Unveiled earlier today, the new U11 flagship smartphone from HTC comes with an unusual feature: the ability to control certain functions by squeezing the sides of the device.

Called "Edge Sense," HTC said the new feature is designed to usher in "a new age of phone interactions." The squeeze-based capabilities can be configured in a variety of ways, allowing users to use touch to do everything from launch a digital assistant to open Facebook or Twitter.

Powered by a Qualcomm 835 Snapdragon processor and running Android 7.1, the U11 also features a 5.5-inch display and is available in a palette of "liquid" glass surface colors. Either carrier-based or unlocked versions can be pre-ordered starting at $649, with shipping set for next month.

Squeeze Control Is 'Natural, Intuitive'

HTC had three goals in developing its latest smartphone: creating a new way to interact with a device, supporting voice/natural language commands across a variety of platforms, and offering next-generation support for multimedia, HTC president of smartphone and connected devices Chialin Chang said during a launch event in Taiwan today.

HTC developed Edge Sense because it concluded squeezing was a "natural, intuitive" way of interacting with a phone. "Apply a little squeeze, all sorts of brilliant things will come out," he said.

For example, Chang demonstrated how squeezing the U11 could activate either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Users can specify other actions via short or long squeezes, or by combining such gestures with a voice command, he said. Edge Sense can be configured to do everything from taking photos to launching favorite apps or sending text messages, HTC said on its Web site.

"Before, it was a hassle to reach these features, but we simplified it into a single motion," the company said, adding that Edge Sense will also make it easier to operate the phone even if users are wearing gloves in cold weather.

Faster Processing for Videos, Music, Surfing

Other features of the U11 include active noise cancellation for adjusting music or other audio according to outside sound levels, omni-directional microphones with 360-degree recording capabilities, water resistance, and a camera that earned a score of 90 from the DxOMark image quality rating site. HTC said the U11 was "the highest rated smartphone ever in DxOMark history."

With a 10-nanometer-based mobile processor, the U11 provides processing speeds 25 percent faster than its predecessor, the HTC 10, according to the company. It also supports longer playback times for video, music, and LTE-based Web browsing.

The HTC U11 also comes with a fingerprint sensor, camera-based face detection, and a sensor hub for activity tracking. Unlike other new smartphones coming out this year, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 that launched earlier this year and the iPhone 8 set to come out sometime this fall, the HTC U11 features a more standard front screen with top and bottom bezels. The Galaxy S8, by contrast, features a curved-edge "Infinity Display," and Apple's next flagship device is widely anticipated to offer a similar bezel-free design.