HTC U11 Life (Android One) review
It all starts with the design. While I applaud HTC for so faithfully emulating their flagship styling in a mid-tier offering, the U11 Life necessarily makes some concessions to its price point. Rather than Gorilla Glass wrapped around an aluminum frame like the U11, the U11 Life puts a Gorilla Glass front on top of a polycarbonate frame with an acrylic back panel.
The U11 Life uses its large bottom bezel to house capacitive navigation buttons and a solid-state fingerprint scanner. The navigation buttons work fine and can be constantly illuminated or switched off entirely. It’s a bit of a shame HTC didn’t offer on-screen navigation buttons as an option. The fingerprint scanner is reliable but not as fast as you’d find on a more expensive phone.
The 5.2-inch Full HD display on the HTC U11 Life was a very nice surprise. The Super LCD panel offers rich colors, good dynamic range, stable viewing angles, decent if not exceptional outdoor visibility (in excess of 500 nits), and was generally a lot better than I was expecting.
HTC’s Edge Sense is a particularly nice addition to the U11 Life. Despite the Android One software experience, HTC managed to get a fully functional version of its squeezable frame technology on board, something even the Pixel 2 hasn’t got right now.
The upshot of the Snapdragon 630 is that the U11 Life does a lot with the minimal battery capacity it has. A 2,600 mAh cell won’t get anyone excited, but combined with Android Oreo and the small, low resolution display, the U11 Life regularly got me between 4.5-5.5 hours of screen-on time. I was never worried about it dying before the end of the day, but it did occasionally get close later at night.
On the other hand, the camera is a surprising strength. The phone’s 16 MP f/2.0 cameras on the front and back produce very good photos for a phone in this price range. There’s no dual-camera bokeh trickery or zoom lenses, but the basics have been nailed.
Should you spend €350 on the HTC U11 Life? I can’t give you a definitive “yes”. There’s simply too many other competitive devices in that price range right now that now you’d need to check out first, some of which offer dual cameras and other things that might be make or break for you like the presence of a 3.5 mm headphone port.