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Hands On with the HTC U12 Life

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Aug 31, 2018, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's mid-range phone has character. It comes with a two-tone finish on the rear that sets it apart from the crowd. A 6-inch display graces the front and dual cameras adorn the rear, while an average set of specs are within Here are Phone Scoop's first thoughts.

The U12 Life from HTC is a mid-range handset that sits below the company's U12+ flagship. The U12 Life offers good looks and decent performance at an affordable price point.

The U12 Life dazzles thanks to the glossy finish of the rear panel. It's meant to stand out, and it does. About one-third of the rear is mirror-like in its finish, while the rest has a striped texture. The stripes travel from side to side and sound like a zipper if you drag your fingernail across it. The purple and blue shades are nice, even if they lean a bit too much toward pastels.

The finish may come across as metal, but it is not. HTC says the U12 Life is made from acrylic glass that is hardened to prevent scratches. It's plastic, folks. The upper half of the phone is easily mucked up with fingerprints. The phone's frame is made of polycarbonate. It has its own reflective finish.

With a 6-inch screen on front, the phone is rather large. Some may find it is took bit. I think it's a good size. I didn't have any trouble getting my hands around it. It's slim enough that you can easily drop it into a pocket. It's fairly light, much lighter than the U12+.

HTC has done enough with the materials to convince me this isn't a cheap-o phone. The plastic frame feels strong and the rear panel is tougher than you think. The units on hand appeared to be manufactured well.

The front of the phone is nearly all screen. The 6-inch panel fills the majority of the front, leaving acceptable bezels all the way around. HTC kept the forehead and chin in check. The user-facing camera is easy to spot and the user-facing flash stands out like a pimple. There are no buttons below the screen.

Speaking of the screen, the full HD+ panel looks good. With the 18:9 aspect ratio, you've got 2,180 by 1,440 pixels. The display is sharp, clear, and bright. Viewing angles looked decent and colors were accurate.

HTC has a problem with buttons this year. The U12+ has awful electric buttons that are hard to operate. The U12 Life suffers from mush. Both the ridged screen lock button and the volume toggle have terrible travel and feedback. The volume toggle in particular is miserable. It hardly feels like you're pushing the key at all.

The SIM card slot is on the left edge, the USB-C port i son the bottom edge, and the 3.5mm headphone jack is on top. This arrangement is all typical.

You won't have any trouble locating the fingerprint reader. It's right where it should be, and is indented nicely. The camera module, which is raised a bit, is pushed into the upper left corner similar to the iPhone X. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with phase-detection autofocus, HDR, face detection, and two-tone LED flash. It is aided by a 5-megapixel camera for bokeh / portrait shots.

Under the hood, the U12 Life is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage. The phone packs a 3,600mAh battery with power saving mode.

The U12 Life ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, but it has HTC's user interface skin on board. It feels a bit heavy-handed to me, but it ran smoothly.

Sadly, HTC said it has no plans to sell the U12 Life in the U.S. The company may change its mind, but don't hold your breath.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.


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