HTC U11 Life: HTC's First Android One Smartphone Is A Protection-Focused Mid-Range Beast

HTC, once one of the giants of the smartphone market, has made some real steps toward returning to the top in 2017, with their U11 series of devices. With the U11 and U11 Plus, HTC launched strong competitors to Samsung's flagship Galaxy S8 devices. But their earlier-in-the-year midrange devices were flops; the U Play and U Ultra, launched in February, were some of the worst smartphones ever released by the company, and many predicted HTC's final fall before the June release of the U11.

So while the U11 may have saved HTC from utter collapse, they still have a lot of ground to make up if they ever again want to compete with Samsung's massive 22 percent worldwide market share, or even Apple's more modest 12.5 percent.

According to Forbes, the HTC U11 Life may give HTC a way back into the market. Entering at a very modest $300 USD, the U11 Life comes in well below the Samsung A7, Samsung's current primary mid-range offering, while largely showing better features across the board. From the octa-core Snapdragon 630 chipset to a 64 GB/4 GB model, and a 16 MP rear camera, HTC packs a lot of performance into a value-priced phone.

Perhaps more importantly for the Life's appeal, it may be the first mid-range device focused on device protection, a feature set sorely lacking up to this point. Many mid-range customers are more concerned with a device that they can use for several years than a performance offering, and the Life emphatically delivers - not only does it feature an IP67 dust/water protection rating, giving it the highest dust-proofing possible and allowing it to be submerged in 1m of water for a half an hour - it's one of the first phones ever to come loaded with Android One.

So what's the big deal with Android One? It's Google's new program to encourage manufacturers to create Android devices which are as close to the current release of stock Android as possible. One device, says Google, will be among the very first to be updated - meaning that the HTC U11 Life will not only ship with Android Oreo on board but is already guaranteed an update to Android P as soon as it releases. Additionally, Google Play Protect - Google's security services for Android - comes built in, and the device is guaranteed to receive regular security updates.

That's all pretty significant, coming from a company known for dragging their heels on updating, and it means that the U11 Life is going to be as safe and secure as an Android device can get.

Of course, there's a cost for all of that, and HTC compromised on the Life's screen - a mere 5.2" Super LCD display made with Gorilla Glass 3. Together with a plastic body, the Life is small by today's standards and leaves something to be desired when it comes to impact protection - although many Apple customers would argue that no other company has offered a reasonable small-scale device up to this point (Apple's 4" iPhone SE has been one of their best-selling devices ever.)

The U11 Life lacks impact protection and should probably be paired with a good case - but it makes up for it in other ways.
The U11 Life lacks impact protection and should probably be paired with a good case - but it makes up for it in other ways.

So while the HTC U11 Life isn't perfect, it's set to become one of 2018's best mid-range smartphones - if HTC can market it properly, which may prove challenging as their devices have already disappeared from a number of markets worldwide.

Here's hoping that what used to be one of the best smartphone designers in the world can pull off their triumphant return.