HTC U12+ hands-on: Bigger, better, and just a bit weirder

Last year, it felt as if the sudden surge of smartphones with extra-wide aspect ratio screens-those that started at 6: 9 p.m. and went up from there-caught HTC by surprise. While the flagships of the spring of the likes of LG and Samsung were the first to adopt the new screen geometry, the HTC U11 appeared as a rest from 2016, with its standard 16.5-inch marsh panel 5.5 inches.

HTC seemed to learn its Lesson fast enough, and the U11 was followed a little over five months later by the U11 +, adopting a 6-inch 18: 9 screen in the process. So when 2018 arrives, we find ourselves wondering what form HTC's next-generation lineup would take. Do we see another pair of phones, maybe both with 18: 9 screens this time?

Rumors soon distanced themselves from that idea, focusing instead on the idea of ​​a single U12 + model taking the main seat – and as HTC has just confirmed, that is exactly what we are getting. How does the new U12 + compare with last year's offers? Is this a worthwhile update for HTC fans? And is it convincing enough to push buyers away from some of the biggest smartphone brands? We were practical with the HTC U12 + to discover it.

If you liked HTC's design language last year with its "Liquid Surface" finish, we have good news for you, since the U12 + is more of the same. Although my personal experiences were limited largely to the smaller U11, there is no doubt that this phone is the image of the U11 +.

The screen of the U12 + maintains that same size of 6 inches and a resolution of 2880 x 1440, and while it will look a little bit ambitious for some, I really appreciate how HTC does not seem to feel much pressure to give us rounded corners, curved edges , or a notch, is simply a simple and straight panel that looks pretty good.

Color options include ceramic black, fire red, and translucent blue. Black is a safe and pedestrian option, while the other two are much more interesting. The red color makes the same color change to yellow we saw last year, which affectionately called me the "hot dog" option: tomato sauce and mustard (I'm super salty there's no news that this color selection arrives to the United States.) .

While red is quite cold, blue offers a transparent design similar to what we have as an option with the U11 +. Here it is a little less pronounced, without the big coil, but you can still take a look at the camera and the fingerprint hardware.

One of the most important features of HTC last year was its Edge Sense system, which allows users to interact with the U11 not through physical buttons, but through a series of voltage meters that run along the sides of the phone. a quick squeeze would trigger an action, and a long squeeze could be set for a second. It was a clear idea, although it did not completely change the game, and it had enough animation for Google to adopt the same mechanism as Active Edge on Pixel 2 phones.

Now the U12 + is back with Edge Sense 2, and while offers improvements, I feel that HTC is exaggerating with this idea of ​​pressure-sensitive input.

The U12 + extends the original Edge Sense system with a new double-tap option: Hold the phone as you would normally, and touch your thumb twice along its edge to trigger an action customizable Compared to squeezing, this feels much more comfortable, not bad, HTC.

We also get the intelligent detection of gestures on the U12 +, using these grip sensors to prevent the screen from running out while still holding the phone or blocking the screen rotation in place as long as it still detects your hand. These are solid ideas, and although they seem minor, are exactly the kind of usability improvements that I love on new phones.

And then are the buttons. Or maybe not, I suppose, because I hesitate to call them "buttons". Look, HTC fell in love with Edge Sense so much that it brought a similar kind of pressure sensing to the volume and the phone's power keys.

Those keys do not move . They are not physical buttons. Instead, you press on them, the phone's sensors register the entrance, and you feel a small haptic kick. But they themselves do not move, and at least since my initial encounter with the U12 +, this has turned out to be incredibly frustrating.

There's a couple of reasons why this bothers me a lot. At least on the iPhone, erasing the physical start button makes sense because you still have this fingerprint scanner (which, by the way, in the U12 + goes with the same rear layout that we saw in the U11 +), but I can not I wonder why you would simultaneously implement this new pressure sensitive system while keeping these potholes protruding from the edge of the phone.

Why not do it practically flush, maybe with a small bump or bump to remind you where? press? But having these things that you see as real buttons, except you can not press them, they do not even give a little, well, it's almost cruel. Maybe if the haptics were better, I would be more satisfied, but at this moment everything feels bad.

The other great news with HTC hardware refers to the cameras in the U12 +: we have a 12MP wide-angle telephoto lens and a 16MP telegraph sensor on the back, and then Two 8MP sensors on the front. You can use the two main cameras to toggle between a standard view and a 2x optical zoom, or take advantage of the pair to produce a blurred background bokeh effect, which also works with selfie cameras.

The images I shoot with the U12 + during my brief time with the phone looks pretty good, although I'm still not a fan of the HTC camera interface. The bokeh mode works as well as any I've seen, but it takes quite a few touches to get into the bokeh editor and really play with your shots, although the ability to adjust the focus after the fact is worth the effort.

Talking about things that take too long, alternating between the cameras feels a bit slow, including doing it to switch to the bokeh mode. I do not know if it's worse than in other phones with double cameras, but other camera software has done a much better job hiding the pause that creates the transition.

I could not play much with the video, but I'm curious to see if the phone's Sonic Zoom (known as Acoustic Focus last year) really offers the volume and insulation improvements that HTC claims. In U11 it was an idea that sounds great, but that did not turn out to be very useful in practice.

When it comes to pure specifications, HTC does not make too many mistakes with the U12 +. The Snapdragon 845 chip is just what you'd expect to see on a 2018 flagship like this, and consolidating 6GB as the RAM standard (as opposed to offering a lower option as well) is a smart move on HTC's part. I like that there is a storage level of 64 GB and 128 GB, but it is a little limiting that the latter is exclusive to the translucent blue color.

As one would only expect from a phone that so completely rejected the idea of ​​physical buttons, the U12 + offers a strong resistance to water and IP68 dust. Another no surprise is the continued lack of a headphone jack, in favor of the HTC USonic headset and its USB connection. While the active cancellation of the noise they offer sounds good on paper, I would prefer the greater flexibility of an analog jack. If I need so much silence, I will use wireless headphones.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing the U12 + is in terms of pricing and how the phone is sold. It will pay around $ 800 for the U12 + of 64 GB, or closer to $ 850 for the 128 GB edition. I love that the storage upgrade is so affordable, but this high starting price will not benefit HTC.

The situation could be sustainable if HTC were aligned with any of the major EE operators. UU Instead, sales will begin through Amazon and through HTC. When you apply for $ 800 at a time, you must offer buyers something appropriately powerful to prove it, and yes, HTC does, but the lack of operator participation can still hurt (people love having their entire phone in one bill). While I think the U12 + is a perfectly respectable flagship, it's a bit too strange, and it's too far from conventional design expectations to really give buyers that hook.

Want to know more about the HTC U12 +? Consult our main publication to know the details of the launch of the phone, or leave us any question that comes to mind in the comments.