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Monkey See, Monkey Do: HTC Unveils A New U

It's so long since HTC managed to bring a device to market that generated genuine customer interest I'm seriously doubting it is something which could ever happen again.

Evidence for this arrived today in the form of the new HTC U Ultra. A phone that appears to be the product of a company with no direction. Or clue.

HTC seems to have borrowed design decisions from as many rivals as possible, without considering whether they work either individually or together.

Most visible is the secondary display of the LG V10. Original, if ultimately futile, on the LG V range. Pretty lame here. Then mix in the glass / metal sandwich from (amongst others) the Galaxy S7 and finally leave the headphone jack out off. A famously unpopular feature of the iPhone 7.

Then there are the mistakes that HTC has managed to make all on its own. For a start, its an enormous device, yet its battery is comparatively small. That's bad for battery life (between charges) and battery life (charge cycles).

To add insult to injury, the U Ultra sports a non-standard USB-C audio setup, complete with headphones that won't work with anything else. Exactly the sort of thing that Apple gets dinged for and HTC shouldn't be allowed to escape without sanction.

So what HTC have delivered is a phone without any real HTC-ness, which from the front apes a largely unsuccessful LG phone and from the back mimics a rather more successful Samsung one. As a new flagship device it's rather disappointing.

HTC also announced its intention to reduce the number of smartphones it releases this year. That's an eminently sensible decision given the last few years of disappointment. Retreating to a niche and building phones for its remaining loyal fans might just allow the HTC name to live on as more than a contract manufacturer for Google. I'm struggling to see the new U that HTC is aiming its phones at otherwise.


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