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article imageHTC debuts the first squeezable smartphone

By James Walker     May 16, 2017 in Technology
HTC has unveiled its new flagship smartphone for the year. It's a high-end Android device with a unique party trick up its sleeve: you can squeeze it to interact with the display. The practical applications of the novel idea are currently limited though.
The HTC U11 is the follow-up to last year's HTC 10. Although positively reviewed and generally regarded to be a competent Android flagship, the 10's praise failed to translate into sales. With the U11, HTC has changed course, aiming to win over buyers by adding a completely different interaction method.
The squeezing functionality is called "Edge Sense." Using a software configuration tool, you can assign different squeezes of the phone's frame to perform tasks within the operating system. At present, there's options to open Google Assistant, launch apps like the camera and change basic system toggle settings.
To register a squeeze, you apply pressure to the sides of the phone. The device doesn't flex or physically move inwards as the "squeeze" is detected by pressure sensors below the frame.
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HTC is pitching Edge Sense as a way to simplify using the phone one-handed. As its 5.5-inch Quad HD display is placed firmly towards phablet territory, the company has aimed to address the usability concerns associated with larger handsets by giving you an alternative to the display.
Early reviewers have suggested it isn’t an especially natural interaction though. While it may prove interesting in the first few days, it seems likely that Edge Sense will be neglected by many users beyond the initial onboarding period. With users still reluctant to rely on voice commands in digital assistants, convincing customers to start squeezing their phones could be a difficult task for HTC.
The company told The Verge that it intends to begin slowly and then expand the feature in the future. Initially, the aim is to get people acquainted with the experience so they're more at ease with the concept. HTC stopped short of stating its long-term aims for the technology. It's likely that the extent of future development will depend on the success of the U11.
Besides Edge Sense, the phone comes with a bevy of high-end hardware typical of flagship smartphones this year. Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 835 processor runs the device, supported by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. Connectivity options include 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC.
The primary camera is a 12MP HTC UltraPixel sensor with advanced autofocus technology and 4K video recording. It can also shoot slow motion clips at frame rates of up to 120fps, albeit only in Full HD 1080p mode.
Although it's a well-equipped package, previous UltraPixel units have delivered variable results. HTC claims the U11 is different though, sporting a world-leading score in the DXOMark benchmark test that surpasses the Google Pixel. Reviewers will need to confirm the sensor's real-world performance though.
In the U.S., the U11 will launch on June 9th and be available exclusively from Sprint. It'll cost $29 per month on a two year contract. If you prefer to buy your phones outright, HTC will sell an unlocked version priced at $649 directly from its own website. This handset will also be compatible with the wireless bands used by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
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