HTC takes on Google with AI-powered U Ultra

HTC’s new smartphone marks a major design shift for the company and has a artificial intelligence of its own


Priced at Rs59,990, HTC U Ultra is very much in the flagship territory and looks like a potential alternative to the Google Pixel XL.
Priced at Rs59,990, HTC U Ultra is very much in the flagship territory and looks like a potential alternative to the Google Pixel XL.

HTC has released its latest smartphone, U Ultra, in India. Priced at Rs59,990, it is very much in the flagship territory and looks like a potential alternative to the Google Pixel XL, which starts at a slightly higher price point of Rs67,000. We take a look at the key highlights of new HTC smartphone and how they compare with the Pixel XL.

Bigger than big

The U Ultra is a big-screen phone with a screen size of 5.7 inches and a resolution of 2,560x1,440p. On paper, this puts it on par with a majority of big-screen Android flagship phones, including the Google Pixel XL. It has a slightly smaller 5.5-inch display but a resolution of 2,560x1,440p. The U Ultra uses Corning’s most advanced scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 5, which is more durable than the Gorilla Glass 4 used in the Pixel XL and can withstand drops from a height of 1.6 metres on a rough surface 80% of the times.

The U Ultra has a small screen right over the phone’s main screen. It looks similar to the secondary screen of LG V20. The screen shows top contacts, app shortcuts and notifications.

Lots of muscle power

The new smartphone from HTC runs on Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 821 quad core chip which is what the Google Pixel XL runs on as well. While it puts the U Ultra at par with the Google phone, it is not the best in class chip on offer by Qualcomm. Smartphones with the Snapdragon 835 chip will be showcased at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next week.

Battle of UIs

The U Ultra runs the new 7.0 (Nougat) version of Android but with HTC’s proprietary Sense UI on top of it. This places it among the 1.2% devices which run on Android Nougat. Sense 7 is a well polished UI with nicely designed themes, beautiful wallpapers and a lot of customisation options. The Pixel XL runs Android Nougat too but with a minimalistic Pixel launcher. The Pixel XL also comes with the assurance of regular and timely Google updates.

The U Ultra also uses an AI (artificial intelligence) powered personal assistant called Sense Companion which works on similar lines as the Google Assistant in the Pixel XL smartphone. It creates a virtual image of users based on the choices made by them and uses them to provide more accurate answers and appropriate suggestions.

Style over substance

The U Ultra comes with a glossy glass back and will be available in four different colours—white, pink, blue and black. It is a big phone and stands 162mm tall and weighs just 170g. The Google Pixel XL is made of metal but uses plastic on the upper half of the back panel. It is available in black, silver and blue colour variants. The blue variant is not available in India yet. At 8.5mm, the Pixel XL is slightly thicker than the U Ultra (8mm) but smaller in height (154mm) and weighs 168g.

No audio jack

HTC has given the 3.5mm audio jack a miss in U Ultra and will be using the USB Type-C connector as the audio port. The Pixel XL has a USB type C connector but retains the 3.5mm jack.

Being practical

The U Ultra offers 64GB storage and accepts microSD cards of up to 2TB. The Pixel XL has two storage variants. The entry-level variant offers only 32GB of storage and doesn’t support microSD cards. At this price point, the 32GB storage is too low. The 128GB variant of Pixel XL costs Rs76,000.

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