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HTC is reportedly releasing a new U phone that makes better use of its bezels

Updated, 4/3/17: This article has been updated with additional information about the specs, camera, and bezels, as well as a new PC link app.

Even before the U Ultra was available for purchase, was already teasing a better phone on the horizon, one that takes full advantage of the next-generation Snapdragon 835 processor. Now it looks like it might be coming on the heels of the Galaxy S8, and it could be one of the most interesting handsets of the year.

A flurry of information has leaked about the new handset, and since the U Ultra was such a disappointment, we’re hoping this handset is the one that puts on the map. There’s tough competition out there from LG and Samsung, but still has a few tricks up its sleeve that could set its new phone apart:

A new U: While we certainly had our issues with the U Ultra, this rumor smacks of desperation on HTC’s part. One of our biggest complaints with the U Ultra was that it was too big, and from the looks of the video, the new U won’t be much smaller, especially if it requires wide bezels for its concept. A touch-sensitive frame might have been cool a couple years ago, but in the era of shrinking bezels, HTC’s new phone is going to stick out like a sore thumb. Not to mention, it will require users to learn a whole new way of holding and operating their —and how exactly are we supposed to put a case on it?

Smart bezels

According to a VentureBeat report, tipster extraordinaire Evan Blass dishes on next phone in the U line will bring the wild “Ocean” concept to reality. Following up on the video Blass leaked last year, the 5.5-inch, quad HD handset will reportedly feature a button-less design that relies on gestures to navigate and control things on screen.

The original video, in which the phone relies heavily on Assistant, features a handset that utilizes touch-sensitive bezels to launch and navigate, letting the user squeeze and swipe the frame to do things like music and control the camera. Blass says the phone won’t use the Ocean codename but will rather continue to push HTC’s 2017 U branding. The premier feature will be marketed under the Edge Sense moniker, according to Blass.

Headlines adds some context to the rumor, having gotten its hands on what appears to be a set of slides HTC will use during its demonstration of the device. According to the illustration, the Edge Sensor will be able to execute certain actions while the screen is off by squeezing the sides of the phone, including launching the camera, summoning Assistant, and toggling the flashlight. There will apparently be settings for the sensitivity of your grip as well as separate shortcuts for long and short squeezes. 

Better camera

In addition to the funky frame, the new HTC U will also feature cameras similar to the U Ultra, though HTC will reportedly use a newer Sony version, “utilizing a 12-megapixel IMX362 around back and 16-megapixel IMX351 up front.”

Headlines adds some additional info about the setup, divulging that it will be packed with advanced processing such as HDR+, Smart Video Zoom, 3D Audio, and a hi-resolution recording function, all of which should make the new phone an even shooter than the U Ultra. According to the sliders, the camera will feature “real-time HDR scene selection” and “two modes for video sound recording” for immersive audio.

Quality sound

HTC has always put a premium on sound, and the new U phone looks to continue in that vein. Like the U Ultra, the new device will dispense with the headphone jack and focus on USB-C audio for its USonic earbuds.

As Android Headlines reports, it will include HTC’s patented BoomSound technology and will feature the same ear-scanning tech that measures the inside of your canal to find the best acoustics. Additionally, it will also include dual speakers at the top and bottom of the handset for a richer sound when not using headphones.

Desktop expansion

One of the Galaxy S8’s coolest feature is the ability to plug your phone into a dock and project your onto a big screen, and it seems that HTC has developed its own desktop companion for the new U phone. Called Sense Link it looks to be a bridge between your PC and your phone, letting you transfer files with ease.

According to the leaked slides, there will be a new Sense Link desktop client that you will need to install on your PC. Then you’ll need to pair your phone with your PC via QR code scanning. Once established, you’ll be able to get documents from your PC, backup photos and videos, and interact with your phone while using your computer. The hook is that the two devices will need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, but it’s interesting to see HTC and Samsung thinking on similar wavelengths.

Under the hood

The new U phone looks to be the next phone to utilize the Snapdragon 835 chip after the Galaxy S8, but the other specs aren’t too shabby either. According to Android Headlines, it will ship with a 5.5-inch Wide Quad HD display, up to 6GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of storage. Additionally, it will ship with Android 7.1, though unfortunately the battery is still stuck at 3,000 mAh.

HTC will also include its new Sense Companion as a key feature of the new U, as it looks to battle Google Assistant and now Bixby for AI supremacy. As the slides explains, HTC Companion will function much in the way as it does on the U Ultra, offering timely restaurants selections, weather reports, and performance and power optimizations throughout your day.

Price and availability

In his original report, Blass says the new phone is due to be announced sometime in April, and based on the information Android Headlines provided, it certainly seems as though it’s nearing a release. Pricing hasn’t been leaked, but with an 835 chip and 128GB of storage, you should prepare to pay big bucks for it.

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