Android One seems like the best place for the HTC U11 Life to be. Google and HTC have come a long way together, having teamed up on a few Nexus and Pixel devices, including the Pixel 2, and Google now having acquired HTC's top smartphone talent.
So, yes, people know how good an HTC can be when booting vanilla Android OS. We are not saying Sense is bad, but untouched Android by Google with on-time updates and seamless app compatibility is hard to ignore.
And the HTC U11 Life is good at getting the best from both worlds without breaking the bank. The Liquid design, the squeeze gestures, and the powerful speaker are some of the highlights of the U11-series, while vanilla Android with on-time updates and Android One's global reach are some of the other solid points in its favor.
The U11 Life also managed to impress with good battery life, consistently good performance and quality low-light photos. Here goes the rundown.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 is an obvious rival. You will be exchanging water-proofed glass for metal but you will be gaining a dual camera setup. You'll be losing in the looks department and some night shot quality. It's a trade-off we are fine with, so it's up to you to decide what's more important.
The Moto X4 has a similar screen and chipset but offers a dual-camera on the back. While the image quality isn't particularly impressive, the videos turned out better and you can even capture 1080p at 60fps. The X4 is water-proof just like the U11 Life, so if it comes down to those two the choice will be hard.
The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus may lack water-proofing but it excels in performance, camera, and battery life. The bigger 5.5" screen is great for multimedia too. Although the XA1 Plus isn't as skilled in gesture control, it's well equipped to thrive in the midrange and is always a good match for any BRAVIA TV and PlayStation.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) matches the U11 Life on screen size and resolution but raises the bar with an AMOLED panel. The chipset is nothing to write home about but the rear and front 16MP wide-angle cams are quite good. Topping this all-round package is the IP68 water-proofing and some amazing battery life, though Android Oreo is nowhere to be seen and the 2018 model is already around the corner.
Finally, the Nokia 7 deserves your attention for matching the U11 Life's screen and chipset while offering a high-end 16MP main camera with a bright aperture and ZEISS optics. All the recent Nokias run rather clean Android, so it's worth giving the 7 a shot.
The HTC U11 Life combines some of the best features of the U11 and Android One series. It has a standout design, unmatched squeeze gestures and great battery life on top of a great screen and reasonably good performance. Not least, the two cameras, front and rear, are well above average too.
It may not be the ultimate midrange phone but is safely among our top picks for the holiday shopping. If you are living within the Android One market reach, that is. If not, the U11 Life price may be not competitive at all, or worse.