HTC U Ultra review: disappointment by a thousand cuts


In a season filled with almost endless smartphone hype and announcements, you’d be forgiven if you missed that HTC, once a major player in the Android world, announced and released a new, high-end phone. That phone, the $750 U Ultra, is the company’s current flagship, and the first major device released under its own name since last spring’s HTC 10.

But there’s little about the U Ultra, apart from its screen size (5.7 inches) and price (high), that makes it feel like much of a flagship. The way HTC is selling it — unlocked, through its own online store, and without any carrier involvement — isn’t typical for top-tier phones. Even more importantly, the U Ultra doesn’t have its own identity, instead recycling a pile of ideas first introduced by other companies. It’s a confounding device. At best, it feels like a phone that HTC needed to put out because it had been so long since its last phone was released, but not the real flagship that’s still coming down the road. At its worst, the U Ultra is a mess of bad ideas and even worse execution, as my colleague Vlad Savov highlighted after its announcement in January.

There’s not one single major failing to point to that befalls the U Ultra. Rather, it’s a combination of factors (and not the usual ones that you might expect) that keep it from being a phone I can recommend. It’s disappointment by a thousand cuts.

To start with a positive, the U Ultra is an eye-catching, attractive device. Unlike the all-aluminum designs that HTC has used for its high-end phones since 2013, the U Ultra has a new glass-and-metal design, not too different from Samsung’s recent efforts. The glass back slopes and curves into the metal…

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