Earlier this summer when I took a look at HTC’s most recent flagship phone, I was terribly conflicted. On one hand, I was a big fan of the U12+’s clear glass back (haven’t you heard, translucent gadgets are cool again), while its dual cameras on the back are probably the most underappreciated cameras in the smartphone world. Unfortunately, those features weren’t enough to completely redeem below average battery life and really annoying touch sensitive buttons on its side.
But now, HTC is trying to redeem its premium handset with the new U12 Life, which is a budget/midrange take on the U12+. Except in a lot of ways, the two are less related than I initially thought, which may be the best thing about it.
But if you’re just looking at the U12 Life’s design, HTC seems to have strayed into some funky design ideas that has left the U12 Life looking like the confused loffspring of an iPhone X and a Pixel 2 XL. In front, there are no notches or fingerprint sensors in sight, while in back, you get a pill-shaped dual camera module on top of a partially striped two-toned finish that covers up the phone’s acrylic glass chassis. At this point, I’m not entirely sure if this is supposed to be a simple mishmash of derivative designs, or a snide piece of commentary on modern smartphones aesthetics.
Thankfully, the U12 Life’s screen is largely the same, measuring 15cm across, though resolution has taken a dip down to 2160 x 1080. And on the inside, you’re looking at more conservative components with the U12 Life sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, 4GB/6GB of RAM, 64GB/128GB of storage, an SD card slot, and both a USB-C port and a headphone jack on bottom, the latter of which the U12+ never had.
And in another strange turn of events, the midrange U12 Life’s 3,600 mAh battery is actually slightly larger than the 3,500 mAh power pack in the U12+, which when combined with its less powerful processor and lower resolution display, should go a long way towards addressing the lacklustre longevity I saw on the U12+.
HTC has even seen the error of its ways and equipped the U12 life with standard physical buttons for power and volume. And if the 16-MP plus 5-MP cameras in back are anywhere close to as good as what was on the U12+, the U12 Life might actually be a solid affordable alternative to all the cheap new phones Nokia, Huawei, and Motorola have been pushing out.
Sadly, for us here in the U.S. (and Australia), we may never get a chance to live the U12 Life, as the phone is currently only slated for release in Europe and Asia, with UK pricing starting at 279 pounds and availability sometime in Q4 2018.