Brilliant camera performance, gorgeous design, and handy new features.
Last year, HTC brought forward a new design language; one that was all-glass instead of all metal but introduced important new features as well, like squeezable sides. This year, HTC continues to refine that design, using a taller 18:9 aspect ratio, smaller bezels, improved squeeze functions, and some brand-new pressure-sensitive buttons. It also introduced dual cameras on both the front and back, debuting portrait mode and a host of other new tricks as well. So, is this the phone to get this summer? Let's take a look.
Specs and Box Contents
The HTC U12+ retails for $799 in the US, and ships in Black and Transparent Blue colors, while a Flame Red color will be shipping in the coming months. Our review unit is the Transparent Blue color. On the front is a 6.1-inch Quad-HD+ (2880 x 1440, 537ppi) Super LCD6 display with 18:9 aspect ratio, HDR10 support, and DCI-P3 or sRGB color modes. Gorilla Glass 3 covers the front and back, offering superior scratch protection versus most flagship smartphones, but worse protection against drops and cracks. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC powers the phone, alongside 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM, 64GB or 128GB of internal storage, and microSD card support up to 2TB. Underneath the glass back is a non-removable 3,500mAh battery, with support for the brand-new Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0 standard, however the device ships with a QuickCharge 3.0-rated wall outlet charger.
Above the screen sits a pair of 8-megapixel cameras with 1.12um pixel size, behind f/2.0 aperture 84-degree wide-angle lenses. Around the back are also a pair of cameras; a main 12-megapixel (wide-angle lens, UltraPixel 4, 1.4um pixel size, f/1.75 aperture, OIS) and secondary 16-megapixel (1.0um pixel size, f/2.6 aperture, 2x telephoto lens). Edge Sense 2 is on both sides of the phone, enabling squeeze gestures with enhanced functionality versus last year’s devices. The phone is IP68 water and dust resistant, and a single USB Type-C port resides on the bottom. There is no 3.5mm audio jack, and some models do not ship with an adapter for folks who need or prefer wired audio. Instead, HTC has equipped the phone with BoomSound stereo speakers, 4 microphones capable of high-res recording, and Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless audio playback.
Sense UI ships on top of Android 8.0 Oreo, and HTC ships the phone in both single and dual nano-SIM variants. The phone supports 4G FDD-LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 32, and 66; TD-LTE bands: 38, 39, 40, and 41. The U12 Plus supports Cat. 18 Gigabit LTE. The phone measures in at 156.6mm tall, 73.9mm wide, and 9.7mm thin, with a solid weight of 188 grams. Inside the box you’ll find that QuickCharge 3.0 charger, USB Type-A to Type-C cable, USonic USB Type-C earbuds, clear plastic case, SIM tray eject tool, and the usual set of manuals and warranty pamphlets.
HTC is sticking to its guns with its Super LCD technology, utilizing the 6th generation Super LCD6 in the HTC U12+. HTC has moved to the taller 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio that most phones have graduated to, taking up more of the front of the phone than ever and minimizing both the side and top bezels. Side bezels are almost nonexistent, while the top and bottom are a more standard size for phones that started moving to the 18:9 aspect ratio last year. The Quad-HD+ resolution offers 537 pixels-per-inch density, making this an incredibly crisp display in any regard. Brightness is phenomenal and is easily viewable in even bright sunlight, with a display that looks almost ethereal in its ability to shine in bright light. It’s also super color accurate and ideally saturated, showing proper colors that look nice without appearing cartoony or overly colorful.
LCDs have to sacrifice black levels and contrast as a result of being super bright, and like any LCD on a smaller mobile display, you’ll find black levels are a darker shade of gray at best. While this should be expected from an LCD display, other negative qualities here shouldn’t be expected. Pixel persistence is moderate, and while trailing or ghosting of objects on the screen is certainly visible in some situations, it’s not the worst we’ve seen from an LCD on a mobile phone as of late, but it’s worse than an OLED display would be. White balance would be good if it were the even all the way around the panel, however there’s a distinct warm hue coming from our review unit in the bottom 20% of the panel, which leads into a very obvious light bleeding issue at the bottom.
This could just be a defective display on our review unit, but the light bleed is obvious in any lighting situation, and at any brightness level. As expected, it’s most obvious in a darker room when the ambient display comes on, and a clear glow emits from the bottom of the display. In brighter situations, this appears as uneven lighting at the bottom, almost as if light was leaking out of sections of the display itself. Since this is an LCD, it wouldn’t make sense to have an always-on display, so HTC smartly chose to use Google’s Ambient Display tech instead, turning on dimly when the device is picked up to display the time, date and any notifications that might have come in.
Hardware and Build
Last year’s HTC U11 was a rather uninteresting update, keeping the old aspect ratio and large bezels of previous generations of phones, while introducing a fragile glass back in order to bring waterproofing to the device. The HTC U11+, launched at the end of the year, instead brought an updated design that fixed most of the issues with the U11’s design, and the U12+ only furthers those changes. The overall design looks more out of LG’s playbook instead, with minimal bezels around the screen, and a horizontally oriented dual camera module at the back, nested above a circular rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The Gorilla Glass 3-covered panel up front is flat, while the Gorilla Glass 3 back is curved strongly at the left and right edges, and more minimally at the top and bottom.
Most manufacturers stick with glass backs as a way to more easily waterproof the phone, as well as utilizing a material that works well for wireless charging. While HTC doesn’t offer wireless charging here, it does provide an IP68 water and dust resistance, and also does some really interesting things with the colors of the phone. A black business-like option is available for those who prefer it, but HTC is offering the Transparent Blue color as an alternative option at launch, with a Flame Red option launching in the coming months. Our Transparent Blue review unit is gorgeous in a way other phones can’t be, not just because part of the back is transparent, but because of the sheen that HTC utilizes here too. Looking straight at the back reveals the entire middle of the back to be transparent with a blue tint, while holding it to the side looks more opaque. It’s not just components that we see underneath either, as there’s a clear straight-line design just under the logo that looks as unique as it is gorgeous.
A semi-rounded metal frame stretches all the way around the phone, with a few breaks for antenna lines, microphones, ports, and the SIM tray on the left side. Four microphones can be found on the phone; one above the display, one on the back near the bottom, one on the top side and one on the bottom side. A single bottom-firing speaker is placed next to the USB Type-C port at the bottom, and there’s no 3.5mm audio jack to be found. HTC replaced the traditional clicky volume and power buttons with pressure-sensitive touch buttons; an interesting move that certainly proves unique, but at this time ultimately a poor choice. The concept is pretty simple: instead of having buttons that click in to complete a circuit, these buttons do not move at all. Instead these buttons respond to a press by vibrating the HD vibration motors inside, mimicking the click of a physical button without the physical movement. This allows HTC to better seal the phone and keep from the normal wear-and-tear possibility of buttons getting worn out over time.
These buttons also allow HTC to showcase their advanced vibration motors, which tie with LG’s incredibly deep, yet subtle HD vibration motors in their phones, delivering a high-quality feeling in every touch and tap. These aren’t capacitive buttons and can be pressed with any object, but their issue isn’t down to the feeling or some kind of lack of tactile response; it’s all down to issues with reliability. While the power button always worked just fine, the volume buttons would become unresponsive at times, certainly often enough to note and become an annoyance, and were generally quite unreliable when compared to regular physical click buttons. There’s also an issue with only being able to press one button at a time, negating the ability to take screenshots by pressing volume down and power at the same time. Double tapping power to launch the camera is also nearly impossible, no matter how many times I tried, and while it would occasionally work, I had a hard time reproducing the steps taken to get it to work. To sum it up: great concept, poor execution.
Edge Sense and Edge Launcher
Part of HTC’s work on reducing the side bezels includes building a capacitive pressure sensor inside both the left and right bezels. Last year the U11 launched with squeezable sides, a trait that made its way to Google’s Pixel 2 family, and now features more options than ever, including a new gesture. Squeezing on the sides doesn’t physically alter the shape of the phone the way squeezing a rubber ball would, rather it emits a subtle vibration click the way the power and volume buttons do, and the amount of pressure required to activate the squeeze features can be adjusted quite widely.
By default, you’ll find a moderate amount of pressure is required to activate the squeeze function, which is enough to keep from accidentally doing it while holding the phone it taking it out of a pocket, but not enough to make hands shake or the phone slip out like a bar of soap. I had a few issues with erroneous detection of squeezes, and in fact can replicate this by just holding the phone with two fingers, one on each side. Thankfully since you need to squeeze to activate any of the features, this doesn’t cause a problem, but I did have issues with the new double-tap feature being erroneously called up from time to time. It happened maybe once or twice a day, which is almost not worth noticing, but it was a minor annoyance all the same.
Three actions in total can be performed via the Edge Sense feature: short squeeze, squeeze and hold, or double tap. As noted already, the amount of pressure required to launch a squeeze action is fully adjustable and makes launching the camera or other apps and system functions a one-handed affair. Squeeze and hold launches the camera by default, which is incredibly handy for launching the camera at any time, even with the screen off. Once in the camera app, squeezing will take a photo, and this secondary type of action is built into many HTC Apps, and even system functions too if assigned. Music control can be assigned to squeeze, which will function as a way to quickly launch your preferred music app, and then squeezing again while in the app will play or pause the music.
Double tap is new and represents a unique way to quickly launch an application or system function with a single thumb. HTC has built in a way for the phone to detect which hand you’re holding the phone in, differentiating your thumb on one side of the phone from the palm on the other. By default, double tapping brings the screen into a smaller space, making it reachable with one thumb. The most useful setting might just be Edge Launcher though, which is an entire app launcher in and of itself, called up with any of the Edge Sense functions it’s assigned to. I preferred using double tap to call this action up, giving an easy and quick way to launch my 11 most used apps, which are laid out in a carousel fashion right next to where the double tap function was called up. This puts the app icons within a quick thumb’s reach, and this carousel can be swiped on to rotate, revealing 11 additional customizable shortcuts, totaling 22 possible ways to quickly access common apps and system functions. A handy calendar is also present, which for me is invaluable with a busy schedule, and overall Edge Launcher is simply brilliant in its execution.
Security, Performance, and Benchmarks
HTC is joining the face unlock bandwagon, offering a quick way for users to unlock their phone by just looking at it. Like most OEMs though, HTC doesn’t offer a truly secure way of unlocking via face, and this can be fooled with some trickery but is convenient if you’re just looking for a way to unlock your phone that’s somewhat secure, but by no means hack proof. It is extremely quick though, oftentimes recognizing my face in fractions of a second, and HTC offers a low light recognition method that brightens up the screen in order to help the camera recognize your face, even in complete darkness. Accuracy drops significantly in these conditions since it’s just an ID with a camera though, and the phone won’t be able to identify you if you’re wearing sunglasses or some types of hats. The fingerprint scanner on the back is lightning fast though and is far more secure, which is certainly an excellent alternative that can actually be used for mobile payments and other more secure authentication.
The HTC U12+ performs as expected for a 2018 flagship device, which is what should be the case when paying $800 for a new phone. There are no surprises and nothing out of the ordinary, which is exactly how it should be for a flagship device, as it’s hard to imagine these devices getting any faster in daily use. Apps appear on screen the moment you call them up, and multitasking is fast and fluid, without apps commonly reloading or other similar issues that might be considered abnormalities. Gaming and other more intense applications run as well as expected from Qualcomm’s latest high-end processing package, the Snapdragon 845, and the phone achieves high benchmark scores as expected.
Wireless Connectivity, Sound and Battery Life
As an unlocked device, the HTC U12+ supports all GSM bands and most bands around the world too, but what might be most surprising is its support of Verizon’s typically locked down bands here in the US. Verizon is notorious for only allowing certain devices on their network, and most unlocked phones do not qualify for testing, either because of lack of submission for testing by an OEM or lack of support in the mobile radios. HTC features full support for T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon in the US, and with dual-SIM capabilities, many wireless networks across the world. This also includes native Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and WiFi Calling, both of which worked perfectly on T-Mobile’s US network in our testing.
As one of the original phones to feature front-facing stereo speakers, HTC’s BoomSound has made a name for itself with its quality and volume, not to mention clarity and range of audio. One speaker is found on the bottom of the phone, likely to reduce bezels as much as possible, while the other speaker is found in the earpiece portion above the screen. These speakers are as good as ever, delivering full, clean and loud sound with little to no distortion, even at full volume. There are no audio tricks here like virtual surround sound (like the Galaxy S9) or a Boombox resonating speaker (like the LG G7), just stereo speakers that sound great. Bass levels are pretty typical for a phone, and do little to mimic the effects of a proper subwoofer or larger speakers, simply because of the size of the sound drivers in the phone.
Sound output via Bluetooth is as good as it gets, with support for all high-quality Bluetooth codecs out there like aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. This is Bluetooth 5.0, meaning extended range and bandwidth versus previous versions of Bluetooth. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack on this phone, and HTC is now among the first swath of manufacturers to not include the (now common) USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter. The removal of the 3.5mm audio jack has been an exercise in frustration for many folks, and without an adapter included and no wireless support, the U12+ is an irritating phone to use for folks who need or prefer a wired audio experience.
Typically you’d be able to use any old 3.5mm adapter for the USB Type-C port, but the two different kinds I’ve got do not work on the U12+; instead, I’m greeted with an error message stating that accessory isn’t supported, but the USonic headphones included in the box should be used instead. That would be great if I were actually trying to use headphones on the phone, however, I’m trying to connect it to my car’s high-res audio system via a wired connection. The included USonic earphones at least deliver an excellent experience that’s better than any other pack-in earbud that comes to mind. These plug into the USB Type-C port and feature both customized sound, which is automatically determined by an echo scan of the ear canal, as well as active noise canceling during playback.
Despite having a glass back, the HTC U12+ does not feature wireless charging, which is particularly frustrating if trying to use wired headphones, like the included USonic ones, while you’ve got a low battery. HTC offers up to QuickCharge 4.0 support via the USB Type-C port on the phone, a rarity even among phones with chipsets that support the new faster charging standard. This is definitely good since the phone’s battery life is pretty average on a good day, and somewhat poor on a bad one. Heavy users will likely find they need to top-up the battery before the end of the day, and even light use days ended with less than 20% battery left for me. This has become a frustrating trend in 2018 where many flagship phones are once again having issues making it through a full day with even moderate use.
HTC is launching the U12+ with Android 8.1.0 Oreo, and as of this writing was a bit behind on security patches, which is currently at March 1st, 2018. HTC has updated their home screen launcher to gel with more modern design trends, including a swipe-up app drawer, badges, and of course their excellent BlinkFeed social media aggregator on the left-most page. HTC continues to offer the Sense Companion, an AI-like app that suggests ways to improve battery life, traffic on commonly traveled routes, new restaurants in the area you’re in, and other similar aspects. This was introduced last year, and HTC has continued to add to its repertoire over the past year.
Amazon has their hooks in here too, as the U12+ ships with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built in, with the option to use any of these companions at any time out of the box. HTC also features a large number of themes in their theme store, including “classic” themes, which are what you would expect from a theme, changing out icons, menus, backgrounds, sounds and so on and so forth. Freestyle themes are a little more abstract and allow designers to completely change the way the homescreen launcher looks and feels, without any restrictions on where icons or shortcuts can be placed, and no traditional method of accessing app drawers or other shortcuts.
HTC’s camera interface is superb and ranks among the best out there. The only gesture is a swipe-down one, which pulls up easy to click and see icons for each mode, including the front-facing camera modes. Being able to switch between all available modes at any time is a big change from most OEMs, which typically restrict available modes to whatever camera is in the viewfinder at the time. Many camera UI designs as of late have included swipe gestures, which are designed to give users the ability to quickly change modes or cameras, however, these gestures tend to be more of an annoyance in practice. HTC only includes a single swipe gesture, which prevents accidental mode or camera switching, which is common on many other phones.
The biggest downside is the speed, particularly since the video and photo modes are separate. It takes a full second or two to switch between any mode on the phone, including clicking the handy photo and video buttons on the bottom, and this speed can be problematic for starting a recording or taking a picture quickly. The camera app always launches in the previously used mode, which can be handy sometimes, but can also be an annoyance, as many times starting a camera from a quick launch shortcut means you want to take a photo, but you may have forgotten to take it out of video recording or slow motion mode, meaning you’ll need to switch back modes before taking the shot. There were a number of times where I opened the camera and had to take a few seconds to switch back to photo mode, costing the shot I wanted.
Manual mode is mostly good, with an excellent interface that doesn’t get in the way, and controls that can be pinned on screen all at once, with easy to find “auto” buttons for resetting each option quickly. Shutter speeds range from 1/8000th of a second all the way up to 32 seconds long for some seriously amazing exposures, obviously with a tripod. ISO only goes up to 800 though, which is limiting to say the least, and no focus peaking on manual focus makes it tough to get it right. Custom settings are a nice touch, with the ability to save up to 3 custom presets, as well as some built-in presets for dark shots, macros, and fast action.
Camera Performance and Results
HTC ships the U12+ with four cameras in total; two on front and two in back. Starting with the back we’re looking at a 12-megapixel Ultrapixel-branded sensor with 1.4-micron pixels and an f/1.75 lens, while the secondary sensor is 16-megapixels with 1.0-micron pixels and an f/2.6 2x zoom telephoto lens. The main sensor takes simply incredible images overall, with nearly every category high marks. HTC markets its new HDR Boost 2 on the phone, which boosts dynamic range by taking multiple exposures almost instantly, combining them in the background in what appears to be the same instant.
The results are phenomenal, and while the difference is subtle at times, the phone produces more shadow detail and fewer blown-out highlights than the competition in most lighting conditions, particularly during the day where a bright sky might otherwise excessively darken the rest of the shot, or even be blown out entirely. It struggles a bit in this task during darker conditions though, and I found that lowering the exposure just a slight bit helped bring down those blown out highlights in darker scenes where high contrast lighting exists. This didn’t happen every time, but it was prevalent enough to note. Thankfully, the viewfinder gives you a real-time look at what the final picture should look like, making it easier to adjust brightness on the fly when needed with a single click and a slide.
White balance and color accuracy are second to none though, and 9 times out of 10 you can guarantee the U12 has more accurate colors than other phones out there, which either tend to oversaturate colors or just get the white balance wrong. The irony is that the secondary sensor with telephoto lens doesn’t have great color or white balance and often gets it wrong, tinting the picture the wrong hue, and it’s obvious right in the viewfinder when this happens too. It’s a little bit jarring and unfortunately not easy to correct, as there’s no quick white balance option outside of manual camera mode.
This telephoto lens helps quite a bit with detail, as the main 12-megapixel sensor tends to muddy the details a bit when zooming in. Unlike Samsung’s zoom detail issues, this isn’t a processing issue, rather just a limitation on how much detail can be brought in with only 12-megapixels. While you’re not likely to zoom 900% into an image to see something, the extreme zooms help show the detail differences between the lenses and why it’s important to zoom before taking the shot on a phone like this, if that’s what is intended in the shot.
Paramount to nailing the shot in the first place is getting it in focus from the start, and HTC once again is among the cream of the crop when it comes to both focus times and accuracy. Following a small object like a bee fly can be tough for most phones, but the U12 got it in focus in a split second and enabled me to get some stellar shots that you can see in the galleries below. Likewise, the combination of phase detection and laser autofocus means both sensors do a better job of grabbing the right subject, as evidenced when pitting the U12 against the OnePlus 6, a phone that has focusing issues from time to time.
Portrait mode is something new here but ultimately is just OK at best. This is one of those phones that uses the telephoto lens to take a portrait mode shot, which crops the frame quite a bit and requires you to step back to take the shot when compared to the standard lens, similar to a 50mm lens on an SLR camera. Background separation is good sometimes, and not so good other times, with some weird distance judgment issues that made things look blurry or out of focus at times, and other times just a bit weird. Ultimately I chose not to use this mode after a while, as I had a hard time getting anything decent out of it, and really isn’t great when compared to the competition.
In low light, the biggest compliment is color accuracy, where the U12 once again absolutely nails the right colors 9 times out of 10. Absence of light is absence of color, but this sensor works some pretty impressive magic to get it right. Shadow detail is better in lower light than most other phones in many lower lighting conditions, but the sensor starts to struggle in extremely low light. When pitting it against the Huawei P20 Pro’s auto mode, it’s obvious to see HTC’s sensor struggling to get enough light in many of these scenes, which results in an incredibly high amount of noise. HTC’s processing is not afraid to keep noise to preserve detail though, while other phones, like the Huawei P20 Pro, tend to scrub out all the noise, erasing lots of fine detail in the process. In these extreme situations, it’s likely going to be down to preference as to which one is better looking, but it’s clear the P20 Pro brings in a lot more light, sometimes to an extreme, when compared to the U12, despite the P20 Pro’s color accuracy issues in these situations.
The front-facing cameras are simply excellent, but the portrait mode there suffers from the same issues as the rear camera. Things are soft, the subject is not well separated from the background, and overall the results are simply not impressive even though there are two 8-megapixel cameras here that are quite capable. The difference becomes even more obvious when looking at standard selfie shots from these cameras, which produce not only sharp, detailed scenes, but ones with excellent dynamic range, accurate colors, superb white balance and exposure, and an angle that’s wide enough to take in multiple people or background details, although it’s not as wide as the Xperia XZ2’s or LG V30’s. Lower light results are excellent in conditions that would be considered normal for such photos, while extreme low light turns out a bit dark. HTC has a fill flash for the front-facing camera which lights the screen up a warm white color, similar to other phones, and provides just enough light to illuminate the face, but not enough to either look harsh or truly illuminate the surroundings.
Video recording puts the U12 at the top of the charts when considering both quality and features. HTC offers 4K recording at 60 frames per second, and like other phones, you’ll notice the speed and clarity difference immediately. When directly comparing it to the LG G7 or V30, for example, which tops out at 30 frames per second at 4K resolution, you’ll find the U12 produces smoother video with fewer moments of motion blur, allowing straight clear captures from the frame more often. HTC actually has cleaner and crisper 4K 60FPS recording than most of the competition too, which is noticeable when placed next to the OnePlus 6, which offers the same 4K 60FPS recording options.
Some of these differences can be chocked up to the U12+ having a faster and more accurate focusing mechanism in the camera, but even scenes with the exact same focal point show extra details on HTC’s side versus the OnePlus 6. Just like photo mode, focusing is incredibly fast and accurate, focusing on the right point almost every time, even small objects that move quickly. This compared to some other phones that can’t easily focus on smaller points, while HTC’s is able to gauge both movement and distance for accurate focus using the full-sensor PDAF in conjunction with laser autofocus.
Just like photo mode, you’ll find white balance and color accuracy to be superior, but unlike photo mode, the dynamic range could use a bit of work. Dynamic range is usually good but tends to prefer darker exposures in scenes where there’s a large contrast between light and dark areas, causing a loss in shadow detail but less blown out highlights. In the situations tested though, this resulted in a more pleasant overall image, albeit a bit dark at times, but it’s not as overexposed as some other cameras can be, and tends to have more overall detail thanks to fewer blown out highlights.
HTC has OIS on both rear sensors but curiously enough doesn’t seem to use that secondary sensor at all for video mode. During a walking video recording test, the HTC U12+ trades blows with the OnePlus 6, which takes some of the smoothest video in the industry thanks to a combination of optical and digital stabilization methods. There’s no clear winner or loser in these tests, as both phones produce nearly identically stabilized video with no obvious jittering or other stabilization artifacts; a massive deal when considering some phones don’t offer any meaningful stabilization at all at 4K, let along 4K60 quality.
Zooming in via the viewfinder shows the difference in quality when comparing it to a phone that supports the use of that secondary sensor for video, like the Huawei P20 Pro. The difference in quality of the details is pretty clear when compared to digital zoom. It also shows that HTC matches Huawei’s level of smoothness for zoomed video, meaning HTC’s video is incredibly stable regardless of zooming or not, while OnePlus’s video gets shaky when zooming in, and Huawei’s isn’t well stabilized during movements like walking.
HTC does something special with audio that most other phones never consider: focusing audio on what you’re zoomed into. Folks with kids in a play, band or other similar situation might find this particularly important, as the four directional microphones scattered across the HTC U12+’s body allow it to hone in on a certain sound and isolate the rest, resulting in audio that’s cleaner, clearer and louder for what you actually want to hear. See our video review for direct examples of this. The U12+ absolutely slays the competition here, with results that aren’t even close, showcasing HTC’s audio expertise in this area. The U12+ also offers other advanced audio recording options like HD audio and 3D audio, which only a few other phones do, providing a way to record surround sound with the phone. Focus audio is unique to HTC’s setup, which was introduced with the U11 last year and is further improved this year.
Lastly is slow motion video, and while HTC isn’t joining the ranks of super slow motion 480 or 960 frames per second video, it is offering full 1080p slow motion video at 240 FPS. This offers a good tradeoff between quality, frame rate, frame cropping, lighting and the ability to select what plays back at regular speed or slow motion after recording. Detail is very good, although it could be even better if that secondary telephoto lens were able to be used, as clicking the 2x zoom button on the viewfinder only digitally zooms into the 1080p image. Bonus points for being able to record audio in slow motion too, which always adds a hilarious edge to slow motion videos that is not present on phones with support for slower motion at 480 or 960 FPS.
Ultra high-quality build
Unique, gorgeous colors
Good quality stereo speakers
Well-designed camera interface
Excellent photo quality
Audio zooming in video
Super stable 4k 60FPS video
Edge Sense 2 is extremely useful
Edge Launcher is genius
QuickCharge 4 support
Unlocked phone supports AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in the US
Included USonic earbuds are amazing quality, especially for a pack-in
Pressure sensitive volume/power buttons are unreliable
Average battery life at best
Light bleed and inconsistent white balance on the display
No 3.5mm audio jack
No 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter included in the box
Incompatibilities with some 3.5mm adapters
HTC has crafted a brilliant phone; one with unique new ideas that make a difference in daily use, like Edge Sense 2 and the Edge Launcher. Other unique ideas didn't turn out so well, like the new pressure-sensitive volume and power buttons, which are a cool concept, but ultimately turn out to be far less reliable than traditional buttons. This, combined with mediocre battery life and difficulties outputting audio to some devices, make it a more frustrating experience than last year, and at this price, it's difficult to forgive such frustrating issues. At a lower price this is an incredible phone, but at $800, these issues are tough to stomach. The bright side is that these issues all seem to be software related, and could swiftly be fixed by HTC in an upcoming update, in which case the phone's recommendation state would certainly change, especially with the long list of positives above.