back to article HTC U11 Life: Google tries to tame the midmarket

We rarely single out midrange phones for special attention here. Most are me-too models that don’t bring anything new to the marketplace. Exceptions to this rule need a jolly good reason: the Honor 7 dramatically shook up the market in 2015, while the industrial chic BlackBerry Motion was a business-oriented phone (rare) that …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Donington of noise

    My background is such that I first thought of the lovely Donington Brewery and its tranquil mill pond, rather than a screechy race track!

  2. RyokuMas

    Here we go...

    "... conform to our strict standards, and we'll give your devices two years of monthly patches and updates."

    What's the betting that in the not-too-distant future, we start seeing blanket advertising of Android One devices all over any pages that Google has control over (search landing/results pages, I'm looking at you), plus other aggressive marketing strategies, all based off the back of claims of altruism...

    Next step - Google starts subsidising manufacturers who subscribe, so that they can lower prices and undercut their non-Android-One competition, thus leading to an eventual dominance of devices indirectly controlled by Google via these "strict standards"

    And because the device manufacturers are not direct subsidies of Google or Alphabet, no risk of any anti-trust action...

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: Here we go...

      Thankfully, it is entirely possible to manage whilst rarely visiting these pages you speak of so let them plug away advertising heavily to those that accept it and I will keep using the BBC for news, offline maps and selecting non-YT videos from video results wherever possible (surprisingly often).

  3. tiggity Silver badge

    Mid Range

    In what universe is 350 quid mid range?

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Mid Range

      One where a high-end phone costs a grand.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Mid Range

        But (bar a bit better processor as my el cheapo phone is older kit) - my cheapo "generic" phone has similar spec, but bonus of headphone jack, removable battery, dual SIM...

        Only advantage this phone has is guaranteed OS updates for a while, but its a hefty price to pay as my phone was way below 200 quid

        It may be mid range price , but overpriced on spec.

        (Caveat, I use proper camera & interchangeable lenses for photos so no idea (nor do I care) how cameras compare on the phones as camera quality is not on my phone requirements list so comparison ignores camera specs)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mid Range

      The same one where mid-range GPUs cost £350.

    3. ThaumaTechnician

      Re: Mid Range

      Uh, came here to ask: In what universe is CDN$899 mid-range?!color=black

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Mid Range

        That's the u11, not the u11 life, isn't it? As mentioned in the article.

  4. Cuddles Silver badge

    Make up your mind

    "32GB/3GB sold direct, which is what we have here"

    "with 4GB RAM, it rarely wheezes"

    How do you know how well it works with 4 GB of RAM if the model you're using only has 3?

  5. Pen-y-gors

    Two years?

    Two whole years of patches? Oh. Wow.

    I accept that is better than the current typical 'two whole days' of patches, but I am still less than overwhelmed.

    Make it five years and I won't be so ungratefully grumpy.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Two years?

      Over a five year timescale, brands can rise and fall so no Android vendor can rely on your repeat custom then - they might not be around (or competitive enough) to take advantage of the good will they can foster in you by updating your £350 phone for that length of time. Nor does it help that in two years time an equivalently specified handset might only be half the price, so most buyers will likely buy a new handset after a few years for reasons beyond discontinued software updates, such as a failing battery or cracked screen.

      If you want a three year software update cycle, you can either buy a handset that looks likely to be well supported by the ROM crowd, put your faith in Google's Project Treble, or buy whatever the successor to the iPhone SE will be.

      1. Jonathan 27

        Re: Two years?

        That's not true, it just requires Android to be a more platform-agnostic OS. Google is working on that, but as soon as you can update the OS without needing to update the whole system platform underneath there is no technical reason Google couldn't just ship updates out to every Android phone on the planet.

        1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

          Re: Two years?

          Well Google need to get on with sorting this out then. My nine year old laptop still gets regular OS updates and security patches, and it's original cost was comparable to an upper mid range smartphone now.

          Why do I get the impression no one seems to have a genuine interest in solving this problem expediently? Oh, that's right, they'd all rather sell new hardware as often as possible instead...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Two years?

            A PC isn't a mobile phone.

            1/ There is no standard BIOS or basic HAL (well there is now in 8.0 and going forward with project Treble).

            2/ You can't install drivers manually on a mobile phone.

            3/ There is no IBM_PC spec that everything has to adhere to.

            You clearly show virtually no technical understanding if you can't see how mobile phones and PCs work. Next you will be asking why your kettle doesn't need security patches.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two years?

        Over a five year timescale, brands can rise and fall so no Android vendor can rely on your repeat custom then

        Surely the point is that we want to buy a phone and not give a flying f*** about whether the hardware maker is still in business? That's their problem. Google get their dirty money simply by us peons using their devices, I really don't think Pen-y-gors is being unreasonable in expecting Google to support the device for five years as a minimum.

      3. Tony W

        Re: Two years?

        If customers were a bit more savvy about security, the period for updates would be an important factor in what people buy now, not so much for repeat custom.

        I'm sure people who don't upgrade for the sake of it are a very significant market. These folks just want a phone that works and does basic functions, not the latest technology with changes that mean that they are going to have to re-learn things. I bet even many of the tech-savvy readers of this item are using phones more than 2 years old. For these longevity is a selling point.

        Remember when all cars used to rust badly after a few years? Then a few manufacturers introduced non-rusting guarantees. Now cars almost never rust (and not just because a lot of the bodywork is plastic, there's still a lot of steel.) It needs a big manufacturer with imagination.

    2. cambsukguy

      Re: Two years?

      Two years is an acceptable guaranteed minimum, but striving to exceed that is expected.

      I certainly wouldn't buy a smartphone that didn't effectively warranty two years of OS/Security updates.

    3. arctic_haze

      Re: Two years?

      Am I lucky? I've bought my Galaxy S5 Neo phone over 2 years ago and my networks still provides me with upgrades. I've received the latest one this month. The security patch level is November 1st.

      I'm not saying which network (and county) it is but I hope that means things are improving.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two years?

        my Galaxy S5 Neo phone over 2 years ago and my networks still provides me with upgrades.

        Security patches aren't the same as OS upgrades.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two years?

      Clearly nobody wants to pay for patches. That is clear. It essentially hints that your 2 years of patches on this phones will cost you £100 over a similar phone without patches.

      So would you pay £250 on-top for 5 years of patches on a £350 mod range phone? Of course not.

      Time to grow up and realise things don't come for free..

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably Edge Sense doesn't work if you keep your phone in a case..

    and, as others have said...£350 is MIDRANGE? Look....just because the new iPhone is vastly overpriced doesn't mean everybody has more money to spend. Please learn the difference between mean and median. One or two outliers don't affect EVERYBODY.

    1. Is It Me

      On the Pixel 2 you can still squeeze through a standard rubber case, I haven't tried with one of the more solid ones.

    2. Jonathan 27

      Galaxy S8, Note 8, Pixel.

      Sorry, it looks like overpriced is the new standard.

    3. joeldillon

      It's also midrange compared to the latest Samsung and Google devices, though. Sorry, I don't like it either, but it's true.

  7. Jonathan 27

    If Google was smart they'd rebrand all of HTC's phones to Google. Keep the Pixel as the top of the line and bring in a few lines under it, They could even reuse Nexus for mid-range phones. Google has the good mindshare that HTC doesn't. Maybe they're waiting until they have some products that Google had design influence over first, that sounds like a brilliant move. Maybe they'll just do what they did with Moto.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No headphone jack, no SD card slot, no sale.

    If my dumb feature phone can tick all those boxes for less than the price of a pizza, that supposedly "smart" phone had better do it as well if it wants me to lay down a couple hundred for it.

    I'll vote with my wallet, & my wallet is evidently smarter than your phone.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Life? Don't talk to me about life.

    I've got a brain the size of a planet & they make me pick up paper off the floor.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Des'ree O'Connor

    ...and surprisingly, it wasn't even *that* part that got "Life" voted worst lyric in pop.

    It was "I don't want to see a ghost/It's the sight that I fear most/I'd rather have a piece of toast/Watch the evening news". Which is nice.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Des'ree O'Connor

      And there's me thinking it was a nod towards Laibach…

  11. Bucky 2

    Hey, I got that phone

    Except it was $300 (£225-ish, according to Google) and came with Nougat instead of Oreo. That's the T-Mobile variant. I still feel like it was a halfway decent price/performance point. I've been wrong before, of course.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have my interest ....

    It's a mean, minimalist stock version of Android 8.0 Oreo. There's no hint of HTC-ness at all.

    Now *this* is a good start. Couple it with no network lock, and it could be more where I want my smartphones to be.

  13. ecofeco Silver badge

    Priced too high

    This phone is priced WAY too high.

  14. Dave Lawton

    Why do the idiots follow apple's lead ?

    No headphone jack, no SD card slot, no replaceable battery, no decent dialer app, more than 250 GBP, no sale.

  15. Piro Silver badge

    Still not competing with the likes of Huawei. Not seeing the attraction here.

    1. Chz

      The competition is more Xiaomi's Mi A1, which is also an Android One phone of a similar spec and half the price.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oreo 8.0?

    @Reg - Oreo does not necessarily mean circular icon masks: my Nexus 5x has square icons. But, yes, it's a daft idea to force icons into a mask as it means the information in the icon has to fit into a smaller space, making it harder to find the app you're looking for.

    Speaking of which, isn't it a bit odd that this brand new device doesn't ship with Oreo 8.1?

    Oh yes, and too expensive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oreo 8.0?

      Speaking of which, isn't it a bit odd that this brand new device doesn't ship with Oreo 8.1?

      No, define latest....

      Latest major version, or latest patches...

      Google release patches for 4, 4.4, 5, 6, 7, 7.1, 8, and 8.1 every month. Any of these versions could mean you are fully supported and running the latest...

      How hard is this concept to understand? Very it seems. Some people are too stupid to understand the Android servicing model isn't the same as iPhone or PC.

  17. teknopaul Silver badge

    "although I wonder how tolerant midrange buyers are of a phone with no audio jack."

    *scrolls to bottom of article, hits forum*

    Deal breaker.

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