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HTC U12+: No notch, no buttons, many cameras

It’s finally time for HTC to flex their muscles. After the excellent HTC U11 and U11+, what more does HTC have in store for with the latest HTC U12+ smartphone? Well, apparently they’re removing all their physical buttons and adding two cameras. Also, despite the “+” moniker, there’s only one smartphone.

Yup, there’s quite a lot to unpack so let’s get the basics out of the way. First off, there’s only one HTC flagship this launch. Despite the fact that it’s called the HTC U12+, there is no smaller HTC U12. There’s just the one.

But, it features all the high-end goodies you’ve come to expect from a 2018 flagship smartphone. In front, you’ve got a large 6″ Quad HD+ Super LCD 6 display (537 ppi) with really slim bezels — even slimmer than the U11+’s — and yes, there’s no notch. This screen is capable of supporting HDR 10 and the DCI-P3 colour gamut.

Inside, the flagship packs a Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor mated to 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage. If that’s not enough you can expand storage further via a microSD card as the HTC U12+ takes cards up to 2TB with Flex Storage. There’s also a 3,500 mAh battery to keep everything running.

HTC’s always been big on photos and this year’s no different as the company is giving their previously excellent UltraPixel 3 camera an upgrade. The U12+ features the company’s new UltraPixel 4 camera with a 12MP sensor that has large 1.4 micron pixels, and an f/1.75 aperture lens.

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Besides that, HTC also added a secondary 16MP sensor that’s equipped with a short telephoto lens to give you a little more reach (2x optical zoom) as well as unlock portrait-mode features. This camera also has both opitical image stabilisation (OIS) and electronic image stabilisation (EIS).

This new camera also sports features like UltraSpeed Autofocus 2 which combines full sensor phase detection autofocus with a new laser autofocus system for quick focusing. There’s also HDR Boost 2 and something called Sonic Zoom that allows you to zoom in on a sound or voice during video recording.

Combined, the new main camera is the highest rated dual-camera system according to DxOMark, boasting a score of 103 — which is one point higher than Huawei’s P20. However, it is still behind the triple-camera Huawei P20 Pro’s score of 109.

In front, the U12+’s also packing dual selfie cameras with an 8MP sensor (1.12-micron pixels) that allows you to add bokeh to your selfies. It also enables face unlock in case you don’t want to use the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.

Much like the HTC U11 that precedes it, the U12+ features a premium glass and metal body that employ’s the company’s Liquid Surface design. But being pretty isn’t the only thing that’s new with the body as HTC has taken their pressure sensitive technology to the next level.

First, they upgraded Edge Sense to Edge Sense 2 so now it features a whole bunch of new gestures you can use. There’s a double tap on one side gesture that you can set as your gesture to go back or shrink the display down to a size that you can easily use in one hand. Then, if you hold the phone by its sides, it will know not to rotate your display which is particularly useful for when you’re lying down. And, of course, there’s the squeeze function which you can still remap to do a whole bunch of things that range from launching apps to your desired voice assistant.

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The second change HTC made was to remove all of the physical buttons on the phone. Yup, even the volume rocker and power button on the side of the handset.

In its place, you get a series of bumps that look like buttons but don’t actually move. Instead, these are pressure sensitive so it can detect a press and vibrate to let you know it has registered your action, but it doesn’t actually move. In a way, it’s similar to Apple’s new home button that debuted with the iPhone 7.

As you would expect, the HTC U12+ does not have a headphone jack. Instead, audio is pushed via its USB Type C port — which also supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 — and HTC includes a pair of their USonic headphones inside. For those who care about sound, the U12+ does come with the company’s excellent BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition speakers and Qualcomm’s aptX HD LDAC 32-bit high resolution wireless audio via Bluetooth.

HTC’s U12+ comes in three different colour variants — Ceramic Black, Flame Red, and the all new Translucent Blue. In Malaysia, we’ll be getting the Translucent Blue variant and it will be arriving locally from the end of June onward.

I’m not particularly sure how I feel about the HTC U12+. From the launch itself, it looks like a lot of the good things haven’t changed, like the relatively stock HTC Sense built on top of Android 8.0 Oreo, IP68 water resistance, BoomSound speakers and premium build. What’s more, they’ve also upgraded key features like the camera and display which is always nice.

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There’s still no crazy design upgrade nor are there any industry changing features, but you don’t need that to make a good smartphone. Either way, I’m excited to give this handset a try.

What do you guys think of the U12+? Let me know in the comments below.