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HTC U12 Life review: Hands on with HTC’s latest mid-tier smartphone

HTC tackles the mid-tier yet again, and the U12 Life could be HTC’s best-priced smartphone yet

There’s life in HTC yet. Following Google’s acquisition last year, tech pundits (myself included) expected to see HTC’s last hurrah with the 2017 launch of the HTC U11 Plus. I was forced to eat my hat shortly after, though, as HTC’s mobile division is still kicking about.

Following a slew of smartphone releases, HTC is back at IFA 2018, with its mid-range tour de force, the bizarrely-titled HTC U12 Life. Clunky name aside, this well-priced smartphone looks to be one of 2018’s most intriguing, and is set to shine a bright light on the future of the Taiwanese company.

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HTC U12 Life review: Key specifications, price and release date

  • 6in 2,160 x 1,080 LTPS display
  • Octa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 16-megapixel f/2.0 and 5-megapixel f/2.0 rear cameras
  • 13-megapixel f/2.0 front camera
  • 64GB of storage, expandable up to 400GB via microSD
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 3,6000mAh battery
  • UK price: TBC
  • UK release date: September 2018

HTC U12 Life review: Design, key features and first impressions

Mid-range phones are a tough nut to crack. While smartphone engineers are granted free reign when it comes to flagships, mid-tier phones struggle to tread that fine line of high-end features and affordability. More often than not, these £300-ish phones aren’t particularly well-received.

The HTC U12 Life, however, hits the nail directly on the head. Its lavish new dual-finish design is stellar; the chassis is fitted with microscopic metallic particles sandwiched between multiple layers of glass. HTC calls this “Optical Spectrum Hybrid Deposition”, and this sci-fi effect creates the illusion that the phone has a metallic, shiny, quality.

The bottom two thirds of the phone’s back are laser engraved, with 3mm deep stripes running horizontally, for added grip and fingerprint friendliness. It’s a particularly special look, and also helps keep your phone in your hand while you’re wandering about staring at Google Maps.

The top portion of the phone’s rear is coated in the mirrored, metallic-looking glass I mentioned earlier, and includes the rear camera modules and circular fingerprint reader for secure unlocking. As for colours, you can buy the HTC U12 Life in either Moonlight Blue or Twilight Purple when it arrives, with both paint jobs looking striking, glinting when the phone catches the light – as you can see from my hands-on images.

Elsewhere, you’ll find a 6in bezel-less screen on the front, with a screen-to-body ratio of 83%. There’s no notch either (hooray!) with slim top and bottom bezels above and below the screen. As for quality, you’ll be staring at a FHD+ (1,920 x 1080) resolution LPTS screen, which is capable of producing a contrast ratio of 1,500:1.

Powering the phone is Qualcomm’s recent mid-range chipset, the octa-core Snapdragon 636, which is clocked at 1.8GHz. This speedy chip, HTC says, offers a 30% improvement over the previous-generation Snapdragon 630 processor, with a 10% graphics bump, too.

READ NEXT: HTC U12+ review

The phone also launches with 4GB of RAM for juggling your Android applications, as well as 64GB of onboard storage, which is expandable via microSD. Keeping things running is a 3,600mAh battery, which is expected to last up to 13 hours on a single charge, according to HTC’s own video playback test.

The U12 Life runs Android 8.1 Oreo, which isn’t the latest version of Google’s ever-popular mobile operating system, but an update to Android 9 Pie is expected in the very near future.

As for the camera capabilities, HTC’s latest mid-ranger is equipped with a 16-megapixel rear-facing snapper, with a relatively wide f/2.0 aperture, and a 5-megapixel f/2.2 depth sensor for fancy bokeh-effect shots. On the front of the phone, you’ll spot a 13-megapixel f/2.0 camera for your Instagram selfies.

Lastly, the phone is capable of recording 4K video at a maximum of 30fps, and Full HD resolution footage at a silky-smooth 60fps.

HTC U12 Life review: Early verdict

HTC’s U12 Life is certainly very interesting. In a market saturated with mid-range headsets,  with many middling results, HTC’s freshest mid-ranger has the potential to breathe new, ahem, life into the long-standing Taiwanese firm. With a decent camera, top-notch design and a lovely screen, the Life is perfectly poised to come out fighting when it launches in October.

I’m yet to receive a handset for full review, but I’ll update this article in the coming weeks with my final thoughts.

ProcessorOcta-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
Screen size6in
Screen resolution2,160 x 1,080
Screen typeLTPS
Front camera13-megapixel
Rear camera16-megapixel, 5-megapixel
Storage (free)64GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wireless data4G
Dimensions159 x 75 x 8 mm
Operating systemAndroid 8.1 Oreo
Battery size3,600mAh

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