HTC looks to turn its luck around with the new U12 Plus

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

HTC is in trouble. The smartphone maker’s sales have crumbled in recent years, as it struggles to come up with interesting designs and faces competition from the likes of Android handset makers ranging from Samsung to Huawei.

But the ailing company has one more trick up its sleeve: the new HTC U12 Plus. Available for pre-order May 23 for $799, the U12 Plus aims to win over consumers with flashy styling and high-end features. And while it looks rather impressive, HTC has its work cut out for it if the company hopes to take down Samsung’s Galaxy S9.

A familiar face

The HTC U12 Plus looks strikingly similar to the company’s U11 Plus, which never made its way to the U.S. market. The phone has a glossy design that HTC calls Liquid Surface and is available in translucent blue (the flagship color), ceramic black and flame red. I’m a sucker for the flame red version, which looks stunning when the light dances around its edges.

As its name implies, the U12 Plus is a big smartphone, packing a 6-inch display. Still, it’s about the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus, which has a smaller 5.5-inch screen.

The HTC U12 Plus has a similar look to the U11 Plus, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Speaking of its display, the U12 Plus packs a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440 pixels. That’s sharper than the iPhone’s panel, but not as sharp as the Galaxy S9’s 5.8-inch screen with a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels.

That said, you’re unlikely to notice such a small difference between the two phones. The U12 Plus’s display looked plenty sharp up front, but I’m curious to see how bright it is compared to the S9. HTC’s phones have always had dimmer screens, which can be a problem in bright sunlight.

Main squeeze

Like the HTC U11, the U12 Plus features the latest version of the company’s Edge Sense technology, which can detect when you squeeze its sides to activate certain applications. Edge Sense 2 now determines if you’re holding the phone to view the screen in portrait mode and prevent it from flipping to landscape. It’s a helpful addition, especially when you’re using your phone and lying in bed.

The U12 Plus has a dual-camera setup, which includes a telephoto lens.

You can also double-tap the left and right edges of the U12 Plus to shrink the screen down for one-hand mode. Of course, you can still use Edge Sense 2 to launch specific apps with a quick squeeze, too.

Double the camera

The U12 Plus is the latest smartphone to get a dual-camera setup around back. But unlike handsets like the OnePlus 6, the U12 Plus’s secondary camera serves as an optical zoom. HTC claims the cameras received the highest marks of any dual-camera combo from independent camera analysis firm DXOMark. That’s a great feather in HTC’s cap, but I’ll need to see what it’s actually like to use the cameras in real life before I can comment on them.

We’ll find out more about the U12 Plus when we get our hands on a review unit in the coming days.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowleyFollow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn