The U11 Life, HTC's newest smartphone that arrives Thursday, boasts a surprisingly competent camera, despite its bargain price.
I spent some time using the phone over the last few days. I didn't put the phone through its full paces, but I tested a few of the features that are most important to me in the phone — the camera being one them.
And while I can't recommend its camera over, say, the iPhone 8, Pixel 2, or any other top-tier smartphone, I can confidently say you get much more than you pay for.
I'm not going to win any awards for this landscape photo, but it's a good measure of what the U11 Life is capable of. The colors look true-to-life, it's sharp enough to share with friends or post on social media, and the camera modulated for the amount of light present (it was a pretty overcast day, so not a lot).
One thing to note about the camera: In mixed light or low-light situations, you may want to fiddle with the exposure a bit before taking a photo — the camera seemed to get confused sometimes and underexpose some shots. This happens on almost every smartphone camera from time to time, though, which is why you can adjust the exposure by sliding your finger up and down next to the tiny sun on the screen.
While I find that many smartphone cameras make colors look washed out, the U11 Life doesn't do that — quite the opposite, in fact.
For the most part, the colors were vibrant and true. Sometimes, the phone's camera would look almost too vibrant — this seemed to happen mostly with pinks and reds, like the cranberries above or the radishes at the top of the page.
Oddly enough, though, I sort of liked it. When editing my photos for social media, I almost always bump up the vibrancy and contrast, since I like photos that look bright and crisp. In the end, the camera's tendency to over-saturate some colors actually saved me a few steps.
Off the top of my head, I'm willing to bet the Pixel 2 and the Galaxy Note 8 are still sharper, but the U11 Life puts up a fair fight.
While I could nitpick, what really matters is how the photos look to the naked eye. The truth is, they look great. The photos are sharp and detailed, and would look great on your Instagram feed or as your phone's background.