But before you can add any contacts, the app reminds you that you need to enable location history and location sharing. Now most people already have this turned on if they use any kind of location-based apps on Android, but if you are worried about sharing your location with Google, with might be a problem.Google Trusted Contacts Review

Once you decide to give Google to access your location at all times, you can add trusted contacts. Trusted contacts can see your location via the app, but they don’t need to install it just to see your whereabouts. You can instead invite them to check your location via email. They can simply click a link and access your location via the Web.

Make sure that you don’t share this address with anyone else as it’s a publicly visible URL, which is a privacy concern. You can stop sharing your location at any point, after which no one will be able to see it. But at the time you are sharing it, the URL should still ideally be viewable only by people you’ve invited.

Sharing your location is easy enough. You just need to tap a button, and it starts happening until you stop sharing it the same way. That’s different from apps such as Find My Friends, available on Apple’s iOS, which share your location whenever your trusted friend seeks this information. When sharing is on, the app also lets people see where you are while you’re commuting, which is a nice addition. They can also request your location via the app or Web, and you get a notification for it. If you don’t respond within five minutes, your location gets shared automatically.

We tested this app in Delhi and it worked as expected. You could just as easily share your location via WhatsApp if you don’t mind having to manually send your location – and of course, you would lose out on live tracking too. Overall, we can recommend this app but be aware that sharing your location will decrease your smartphone’s battery life. If the privacy concerns don’t bother you and you are on Android, Trusted Contacts is a good app you to share your location with your loved ones.

 

Best smart home system

 

Updated July 18, 2017 to include our review of the Home8 Video-Verified Home Security Alarm System. From smart light bulbs and thermostats that think for themselves to  Bluetooth door locks, wireless security cameras, and all manner of sensors, today’s home technology can sound awfully sophisticated while actually being a messy hodgepodge of gizmos and apps. Whether you call it home automation or the connected home, installing all this stuff in your house is one thing. Getting it to work together smoothly and with a single user interface can be something entirely different.

Here’s the essential gear to get you there, which we’ve separated into two categories: all-around smart home systems, which are designed to coordinate a wide variety of smart home products, and security-focused systems, which are built around sensors and sirens. You should also note that some of our picks are starter kits, consisting of a smart-home hub and a handful of devices, while others are just the hub. You’ll need to add the components you want to the latter, choosing from products certified by the hub manufacturer.

 smart home hub lead art

For breadth and depth of supported smart home products, you won’t find a smart home system that handles more than Samsung SmartThings. At its core is a small square box that plugs into your router (and Samsung’s Connect Home will soon eliminate that requirement by integrated a mesh router with a SmartThings hub). Through the SmartThings mobile app, you then start adding your various devices through its simple yet intuitive control system. These can be sensors or light bulbs that Samsung sells directly, or (more likely) you can choose from a vast number of products that boast “Works with SmartThings” compatibility.

Seemingly every major category is covered, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home, numerous major smart lighting products (including Philips and Sylvania gear), the Ring Video Doorbell, and a full 20 smart door locks. SmartThings can also integrate with your Samsung smart appliances—even the vacuum cleaner. If there’s a gap in SmartThings’ coverage, it’s a lack of (official) support for Nest products and relatively weak support for third-party security cameras (although third-party support code is often available if you’re willing to tinker). Otherwise it’s hard to find a smart market that SmartThings doesn’t play in.

 

HTC U11 Review

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The HTC U11 competes with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5
  • You can squeeze the phone to launch the camera and quickly take a photo
  • Gadgets 360 rates the HTC U11 9 out of 10

When we reviewed the HTC U Ultra just over three months ago, we said that it felt like a stopgap device, used to fill space before a true 2017 flagship could be launched and grab at least a little bit of the attention its competitors were getting. It seemed obvious that HTC was waiting for a supply of Qualcomm’s hot new Snapdragon 835 processor, and so we advised anyone interested in the HTC U Ultra for its looks to hang on for a little while before spending Rs. 60,000. As it turns out, we were exactly right. The HTC U11is already here and not only is it a lot more powerful than the U Ultra, but it also costs less.

With a launch price of Rs. 51,990, the HTC U11 is significantly more appealing than the U Ultra was at Rs. 59,990. It’s also got HTC’s brand new “squeezable” Edge Sense feature to set it apart. One big thing that the U11 lacks compared to the U Ultra is its secondary screen. However, this makes it slightly smaller, which a lot of people would, in fact, consider a good thing. With all of this to consider, we spent some time with the brand new U11 to figure out whether HTC has managed to get it right in round two.

HTC U11 design

Even if we didn’t totally love the colour of the U Ultra unit we got, we liked the fact that HTC had done something completely new and different with its design. Our U11 review unit has exactly the same ultra-glossy rear, but in an even lighter and brighter shade of blue (which for some reason is called Amazing Silver). HTC says that it has developed a new way to bond layers of glass with “highly refractive precious minerals”, which gives the material its metallic liquid look. It can also look very different under different types of light. The metal band around the sides is a slightly duller shade of blue, which makes the rear really pop. There’s also a Brilliant Black version, but this is the one you’ll want if you like showing off.

The finish of the rear is extraordinarily shiny and reflective, which means that every little smudge and fingerprint will be on display. The U11 might look great in a showroom, but there is literally no way to handle it without smudging the rear. Even if you wipe it all the time, you cannot avoid messing it up again, so it’s never really going to look as good as it does when you first lay eyes on it. HTC does throw a clear plastic case in with the retail package, but having it on makes the phone feel cheaper.

The front of the HTC U11 is a lot more conventional, with just a black face and the now-obligatory 2.5D curved-edge glass. Unlike its competitors, HTC hasn’t gotten rid of side borders for its flagship and, in fact, says that this is a good thing because otherwise screen content would be cropped or distorted at the edges – which is true. You can see the front camera and earpiece above the screen, but it would be easy to miss the narrow fingerprint sensor below it. The sensor doubles as a capacitive Home button, and you have the Back and Overview buttons on either side which light up when they’re touched.

The power and volume buttons are within easy reach on the right, and the left side is completely bare. What you can’t see are the “squeezable” Edge Sense zones which are on either side of the lower half of the phone. There’s a hybrid dual-SIM tray at the top and a Type-C port at the bottom. Also at the bottom is a single open slot instead of the usual speaker grille. Rather than having two stereo speakers, HTC has decided to go with the earpiece doubling as a tweeter with a separate woofer at the bottom. We’re going to test the efficacy of this design for ourselves, but we’re concerned about dust and lint collecting over time. Oh, and you won’t find a 3.5mm audio socket anywhere.

htc u11 front3 ndtv htc u11

There’s only a single camera at the back, which sets the U11 apart from the majority of its competitors this generation. The camera protrudes just a tiny bit, but we didn’t mind that as much as the extremely prominent regulatory text lower down. We noticed the lack of a laser autofocus sensor, which the U Ultra does have. On the other hand, the U11 boasts an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance, while the U Ultra has no rating at all.

We criticised the U Ultra for being so slippery that we were constantly anxious about it falling out of our hands and pockets, and we’re quite relieved to find that HTC seems to have fixed this problem completely with the U11. The newer model is also a much more comfortable size and has curves in all the right places, making it very easy to hold and use even with one hand. Construction quality seems absolutely top-notch too.

HTC U11 specifications and software

Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 835 processor is one of the main reasons for the U11’s existence. This is an octa-core CPU running at up to 2.45GHz, with an integrated Adreno 540 GPU and several hardware-level improvements targeted at everything from camera image processing to machine learning and sensors. You get 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, both of which are healthy amounts. A version with 4GB and 64GB respectively is available in some countries but hasn’t been launched in India, for now at least.

The 5.5-inch screen on the U11 is what HTC calls “Super LCD 5”, and has a resolution of 1440×2560. There’s a 3000mAh battery and pretty much every connectivity option you can think of, including dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS with GLONASS, and of course 4G with VoLTE support. The USB Type-C port supports 5Gbps transfer speeds and DisplayPort video output. The HTC U11 can take two Nano-SIMs, with the second space doubling as a microSD card slot.

Despite a higher version number, the HTC Sense skin running on top of Android 7.1 feels exactly the same as what we saw on the U Ultra. It’s still fairly versatile, but not the best looking. HTC had announced its Sense Companion AI assistant with much fanfare when the U Ultra launched, and it wasn’t even close to fully baked at the time of the U Ultra’s launch. We found its functions largely pointless, and the promised voice response features were simply missing. Evidently, it still isn’t ready for primetime, and we didn’t find any of its barebones features helpful all during our review period. Perhaps it takes longer than a week to learn a user’s routine, but even then, it’s hard to get excited about weather updates, step counts, and lists of nearby restaurants.

The Blinkfeed screen, to the left of the main home screen, is supposed to show news updates but only has ads for HTC’s themes and third-party apps. You have to dig into the settings and enable News Republic and your assorted social media accounts as sources, which seems totally unnecessary. There are also loads of preinstalled apps. You can’t get rid of most of them including TouchPal keyboard, Facebook Messenger, and News Republic – though oddly you can uninstall HTC’s own Viveport and Zoe apps.

htc u11 upperrear ndtv htc u11

HTC sends popup notifications for “offers, contests and news by HTC and its partners”, but there’s a checkbox you can clear in the launcher settings menu. The app drawer scrolls vertically and page by page, which can be annoying. The default keyboard is called Sangam IME and while it looks a little crude, it offers local-language suggestions and spellcheck which might be useful to people in India. The default language is Indian English, and so you won’t be able to use Google Assistant unless you change to US English.

HTC U11 Edge Sense

There are a few gestures you can use navigate around Android and unlock the phone, but of course the real innovation here is Edge Sense. It’s off by default to prevent confusion, but you’ll see hints urging you to set it up and learn how it works. All you have to do is squeeze gently while the phone is in your hands, and you can trigger an action such as launching the camera or voice recorder, triggering the flashlight, or beginning voice-to-text transcription. If you enable “advanced mode”, you can set different triggers for short, regular and long squeezes. If you choose either the camera or voice recorder triggers, a second squeeze will begin recording.

You’ll see blue arcs appear on either side of the screen when you are pressing inwards, and a short vibration tells you that the squeeze has been registered – you can turn the visual feedback off once you’re comfortable with Edge Sense. At setup time, you’ll be able to calibrate the sensors to your grip strength.

While it might sound gimmicky, we actually found ourselves squeezing to launch the camera all the time – it’s surprisingly easy to get used to and it just makes a lot of sense. It also helps that this works when the camera is in standby, which means that you can take photos really quickly. Squeezing is a lot more fluid than double-tapping or hitting a button to wake the phone and then swiping. The only downside is that you can’t specify that you want to capture a photo or a video; the app will trigger whichever mode you were in last.

Of course your choices of hard cases will be limited if you want to use HTC U11’s Edge Sense feature, but we forsee plenty of options with flexible sides becoming available for the U11 and future models. This is a feature that could really become popular, and we hope HTC takes this idea and runs with it.

htc u11 bottom ndtv htc u11

HTC U11 cameras

While most flagships (and for that matter, plenty of non-flagships) now have dual rear cameras, HTC seems content to stick to one. This is surprising considering that HTC was one of the early pioneers of dual cameras with the HTC One (M8). You don’t get an extra zoom or wide-angle lens, depth sensing, or detail enhancement, but HTC is claiming that this is the best ever smartphone camera even without extra hardware, and this is backed up by DxOMark, a highly regarded camera test firm.

There’s a lot going on to make that happen. The main camera has only a 12-megapixel sensor, but can go down to f/1.7. The U11 uses every pixel on its sensor to detect focus quickly, and can also deliver rapid HDR shots with an increased range between shadows and highlights. HTC says that this also comes into play with video – a technique called temporal noise reduction uses information from each frame’s preceding and following frames to clear up noise and improve detail. Low-light sensitivity is a particular strength, and there’s both optical and electronic image stabilisation.

HTC’s camera app looks relatively bare-bones, with only a few buttons and no sheets of options that pop up when you swipe in any direction. There’s a single menu with a row of icons for various modes, and depending on which one you’re in, you’ll see options right below that. It’s only if you switch to Pro mode that you’ll see more controls, including the option to save RAW data, and sliders for white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and focus. There are even presets – Night, Action, and Macro – which give you optimal combinations of those variables to suit each situation. There aren’t any filters, stickers or fun effects, but third-party apps almost always do that kind of thing better anyway.

When it comes to photo quality, we have to agree with HTC – this is one of the best smartphone cameras we’ve ever used. It delivers truly surprising quality in all kinds of situations, especially low light. The sample shots we took were universally excellent, with crisp focus and great details. We didn’t have any trouble with over- or under- exposure, compression, or colour accuracy. Macros are stunning, but the thing that really blew us away was low-light performance.

The HTC U11 managed to take bright, colour-rich shots in conditions that seemed impossible – most other phones would only produce greyish blurs. These shots were not entirely without noise or blur thanks to longer exposures, but even the slightest amount of incidental light on a small part of the framed subject was enough to result in a usable shot.

The 16-megapixel front camera benefits from many of the same features, and delivers excellent shots as well. The video recording resolution goes up to 4K in regular mode and 1080p at 120fps in Slow Motion mode. “Acoustic focus” uses the phone’s four microphones to isolate subjects from background noise. Motion is smooth, and videos were just as impressive as stills overall.

If there’s anything negative to be said about the U11’s camera, it’s that there isn’t as much creative control as there is with some dual-lens implementations – optical zoom would have been the perfect addition. The app was also sometimes too eager to take bursts when we didn’t necessarily want them – but this worked out to our advantage in some cases, such as trying to get a steady shot of a moving subject at night.

Tap to see full-sized HTC U11 sample photos

HTC U11 performance and battery life

We had a lot of fun using the U11, especially because of its screen, cameras and speakers. HTC must have realised it was pointless to try and deliver stereo sound with asymmetrical speakers, and so having an independent woofer instead works much better. Sound is surprisingly loud, rich, and clear. It works brilliantly for games and movies, and various types of music are also handled quite nicely. The U11 comes with the same noise cancelling Type-C Usonic headset that we first encountered with the U Ultra.

The display is sharp and bright, and perfectly usable in all conditions and at all angles. HTC is correct about videos not being compromised by curved display edges, but the 2.5D glass front is still highly reflective. We did notice that the mid-rear of the phone got warm after even short amounts of casual use, but not enough to be uncomfortable.

Benchmark tests showed excellent results. We saw 181,626 points in AnTuTu; 1,908 and 6,581 in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests; 142.97 in Basemark Web; 39,962 points in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited; and 19fps in GFXBench’s Manhattan test at the native QHD resolution. Benchmark performance in most cases was equal to or better than that of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, and at par with the OnePlus 5.

Battery life is pretty good, and we were happy with the amount of usage we were able to get out of a full charge. You should be able to get through a full day with some audio/ video streaming, photography, and gaming thrown in. Our HD video loop test ran for 10 hours, 7 minutes which is just about the bare minimum we now expect from phones of this calibre.

Verdict
If we had paid the full launch price for an HTC U Ultra less than four months before the HTC U11, we’d be extremely put off with the company right now. The U Ultra is utterly and completely outclassed by the U11. We don’t miss the secondary screen at all, and almost all of our concerns and complaints about it have been addressed with this new model. This is the phone that HTC needed to launch in February or March, and we don’t see the point in alienating customers this way.

That said, even on its own, the U11 is a top-notch smartphone. It doesn’t have dual cameras or other tricks, and it doesn’t have the taller screens that its main competitors are now offering, but it’s gorgeous and powerful, with a camera that can deliver miracles in low light. Edge Sense quickly becomes second nature, and the Snapdragon 835 has plenty of headroom for demanding apps over the next few years. The chief disappointments are the non-starter Sense Companion UI and pedestrian battery life.

This phone is a serious contender, and it’s nice to see HTC at the top of its game again. The U11 goes up against the Samsung Galaxy S8 series and OnePlus 5, all of which have at least one standout USP. Your choice comes down to whether your top priority is taking incredible photos, looking great, or saving some money.

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HTC U11

HTC U11

Rs. 51,990
Buy
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Stunning low-light camera performance
  • Looks great
  • Water and dust resistant
  • Useful “Edge Sense” squeeze gesture
  • Top-tier specifications
  • Bad
  • Average battery life
  • Sense Companion not ready yet
BUY AT
  • HTC U11 (Amazing Silver, 128GB, 6GB RAM) – 
    Rs. 51,990
  • HTC U11 (Brilliant Black, 128GB, 6GB RAM) – 
    Rs. 51,990

 

Key Trends To Watch As BlackBerry Reports Q1 Earnings

 

BlackBerry is expected to publish its Q1’18 results on June 23. We expect the company’s revenues to trend lower on a year-over-year basis, amid lower service access fee and hardware revenues, although this could be partially offset by higher enterprise mobility software sales. Below we provide a brief overview of what to expect when BlackBerry publishes earnings.

Trefis has an $9.50 price estimate for BlackBerry, which is slightly below the current market price.

EMM Business Should Drive Software Revenue Growth

Late last year, BlackBerry updated its EMM offering by integrating its BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) software and the Good Technology product that it acquired in 2015, naming the product BES UEM. The EMM business has been gaining traction, with the firm processing 3,532 customer orders during Q4 2017, marking a 16% sequential increase, with its exposure to non-regulated industries – which are traditionally not BlackBerry’s forte – rising. The recent customer wins should allow the firm to bolster overall revenues during the quarter, as BlackBerry now employs a licensing model for the software.Image result for Key Trends To Watch As BlackBerry Reports Q1 Earnings

Updates On Fleet Management Business

BlackBerry has been increasing its presence in the fleet management space with its Radar solution, which enables transport companies to transmit information regarding the location, temperature and physical contents of their trucks. During Q4, BlackBerry won a contract with Trailer Wizards, Canada’s largest commercial trailer rental company with about 25k trailers. BlackBerry charges $10 to $20 per month for every trailer connected to Radar, implying that the business could become lucrative if BlackBerry scale up its installed base. That said, the fleet management market is very fragmented and bigger players such as Verizon have also been doubling down on the market via acquisitions. Larger players are likely to benefit from greater economies of scale and better network effects