HTC U12 Plus (U12+ review)
4.1Overall Score
Price (RRP): $1199 Manufacturer: HTC

The HTC U12 Plus (U12+) is the latest in a long line of great flagship phones made by Taiwanese HTC. Its pedigree goes way back to 1997. It has been there since the beginnings of smartphones.

I say that because I expect a lot from HTC having owned devices with marvellous names like Dream, Desire, Marvel, Mozart and more. It was willing to take a gamble on Windows Mobile as far back as 2002. It is fair to say every HTC I have had has met or exceeded my expectations.

Thomas Dexmier, HTC’s Country Head for Australia and New Zealand, says there will only be one U12 Plus (U12+) sold worldwide (with local variants for LTE bands etc.). Sure, we believe him – but didn’t the U11 have Life, Eyes, and Plus as well.

I would not be surprised if we see more U12 models. For the most part, this is driven by an almost fickle Chinese audience that wants new phones now on six-month cycles.

HTC has had its ups and down, down, downs

Last year Google paid US$1.1 billion for 2,000 members of HTC’s research and design team (leaving 2,000 others at HTC behind). It also got non-exclusive licences to smartphone-related intellectual property. Google seems intent to gain a swag of mobile patents and IP as evidenced by its purchase of Motorola in 2011 and its later sale to Lenovo minus the IP.

But then HTC further cut its workforce. The rumour is that in Q1, 2018 it sold fewer than 30% of the volume at the same time last year. It has reported losses for eleven consecutive quarters. Revenues are down 46% year-on-year.

The facts are that the flagship mobile phone market is mature, the leaders are very established, and there may not be room for too many flagship makers.

The action is in the volume driven upper/mid-market

HTC says its 2017 U11/Life will reposition there. That is good as it is a flagship phone at a great price. There is nothing wrong with buying last year’s models – the U11 (GadgetGuy review here) is particularly awesome. The G11 Life (GadgetGuy article here) is very good too.

The U/Ultra/Play will reposition to the mid-market and pre-paid. That is similar to what LG and others are doing as it saves extraordinary costs of gaining Australian certification and network testing.

I don’t want to speculate further and sincerely wish HTC a speedy recovery using Google’s cash wisely.

Specifications – HTC U12 Plus

If you want to skip the specifications, let’s just say it has everything the other flagships have. On the Plus side is Edge Sense 2.0, Hi-res audio, and a fabulous camera. On the minus is no 3.5mm audio jack, Qi charging and it uses an IPS screen instead of an AMOLED.

HTC U12 Plus GadgetGuy comment
Screen 6”, 2880 x 1440, 537ppi, 18:9, Super LCD6 IPS
DCI-P3 wide colour gamut or approx. 70% sRGB, colour switch
HDR 10, 80.3% S-T-B-R, Gorilla Glass 3 all around
Great screen but poor daylight readability. Accurate DCI-P3 colours
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver Flagship processor for a flagship phone. HTC has tuned it for performance
GPU Adreno 630 Good for mobile games
RAM 6GB LPDDR4X (4GB free)
128GB UFS 2.1 (113GB free)
MicroSD sim slot 2 to 400GB
OTG to 2TB
Great flexibility with OTG and microSD can be formatted as internal storage.
As much as I love the Google Pixel 2, its lack of microSD would lead me to the HTC.
Rear Camera
Primary
12MP, 1.4μm, f/1.75
Phase detection + Laser autofocus
Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS)
Dual LED Flash
Video
[email protected] and 24-bit/96kHz sound– no OIS or EIS
Sonic Zoom, Audio Boost, and 3D Audio recording with four microphones
[email protected]/60/240fps – both OIS and EIS
RAW file in Pro mode
Superb camera specifications.
Lots of buggy issues in initial firmware.
Pro: OIS and EIS
Con: Auto-HDR slows down shutter response
Rear Camera
Telephoto
16MP, 1.0μm, f/2.6 (12MP effective)
2X optical zoom up to 10x digital zoom
No OIS
Optical zoom is effective. Digital zoom above 6X is too noisy.
Front Camera 1 8MP, 1.12μm, f/2.0, 84° FOV
[email protected]
No OIS, fixed focus, AR stickers
Dual cameras are for bokeh and low-light. Poor selfies until we turned off beautify mode. Works best in good light.
Front Camera 2 As above
Comms Wi-Fi AC, 2×2 MU-MIMO
Chromecast, DLNA, AirPlay, Miracast
Bluetooth 5
NFC
DisplayPort over USB-C 3.1, Gen 1
Speed test gained 867/520 Mb/s at up to 3/6 metres from a D-Link AC5300 router.
Great to support Chromecast, Airplay and Miracast
Display port allows screen mirror over USB-C cable/dock.
Sound HTC USonic earphones with ANC
HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi dual speakers – music/theatre mode
24-bit/96kHz record
32-bit/384kHz audio Hi-Res Audio certified
Bluetooth aptX HD, LDAC high-resolution wireless audio
Google Assistant
USonic is one of the better buds.
BoomSound gets a great result from two tiny speakers.
Hi-Res audio gave my Sony WH-1000XM2 LDAC headphones amazing fidelity.
IP Rating IP68 (1.5m for 30 minutes) Great
Other Edge Sense 2
Squeeze to access apps or control the phone
Customizable gestures to launch the camera, voice assistant, turn on the flashlight, and more
Gestures for pocket mode, flip to mute, quite ring and more
Double tap to reduce screen size
Pressure Sensitive haptic feedback button
HTC Sense AI companion (use OK Google)
Face (front) and Fingerprint (on the back) unlock
It can be useful if you persevere.
In my tests, I found it a nuisance with lots of false starts.
Pressure sensitivity haptic feedback buttons are not as useful as older click style ones.
Battery 3,500mAh
Qualcomm Fast Charge 3.0 – 50% in 35 minutes
It is a one-day phone. Quick Charger 3.0 provided but its 4.0 compatible.
LTE Cat 18, 1.2GBps/150Mbps, 5CA, 4 x 4 MIMO
Voice over Wi-Fi (needed for Telstra small cells)
Australian Bands:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 32, 39, 40, 38, 41, 66
Dual sims both support 4G and dual VoLTE
I achieved over 1Gb/s standing outside Telstra in George Street, Sydney. Otherwise, on 4 bars signal, it achieved a respectable 400/50Mbps.
Dimensions 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7/9.7mm x 188g, slightly curved back A little heavier and chunkier than expected after using the Huawei P20 Pro and LG V7 ThinQ
OS Android 8.0 overlaid with HTC Sense UI
Upgrade to Android 9 promised
Sense Companion is preloaded on the device.
HTC Sense takes a little getting used to. Out-of-date security patches are a consequence.
I wonder why it simply does not do Pure Android?
Sense Companion is Artificial Intelligence to analyse user behavior to offer tips or automatically apply settings.
Colours Translucent Blue, Ceramic Black, Flame Red
Called Liquid surface.
Gorilla Glass 3 is used to reduce scratching but it also reduces drop ability. You must use a case!
Missing 3.5mm audio jack
Wireless Charging
Not deal breakers but Qi is so handy
Price A$1,199 unlocked We don’t comment on value but if you see it under $1,000 it would be a bargain
Website https://www.htc.com/au/smartphones/htc-u12-plus/

In the box – HTC U12 Plus

The review unit is a pre-release, so it has a few firmware issues. The part number is 99HANY000-00. We can only assume this is the Australian model.

HTC U12 PlusThe U.S. unlocked models include 99HAPC00400 (64GB), 99HAPC00200 (64GB) and 99HAPC02100 (128GB). There will be at least several other variants.

Warning do not buy anything other than the Australian model if shopping online.