HTC U12+ review: A formidable smartphone to rival the 2018 titans

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HTC’s flagship phone in 2018 is a worthy contender for its rivals from Samsung and Apple

The HTC U12+ isn’t getting anywhere near the hype and attention that it deserves. Much like its predecessors, the U11 and U11+, the U12+ is a high-quality, high-performance phone that rivals the flagship handsets of much more popular – and expensive – brands. Its stylish design and formidable specifications make it a phone to be reckoned with, and it’s ideal for those seeking a premium smartphone in 2018 who don’t want to break the bank on an iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus.

You might be asking yourself: “U12+? But I don’t even remember a U12 coming out! Have I somehow completely missed the launch?” The answer is no, you haven’t, because there was no launch. The U12+ is the only flagship release from HTC in 2018. The Taiwanese tech company stated that, to avoid people hanging around waiting for the premium handset, it would just jump straight in with its best effort and leave it at that. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is to be no U12+Plus or U12+Pro or, indeed, anything of that sort.

HTC U12+ review: Price, release date and specs


We’ve laid out the specs for the phone in the table below. You’ll notice there’s yet to be an announcement from HTC as to when we can expect the U12+ to become available to the public. We’ll update this article as soon as word of an official release date reaches our ears.

The prospective price tag of £699 is identical to that of the HTC U11+ (read our full review here) which seems like a fair deal to us; better design, better specs, and better software for the same price? We’ll buy that for a dollar! Or a pound. Or six hundred and ninety nine pounds.

See the table below for a full rundown of the HTC U12+ specifications:

  • 6in, 18:9 Quad HD (2,880 x 1,440) super LCD 6 display
  • 6GB of RAM
  • 64/128GB UFS 2.1 storage with microSD card expansion
  • Dual rear cameras: 12MP, f/1.75; 16MP, f/2.6, 2x telephoto; OIS and EIS; laser and PDAF autofocus
  • Dual front cameras: 8MP x 2, f/2, portrait mode
  • IP68 dust and water resistance
  • Android 8 Oreo
  • 3,500mAh battery
  • Price: £699
  • Release date: TBC

HTC U12+ review: Design features

The screen of the U12+ has finally caught up with the times. Whereas the U11’s 16:9 quickly made it appear outdated, this latest model has a gorgeous 18:9 slender 6in Quad HD resolution screen with 1,440 x 2,880 pixels. This is framed by a miniscule bezel to the left and right, so that the screen stretches almost to the edge, while the slim upper ridge is notch-free (hoorah!) and packs dual 8-megapixel cameras for world-class selfie-taking.


Delicacy aside, the colouring and and materials are quite luxuriant, with two styles available to buy once the phone is released: Ceramic Black and Flame Red. Both are nothing short of beautiful, with an attractive layered sheen that changes with the light. A third colour, a translucent blue, will be released slightly later on; it reveals the complex circuitry normally hidden below the case, which is a neat and unusual feature.

The glossy material on the U12+ seems to pick up fewer greasy fingerprint stains than the U11, and when the U12+ does hold onto a grimy print a quick wipe on the shirt is enough to clean it off.

Then there’s the IP68 water- and dust-proof rating, which puts the U12+ on the same level as the majority of 2018’s premium smartphones. And finally, we need to mention the impressive ‘BoomSound’ speakers, which have been improved yet again from the 2017 models, and the higher 4G Gigabit LTE speeds, with download speeds of up to 1.2Gbits/sec – just ahead of the OnePlus 6 with a maximum 1Gbits/per second.

On the downside, HTC has yet again omitted to fit a 3.5mm headphone jack to their latest phone, which is a real shame.


HTC U12+ review: Edge Sense 2 and “squeezy” frame

HTC has been developing its ‘squeezy frame’ technology, the implementation of which is even more extensive on the U12+. It consists of pressure-sensitive volume and power buttons that, in theory, should seal the phone and protect it against the elements while also making it easier to use. Whether or not this feature, intended to make the case more secure and the phone more resilient, will have positive or negative effects on usability has yet to be seen.

Further alterations to Edge Sense 2 have been made by HTC, and this new version will debut in the U12+. One new feature is the ‘double tap’, which you can enact with the firm press of a thumb. Apps can also be ‘taught’ the full range of Edge Sense shortcuts – squeezes, taps, and so on.

HTC U12+ review: Battery life and performance

We have not been able to the battery life of U12+ (wait for our full review) and until we have run our usual checks there’s no way to say exactly how long the battery will last for. We can’t compare it to the U11 or U11+, either, because of the boost in screen resolution.

That said, at 3,500mAh it does have a higher battery capacity than either the Sony Xperia XZ2 (3,180mAh) or the OnePlus 6 (3,300mAh). That said, it employs different screen technology to both of those phones and uses an alternative battery efficiency algorithm. Only time – and proper testing – will tell if the U12+ bests its rivals or not.

As for performance, the specs really speak for themselves. Packed into the case of the HTC U12+ is Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 smartphone processor. The 845 is an octa-core chip with a clock speed of 2.6GHz, backed by 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage depending on which model you buy. Should you require more than the 128GB capacity you can expand storage to the desired level via microSD slots. Oh, and it comes with a handy second SIM slot, too.

The back of the phone isn’t quite as snazzy. The placement of the fingerprint reader in particular appears totally random and tacked on, as if no thought was given as to the ergonomics. It’s awkward to use and, as you’re likely to use it a few dozen times ever day, could soon become maddening. Likewise the positioning of the rear camera. The rear panel is made of shimmery glass, as are many of its main competitors. Though pretty, a hardy protective case may be necessary to save this oh-so-breakable phone from cracking like the surface of a frozen lake.

HTC U12+ review: Cameras

As mentioned previously, the HTC U12+ boasts two front-mounted 8-megapixel cameras. Believe it or not, their purpose is to enhance selfie quality. Essentially, one of the cameras is used to accurately and effectively blur the background in your cheeky self-portrait snaps, thus raising your Instagram posts to the level of high art. Maybe. The results are impressive, though, and it’s interesting to see HTC including a feature which none of the other smartphone companies have thought to. We’re sure that others will follow suit.


But what about the rear cameras? That’s what everybody cares about, after all, including all the major phone companies, who seem to be competing this year to fit their handsets with the most high-performance cameras possible. In this respect, the HTC U12+ is definitely staying abreast of the competition. As on the front of the phone, HTC has built in a dual-camera setup: the main “UltraPixel” camera offers 12 megapixels of resolution, a wide aperture of f/1.75, and a pixel size of 1.4um, while the auxiliary camera packs a hefty 16 megapixels, an aperture of f/2.6 and a pixel size of 1um. This enables a convincing single shot bokeh (blurred background) effect, as well as the full range of dual camera capabilities, including a 2x optical zoom; one feature the OnePlus 6 is sorely lacking.

As for video quality, it’s a guerilla filmmaker’s dream, with 4K, 60fps capture and a quad-microphone setup for crystal-clear audio recording.

HTC U12+ review: Verdict

Though it’ll be arriving long after the big hitters of 2018, the U12+’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and top of the line cameras may mean that it’s only fashionably late, rather than too late. As many as there already seem to be, there’s definitely room for one more flagship smartphone in 2018.

Like all other premium smartphone manufacturers, HTC may struggle to compete with the OnePlus 6. At £230 cheaper than the U12+, the OnePlus 6 is an absolute powerhouse of a phone that represents absurdly good value for money, and for the rest of 2018 – and probably well into 2019 – everyone else will probably be trying to figure out quite how OnePlus has done it. That said, the U12+ still looks to be a worthy contender for the top smartphone of 2018.


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