Samsung’s annual sprint Unpacked event tomorrow will launch one of the most-anticipated Android smartphones in quite a while: the Galaxy S8 (and larger S8 Plus). And while the device’s enormous screen-to-body ratio has attracted an avalanche of pre-launch hype, leaks, and press coverage, it may well be Samsung’s struggling competitor HTC that ends up releasing the most innovative handset of 2017 (the new Nokia 3310 notwithstanding).
That’s because, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans, HTC has taken a novel input method — once thought to be strictly a concept design — and turned it into the technological centerpiece of its upcoming Android Nougat 7.1-powered flagship phone. Currently best known by its codename, Ocean, the 5.5-inch, WQHD (2560 x 1440) resolution device is said to be hitting retail as simply the HTC U.
(Very much in keeping with HTC’s penchant for injecting incongruity into its branding strategy, Ocean will actually be the third handset in the U lineup, following January’s unveiling of the HTC U Play and HTC U Ultra.)
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) September 20, 2016
The HTC U is powered by the same top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip as North American Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus units, but its standout feature is located in the device’s metal frame, of all places. Seen in the videos above and below — and known as Edge Sense — the frame-embedded sensors enable the user to control numerous, customizable actions with gestures such as squeezing or swiping along its left and right sides.
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) January 8, 2017
As one might expect, U will be skinned with the latest version of HTC’s love-it-or-hate-it user interface, Sense 9. And while its cameras mirror the resolution found on the U Ultra, at least one of the latter’s Sony-built sensors will be swapped out for a newer version. Specifically, HTC U is said to be utilizing a 12-megapixel IMX362 around back and 16-megapixel IMX351 up front. Captured media can be saved to either internal storage (64GB or 128GB) or a microSD card.
HTC U is expected to be unveiled in mid to late April, with a global retail release following in early May.