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HTC brings “squeezy” frame back into play in U12+

Phone has pressure-sensitive buttons, good cameras and excellent audio

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Gulf News

Dubai

HTC’s first flagship smartphone of the year — U12+ — is an upgraded version of last year’s U11 with a neat and clean design and with dual front and rear cameras, pressure sensitive buttons and Edge Sense 2 controls.

The six-inch Quad HD (2,880 x 1,440) super LCD 6 display, with 18:9 aspect ratio and with no notch, is powered by 2.8GHz Qualcomm 845 chip set with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage capacity.

The hybrid-style SIM tray supports microSD card up to 2TB.

The bad news is that HTC is sticking to LCD display with 537 pixels per inch density rather than the AMOLED.

It runs on Android Oreo and it is upgradeable to Android P (next OS version). The phone is water and dust resistant and weighs 188 grams.

This phone is for people who like to squeeze things as HTC has added sensors on the sides for one-handed operation and for creating shortcuts by tapping, short and long squeezes. This technology was introduced first in U11 and this time allows users to develop more functions by tapping and squeezing the sides.

Squeeze the sides for taking photos, videos, launch an app, turn the flashlight on/off, zooming in on maps, and virtually any interaction by doing it through the Edge Sense settings panel.

After using HTC for two weeks, I switched to my usual phone, I started squeezing my non-squeezable phone to launch the same functions.

It can be useful for some to create shortcuts and for some, it may be a gimmick. For me, the feature was sometimes very useful but not a compelling one.

The second noticeable feature is the removal of all mechanical buttons and the standby volume and power buttons are just for the show. They are replaced by pressure sensitive buttons with a bit of haptic response when you press the buttons. It has to be seen how people adapt to the new non-button device.

The dual rear cameras — one with 12MP wide-angle camera (1.4µm pixel size, f/1.75) and 16MP telephoto camera (1.0µm pixel size, f/2.6) with dual LED flash takes excellent shots with excellent colours and details. It has 2x optical zoom and 10x optical zoom. The lenses support optical image stabilisation (OIS) and electronic image stabilisation (EIS).

The fingerprint sensor is placed below the cameras and it is accurate and fast. There is also facial recognition technology which is fast and works well even in lowlight conditions.

The secondary camera creates live bokeh mode (manual and auto), which is gaining traction in the industry. In U12+, the bokeh effect for artificially blurring the background in portraits mode is shown in real time.

The portrait mode shots are stunning when given ample amount of distance between the subject and the background.

In outdoor or in bright-light conditions, the cameras capture a good range of tones with well-rendered hues without being too saturated and the auto HDR kicks in when needed to capture more brightest and darkest tones.

The cameras also produce excellent details and colours in lowlight conditions while the autofocus remains fast and accurate even in under-light conditions but the HDR effect and dynamic range is not as powerful when compared to the competition.

There is a short delay in shutter speed before the image is captured, even when with HDR on or off.

Regarding modes, it has Panorama, pro, Hyperlapse and Slow Motion. You can record RAW format in Pro mode.

In Slow Motion, it records 1080p at 240 frames per second and the good thing is that it can record and the user can adjust where he wants the slow motion to be after recording but no 960 frames per second recording found in Sony and Samsung devices.

The digital zoom feature is excellent between 4x and 8x but at 10x, it loses detail and noise creeps in and not strong when compared to other flagships.

In video testing, it produced good texture and colours even in low light. It can record Full HD and 4K at 30 or 60 frames per second. It can record videos in either Hi-Res audio, 3D Audio or Sonic Zoom. It also supports HDR 10 format.

The new “Sonic Zoom” feature can zoom in on a sound or voice with four microphones and blur the background noise.

The “Audio Boost” feature amplifies all the voices and sounds to the maximum without zooming in the video.

The one-touch auto zoom lets users zoom in and out smoothly on the scene, the lighting and sound for the best video production

There are dual cameras on the front, too. The 8MP sensors (1.12µm pixel size, f/2.0) work together for the bokeh mode. The wide-angle camera has 84-degree field of view and the bokeh effect is also shown in real time too.

The camera app allows digital make-up before taking every selfie through beautification mode but sometimes the skin tones are oversaturated.

Both the front and rear cameras can shoot in 16:9 ratio at 9MP, 18:9 at 8MP, 4:3 at 12MP and 1:1 at 9MP and no 16:9 or 18:9 at 12MP.

Regarding modes, it has selfie photo and video and selfie panorama.

HTC, which bought BoomSound stereo speakers (separate woofer and tweeter) into their phones, has improved the sound performance on U12+. The Qualcomm aptX HD audio is designed to support high-resolution 32-bit Bluetooth audio.

With the box, HTC gives USonic earbuds with active noise cancellation to keep out unwanted distractions and it studies the unique structure of your ear to shape the sound perfectly for your ears only.

As usual, the Augmented Reality stickers are there to spice up your photos and videos to add funny effects in real-time.

There is no 3.5mm headphone jack, though, which is a disappointment.

Regarding connectivity, it has USB 3.1 Type-C port, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz) with MU-Mimo, NFC, supports DisplayPort over USB Type-C, HTC Connect for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to compatible multi-room audio systems, TVs, portable speakers and home entertainment systems.

The 3,500mAh battery offers quick charging but not wireless charging and it is a shame despite having the glass back.

In video playback, the device lasted for close to 12 hours which is pretty average despite having LCD screen. It is much lower than devices with AMOLED screens. It charges from zero to 50 per cent in 35 minutes and from zero to full in one hour and 30 minutes.

HTC, known to make stunning handsets, has added its touch to U12+ also by using a 3D glass process with cold polishing to create a two-tone look. It comes in three colours — ceramic black, flame red and translucent blue — and it is priced at Dh3,449.

Pros

Accurate and very fast autofocus

Attractive bokeh simulation in real-time

OIS and EIS

Buttonless device with hepatic feedback

Excellent speakers

Squeezable sides

Sonic Zoom and Audio Boost options

Good front and rear cameras

Cons

Edge Sense may not be super intuitive for some

Mediocre battery life

Must use HTC headphone to get full audio features

Shutter speed is bit slow

No headphone jack

A bit expensive

No super slow motion (960fps) option

No AMOLED screen and wireless charging

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