Video: HTC U Ultra Teardown – A Waste of Space?!?
It’s time to tear down the HTC U Ultra and see how much space inside is actually wasted. Is this newest phone from HTC a 'poor use of space'? Only one way to find out. [Intro] Easiest step first; removing the SIM and SD card tray. One thing I do like about the HTC phone is the expandable memory. Now onto the back glass panel. I’m using a heat gun to soften the adhesive under the back glass so I can lift if off. Keep in mind the only reason the back is cracked right now is because I took my level 9 pick to it.
I’ve dealt with plenty of cracked glass phones on my channel, but there’s something different about this device. I’ve never complained about getting glass in my fingers because normally all the glass shards are still glued into place even if the glass is cracked. But with this phone the glass is not glued into the phone, and if the glass breaks, the glass chunks fall off of the device easier than I’ve ever seen before…which is kind of dangerous. Normally the goal of repair is to remove the glass in one piece without cracking it. So if you want to see a successful glass removal, check out my LG G6 teardown video since this one’s already destroyed. It is interesting comparing the back glass to the LG G6 though. After I remove that back glass panel, I did intentionally break it and it still held together just fine; no glass in my fingers and no glass chunks falling off.
I have to say the lamination process on the LG G6 is much safer than the lamination on the new Ultra. But as long as you never break your phone, you shouldn’t have to deal with any of those problems. There are 16 screws along that back side. These are all T5 screws, and if any of you are actually attempting this repair yourself, I’ll include a good tool kit in the video description as well. After the screws are removed, the back plastic panel can lift up. This top plastic panel is normally where we find the wireless charging, but HTC U doesn’t have wireless charging so this flap is just for decoration. I guess this is our first example of a poor use of space. This plastic panel was actually designed for wireless charging but HTC just didn’t include it in the final version of the phone. They literally stuck in a place holder.
Hopefully they’re just practicing for the HTC 11. The bottom plastic shield also lifts off but before I unplug anything electrical on this phone, I’m going to disconnect the battery. This has two screw holes directly in the plug which is interesting. Normally there is a thicker metal bracket over the top to keep it attached so if you accidentally drop your phone it won’t unplug by itself. But this method looks like it will work just fine. The loud speaker at the bottom of the phone has its own ribbon connecter. I call these Lego connectors because they literally snap on and off like little Legos; you’ll feel them click into place. There’s one more Lego connector at the top of the battery for the screen, and then one at the base of the motherboard under this silver metallic tape. This phone is actually incredibly simple to work on when compared to the HTC 10. The HTC 10 was way overly complicated with tons of ribbons, so I’m glad that HTC simplified this version of the phone.
There are 2 more screws holding down the motherboard. These are your normal Philips head screws. I’ll pop off some of the little signal wires and then the motherboard can be lifted up. Be careful with the other signal wires though, I left them connected because they’re on the same board, but they can still rip at this point so slow and gentle is a good thing. There’s one more ribbon cable on the underside of the main board. We’ve seen this same design on some of the Samsung phones so no surprises here. And here is the motherboard. Cramming useful things into small spaces is essentially what technology is all about. The only reason a company would exclude components like wireless charging or headphone jacks is because of cost, not space. If you keep the price high, but exclude the wireless charging headphone jacks and waterproofing, the profit margins on your new phones just skyrocketed. Any average non-tech enthusiast will walk into a cell phone store, see a shiny new phone and buy it full flagship price, not knowing or caring about the loss of extra features.
So if you are watching this video and actually care about technology, you’re probably not the target market for this phone. The U Ultra has two cameras. The rear camera is 12 megapixels and the front facing camera is 16 megapixels. I think that last year’s HTC 10 was better built for tech enthusiasts. It even had optical image stabilization on both the front facing and rear facing cameras; where now on this U Ultra, the optical stabilization can only be found on the rear camera. The front camera has no visible hardware stabilizing. Just another feature that got cut with this Ultra phone. I’m pretty sure these two little ribbon cables at the bottom are for the front capacitive buttons under the front glass. I’ll unsnap these from the little board and once those are disconnected, the charging port can pull out from inside the hole in the frame.
And here it is, the USBC charging port. I’ll talk about potential headphone jack placement in just a second. The little circular thing you see dangling off to the side is the vibration motor. I’ll also talk about this in a second too, so remember it. If you are attempting a screen replacement, the metal frame is the next thing to go. There are 11 normal Philips head screws holding this onto the screen. I kind of like this design because if your frame ever gets damaged or dinged up during drops or wearing out with time, it can be pretty easily swapped out. You can even mod this thing pretty easy too if the phone was worth buying. The battery’s the next thing to go. No magic pull tabs on this thing, just straight leverage – taking special care not to puncture anything. I can lift it out of the frame with the flat end of my metal pry tool. This little guy is 3000 milliamp hours.
One thing I really do like about HTC is that replacement parts are relatively cheap. The HTC 10 was released about a year ago and the replacement screens can be found right now for about 60 to 80 dollars. HTC even has Uh-Oh protection which is very respectful for a company because accidents happen and it’s nice for HTC to take care of their customers. This is what your replacement screen would look like though. You might need to separate your LCD from the frame and reuse the frame. It just kind of depends on how they are sold. I will link them in the video description when they become available. Now let’s jump into some comparisons. This is an HTC m9 from my Shelf of Shame a few years ago. Both of these phones have stereo speakers. One is down here at the bottom, and the other is up here at the top. The funny thing is that when I set the speaker for the HTC U on top of the speaker from the m9, we can see that the speakers are pretty much the exact same size, even though the older HTC m9 was a much smaller phone.
You would think that since the U Ultra has more space to work with, they would include much bigger speakers for better audio, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Ultra doesn’t seem super Ultra at this point. The m9 even had a headphone jack down here at the bottom. Pay attention to the area down here as well. With very little effort, HTC would have had room for the headphone jack. On the U Ultra they used that circular vibrator called a linear resident actuator. It is more efficient than the eccentric rotating mass motor that we have in the m9, but that circular form factor leaves wasted space. I’ll cover vibrators in a separate video. Long story short, if you remove that circular vibrator, you’ll have room for both a headphone jack and a rectangular rotating mass vibrator – and that’s without even trying.
With even a small amount of board level changes, HTC could have stuck the headphone jack anywhere they wanted very easily. Remember, space is never the issue; money is the issue. If you remove features and keep the price the same, you make more profit. And there are plenty of people who don’t really care about tech but still want a good looking phone, and this device was built for them. Let’s look at a few more things. I’ll set the battery back into place. We’re using the same adhesive from before. And then I’ll screw down that outer aluminum frame with those 11 Phillips head screws. The charging port gets tucked back into the frame and pressed down into place. Connecting the capacitive ribbons again at the top of the charging port board. Before putting the motherboard back down, let’s see if HTC is hiding any extra space under these metal brackets. These metal boxes are here to help protect the important circuits inside of the phone like the processor.
There is nothing replaceable under here so I normally don’t remove these coverings. It looks like HTC did fill it up pretty well. There’s no thermal paste or heat pipes though like we saw in the LG G6. So this phone isn’t made for any super heavy lifting. I’ll press the shields back into place, and it’s good as new. Remember that ribbon cable at the base of the motherboard. I’ll clip that in like a little Lego and then set the motherboard down. Then I’ll get that screen ribbon above the battery plugged in. And the charging port ribbon with it’s silver tape. And finally the loud speaker with its little tiny Lego connection. There are 2 signal wires leading up from the charging port board that need to be plugged in. The little circular head on these things is pretty fragile, so be careful. You don’t want to bend it or snap it off.
Speaking of signal wires, anyone who has ever done car audio before will know that if you run your power wire next to your signal wire, even if they are shielded, you’ll get some major interference. So it’s definitely an interesting design choice when HTC put the battery power connection laying right over the top of the signal wires. It’ll be interesting to see if that contributes to signal loss over time. After getting the two screws over the battery and the two screws on the far side of the motherboard, you can set the protective plastics back into place. Once the 16 screws are in and securing the components, I’ll do a test turn on and surprisingly enough the thing still works. In summary it’s important to remember who this phone was made for. Not everyone researches phones before they buy them.
I’d say the vast majority of people don’t even utilize all the gizmos in their phone in the first place. So to those non-tech oriented people who purchase this phone, as long as you don’t sit on it, or care about wireless charging, or loud speakers, or headphone jack or waterproofing, it’s probably a decent phone. The main problem I have is that HTC put Lamborghini pricing on this Honda Civic of a device. If the pricing matched the specs, it would be much more worth it. But hey, at least it looks cool. Hopefully the Ultra is just practice for amazing HCT 11 in the near future. Twitter and Instagram are where I’m active the most. Come hang out with us over there if you haven’t already. And thanks for watching. I’ll see you around..