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HTC U12 + Preview

HTC is no longer what it used to be, but then we are not necessarily talking about the quality of the smartphones that the manufacturer makes. This is generally good, although the U11 + was an exception to this. The U12 + is, however, the high-end smartphone of this year from HTC and it is also the only one. At the preview event in Amsterdam, it was revealed that we do not have to expect U12 ++, or something like that. The strategy is therefore to focus on one high-end model and that is probably due in large part to the sales of a large part of the smartphone branch to Google. It is understandable and probably better than with many fewer people still make as many smartphones, which would probably be at the expense of quality.

If you want the HTC U12 + for first in the hands, one thing stands out immediately. The device has no buttons as we know it and you can call that daring. There are bulges on the right side of the phone, which serve as the power button and volume buttons. If you press one of those bulges, you feel haptic feedback, so you know that the device has registered your push on the button. It takes some getting used to. Our first impression is that you have to put a little more pressure than with a regular power button of, for example, the HTC U11. Unfortunately you can not adjust how sensitive the button is, because then we would have li;ked to put it a bit lighter. The manufacturer always had fine, sturdy buttons and was there during the presentation of the HTC 10 then also really proud.
One of the reasons to use these different types of buttons is according to HTC that the device is better waterproof to make. The classification with ip68 is the same as with the U11 +. Moreover, these buttons would last much longer than regular buttons. If so, HTC has a point, because we see with some regularity that the buttons on older devices are failing or working less well. Nevertheless, after the short time that we have spent with the device we tend to go to ‘real’ buttons, especially because it is simply nice to be able to actually press a button, but that preliminary judgment can still change if we have used the device for a while.

Pinching and tapping

The U11 had a pinch function for the first time and the U12 + has version two of it. This has been extended with a new action, namely the double tap on the place where you normally squeeze. By default, you reduce the screen display by tapping twice on the side with your thumb. That’s a smart idea, since your thumb is already in that spot and you can switch so quickly to a smaller screen to tap something that’s out of the reach of your thumb. With some other smartphones, for example, you can swipe over the navigation bar to reduce the screen, but HTC’s operation is faster and works well once you know where to tap. As a result, we can imagine that we will actually use it in practice.
Of course you can still pinch short and long to activate certain functions. So you can quickly start the camera by squeezing, turn on the flashlight or start an app for example. It is nice that the edge function now offers more possibilities. In practice, we have used the function in previous models a lot, simply because it is intuitive and quick to apply a pinch.
A software function that also stands out is ‘smart rotation’. This should prevent the screen orientation from portrait to landscape mode if you lie on your side in bed or on the couch. We have asked how the U12 + knows this and the answer is that the phone understands the content on the screen in combination with the movement you make with the device when the screen orientation has to remain locked. For example, the screen would be in the landscape mode if you watch a video on YouTube or Netflix. We have not yet been able to test this properly due to the lack of a good berth, but it is an interesting solution for a recognizable problem.

Back to the double camera

Happy the bokeh mode is not the only use of the dual camera; you can also zoom ‘optically’ about twice. This is because the second camera with a focal length of 50mm in 35mm equivalent is a telephoto lens, so it zooms in visually with respect to the image of the first camera, which has a focal length of 25mm in 35mm equivalent.
In addition, you can digitally zoom in ten times and according to HTC that is a lot sharper than simply making a crop from a photo taken with the primary camera behind. We suspect that this is a crop of the secondary sensor, if the lighting conditions are adequate. Still, the 10x zoom photo contains just a bit more detail than a crop from the secondary sensor, as you can see below when you look at the clock. It seems that HTC is applying a clever trick here and that is only positive of course.

Furthermore it is a fairly complete camera, with optical stabilization, large pixels to capture enough light and both laser autofocus and autofocus based on dual-pixel phase detection. Laser autofocus is useful for focusing relatively close to poor lighting conditions. In the field of video you can shoot slow motion videos with 240fps and with optical stabilization at 60fps in 4k. All in all, HTC’s camera is promising and we hope to quickly compare it with the top-flight camera cameras of this moment.

Design, screen and sound

The design does not differ much from the HTC U11 + with its glass back and also the screen has the same specifications as the U11 +, with a quad-hd resolution and 18: 9 ratio. We hope that it is another LCD, because it came to us not the best from the test . We hope for smartphones with glass back that you can charge them wirelessly, but unfortunately HTC has not chosen. The reason would be that the phone, in combination with the Edge Sense technique, would be too thick.

The bezels next to the screen shrunk in relation to its predecessors, by the screen in their own words cold polishing, which the sides of the screen are bent at a larger angle. Anyway, it is a nice bonus, even if it is a detail. Furthermore, HTC has not opted for a notch in the screen, but for a regular bezel below and above the screen. If we are strict, we regret that the bezel at the bottom is larger than at the top; symmetry had been nicer here. The screen itself is beautiful and the viewing angles are fine at first glance.

Of course, HTC also thought of audio again. You get active noise canceling- earplugs with the device and the sound from the speakers sounds good again. The bottom takes more low frequencies and the loudspeaker above the screen is more high. The maximum volume should be slightly higher than with its predecessors. You can also zoom in on sound with the four microphones built into the device. For example, if you are filming a tape, the U12 + can amplify the sound source you focus on. You will hear the audience softer and the band harder when you play the recording. That was a nice feature and he would now have a better focus and better isolate the sound than before. A disadvantage for many audio enthusiasts is the lack of the 3.5 mm port.

Unlocking of the U12 + works both with the finger print scanner on the back and with face unlocking. The face release works with the double camera first and thus with depth information. The fingerprint scanner was somewhat disappointing in terms of speed, but at the moment we are used to the OnePlus 6 and that is very fast in that area. However, it should be faster, because if your finger is already recognized, it takes just a moment before the screen actually comes on and you see the home screen. This seems to be in the software optimization of HTC.

The U12 + has the latest high-end Snapdragon 845-soc from Qualcomm and comes with 64GB ufs 2.1 storage and 6GB ddr4x memory. There will also be a version with 128GB storage. That is fairly common for a high-end smartphone in the Netherlands today. The battery capacity with 3.500mah is of a reasonably normal level for this screen size, although we have seen that the capacity does not always say something about the battery life.

Finally

We hope that the U12 + another great phone is from the stable of HTC. The U11 was a good phone, but the U11 + was in our opinion a misfit, because the screen seemed to use too much energy. As a result, the maximum brightness was limited and the battery life as well. Whether or not the U12 + has improved, our tests will have to prove. In other areas, HTC is working hard to be distinctive in any case with the Edge Sense technique and the lack of buttons as we know from other smartphones. About the latter we have only our reservations and we are very curious how it pleases in the long term.

It is nice that the U12 + has a double camera with ‘optical’ zoom, because that is practical, and a bokeh mode also adds some to the camera experience. If we are critical, we must note that those camera functions are now on pretty many high-end phones and the slow motion mode for example is lagging behind several competitors.

It remains the question whether HTC with the U12 + is distinctive enough to to take a substantial market share from major competitors such as Samsung. It can in any case help that the U12 + has a price of 799 euros. That is still a lot of money, but many high-end competitors are already at a starting price of 849 euros. We expect to have the phone in our test lab mid-June, so that we can make a good judgment. For now we have received a carefully positive first impression.

 

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