HTC Announces the 5.7″ HTC U Ultra and 5.2″ HTC U Play with Sense Companion AI

HTC Announces the 5.7″ HTC U Ultra and 5.2″ HTC U Play with Sense Companion AI

It's a big phone, for you

In an event in Taiwan, its home country, HTC has announced its first devices of 2017 — the HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play. The announced devices indicate a shift in HTC’s design language as it now seeks to experiment with a different design and build, outside of the metallic unibody builds that it has followed along for a few years now.

Termed ‘Liquid Surface’, this design philosophy is seen on both the devices announced today and is likely to be followed and adopted by other 2017 devices as well.

HTC U Ultra

The HTC U Ultra is the bigger and better device out of the two announced. You get a very premium-looking device, with a metallic mid-frame sandwiched between glass on the front and back. The glass on the back of the device curves on all the edges, giving us a seamless transition from glass to metal. The top most variant of the HTC U Ultra takes it a notch higher by making use of Sapphire Glass for the front and back.


For the display, there is some LG V10/20 action going on here. The main display panel is a 5.7″ QHD Super LCD 5 display with Gorilla Glass 5 on top. The secondary panel on the top is a 2″ (diagonally) 160 x 1040 Super LCD display. In addition to always-on functionality, the secondary display will be the home for Sense Companion (which we will talk about in a bit).


On the inside, the HTC U Ultra packs in specs that would feel top-notch in 2016, but may struggle in the highest-end flagship category in 2017. The HTC U Ultra is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, which albeit is a high-end choice, may leave users expecting to see the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 a little disappointed. The standard variant comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage with microSD expandability, while the exclusive Sapphire variant bumps up the storage to 128GB.

The HTC U Ultra borrows its rear camera setup from the HTC 10, making use of a 12MP UltraPixel sensor with large 1.55µm pixels, f/1.8 aperture, OIS, laser autofocus, and an addition of phase detection autofocus and Sapphire lens as well. On the front, there is a 16MP shooter, which also has an Ultra Pixel mode which can output 4MP images with increased low-light performance.

For the rest of the specs, the HTC U Ultra packs in a disappointing 3,000 mAh battery, which might struggle to power the big and dense display through an entire work day. On the plus side, you do get Quick Charge 3.0 through the USB Type-C port. However, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack port.

We removed the headphone jack because we believe the audio experience on the phone can be so much more than just the simple transmission of sound. The sonar-like capabilities of the new USonic earphones [included in the box] wouldn’t be possible with a 3.5mm headphone jack. We have microphones built into both earbuds that “listen” for sonic pulses, which can then adjust your audio to match your ears’ unique architecture. We believe the market is ready to push audio into new innovations that benefit consumers’ listening experience.

HTC did spend some time on stage talking about the AI capabilities of the new HTC U Ultra. The AI experience on the U Ultra is powered by the Sense Companion. This will make use of the four-microphone setup on the U Ultra to leverage always-on voice detection to allow voice-based biometric authentication. The phone will also attempt to learn the habits of its users, using these to predict needs and actions and serve suggestions.

The HTC U Ultra does come with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box. Pricing of the standard variant U Ultra is fixed at $749, a price point that leaves no doubt about the premium placement of this product. The U Ultra is available in blue, black, white and pink colors, and is available for pre-order from beginning today while deliveries will begin in March. Pricing and availability of the 128GB Sapphire variant of the HTC U Ultra is unknown right now.

HTC U Play

The HTC U Play is the smaller and disappointingly-inferior cousin to the HTC U Ultra.

The U Play adopts the same ‘Liquid Surface’ design philosophy, so you do get a device that looks premium and similar to the HTC U Ultra. The device gets a smaller 5.2″ FHD Super LCD display. There is no secondary display on this device.


On the inside, the HTC U Play packs in the MediaTek Helio P10, a midrange SoC from MediaTek that was launched in June 2015 and a baffling choice for a ‘mid range’ device of 2017. The other internals are not as severe of performance choke points as the device comes in two RAM/Storage variants of 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB along with microSD expandability on both.

The camera setup on the HTC U Play consists of 16MP sensors with 1µm pixels and f/2.0 aperture, one each on the front and rear. The rear camera does get PDAF and OIS capabilities, while the front camera gets the Ultra Pixel mode.

Disappointment continues on with the small 2,500 mAh battery which bears fast charging capabilities only up to 5V/2A. The USB Type-C port is USB 2.0 (as opposed to USB 3.1 on the U Ultra), and the phone also lacks the headphone jack.

The HTC U Play comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, but the device does retain the Sense Companion AI capabilities.

Pricing and availability of the HTC U Play have not been revealed, Unfortunately, a dated processor like the Helio P10 will have a difficult time standing against current budget processors, leave alone mid-end powerhouses like the Snapdragon 652 and others. HTC will need to price this device aggressively if they wish to entice the spec-informed consumer.

What are your thoughts on the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play? Let us know in the comments below!

>> Check Out XDA’s HTC U Ultra Forums!

About author

Aamir Siddiqui
Aamir Siddiqui

I am a tech journalist with XDA since 2015, while being a qualified business-litigation lawyer with experience in the field. A low-end smartphone purchase in 2011 brought me to the forums, and it's been a journey filled with custom ROMs ever since. When not fully dipped in smartphone news, I love traveling to places just to capture pictures of the sun setting. You can reach out to me at [email protected]