HTC just launched the HTC U11 Plus, a bigger version of the HTC U11 with a larger, edge-to-edge 18:9 widescreen display, as well as some other spec tweaks. However, according to reports, the handset was actually originally conceived as the Pixel XL 2 to be made by HTC on Google’s behalf.
We have to backtrack a bit here to see the full picture.
You see, just as with the Nexus smartphones, Google’s new Pixel series has the company bringing in partner firms to help develop and create the handsets, which Google then brands up as Pixel devices and sells them to the public. In the old Nexus days this happened with LG, HTC, Samsung, Huawei and Motorola at different points on different models.
With the first-gen Pixel and Pixel XL, HTC made both for Google.
When the Pixel 2 series rumours came around, it wasn’t long before the rumour mill had a very specific picture of what was happening; there were three prototypes in development. Two were from HTC, the regular Pixel 2 was codenamed “Walleye” while the Pixel XL 2 was codenamed “Muskie”, and a third even larger model was being created by LG, dubbed “Taimen”.
What actually happened was the “Muskie” got axed, the LG “Taimen” became the Pixel XL 2 which eventually launched, alongside HTC’s “Walleye” Pixel 2.
A report from The Verge, citing an unnamed “source familiar with HTC”, claims the HTC U11 Plus is, in fact, the “Muskie”; it’s alleged that HTC rescued the device from development purgatory after Google changed its plans. The unnamed source apparently “confirmed” this information to The Verge.
HTC is said to have continued developing the phone and then launched it with its own branding and design features. It would go some way to explaining why the HTC U11 Plus looks VERY similar to the Pixel XL 2, as well as making a lot of logical sense from HTC’s perspective.