HTC U12+ handset longs to be squeezed

High-end Android phones tend to be set apart by fairly minor details. They usually get the same Qualcomm SoCs, similar amounts of memory and storage, and screens roughly the same size. HTC is hoping that the interface tweaks it baked into its latest U12+ flagship will help the handset stand out in a crowded market. The manufacturer designed the phone with pressure-sensitive buttons on the side instead of regular clickers. The U12+'s second biggest departure from the rest of the high-end phone crowd is the addition of a second camera on the front of the handset.

The beating heart of the U12+ is the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 found in most Android flagship phones released over the last few months, here clocking up to 2.8 GHz as conditions permit. In this case, the SoC is partnered with 6 GB of memory and the buyer's choice of 64 GB or 128 GB of internal storage. Users can fit more photos by adding a microSD card up to 2 TB in capacity. This hardware resides in an IP68-rated "cold-polished" glass body that measures 0.39" thick (10 mm).

The U12's screen is a 6" LCD unit with a resolution of 2880x1440, a ratio that marketers dub 18:9 and folks who know their fractions call 2:1. The panel has a pixel density of 537 PPI. Some vocal members of the TR community will rejoice in seeing the U12+'s notch-free display, but those same gerbils will probably lament the absence of a headphone jack. Users can listen to the sound through the phone's "Boomsound" speakers with separate woofer and tweeter or plug in the included set of noise-canceling USB-C earbuds. Alternatively, they can use Bluetooth 5.0 audio or use a dongle for a set of headphones.

The user-facing camera setup has a pair of 8-megapixel sensors with f/2.0 aperture lenses and an 84° field of view. HTC says the second front sensor allows the U12+'s software to do things like add bokeh effects to pictures and AR stickers to video taken on the user-facing camera. The rear-facing setup also has two snappers: an 12-MP sensor with a wide-angle lens and a 16-MP unit with a telephoto lens.

HTC says the main camera has 1.85-2.0x optical zoom and further 10x magnification through software tricks. The main camera also gets phase-detection and laser autofocus, optical image stabilization, and a pro mode that allows RAW output and manual exposure times as long as 21 seconds. The rear-facing camera can capture 4K video at up to 60 FPS or 1920x1080 slow-motion footage at 240 FPS. HTC says the front-facing camera can record at 1920x1080 but didn't elaborate on frame rates.

As for software, the U12+ runs Android 8.0 with HTC's Sense UI skin overlaid on top. The phone has always-listening support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, features that will delight some and terrify others. HTC added squeeze features to last year's U11+, and the unique interface option is back this time around. Users can squeeze the sides of the phone to take a picture, summon a voice assistant, or bring up the Edge Launcher. The pressure sensors in the sides of the phone also stand in for the typical wake button and volume controls. The company has also improved its Edge Sense 2 system to allow users to hold the sides of the phone to stop screen rotation or double-tap either side of the handset to adapt the UI for one-handed use. HTC says the Edge Sense controls work in almost every Android app for common functions like zooming and pausing.

The phone measures 6.2" (15.7 cm) tall and 2.9" (7.4 cm) wide and weighs in at 6.6 oz (188 g). The integrated 3500-mAh battery isn't as big as the one that HTC squeezed into the U11+, but the company says it's still enough for 23.8 hours of talk time. The battery supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 and can go from dead to half-full (or half-empty) in 35 minutes.

The HTC U12+ is on sale now for $799 with 64 GB of internal storage and $849 with 128 GB of onboard flash memory. American buyers get to choose between a shiny dark gray or translucent blue finish that's a high-tech version of the clear telephone that was dangled as a prize for selling lots of overpriced cookies on behalf of an elementary school. European shoppers can pick a red finish, but they don't get the option for 128 GB of storage.

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