HTC U11 Life hands-on: The most interesting Android One device yet

HTC U11 Life price

In the UK, the HTC U11 Life will cost £349/$461

HTC U11 Life release date

You can pre-order the HTC U11 Life today, with shipping later in Novemeber

Announced alongside the U11+, the HTC U11 Life catches the eye for one big reason: It’s the first Android One phone that actually sounds interesting.

Android One phones sit at the lower end of the market, but they all come with stock versions of Android and are guaranteed to get software updates. That means the U11 Life eschews HTC’s Sense skin for something more akin to the software on a Google Pixel.

Most previous Android One devices have been seriously underpowered and very basic. The HTC U11 Life is quite the opposite. It might not offer flagship-troubling specs, but for £349 it seems a very complete product.

It looks a whole lot like the U11, with a shiny back that catches light very nicely. Unlike the U11 it’s not glass – instead HTC has switched to a plastic acrylic that does feel a lot cheaper. It’s IP67 rated for water-resistance. There isn’t a headphone jack, but instead HTC includes both a pair of USB-C earbuds in the box and a dongle for your older 3.5mm cans.

On the front there’s a 5.2-inch 1080p LCD above a fingerprint-scanning home button and a duo of capacitive keys. It’s a nice screen, but not immediately outstanding, even for the price.

Running the show is a Snapdragon 630 CPU paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. There will be also also be a 4GB/64GB version too, but it wasn’t confirmed which regions will get this model. During my short time with the phone it felt fast, obviously, but considering the frequent updates entitled to Android One devices and complete lack of skins and bloatware I would like to think it’ll stay snappy.

Speaking of software, it’s completely vanilla Android here. Android 8.0 Oreo comes out of the box and it’s very much a clean experience. It doesn’t have all the software bells and whistles of a Pixel phone, but it’s not far off. There’s the Google Assistant, Now panel to left of the homescreen, and the well-designed Google UI. I’d take this software experience any day over HTC Sense.

One area where most cheaper phones fall over is in the camera, but HTC is trying to avoid that. It’s put a 16-megapixel camera on both the front and back, and claims the rear camera received an impressive DxO score – make of that what you will. In my short time with the phone it was fast to open and focus, and the same HDR boost effect has been taken from the HTC U11 and U11+.

The 2600mAh cell seems like a decent choice for a phone of this size, and the addition of Bluetooth 5.0 is great for future-proofing. You’ll also have access to the Edge Sense features from the U11. This lets you squeeze the sides of the phone to bring up functions like Amazon’s Alexa assistant. It’s a nice touch that is actually useful, and you can map it to pretty much anything.

First impressions

For £349/$461, the HTC U11 Life seems like a decent little phone. It’s made even more interesting by the stock Android software and promise of future updates.