I had my HTC U20 5G as my everyday phone for 30 days and I was handed a lot of reactions from people. Most people were surprised to find out that HTC has a phone division and they would like to be able to get their business. There was also a group of people who had never heard of HTC before who were even more interested in the news. As someone who always has loved HTC to date (G1!), I was glad to review the current highest-end phone from HTC when I had the opportunity. It’s no secret that I was excited about the U11 when it was first released. Anybody would be hard-pressed to not be excited by a fresh design, high sales numbers, and lots of hype. That said – while my enthusiasm did eventually wane as I got to know the U20 – it still showed me enough to say that HTC needs to be in the smartphone.
A FALL FROM GRACE
It’s easy to say the HTC U20 5G is not a flagship phone. It’s also rather vanilla when it comes to design, but there’s also nothing unappealing about the look of the U20 either. This is a fairly unimaginative smartphone that has few distinguishing features for it to stand out in the mass of relatively equivalently priced phones on the market. I am satisfied with the build quality and look, but it’s not enough to make me recommend it over other devices. The back is made out of a smooth plastic that is comfortable to touch, but also good at hiding fingerprints. A fingerprint scanner sits above the iconic HTC logo on the back with a speaker below it. Whilst it may not seem like much, it does its job for what it is worth. The power & volume buttons are very tactile. I have mine in the white color and sometimes it looks blue in certain positions. The HTC U20 may have some downsides but the … is a quality phone nonetheless. It’s just that it might be too long for those of you looking for something to fit in your pant pockets. I find that it is too slippery due to its width being slightly greater than my hands can comfortably wrap around. It may also be a hazardous device, as there are no case manufacturers for HTC phones worldwide (why would they?). All of these issues are shared with other devices where this candy bar shape has stalled in evolution.
PHANTOM TOUCHES OR BAD PALM REJECTION?
The U20’s touch screen is its most important feature, but it doesn’t disappoint. We’re looking at a 6.8-inch display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 and an IPS panel that provides exceptional viewing quality with a density of 389 PPI. The display is clear & sharp no matter which angle you look at it from. The colors are nice too. I think they’re a bit cooler than most people like, but that’s a personal preference. The only issue that is holding Android 10 back at the moment is the touchscreen. The sensitivity of this screen can lead to a lot of unwanted touches and as a result repeatedly closing windows when you don’t want them closed. In the past year, I’ve been using Samsung’s Galaxy U20 5G extensively, and I noticed that it kind of has a mind of its own. Sometimes it seems to steer in a different direction without me touching it. At first, I thought this was just ghost touches – but perhaps the palm rejection isn’t good enough for phones. Sometimes the keyboard is out and I know the sentence will be too long so the OS just wipes everything away and pushes me back to whatever I was doing before. That’s frustrating. There may be a setting on my Android that’s causing me to swipe instead of tapping. I’ll look into it and see if there’s anything I can do. However, I’ve fully transitioned over to this method of navigation since Google introduced it to Android in 2019 and have not struggled like this on any other phone I’ve reviewed.
I’m also disappointed with the single bottom-firing loudspeaker. It’s hollow and just downright depressing to listen to. I have a lot of respect for HTC’s legacy in this area, but it seems they dropped the ball on that one. HTC produced some of the best audio quality on smartphones in the past, which is why people are shocked to hear that they’ve been let down after years of success. The person on the other side has complained to me about how distant I sounded more often than I’d care to admit. The best way to explain it is as if the earpiece was flipped with the loudspeaker. That’s what it feels like to hear me on this phone.
PERFORMING TO EXPECTATIONS
The iPhone X, besides that one huge issue with navigating the phone around ghost touches or the lack of palm rejection, has some other good features. However, for us at least it’s not enough to overlook these two disadvantages. The phone has a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset and 8 GB of ram, allowing it to function smoothly. It also comes with 256 GB of onboard storage and the option to expand its memory thanks to microSD. It’s all a rather standard affair here for an upper-mid-tier smartphone. All the games and apps I’m currently running, effectively work at a reasonable rate where I don’t miss using a phone with the Snapdragon 888. It’s close enough in performance for important tasks.
The battery is great and won’t give up on you. If it runs out of power, don’t worry as the U20 5G has a whopping 5,000 mAh battery that can usually get you through to the end day on its own. On a typical day, I’d go through all the chores of collecting and questing for my mobile games, along with the remedial task of responding to work emails and using various apps to get things done. This occupies about 3 hours of screen on time and roughly 6 hours of battery life off the plug. This only takes up 25% of the overall battery life. Yes, we’re still at 75% with a majority of the workday completed. The U5G’s battery is fantastic and you’ll never need to charge it. The fast charging feature on this phone also has 18 watts, making it possible to get up to 15 hours of use after just 15 minutes of charging
THOUGHTS ON THE CAMERA
The sensors of the rear cameras are on a neat strip but they’re on the right side when you’re holding the phone in your right hand. I tend to touch things outside of this zone to my left, which is why I find it irritating. Unlike some other companies who stack the sensors to make a square, HTC’s decision to make it one strip downwards, extends the range of the sensors to reach where the rear fingerprint sensor is. I’ve smudged the cameras with my fingers almost daily due to this design choice.
In terms of image quality, the U20 5G would rank in the acceptable category. While the cameras are serviceable and fluid to operate to catch a quick shot, it’s best utilized as a personal Instagram shooter where quality isn’t important to a brand image. I say this because there is a noticeable over-processing of images in HDR that I don’t see on the Google Pixel 4A or higher-rated shooters with reputations like the iPhone 12 lineup. Too often do pictures look artificial on the U20. The surprising thing the camera does well though is how the AI determines what to expose. I’m very impressed with how it handles foreground and background exposure. Ultimately there is just a lack of warmth and sharpness behind the photos for me to comfortably want to use this as my main smartphone shooter.
Even though they are no longer in their prime, I’ve always believed that HTC has a place in the current market if they create a product that resonates with today’s consumers. The U20 5G might not be as flashy of a phone as its predecessors, but it still has quite a lot going for it. It does not meet all the criteria in my checklist of what I’d like to have in a phone, but I am still recommending you consider buying this one. With that said, I would love to see a U21 and then a U30 and many more HTCs down the line. The smartphone world could certainly find a spot to keep HTC around.