If the new HTC U11 fails, it could signal the smartphone era has peaked

HTC U11 smartphone. (Source: supplied)

This year is the tenth anniversary of the Apple iPhone, which brought the smartphone concept to the masses. In those 10 years, pretty much every electronics manufacturer (and Microsoft and Google) had a go at making their own handset.

With such a competitive field, consumers have been lucky enough to get massive improvements in functionality, capacity and performance in the last decade. But the trouble is, smartphones now all look the same and manufacturers are running out of new stuff to cram in.

And the market is starting to reach saturation with phones now in the hands of billions in both developed and developing economies.

Some have already called last rites on the whole smartphone concept.

Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, celebrating 20 years in the game, has unveiled its new flagship, the U11 — and couldn’t do any more to try to distinguish it from its rivals.

And this is exactly why the phone’s fortunes in the coming months could be an omen for the entire smartphone industry.

Samples of HTC U11 glass panels showing how the colour was applied for the liquid surface look. (Source: HTC)

The U11’s HTC Sense Edge has brought the ability for users to squeeze the phone to send it commands – taking pictures and typing texts with one hand were two examples put up by the company. The glass body has reflective multi-layered colouring that looks like no other handset. The best way I can describe it is that it looks like a very fancy car or toaster.

The camera has the highest-ever score assigned by independent ratings organisation DxOMark. The U11 comes with free noise-cancelling headphones and three voice assistants (four if you’re in China) – Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and HTC Sense Companion.

But even with all this fantastic stuff, will the market care? If a phone like the U11 can’t capture the imagination of the public and make a dent in Apple and Samsung’s dominance, is it a sign of a broader “phone fatigue”?

It won’t be just HTC watching the success of the U11.

The journalist travelled to Taipei courtesy of HTC.

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