The HTC U Play is the smaller and cheaper version of the HTC U Ultra, a new phablet model from the Taiwanese brand.
In fact, the handsets are so similar in terms of design and function that we suggest you head on over to our hands on: HTC U Ultra review to see an in-depth look at what’s going on, but we’ll concentrate on the differences here.
HTC U Play release date and price
We sadly don’t know the U Play price just yet, and that’ll make a big difference as to whether you buy it or not – if it’s too expensive then the lower spec simply won’t be worth the money.
However, we’ll at least get to see it soon, with European availability coming in mid-February after the Asian launch.
HTC U Play specs
Where the U Ultra has a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset, the U Play is using a MediaTek Helio P10 option, which is still octa-core and 64 bit but might not run as powerfully as the Qualcomm version.
That downgrade in speed is also due to the fact there’s only 3GB of RAM on offer here, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be a speedy phone – that much power is more than enough for most tasks.
It just won’t be able to handle some of the more hardcore editing functions as snappily, but chances are you wouldn’t notice a huge drop off.
Design and screen
In terms of the way the U Play looks, it’s a smaller design compared to the U Ultra, but with the same Liquid Surface shell that offers a pearlescent glass effect, the light playing off the pink, white, blue and black shades nicely.
It feels a little plastic-like in the hand, but that’s more due to the weight of the handset, which feels rather light.
The metal rim around the outside provides something nice to grip onto, with a sturdy feel when gripped. The smaller size also makes this phone more ergonomic to hold, although it’s far from a small phone.
The screen is a 5.2-inch affair, with Full HD resolution and Super LCD display with Gorilla Glass looking bright and vibrant enough for a phone that sits towards the higher end of the mid-range (which is a terrible way to describe this phone’s place in HTC’s portfolio).
It lacks the extra, small display on the top of the U Ultra and, while it’s a shame to see it go, this does help keep the cost and form factor down.
AI and camera
The other big change is the HTC Sense Companion (HSC) the boringly-named assistant that will help you make decisions day to day based on weather, friends and battery optimisations, learning about you and providing suggestions as it goes.
You can read about this in more depth in the HTC U Ultra preview, but without the chance to test this long term, it’s hard to say whether it’s a smart feature or one that’s just an extension of the myriad ‘clean up’ apps out there.
The camera on the HTC U Play is a 16MP sensor, with phase detection autofocus and an f/2.0 aperture, which doesn’t really scream out anything special. It’s a strong enough snapper, but there’s nothing particularly high-end about it.
Photos taken were quite bright, but lacked the color depth of the HTC U Ultra’s, which is likely down to less optimisation of the image processing on the cheaper U Play handset.
Audio is still impressive though, with the phone coming with bundled USonic headphones and the ability to recalibrate audio depending on your surroundings, to give optimum sound when out and about – and you’ll need them, as there’s no headphone jack, just USB-C.
We didn’t get the chance to try the new headphones during our preview, but previous versions of this on the HTC 10 Evo, for example, worked well.
Battery life is always a big question mark when it comes to HTC phones, as despite packing the right software smarts, they’re often a bit ‘leaky’ and need the charger sooner rather than later.
With Android 7 on board, combined with a fairly meaty 2500mAh battery for a phone of this size and spec, things could last longer this time around, although it will be interesting to see if the HSC can actually make a difference here.
It’s tough to say whether this is an impressive phone, as without a price there’s no baseline to compare it against. Make it cheap and this is a beautifully-designed handset with a lot of spec for not much money, but give it a high RRP and it’ll just fade into the background against the hundreds of other mid-range phones out there.
But on its own, The HTC U Play is a decent handset that doesn’t seem to suffer any major issues and comes with an attractive body – it just depends how much it costs.