It's hard, these days, to make an impression in the mobile phone world. You can really stand out if you have, say, a notch in the display as the iPhone X did. Except everyone's doing that now.
Two cameras on the rear of the phone are also de rigueur nowadays on larger phones. So how has Taiwanese brand HTC decided to make its mark with its latest phone?
Well, plenty of new stuff, actually, even if at first glance the HTC U12+ does look like many of the other handsets on the market right now, though there’s no notch here, which will please many.
HTC, like Nokia, has always had an exceptional eye for colour and that’s the first thing you notice here. Sure, you can opt for the safe colour, Ceramic Black, which is nice enough, but why would you when there’s a glitzy Flame Red or the super-cool Transparent Blue – actually, it’s more translucent but who’s counting? – which lets you see through the casing to electronics below in a delicate, shimmery way.
All of the cases have glass backs that change colour according to the angle at which you hold them, most dramatically in the case of the red edition, which turns to gold in the blink of an eye. It’s very fetching. HTC calls this Liquid Surface design and it’s very eye-catching.
It ties in to the 6-inch display, which is highly attractive, though not OLED, as is becoming standard among flagship phones. But the LCD screen here is very high-resolution (537ppi) and supports HDR. It’s not a full-screen phone, unlike the iPhone X, for instance. However, the screen ratio is 18:9, that is 2:1, which makes the 6-inch screen feel like a good fit in the hand. There are non-screen areas at top and bottom, but there’s practically nothing at the sides as the display creeps right across.
Beyond the looks, there are more innovations. Last year’s HTC U11 became the first 'squeezy' phone when it introduced Edge Sense – pressure sensors in the sides of the phone added extra functionality. Squeeze the phone to take a photo, long squeeze to turn on the torch or whatever you fancied.
Now comes HTC Edge Sense 2 which adds greater customisation. A gentle double-tap on the edge is a new way to interact. The phone can also tell if you’re holding it so if you’re lolling in bed and the phone isn’t quite upright in your hand as a result, it won’t keep slipping from portrait to landscape orientation when you don't want it to. This is the kind of detail at which HTC has consistently excelled thanks to exceptional engineers including the accomplished Drew Bamford.
The camera, a major feature on every smartphone just now, is also inventive. Sure, there are twin cameras on the back – something HTC pioneered, by the way, though perhaps it came up with them a little too early – but this phone has dual cameras on the front, too. So, those charming bokeh-effect portraits can be taken of yourself as well as others.
The rear cameras have different focal lengths to give an effective 2x optical zoom. One is a 12-megapixel sensor, the other 16-megapixel while the front-facing cameras are both 8-megapixel.
A decent-sized (3500mAh) battery and Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip suggest strong performance, and battery life is usually very strong on HTC phones.
There’s no U12, by the way, the + size is the only one available. The handset is available for pre-order now and costs £699.
I’ll be reviewing the phone in due course but as a balance of innovation and good looks there’s much to like about the HTC U12+.