In the early hours of the morning while most people in the United States were sound asleep, HTC unveiled its next-generation flagship smartphone. The HTC U11 made its debut in Taipei, emerging as a solid contender to other 2017 flagship smartphones (at least, on paper, but we’ll discuss that in a separate post). The U11 sports a unique design with what HTC refers to as “liquid design language,” characterized by smooth lines and mirror-like colored finishes that really catch light in a beautiful way. But not all of the defining elements of HTC’s U11 design are so impressive.
In 2017, every major smartphone maker is moving toward a new display design that does away with the large bezels surrounding a phone’s screen. LG’s G6 achieved a screen-to-body ratio in the high seventies, Samsung managed an 83% screen-to-body ratio on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, and Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8 is expected to be even more impressive. But HTC’s new U11 sports the same old look we’ve seen for a decade now. Why isn’t HTC on board with this exciting new trend? BGR got the answer straight from the horse’s mouth.
If you checked out our HTC U11 hands-on preview earlier this morning, you know how impressive this new flagship phone is. Available for pre-order right now on Amazon, the HTC U11 is one of the sleekest and most stylish smartphones we’ve ever seen. At least, on the back of the phone.
The face of HTC’s new flagship smartphone is decidedly dated, featuring large spaces above and below the device’s rectangular 5.5-inch Super LCD 5 display. The U11 also still has an oblong home button beneath the screen, which is something that Samsung did away with on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. We also expect Apple to ditch the home button on its upcoming iPhone 8.
So, why isn’t HTC pushing its smartphone design forward on the front of the U11, as it did around back? The answer is actually fairly simple.
In a closed-door meeting ahead of the HTC U11’s unveiling, an HTC executive told BGR that the company is indeed investigating newer smartphone trends like bezel-less displays and dual-lens camera systems. In the case of displays, however, HTC is at a clear disadvantage.
LG’s G6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 both have screens with barely any border around them, but LG and Samsung also both have display divisions. Since they make their own screens, they also have the ability to tailor those screens to their specific needs. HTC, of course, does not have a display division. Instead, it looks to other companies to supply smartphone components such as displays.
At this point you might be thinking about Apple. The iPhone 8 is expected to have an edgeless screen, and yet Apple doesn’t make its own display panels. Of course, Apple is uniquely positioned to work with its suppliers more closely than other smartphone companies. Because the company accounts for so much of its suppliers’ business, these suppliers build components specifically to meet Apple’s needs. HTC doesn’t quite have that kind of leverage.
In the future as these new borderless display panels become more widely available, and as the cost comes down, we’re likely to see new HTC phones with better screen-to-body ratios. In the meantime, certain aspects of the U11’s design are inevitably stuck in the past.