HTC U12+

A PO­TEN­TIALLY GREAT FLAG­SHIP PHONE THAT’S HAM­STRUNG BY MIS­GUIDED US­ABIL­ITY “EN­HANCE­MENTS”

PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS - NICK ROSS

We love in­no­va­tion and show­ing off new tech­nol­ogy. But some things prob­a­bly shouldn’t make it to mar­ket and in­stead re­main as con­cepts un­til they’re fully baked. HTC can make great phones but, in its quest to be dif­fer­ent, it’s con­trived a new way of in­ter­act­ing with them. In solv­ing a prob­lem that didn’t ex­ist, it’s cre­ated new prob­lems that are so sig­nif­i­cant that we can’t help but start by fo­cussing on them over the pos­i­tive points.

The roots of the is­sue go back to the HTC’s last gen­er­a­tion of phones. We were told that in or­der to over­come the prob­lems in­volved with tak­ing phone-based self­ies [no, we didn’t know there were any either], HTC had in­vented a new ‘squeeze’ sys­tem which made it eas­ier to take the pic­ture. In re­al­ity, squeez­ing the phone in­tro­duced a cam­era shake which com­pro­mised pic­tures, but at least you could easily ig­nore the fea­ture. Now, on the U12+, HTC has folded the squeeze tech­nol­ogy around the en­tire phone.

The vol­ume and power but­tons are now baked into the side-squeez­ing sys­tem rather than act­ing as in­de­pen­dent me­chan­i­cal switches. But squeez­ing is hap­haz­ard to the point where vol­ume reg­u­larly rises and fall with ghost touches.

The pri­mary squeeze fea­ture can ac­ti­vate var­i­ous func­tions, such as cam­era, voice as­sis­tant, tak­ing screen­shots plus you can cal­i­brate it to work at var­i­ous pres­sures. We rec­om­mend di­alling the pres­sure re­quire­ment right up to max­i­mum other­wise you’ll fre­quently en­gage your cho­sen fea­ture sim­ply by grab­bing the phone. We’re told that if you hold the phone near it’s base and dou­ble tap one side or an­other, you’ll ‘easily’ get into one-handed mode. How, such a half-baked fea­ture ever made it to re­lease is be­yond us, it’s hor­ri­bly un­com­fort­able to op­er­ate and it fre­quently ac­ti­vates when you don’t want it to.

How­ever, if we look be­yond the triv­ial is­sue of the phone be­ing a night­mare to op­er­ate on a day-to­day ba­sis, there’s ac­tu­ally much to like.

The 6-inch UHD LCD screen is bright and colours are vi­brant. It sounds im­pres­sive thanks to HTC’s BoomSound tech­nol­ogy which uses sep­a­rate “woofer” and “tweeter” speak­ers to pro­duce rel­a­tively wellrounded, punchy au­dio that’s also par­tic­u­larly good for con­fer­ence calls. While there’s no 3.5mm head­phone jack, the bun­dled USB ear­buds pro­vide higher-than-usual fidelity.

A face un­lock fea­ture is ac­cept­ably ac­cu­rate. It’s IP68 cer­ti­fied mean­ing it’s both dust and wa­ter­proof to an im­pres­sive de­gree. How­ever, while the alu­minium chas­sis and glass back are very ro­bust their ap­pear­ance will split the field: the lat­ter is now translu­cent so you can see the cir­cuitry in­side but we feel this is a ret­ro­grade step com­pared with the pre­vi­ous, colour­ful, opaque vari­ant.

Un­der the bon­net re­sides Qual­comm’s lat­est 2.8GHz Snap­Dragon CPU plus 6GB RAM which helps ev­ery­thing fly along. When used in tan­dem with the Adreno 630 GPU, it easily han­dled the most power-in­ten­sive games.

But a down­side to this bee­fi­ness is the bat­tery life. The 3,500mAh unit rou­tinely strug­gled to make it through a full day and reg­u­larly needed a top-up charge in the evening. Fast charg­ing will see it gain 50% charge in 35 min­utes but there’s no wire­less charg­ing.

If there is a sav­ing grace, it’s the cam­era(s). Both front and rear have dual-mounted units. The pri­mary cam­eras are re­spon­sive and took fast-fo­cus­ing, sharp, colour­ful pic­tures in all kinds of chal­leng­ing light­ing con­di­tions, in­clud­ing harsh rear-light­ing and very-low light. There’s also an easy-to-ac­cess Bokeh (back­ground-blur) mode which can be au­to­matic or ad­justed man­u­ally. In con­junc­tion with the sharp, dual lenses it took some great por­traits (both front and rear fac­ing). Video is sharp (al­though it can be a bit flick­ery in dark, ar­ti­fi­cially-lit scenes) and cap­tured sound is im­pres­sively dis­tinct too. De­spite strong com­pe­ti­tion in this space, the HTC U12+ is one of the very best cam­er­a­phones on the mar­ket.

So should you buy it? No. Even if it was much cheaper, you’d be driven mad by the ba­sic us­abil­ity flaws.

KEY SPECS

6in, 1440 x 2880 OLED screen, 128GB/6GB RAM • 2.8GHz Octa-core Snap­dragon 845 CPU • Adreno 630 GPU • dual 12MP rear cam­eras, dual 8MP front cam­eras • mi­croSD (dual SIM slot) • USB-C • IP68 dust/wa­ter­proof • no head­phone jack • An­droid 8.0 • 3,500mAh bat­tery • 157 x 74 x 9mm, 188g. $1,199 • www.htc.om/au

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