back to article HTC breaks with tradition to push out 2 phones someone might actually want to buy

Three years after flogging a sizeable chunk of its phones biz to Google and going all-in on VR headsets, HTC is back with two new mid-ranger blowers, including its first 5G handset. The latter effort, the HTC U20 5G, packs some decent specs, with few of the cut corners typically found on mid-rangers. Powering the device is …

  1. Blackjack Silver badge

    Don't buy an early model 5G

    Unless you live in a city that already has 5G it will be mostly a waste of money and if you need a travel phone 4G isn't gonna go away any time soon.

    Of course with the quarantine going buying a 5G phone is even worse since you will be mostly using Wifi anyway.

    1. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Don't buy an early model 5G

      5G is mostly about reducing congestion in high-traffic areas. Unless that's a problem for you, there is no reason to ever buy a 5G phone. Right now, the power penalty for 5G is bad enough that you're better off turning it off even if your phone supports it.

  2. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    The real question...

    Will these nutter conspiracy theorists buy 5G smartphones?

    1. MatthewSt Bronze badge

      Re: The real question...

      How else are they going to watch those YouTube videos...!

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The real question...

        Lets hope they do. Then when they least expect it I will trigger my COVID-19 broadcast and $profit$.

        Bwhahahahahaha

        Alternatively lets hope that the early 5g phones are so power hungry that a good data session burns a hole in their trousers!

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: The real question...

          Let's hope the burning of the trousers also makes them sterile, so they can't reproduce and create an equally stupid generation after theirs.

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: The real question...

      I've actually MET one of these nutters. He spends all day on his laptop at the Brisbane airport DFO shops, in the Woolworths bit. Retired, 70s, claims to have been a radio engineer, insists that 5G will ruin us all and is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

      I tried pointing out that the network wasn't really switched on anywhere yet, but that just led to sputtering and changing the subject.

  3. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

    32mp selfie camera

    Why?

    Instagram max resolution is 1080 x 1350, Twitter has a max file size of 5mb, most images tend to peak at 3000 x 2000, Facebook compresses images horribly and reduces them to about 1800 wide.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: 32mp selfie camera

      I was thinking exactly the same. Unless you're going to print images or crop them anything much over 3MP is a waste of time other than for digital zoom (and you could get a half decent print off 3MP if you didn't look too closely).

    2. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: 32mp selfie camera

      Zooming and downsampling are both moderate cases for it, but I agree it's not a must have.

    3. RockBurner

      Re: 32mp selfie camera

      'Cos marketing needs to have bigger numbers than the last time around to show 'progress'.

      1. Piro

        Re: 32mp selfie camera

        Yup. It would be better to have larger pixels to have better low-light capability, instead. Much, much more relevant for a front-facing camera (with no flash).

        Sad, because HTC once did pioneer that approach, but now they've gone all in on bigger numbers. Meh.

  4. Andy Tunnah

    I'll take the "small" one

    Why are phones so obsessed with being enormous. I've got an S7 currently, and while it needs an upgrade (it's definitely getting crippled software size; fingerprints take ages, wireless constantly needs turning off and on, all gremlins I reckon they've put in) all phones seem to come with screens so big you need a bloody handbag just to carry em around.

    Anything over 6" feels like a waste (giggidy)

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: I'll take the "small" one

      screens so big you need a bloody handbag just to carry em around.

      Because that's the main group of people buying them. Particularly in the far East the smartphone maybe the only personal computer people have,

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: I'll take the "small" one

        Doesn't mean they have to be physically large though.

        I suppose it depends what you mean by "personal computer". In my head that phrase means a device that yes, I can consume content with - websites, videos, music - but also a device which can be used to write emails (tedious on a phone's onscreen keyboard), create documents for printing (and printing them out) and spend serious time doing other forms of "creation" that are often possible on a phone, but tedious at best because of the form factor not - these days - because of the specification of the "computing" parts of a phone. Oh, and something where I don't have to worry too much about power consumption.

        That may not be what under 30s think of as a "personal computer" any more. Perhaps if all you do is consume content, with your creation limited to a few short emails or tweets and some cut-n-paste video editing, a 6.5" high resolution touchscreen is all the "personal computer" you need.

        Whatever happened to phone docking stations? That's the obvious answer - bung your phone in a cradle and use it to power a monitor, keyboard, mouse.

        If Apple really is looking at MacOS on ARM, perhaps this is the way they are heading? Your next "MacBook" might not have (much) capability of its own - it might use your iPhone as its "guts", with the iPhone running MacOS instead of iOS, perhaps with a "small screen" and "large screen" display mode and some power tweaks to reduce battery use when it isn't plugged into the base station.

        I realise this has been tried (and failed) before with Android and - to an extent - by Microsoft, but the combination of Apple's A-series processors, the vast amount of RAM in a modern smartphone and the constant rumours that they are working on ARM-based versions of their desktop and laptop computers might just make it work this time. I am no Apple fan (quite the opposite) but if they can pull that off successfully we're going to see an awful lot of other companies struggling to catch up.

        Maybe it's also something Planet Computers could be working on. A pocket-sized, Linux-based smartphone would be very tempting. I'd have bought one of their current line-up by now except that I'm rather too cash-strapped :-(

        M.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: I'll take the "small" one

          In the Far East, many people really do all that on their phone and it's a huge market.

          Whatever happened to phone docking stations? That's the obvious answer - bung your phone in a cradle and use it to power a monitor, keyboard, mouse.

          Samsung's DeX is excellent.

        2. Triggerfish

          Re: I'll take the "small" one

          Actually it wouldn't surprise me if a fair few do. I mean anyone who can afford a laptop and use it a lot will be able to justify the cost, but for the most part just a few docs and emails will be done on the phone. Some of this is price related as well, considering average wage.

          Also most people out there from observation tend to communicate electronically using messenger apps of some type, facebook, zalo, whatsapp, line and so on. So for most it is really their only computer, and is their media content device.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'll take the "small" one

          "Doesn't mean they have to be physically large though."

          On visiting Hong Kong in 1993 it was surprising to see business types in the street still using large mobile phones - rather than the smaller ones then common in the UK.

          Our host explained that it was the local culture to flaunt your luxury possessions. A small mobile phone would not be visible enough. It also explained all the large Mercedes cars in HK streets where a Mini was far more practical. A fake Rolex was ok - as long as it looked like the real thing.

          It is my understanding that is still culturally the case in many parts of the world.

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: I'll take the "small" one

      I love how other people complain that other things they don't want exist.

      I'd totally agree with you if there was zero choice (SD card and Apple? Or Headhpone Jack and Samsung?). But here, you often do have smaller devices (Samsung and Apple both have smaller handsets, and I think most manufacturers do).

      Your like the friends who when I go "I like to eat X" go "oh, that must be disgusting" because they don't like it. Like, I hate most cheeses, but when they eat em, I don't tell them how disgusting their cheese *must* be, because I don't eat it. :P

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: I'll take the "small" one

        I believe you're wrong there. There are a few smaller devices, but not many. Apple has one now that measures 138 x 67 mm. That is certainly small compared to modern large devices, but compared to what many proponents of small phones are used to, that is already quite big. Consider the phone I'm still using, which is only 58 mm wide. If someone likes that size, there are not many options left to them. There's that mutant one from Palm which is marketed as the £300 extra phone and the even weirder miniature phones from Unihertz with 2.5-inch screens, but other than that, you have to get at least 10 mm wider to get to the smallest range of modern smartphones.

        I think the complaint is less "big phones shouldn't exist" and more "why can't a few manufacturers make a small product line", and it has a point. If manufacturers choose not to manufacture, it's their right not to, but similarly people can lament the lack of a product they want to obtain.

      2. Piro

        Re: I'll take the "small" one

        He's not saying large phones shouldn't exist. Also, small phones don't really exist at all now, try looking for yourself. It's pretty much impossible to find a new phone that isn't a chonker. The new iPhone SE 2 is about the closest you can get, but it's not *that* small. The Sony Xperia Compact line seems to have been pretty much abandoned, which is a shame.

        It is genuinely annoying, and it is a part of the market that seems to be entirely ignored.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: I'll take the "small" one

          It might also be worth pointing out that the physically smaller phones also now tend to be at the cheaper end of the market, with restricted RAM and storage, and older, slower processors. This doesn't have to be a major issue, but when apps and even mobile versions of websites seem to be bloating beyond any sensible reason, it can be.

          Makers such as Nokia and Motorola are closest, but even they fall in to this trap - their physically smallest phones also tend to be their technologically weaker phones, with Nokia's 1 series (for example) running Android Go in 1GB of RAM and their current 2 and 3 series running "full Android" but sporting just 2GB (or 3 for one variant of the 3).

          M.

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: I'll take the "small" one

        Or Headhpone Jack and Samsung?

        Samsung phones still generally come with headphone jacks. And slots for SD-Cards. It was removable batteries that nearly everyone copied Apple's lead on.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: I'll take the "small" one

          I get downvoted for mentioning that there are smaller phone options because non-flagships are low specced, but then people say there are headphone jack in the non-flagships?

          Guess I lose some, but neither can you lot have it both ways.

          If you want the latest and greatest, well guess what, it takes up more space. If you want lower spec, then there are options. If you want a small Apple phone, well, go to Apple. I'd also want an Apple Macbook I can swap Ram or SSDs too, and that's kinda out of the question now. I'd not downvote someone for mentioning "options exist for computers" just because Apple don't provide options, yet loads of downvotes seem to be from people wanting Apples and Samsungs flagships to be 4 inch phones. :/

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: I'll take the "small" one

            No, you get downvoted for misstating someone's point. It was "I want more smaller phone options". You said it was "Large phones shouldn't exist". Now you're misstating others' points. You're claiming they said "Flagships should be small". They're actually saying two different things: "There aren't really any modern phones small enough for my preferences" and "The sort of smallish devices that do exist are hobbled by low specs".

            Independently, there was a discussion about manufacturers dropping headphone jacks. Someone claimed Samsung was particularly bad about this. Someone else responded that, actually, Samsung was better because their mid-range ones tend to include them while others' mid-range devices don't. True to form, you misstated that point too.

    3. Chz

      Re: I'll take the "small" one

      To be fair, phone size mostly peaked a few years ago. The larger screen sizes you see today come from shrinking the non-screen bits of the phone. That Dell phablet that was ridiculed several years back is still bigger than most phones today, despite a smaller screen size.

      Yes, they're still a bit too big. But they're not really any bigger than a few years ago.

      1. Mark 78

        Re: I'll take the "small" one

        I agree. A phone called a 6.5" phone is no bigger that something that was called 5.2" only a couple of years ago, not only from shrinking the non-screen bits but also with the change of shape to 20:9. I've just replaced a 5.5" phone with a 6.7" phone and it is a very similar width (if not narrower) and only a bit longer, which makes it easier to actually hold so it doesn't feel any bigger.

    4. Mark192 Bronze badge

      Re: I'll take the "small" one

      "Why are phones so obsessed with being enormous."

      The short answer is because not enough buyers of expensive phones want small screens.

      You'll find plenty of smaller phones at the mid to low range.

      If your phone is slow but otherwise fulfils your needs, a new battery may make it faster. Samsung phones (and probably most others) will run a little slower with an aging battery to prevent the 'cliff edge' drop from xx% to unexpected shutdown when you do something that pushes the processor hard. I had a Galaxy S3 that didn't slow down, so can appreciate why they implemented it (50% to zero in minutes... though swappable batteries and £15 for a replacement direct from Samsung). Back up before sending it off for the new battery.

      1. My other car is also a Trabant.

        Re: I'll take the "small" one

        I don't think you will find smaller screens in the mid to low range.

        The Sony XZ2 Compact with a 5 inch screen was the last small proper Android phone. It's actually smaller than the new iPhone SE with its 4.7 inch screen. But it didn't sell.

        The Galaxy S10e is I think the smallest one currently available, a bit shorter than the Pixel 4 (which has been a bit of a failure).

        There are rumours than the 5G architecture with its additional aerials and power consumption requires a physically large phone, so at this point new small phones are dead. Which is a nuisance.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: I'll take the "small" one

          Add to that wireless charging and in screen cameras/finger print scanners and manufactures/designers are probably going to want to keep bigger screens.

          I like bigger screens (reading/navigation/use case is easier), but also use it as a big screen. But I also understand about having a small device. What I don't understand, is people wanting a small device, that can tow like a big one. There are trade offs, and it's reality in accepting them.

          I accept I'll need a case, big pockets and to be careful in one handed operation (no problem for me as the case works well) if I want a big screen. I don't complain that my likes have limitations in design.

          So why complain that the smaller phone has less features, when it's physically smaller? Like complaining they don't make big cars anymore, then when someone points to one, saying "but there's no space/small engine/low towing capacity/not many manufactures make them anymore" etc. :P

  5. Flywheel Silver badge

    What about updates

    I was bitten (twice) in the earlier days of HTC when they'd sell phones they'd no intention of releasing updates for. If they can assure us that this problem no longer exists then they may be worth looking at again.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: What about updates?

      THIS. It's not that HTC hardware isn't nice - it is, on their top-end models. Very glossy and shiny, the M8 was one of the first unibody chassis smartphones out there. I still have one, using it as a home automation remote control.

      The problem wasn't hardware IMHO, it was software as Flywheel mentions. No system updates, pretty much AT ALL. And when they did update their apps, usually you ended up with a half-step forward, 1 to 2 steps back situation (news app went to hell, camera app all of a sudden required HTC cloud account registration to get full features).

      No thanks.

      Fix those things and I'll give a serious consideration to HTC again, the hardware was cool.

      1. Ozan

        Re: What about updates?

        I miss mmy m8 now. I lost it years ago and I felt the miss everyday. IT had IR and so fucking useful in the house as remote.

  6. FBee
    Happy

    Audio specs?

    Loved my M8 with stereo 24-bit speakers...came with Harman Kardon earbuds to boot!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Audio specs?

      I really liked the sound on my M8. It was my last HTC phone, but none of the phones I had after matched the sound of the HTC M8.

  7. Martin Summers Silver badge

    It's after care was crap and more importantly its build quality was crap. I've never owned a phone with flaky paint and as many lock ups, since my last HTC many years ago, and I won't risk it again.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No HTC for me

    I've got an HTC phone, 2 years old, now it's junk.

    Phone was sold wih a promis of Android upgrade to Oreo. Never happened.

    Screen started to twitch after 22 months, replaced it myself.

    Phone started to grind to a halt and became unusuable. Not sure why, factory reset didn't fix.

    Then a week ago it completely died and is now waiting to be recycled.

    Very poor quality product, never again

    Ordered a cheap chinese throwaway stock android phone from hongkong. At least you know what you're gonna get.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what went wrong?

    "Initially, its product lineup was vast and confused, with little differentiation between devices. It also didn't help that HTC had split its efforts across Android and Windows Phone, when most people knew we were heading into a Google and Apple OS duopoly, and even considered buying its own in-house operating system."

    Nokia, is that you?

    (Although, starting from the position of at that time still being the world's biggest mobile phone company, if Nokia had actually stayed the course with MeeGo, they could have made the the mobile OS environment a three-way split. Pucking Elop.)

  10. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Spec sheet press release

    Too many phones get articles like these without real testing. Even though it's mentioned that HTC phones have a bad reputation, there's nothing here hinting improvement. Phones are getting to be as expensive and powerful as laptops but software reliability remains awful. I've had multiple phones that, despite flagship specifications and prices, could not actually make phone calls or use WiFi reliably. "Try another factory reset" is the first suggested fix and "Buy our newer phone" is the second.

    At least these HTC phones could work in England. Arse posted a glowing article without noticing that the phones don't have radio bands for North America.

  11. The Dogs Meevonks

    I had a HTC Desire HD way back around 2010-2011... had it for a few years.

    But the promised updates never came, they backtracked on android OS updates whilst shittier lower spec phones got them. Then there was the bloat... oh my god... the fucking bloat. You had the forced installed apps for twitter, facebook and half a dozen other things... and on top of that you had the forced installed HTC versions of the exact same apps... None of which could be uninstalled and which left the tiny amount of storage left quickly filled with just a handful of apps... and this was supposed to the flagship phone of the time.

    I've never touched a HTC product again... and never will.

  12. Andy Denton

    I hope they succeed

    In my 25 year phone history, the majority of those phones have been made by HTC first various Orange SPVs (re-badged HTCs), then the Touch HD, Desire, One and One m8 and they've all been excellent. Never had a single issue with any of them and the build quality was always excellent.

    1. GuyD

      Re: I hope they succeed

      Ah, the Orange C500 - what a device to own at the time. The TyTN 2 was also a brilliant phone with the tilting screen and keyboard, and the original HTC Desire was a thing of joy. I wouldn't look at HTC now, but for a long time they really were my go to for mobile devices.

  13. gskr

    Yeah I had an original HTC Desire - was a very popular phone back then.

    But updates.... NOPE

    Refuse to buy a phone from a manufacturer that doesn't support them. I'm looking at you too LG

    Despite the Trump ban I've found Huawei/Honor to be loads better at updating their phones.

    Might look at the pixel 4a for my next phone, but its definitely price dependant... I really don't want to spend more than about £350

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      OnePlus are fairly good at updating phones.

      I still use a OnePlus 3, which I bought in July 2016 (it was released in June 2016), which cost me £309 at the time, including delivery, and came with Android 6.

      This was updated to Android 7 and 8, and the last update was expected to be 8.1, but even though a beta had been around for 8.1, they skipped it and went directly to Android 9 instead. (Apparently something along the lines of, "We were doing the work for rolling out Android 9 to the 3T anyway, and there wasn't much hardware difference between the 3 and 3T, so might as well roll out for the 3 while we are at it")

      Last update was in November 2019, to security patch 2019.10, still on Android 9. So basically 3 major OS updates over its life, plus security patches for about 3.5 years. Not too bad really.

      Main issue now is the price, with their cheapest phone being the 7T at £470 (current discounted price), but that's also last years September release. The 8 and 8 Pro came out in April this year (cheapest of those is £599).

      But, all that being said, there are rumours about a OnePlus Z phone coming out soon™, aimed at the mid range. For comparison they did a mid range 'X' model back in 2015 for $249, so they have form here.

      It was apparently due for launch in April, along with the 8 and 8 Pro, but it's been delayed till later in the summer, dates and details yet to be confirmed. But might be worth keeping an eye out for.

  14. Lee D Silver badge

    They're all too late.

    I held on as long as I could for a decent phone that had everything I want (which would include 5G purely because I use it as my main Internet connection), but I gave up.

    Earlier this year, I bought a Samsung XCover Pro. Removable battery. Headphone port. MicroSD expansion. Waterproof. Latest Android. Dual-SIM. A camera (I don't care beyond that, but apparently it's got a few fairly-snazzy ones). Not stupendously large. A single button shortcut for putting the torch on. All the usual things you'd expect. Fast charge, USB-C, including host (I've already used it to run an inspection camera on a long fibre optic, plus an RTL-SDR to pick up air-traffic and radio, not to mention being able to just plug in a keyboard and mouse in a pinch). And the GPS is amazing - GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and Beidou. It fixes in seconds and it's accurate to 2m even indoors! And 4G.

    (I mean it lacks the IR blaster port my old phone had, and it has the stupid front-facing-camera-inside-a-notch junk, and the microSD and SIM are still underneath the damn battery, but it's all a really good compromise for my purposes).

    They took too long and my old S5 Mini was dying, and I clung on for 5G as much as I could - and still there just aren't enough phones/packages/coverage to justify it. I'll have to just suffer the 80Mbps that my phone gives (far better than the 4Mbps I was offered as a landline! I told BT where to stick that landline) on 4G.

    I don't think I was unreasonable in wanting a removable battery. The headphone port is a nice bonus (and may well form the basis of an IR blaster if I can find the right hardware, but a cheap one off Amazon didn't work). And it outperformed whatever that recent iPhone thing was in almost everything (okay, it doesn't have a 4K display but... I want a small display anyway, resolution at that size barely matters!).

    Was debating between the Pro and the Field Pro but couldn't find much of a difference and the thing feels pretty solid. I don't use cases and screen protectors and nonsense - I expect the manufacturer to provide sufficient protection!

    But it would have been really nice if they'd put 5G in it... it would have neared perfection even if I couldn't actually use it yet. But, to be honest, based on the phones I'm seeing with 5G, I honestly think I'd rather carry a 5G wifi box (the 4G ones are tiny nowadays, I'm hoping the 5G will be the same, and they can charge from the host USB-C port in a pinch) and the XCover separately if I ever feel desperately left out.

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