HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: We placed the new HTC U11 alongside Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to see how the Taiwanese phonemaker’s 2017 flagship compares to one of the hottest handsets on the market right now.
To look at there are some obvious similarities, HTC has shed its metal unibody design language in favour of a pillowed glass front and back similar to the one already employed by the Galaxy S8. All that Gorilla Glass 5 means both phones should be tough enough for everyday use but also fall prey to fingerprints and smudges all too easily. Hardiness is supplemented by IP67-certified dust and water resistance on HTC’s phone, with marginally better IP68-certification on offer from the S8.
Each phone comes with its own unique star feature. In the case of the S8 it has to be its impressive 18.5:9 5.8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display, which packs in pixels and pushes out punchy colour whilst the U11 opts for a more conventional (but still stunning) 16:9 5.5-inch Quad HD Super LCD5 panel. HTC’s screen undoubtedly wins for overall brightness, whilst Samsung’s screen scores points for both vibrancy and for rocking a concealed pressure-sensitive home button underneath the cover glass.
The U11’s most unique ability is called ‘Edge Sense’ and lets users squeeze the lower half of the body to pull off additional actions like quick-launching the camera or summoning Google’s Assistant. It works through cases and gloves and it’s also programmable so you can remap short and long squeezes to do different things, with the closest comparable feature on the S8 being its various Edge screens, with different panes of readily accessible apps and features wherever you are within the skinned Android Nougat-powered interface.
HTC has ensured that the U11 also runs on the latest complete build of Android with its own skin, almost identical to the one found on the U Ultra from earlier in the year. It goes up against the S8’s Bixby assistant (which collates news and weather, and even uses computer vision to bring you information on everything from household items to landmarks and wine) with the HTC Companion, offering similarly organisational abilities (although none of the vision features), but HTC didn’t stop there.
Bixby will gain voice interaction abilities later this year but HTC is supplementing Android’s native Google Assistant with Amazon’s Alexa, both of which should work more reliably using voice than on the S8 thanks to the phone’s four far-field always-on microphones, which also help trump the S8’s audio recording when shooting video. HTC says offering a range of digital assistants makes sense as they all offer slightly different capabilities.
Dig past the operating system and both phones pack decidedly equal punches in the performance department too, at least on paper. The Samsung Exynos 8895 processor and 4GB of RAM at the heart of the S8 have already proven their stones in real-world usage and consistently benchmark at around the same level as Qualcomm’s star new SoC, the Snapdragon 835; the processor which just so happens to be running things inside the HTC U11 (once again accompanied by 4GB of RAM).
Internal storage is also like for like with 64GB a piece, however, while the Galaxy S8 offers microSD expandability up to a respectable 256GB, the U11 supports cards up to 2TB in capacity, you know, because people own cards that big…
Both phones also bring 3000mAh batteries to the fight. Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging is one of the slower technologies in the game, whilst Qualcomm’s dependable Quick Charge 3.0 is on-hand from the U11. We’ve already tested the S8 and consistently hit around a day and half of use between charges, whilst HTC’s promise of greater power efficiency has us expecting closer to two days of use once we bring its new flagship in for review.
It’s no secret that Samsung is the king of camera phones right now, with the S8 boasting a flush 12-megapixel snapper that offers some of the best-looking shots and most impressive low-light imagery on the market. HTC promised big last year with its high-scoring HTC 10 camera and yet, beyond artificial benchmarking, in real-world environments, it failed to stir the soul with the images it captured compared to Samsung’s then flagship phones, the S7 and S7 Edge.
Despite our reservations, on-paper the U11’s main camera looks like a worthy adversary to the Galaxy S8’s. It too boasts a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, OIS and EIS, and what looks to be one of the fastest autofocus systems around, with a 0.3 second shutter. On the front meanwhile Samsung’s 8-megapixel offering is a surprisingly good low-light selfie-taker with some interesting augmented reality Snapchat-style overlays built in. HTC outpaces the S8 on resolution with a 16-megapixel snapper and a 150-degree wide-angle lens to boot, but a narrower f/2.0 aperture mean that it might come second for taking mugshots in the club.
You can buy the Samsung Galaxy S8 right now for £689 SIM-free whilst HTC says the U11 will available in the UK from June priced to undercut its rival by around £40. So what’s your decision? Infinity Display or Edge Sense? Stay tuned for a full review soon.
Read next: HTC U11 hands-on review