HTC: “We’ll Definitely be Releasing a Dual-Camera Phone Next Year”
HTC announced the U11+ and the U11 Life smartphones at an event held in Taiwan yesterday. The U11+ looks to be a solid mid-year refresh over the U11, with a new 6-inch WQHD+ display with smaller bezels, but it sadly won’t be coming to the US. The U11+ became even more interesting once we learned that it was originally ‘muskie’, the HTC-made Pixel 2 XL. The U11 Life, on the other hand, is a fairly typical mid-range smartphone from a global OEM.
However, one feature which does not exist in the U11 series is dual cameras. The U11 features a 12MP 1/2.5-inch sensor with 1.4 micron pixels and f/1.7 aperture, a camera setup which is reused by the U11+. The U11 Life, on the other hand, has a 16MP camera with f/2.0 aperture. The U11 has excellent image quality, to the point where it could be considered to have one of best smartphone cameras in 2017. However, many consumers are interested in dual cameras for 2x zoom and the ‘bokeh’ effect. Because of this, it may be hard to believe that HTC hasn’t released a dual camera flagship smartphone in years.
The ironic thing is that HTC was in many ways the pioneer of dual camera systems on smartphones. The HTC One M8, the company’s flagship in 2014, had a a dual camera setup with a 4MP primary camera and a 2MP depth sensor. HTC dropped the feature with the One M9, but the regional One M9+ did feature the same depth sensor as the One M8. Then, just as the feature started becoming popular with other OEMs, HTC dropped it.
Now, HTC President Chialin Chang has confirmed that the company is re-entering the market of dual camera smartphones in 2018. He stated in an interview session to the media that HTC would definitely be releasing a dual camera phone in 2018, but the company would also need to figure out how to make this feature stand out.
Mr. Chang mentioned that the company would only release five to six smartphones in 2018, much like in 2017. The company also has plans to enter the competitive CNY 2,000 ($300) smartphone market in China at some point in the future, instead of only making premium smartphones such as the U11 series.
With respect to Google’s acquisition of part of HTC’s smartphone division, Mr Chang stated that it is still on track to be approved and closed by early 2018.
Engadget asked the HTC executive to confirm whether the U11 Plus was originally the device codenamed muskie. In response, Mr. Chang stated that he could not comment on Google products. He could only say that planning for the U11 Plus had started at the end of 2016, including the planning for its components. He said that “he was very happy that the U11 Plus used these parts,” although it is unclear which parts he was referring to.
This response suggests that at the initial stage of development, ‘muskie’ and the U11 Plus were indeed featuring the same hardware. Of course, we don’t know how the U11 Plus would have turned out if Google hadn’t canceled ‘muskie’: it may be that the U11 Plus would have an OLED display to satisfy Google’s Daydream, requirements, thus being a Pixel 2 XL in all but name.
Until more credible information arrives, the question of why Google canceled a Pixel device in 2017 will have to remain unanswered.