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11
Jun

Snapchat Introduces Ability to Delete Messages Even After You’ve Sent Them


Snapchat today announced a new feature called “Clear Chats,” which lets you delete any message you’ve sent to another person on Snapchat, whether in individual or group chat. This encompasses text chats, stickers, audio and voice notes, and any photo and video snaps sent from Memories.

To delete a chat message you can press and hold on the message or media in question and select the new “Delete” option. Snapchat warns that after this the recipient will be alerted in the conversation that a message was deleted. Anyone can still screenshot message contents as well.

Clear Chat will not be affected by direct snaps, however, so if you open Snapchat, take a picture with the camera, and send it to someone, the snap will not be deletable. Instead, any photo or video snap sent from Memories (swiping up on the camera screen) can now be deleted after it’s been sent, in addition to basic text deleting options.

Additionally, the social media company is today launching the second generation Spectacles on Amazon in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, after first being available only on Snapchat.com. In the coming weeks, Amazon storefronts in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain will also gain Spectacles 2.0.

On Amazon, Spectacles will be available in Onyx Moonlight, Sapphire Twilight, and Ruby Daybreak, and the glasses will run for $150 in the United States. Snapchat chose to launch the new Spectacles only on its own website at first in a bid to ensure that supply and demand was more balanced this time around, and now the company is prepared for a wider rollout.

Message deleting will roll out to Snapchat users across the world over the next few weeks.

Tag: Snapchat
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11
Jun

Deals: Best Buy Discounts HomePod and Apple Watch Series 3 GPS by $50


Best Buy today has Apple’s HomePod on sale for $299.99 in both White and Space Gray, representing $50 in savings for the smart home speaker. While it’s been possible to get HomePod for even cheaper thanks to offers like eBay’s occasional 20 percent off coupons, straight discounts on brand new models have been a bit more rare, making this a good opportunity to add HomePod to your home if you’ve been on the fence.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Best Buy also has $50 off Apple Watch Series 3 today, with 38mm Aluminum down to $279.00 and 42mm Aluminum down to $309.00. A few other Best Buy deals on Apple products are listed below:

  • Verizon iPhone – Buy a select iPhone and get one free with qualifying Verizon activation
  • iPad mini – Save $100 / as low as $299.99 for 128GB
  • MacBook Pro – Save up to $250 / as low as $1,499.99 with Student Deals
  • 21.5-inch iMac – Latest model, 3.4 GHz, 8GB, 1TB for $1,299.99, down from $1,499.99
  • 27-inch iMac – Latest model, 3.8 GHz, 8GB, 2TB for $2,099.99, down from $2,299.99
  • iTunes gift cards – Buy one, save 20 percent on another

Although PayPal’s Digital Gifts eBay store had a better deal on App Store and iTunes Cards this weekend, it’s now expired, leaving Best Buy and Target’s BOGO 20 percent offers as the best around for iTunes credit savings. With deals like this, the more you spend the more you can save, so buying two $100 cards will cost $180, two $50 cards will cost $90, and two $25 cards will cost $45.

Those beginning to buy gifts before Father’s Day this weekend also have a few options to choose from today. Notable accessory companies like Twelve South and Pad & Quill have debuted sales for Father’s Day, which we’ve listed below:

  • Twelve South – Save on iPhone cases, iPad cases, charging docks, and more in Twelve South’s Father’s Day Gift Guide 2018

  • Pad & Quill – Save 15 percent on all wallets

  • Braven – Get 20 percent off sitewide with code LOVEDAD

  • B&H Photo – Save on a variety of Apple products like the 2018 iPad ($30 off), Late 2016 MacBook Pro ($800 off), Cellular Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 3 ($50 off), and more

Head to our full Deals Roundup for more sales and savings going on as we get closer to Father’s Day on Sunday, June 17.

Related Roundups: Apple Deals, HomePodBuyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)
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11
Jun

Apple Releases Updated Beta of New watchOS 5 Operating System to Developers


Apple this morning seeded an updated beta of an upcoming watchOS 5 update, one week after releasing the first beta after the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote. watchOS 5 is the newest version of the software that runs on the Apple Watch.

To install the beta, you’ll need the proper configuration profile, which can be obtained through the Apple Developer Center. Once the profile is in place, the watchOS 5 beta can be downloaded using the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update.

To update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone. It would be wise to install the beta on a secondary device instead of a primary device given that this is an early version of the watchOS 5 software that still has bugs to be worked out.

The first version of the initial watchOS 5 beta was pulled by Apple shortly after it was released due to reports that the beta had been bricking some Series 2 Apple Watches, rendering them unusable. This new beta fixes that issue and makes the watchOS 5 update available to developers once again.

watchOS 5 is a significant update to watchOS, introducing Activity Competitions so you can compete on workouts with friends, Walkie-Talkie with push-to-talk functionality for quickly communicating with the people you talk to most, and auto workout detection to make it easier than ever to start and stop workouts.

Other new features include an improved Siri watch face with support for third-party apps, a dedicated Apple Podcasts app, new Workout types that include Yoga and Hiking, new features for runners, WebKit support for viewing some web content on Apple Watch, and enhanced notifications, which will make notifications on the Apple Watch interactive.

watchOS 5 is only available to developers and will not be provided to public beta testers (because there’s no way to downgrade Apple Watch software), so non-developers will need to wait until the software is officially released in the fall to try it out.

The watchOS 5 update runs on all Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3 Apple Watch models. It is not available for the first-generation “Series 0” Apple Watch models, likely due to performance and battery issues.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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11
Jun

Apple Seeds Second Beta of iOS 11.4.1 to Developers


Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming iOS 11.4.1 update to developers, two weeks after seeding the first beta and a little over two weeks after releasing iOS 11.4, an update that introduced AirPlay 2 and Messages in iCloud.

Registered developers can download the new iOS 11.4.1 beta from Apple’s Developer Center or over-the-air once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Developer Center.

No new features were discovered in the first iOS 11.4.1 beta, suggesting it focuses on bug fixes and performance improvements to address issues discovered since the release of iOS 11.4.

We’ll update this post should we discover any new features in the second iOS 11.4.1 beta, but we’re not expecting major changes now that Apple has shifted its focus to iOS 12, which is also available to developers for beta testing purposes.

Related Roundup: iOS 11
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11
Jun

Unify your PC and accessory lighting with Razer’s expanded Chroma support


Razer has expanded its stable of supported devices and accessories for its Chroma lighting system to include third parties. That means that anyone running AMD, MSI, Thermaltake, NZXT, and other third-party accessories will be able to synchronize their lighting effects with Razer products and with one another, to make for a prettier, more uniform lighting experience.

Most of the major gaming mice, keyboard, and PC makers offer some form of lighting with their products. The problem with that though, is that unless you happen to buy all of your accessories from the same company, making them look cohesive in the way they blink and flash isn’t easy — even with control software. With Razer’s new Chroma partnership scheme though, you’ll be able to make a much more unified lighting profile for your gaming system.

Razer Chroma is a lighting platform that combines back-end software for customizing RGB LEDs across a variety of devices, with game profile support for unique looks when playing games like Overwatch, Fortnite, Thumper, and many others. Now those games and profiles can be supported across AMD, Lian Li, MSI, Vertagear, Ducky, NZXT, and Thermaltake devices. The Chroma platform already supports Philips smart lights and Nanoleaf light panels for full room ambience, as per The Verge

That broad swathe of company support means that you can have your PC case, motherboard, keyboard, mouse, headset, and other accessories, all synchronized to display the right colors at the right time, and the right frequency. It’s made possible through a new Razer API which helps connect them all to the Chroma software. This makes integration of the Chroma platform far easier for developers than Razer’s previous partnership offering, which required hardware makers to hard-program the products to work with Chroma. With the API, companies can simply add that expanded functionality to their lighting systems through software.

The only downside to this is that at present, most existing products don’t support it. Razer suggests that the first products from third parties to fully support Razer Chroma will be released toward the end of this year.

If you’d rather just get your hands on some great gaming accessories right now, these are our favorite gaming keyboards.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best gaming keyboards
  • The best laptops for programming
  • AMD combats upgrade woes with ‘crates’ featuring discounted hardware bundles
  • Razer claims ‘world’s smallest’ with its 2018-edition Blade 15 gaming laptop
  • Logitech G560 review



11
Jun

LG V35 ThinQ vs Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus vs Galaxy S9: Flagship standoff


Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The new LG V35 ThinQ is almost the exact same as last year’s LG V30, except it boosts more contemporary specs. LG’s pricing this modest update at $900, which puts it ahead of Samsung’s latest flagship smartphones, pricing-wise.

To see whether the V35 ThinQ is worth your hard-earned dollars, we put it up against the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. Let’s take a look.

Specs

LG V35 ThinQ

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S9

Size
151.7 x 75.4 x 7.3 mm (5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches)
157.7 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm (6.21 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches)
147.6 x 68.7 x 8.4 mm (5.81 x 2.70 x 0.33 in)

Weight
157 grams (5.54 ounces)
189 grams (6.67 ounces)
163 grams (5.75 ounces)

Screen size
6.0-inch P-OLED display
6.2-inch AMOLED display
5.8-inch AMOLED display

Screen resolution
2,880 x 1,440 pixels (537 pixels per inch)
2,960 x 1,440 pixels (531 pixels per inch)
2,960 x 1,440 pixels (568 pixels per inch)

Operating system
Android 8.0 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo

Storage space
64GB, 128GB
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
64GB, 128GB, 256GB

MicroSD card slot
Yes
Yes
Yes

Tap-to-pay services
Google Pay, LG Pay (in Korea)
Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Google Pay, Samsung Pay

Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

RAM
4GB, 6GB
6GB
4GB

Camera
Dual 16MP (with OIS) and 16MP rear, 8MP front
Dual 12MP (with OIS) and 12MP (with OIS) rear, variable aperture, 8MP front
12MP (with OIS) rear, variable aperture, 8MP front

Video
Up to 4K at 30 frames per second, 1,080p at 60 fps, 720p at 120 fps
Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 1,080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps
Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 1,080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps

Bluetooth version
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0

Ports
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C

Fingerprint sensor
Yes (rear)
Yes (rear)
Yes (rear)

Water resistance
IP68
IP68
IP68

Battery
3,300mAh

Quick Charge 3.0

Qi wireless charging

3,500mAh

Quick Charge 2.0

Qi wireless charging

3,000mAh

Quick Charge 2.0

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Network support
AT&T, Project Fi
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

Colors
Aurora Black, Platinum Gray
Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple
Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple

Price
$900
$840
$720

Buy from

LG, AT&T, Project Fi

Samsung, Amazon

Samsung, Amazon

Review score
Hands-on
4.5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All three of these phones are top-tier 2018 flagships, and as such they feature some of the same specs. For example, the devices boast the latest and greatest Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 845. While the Galaxy S9 offers 4GB of RAM and the Galaxy S9 Plus 6GB of RAM, the LG V35 ThinQ offers options for either 4GB or 6GB of RAM.

Storage, however, is where the Galaxy series inch ahead. While the 64GB or 128GB of storage found on the V35 ThinQ is more than enough for most people, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus both come with 256GB of storage.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus has the biggest battery capacity, but it also has the biggest screen. Second is the LG V35 ThinQ with its 3,300mAh battery, followed by the Galaxy S9 with a 3,000mAh battery. All three devices offer Qi wireless charging, and the V35 ThinQ boasts Quick Charge 3.0, while the Galaxy S9 devices swap it for Quick Charge 2.0.

Because of the extra RAM or options for extra RAM, the Galaxy S9 Plus and LG V35 ThinQ are the winners here.

Winner: LG V35 ThinQ / Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Design and durability

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All three of these phones also feature pretty modern designs. The LG V35 ThinQ offers a 6-inch display with nice, rounded corners and slim bezels. There’s still a small forehead and chin here — but they’re relatively slim and the trade-off is that there’s no notch. On the back of the phone, you’ll find a dual-sensor camera along with a fingerprint sensor around a third down from the top. The fingerprint sensor doubles as a power button.

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus feature almost identical designs. They also offer rounded corners and a slim forehead and chin, along with a camera and fingerprint sensor on the back. On the Galaxy S9, you’ll find a single-lens camera, while the Galaxy S9 Plus packs a dual-lens camera. Design will come down to personal choice here, as we think all three phones look gorgeous.

The devices are all similar when it comes to durability. They all use Gorilla Glass 5, and they all have IP68 water resistance.

Winner: Tie

Display

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Phone displays are getting better and better. Thankfully, all three of this devices have ditched LCD displays in favor of OLED ones, though they offer slightly different forms of OLED displays. Samsung has opted for Super AMOLED displays in the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, while LG has used a P-OLED display for the LG V35 ThinQ. They all feature 1,440 pixel resolutions too, with very similar pixel densities.

Perhaps the main difference here is how big the displays are. The Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch display, the LG V35 ThinQ has a 6-inch display, and the Galaxy S9 Plus has a 6.2-inch display. We think Samsung’s display is stronger here, and the bigger screen on the S9 Plus can’t be beat for media consumption.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The LG V35 ThinQ has a dual-lens camera with one 16-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and an f/1.6 aperture, along with a second 16-megapixel sensor with an f/1.9 aperture. The second lens is a wide-angle lens, which lets you capture a whole lot more in a photo. There’s also Portrait Mode, quick access to Google Lens, and AI Cam. AI Cam identifies scenes and tweaks the photo to look a little better. It hasn’t worked too well for us, though.

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus step things up a little. How? With a variable aperture. The aperture on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus ranges from f/1.5 to f/2.4, meaning it changes based on the amount of light in the environment you’re in. That should offer you better low-light photos. The second sensor on the Galaxy S9 Plus has 12 megapixels, as well as a f/2.4 aperture. It delivers 2x optical zoom and Live Focus mode, which is similar to Apple’s Portrait Mode.

Thanks to the extra sensor and variable aperture, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Software and updates

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All three of the phones run Android 8.0 Oreo, and they’ll all likely get the update to Android P once it becomes available to consumers — though neither LG nor Samsung are known for quick and timely updates.

The software experience on the LG V35 ThinQ is relatively sleek. It’s not stock Android, and LG has tweaked various parts of the user interface to look different. There are also a few LG apps pre-installed.

Samsung has done the same, adding its own personal style into its Galaxy phones, along with a lot of Samsung apps. Which user interface you like will depend on personal preference.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus boast a ton of interesting features to consider. For starters, you can use your phone like a computer with the Samsung Dex Pad or Dex Station, plus you can use it with the Samsung Gear VR too. If you’re not a fan of Google Assistant, you can instead use Samsung’s Bixby.

The LG V35 still offers some nice features though — the phone has what LG calls “Super Far-Field Voice Recognition,” which means it should allow for voice activation from up to 17 feet away, and it has a lot of audio features, such as a Quad DAC for the headphone jack.

There’s no tie-breaking feature here.

Winner: Tie

Price

All three of these phones are flagship devices, and as such they’re all a little pricey. The Galaxy S9 is the cheapest by quite a bit. It comes in at $720, while the Galaxy S9 Plus has a price tag of $840. The LG V35 ThinQ is the most expensive of the bunch, costing a hefty $900 to buy.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

This is a very close competition, but in the end the Galaxy S9 Plus inches out the competition. How? Well, mostly thanks to a better display and camera. If you don’t mind doing away with the dual-sensor camera, then the standard Galaxy S9 is an excellent option — and you’ll save some cash along the way.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • LG G7 ThinQ vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: Clash for the heavyweight title
  • HTC U12 Plus vs. Galaxy S9 Plus: Clash of the plus-sized phones
  • The Galaxy S9 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 8: Samsung’s heavyweights slug it out
  • OnePlus 6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: Which big phone is better?
  • Huawei P20 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: Are three better than two?



11
Jun

Lenovo revamps Legion brand with affordable gaming laptops and desktops


Ahead of E3, Lenovo has announced a complete relaunch of its gaming devices sold under the Legion brand. If you’re looking for the highest-powered computers you can buy, these won’t be them. In fact, Lenovo is focusing more on the hobby gamer — the person for whom gaming isn’t the primary identifier of them as a person.

In attempting to reach outside the traditional gaming audience, Lenovo has two new laptops, two new mini-PCs, and two tower desktops — all with updated components and a new design sensibility.

Laptops

Legion Y530

At the bottom of the range of prices is the Y530, which is an entry-level, 15.6-inch gaming laptop. Lenovo has trimmed down the bezels and the overall size of the laptop from previous models, now offering a much sleeker look to match what you might find on a Razer Blade laptop.

The Y530 is 5.1 pounds and 0.94 inches thick, which is significantly smaller than previous generations, though not quite as much as the 2018 Razer Blade. Across both new laptops, Lenovo has moved many of the larger ports to the rear, replacing them with extra vents on the side for improved cooling. You’ll still have two USB-A ports on either side for easy access, though theY530 doesn’t have a Thunderbolt 3 port.

While the Y530 is smaller, it’s still got some pretty impressive internal components under the hood. You have a choice between two powerful CPUs: The Intel Core i5-8300H and the Core i7-8750H. On the graphics side of things, the Y530 has either the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti. Memory goes up to 32GB of RAM, and storage up to 512GB of PCIe NVMe, plus an optional 2TB hard drive.

Lastly, the Y530 comes with your option of either a 60Hz or 144Hz display. Thankfully, Lenovo is not offering a 4K panel and is instead focusing on Full-HD 1080p screens. The Y530 has a 52.5 watt-hour battery, and Lenovo says you can expect around five hours of battery life.

The Legion Y530 starts at $930, while the 144Hz model is priced at $1,230. It’ll be available for purchase online in June 2018 and at Best Buy in July.

Legion Y730

A lot of the same new design features from the Y530 have also been brought to the spendier model, the Y730. Some of those features include ports being moved to the back, thinned-out bezels, and a smaller overall frame. Speaking of the frame, the Legion Y730 comes with an all-aluminum body,

Overall, the Y730 is the thinner and higher-end model compared to the Y530, though it comes in both  15-inch and 17-inch variants. The 15-inch Y730 is thinner and lighter than the Y530 at 4.8 pounds and 0.78 inches thick. The 17-inch, meanwhile, weighs in at 6.4 pounds and measures up to 0.86 inches thick at the front and 0.95 inches at the rear.

As for internals, the Legion Y730 offers the same Core i5-8300H and Core i7-870H options, though the GTX 1050 Ti is your only choice for the Y730. Both the 15- and 17-inch can be configured with memory from 8GB to 32GB of RAM, and storage from 128GB to 512GB of PCIe NVMe. The primary benefits you get with the Y730 is a Thunderbolt 3 port, thinner chassis, and fancy RGB lighting in the keyboard.

The Legion Y730 even has the same IPS display options — either a 60Hz or a 144Hz screen, with both being able to turn up to 300 nits and show 72 percent of the AdobeRGB color space. The 15-inch Legion Y730 starts at $1,180 and the 17-inch starts at $1,250. Both will be available for purchase online in June 2018 and at Best Buy in July.


11
Jun

HTC U12+ review: Buttonless blunder


A wonky digital button setup spoils what is otherwise a decent Android flagship.

It’s rare to come across a flagship smartphone with a single fatal flaw. That, however, is where we are with the HTC U12+. The new all-digital button setup, which replaces traditional micro-switches with pressure-sensitive wizardry, just doesn’t work well. Until it’s fixed, little else about this phone matters.

HTC U12+



u12-render.jpg

Price: $799

Bottom line: HTC’s new high-end offering is speedy, with impressive glass-backed designs and very capable cameras, but it’s undone by a busted digital button setup.

Pros:

  • Speedy performance and minimal software bloat
  • Stunning photo quality across the board
  • Beautiful colored glass back panels

Cons:

  • Pressure-sensitive volume/power buttons don’t work well
  • Edge Sense unreliable, also prone to ghost input
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Dated HTC Sense UI design

See at HTC

HTC U12+ Prelude

The HTC U12+ is a fast, beautiful smartphone with relatively clean software, capable of taking fantastic photos using an impressive twin-camera setup.

When something as basic as a button doesn’t work reliably, any other critique is redundant.

But such high praise is immaterial when you can’t reliably press the power button. Or when the level of pressure to trigger each button isn’t consistent or predictable, or seems to change depending on battery charge level or ambient temperature, or when buttons randomly trigger by themselves, or when the phone spontaneously reboots itself because of ghost presses of several seconds on the power key.

It’s not like this happens every single time you pick up the device. Often, the U12+ can go for hours at a time without any pressure-sensitive hiccups. But problems occur often enough that any other critique around the usual things like battery life, display quality and photo performance is academic.

Nevertheless, we do owe you a full review of the HTC U12+, so read on to learn about a pretty great phone that you shouldn’t buy until they fix the buttons.

About this review

We’re publishing this review after two weeks with the HTC U12+. I (Alex Dobie) have been using a European U12+ in the UK on EE, and in Taipei, Taiwan on Chunghwa Telecom. Shortly after picking up my first U12+ unit, I noticed multiple issues with the phone’s new, all-digital volume and power keys, as well as the pressure-sensitive Edge Sense feature. HTC replaced the phone with a different unit, which performed better than the first, but exhibited the same problems after around 24 hours.

My review device was running software version 1.15.401.4, based on Android 8.0 Oreo, with the March 1, 2018 Android security patch. HTC tells us this is final retail-ready software, but that a firmware update will be arriving in future to refine button sensitivity and fine-tune Edge Sense based on the feedback received so far, along with other bug fixes and improvements.

Hayato Huseman, who produced our video review, has been using a U.S. unlocked variant of the U12+ running software version 1.15.617.4. He has experienced many of the same issues around the phone’s digital buttons.

htc-u12-review-1.jpg?itok=EhK7QAbW

HTC U12+ Full Review

If you’re familiar with the U11+, the under-appreciated extra-large cousin of the U11 that launched in late 2017, then the design of the U12+ will be very familiar.

For everyone else, this is a pretty standard 18:9 Android slab from the front, with a few pleasing design cues to set it apart. There’s no display notch, for what that’s worth. Instead, the U12+ sports a slightly asymmetrical forehead and chin. And the surface of the display is raised up from the metal frame by a near right-angle curve of the glass itself. At first, I mistook this for a plastic rim, but nope: it’s curved, angled glass going straight into metal, which is an impressive manufacturing feat.

Like HTC’s past two flagships, the rear of the U12+ is far more visually appealing. I’ve been using the standard reflective gunmetal color, which is almost identical to the same hue in last year’s U11+. There’s also a translucent blue option, which gives you a peek at the innards of the phone, as well as a fiery iridescent red, which shifts between blood red and a golden yellow.

htc-u12-review-9.jpg?itok=R9ZeRrva

The U12+ is a little on the chunky side, but HTC’s lustrous glass designs shine through.

Operating System Android 8.0, HTC Sense
Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Adreno 630 GPU
Display 6-inch 2880×1440, Super LCD 6DCI-P3, HDR10Gorilla Glass 5
RAM 6GB
Storage 64 / 128GB UFS 2.1
Main Camera 12MP, 1.4μm pixels ƒ/1.75 lens, OIS, EISUltraPixel 4, UltraSpeed AF, HDR Boost
Secondary Camera 16MP 1μm pixels ƒ2.6 lens, 2x optical zoom, portrait mode
Video 4K @ 60fps 1080p @ 240fps slo-mo 360° 3D Audio with 4 microphones
Front Cameras Dual 8MP sensors 1.12μm pixel size, f/2.0 84° wide-angle FOV, portrait mode
Water/Dust Resistance IP68
Battery 3500 mAh Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0
Audio HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi editionHTC USonicUSB-C + noise cancelling headphones
Network 4G LTE Cat. 18 up to 1.2Gbps FDD Bands 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,17,20, 28, 32, 66 TDD: Bands 38, 39, 40, 41
Voice assistants Google Assistant, Alexa
Colors Translucent Blue, Flaming Red, Ceramic Black
Dimensions 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7-9.7mm
Weight 188 g

The back panel has an oleophobic coating, which makes it less fingerprint-prone than the Galaxy S9 and LG G7, but a bit more slippery.

The overall feel is more chunky than similar-sized phones like the OnePlus 6, or even Samsung’s S9+, but the basic ergonomics of this design are sound. It’s comfortable to hold, and thanks to the addition of a decent one-handed mode in HTC’s Sense software, it’s easier to wrangle than the U11+ without bringing in a second hand.

Despite the ample heft of this phone, there’s unfortunately no headphone jack included, nor is there any USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle in the box this time. (HTC includes it as a pre-order bonus in some markets.)

There’s nothing too surprising about the spec sheet of the U12+, which combines a Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM, and 64/128GB of storage depending on where you buy it, and dual-SIM functionality in some markets. (I’ve been using a single-SIM version of the phone.)

HTC, once again, sticks with LCD technology for the display, going against the grain of the smartphone industry. And though the U12+’s 6-inch panel doesn’t boast the same brightness as leading OLED panels from Samsung, it’s still an attractive panel with no visible ghosting, and pleasing, punchy colors.

htc-u12-review-2.jpg?itok=R9ZeRrva

The main thing you miss out on compared to competitors like the Galaxy S9+ and Huawei P20 Pro is daylight visibility, and the ability to use the Always-On Display mode without tanking your battery. (The U12+ includes such a mode, but it’s wise to only enable it when picking up the phone.)

HTC’s spec sheet matches the cutting edge in all but a couple of areas.

Battery life, too, has been less than amazing for me, even with a relatively large 3,500mAh cell powering the U12+. On a typical day with heavy use, I’d get around 14 hours between charges, with a little over three hours of screen-on time. On travel days in areas with poor reception, I could deplete the phone’s power pack alarmingly fast.

The saving grace is support for Quick Charge 4, though there bundled plug only supports the older Quick Charge 3.0 standard.

At least HTC’s audio credentials remain strong, outside of that sadly absent headphone jack. The U12+ boasts a meaty BoomSound Hi-Fi system, combining the single bottom-facing speaker with an earpiece tweeter, for satisfyingly loud and bassy audio reproduction.

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HTC’s USonic active noise-cancelling earbuds, bundled with the phone, are great too. They haven’t changed since they first appeared alongside the U11, but they’re about the best bundled earbuds I’ve used with a phone. HTC’s Sense software can instantly and automatically tune its audio output to the structure of your ear canals, with results as impressive as we’ve witnessed from older HTC phones.

The pressure-sensitive buttons

The big new gimmick in the U12+ is its pressure-sensitive, all-digital buttons. Where normally a volume rocker and power switch would reside, HTC now includes button-like metal ridges. They feel like buttons, and (sometimes) work like buttons, but they don’t actually depress into the chassis. The clicky haptic feedback is not unlike the tap of a modern iPhone’s home key (or the trackpad of a MacBook) only it’s a little mushier, and the vibration is centered on the middle of the phone, not behind the buttons.

htc_u12%2B_hands_on_9.jpg

That’s not the biggest issue with this technology, though. Oh no. The greater problem is that in the units we’ve been using, whether as a result of hardware issues or early software kinks, it appears to be basically broken.

For brevity, here’s a quick summary of all the glitches we’ve experienced with the buttons — and, since it’s similarly busted, the Edge Sense function. These issues have persisted across three different devices, and the overwhelming majority of others reviewers we’ve spoken to have had similar gripes.

  • Inconsistent sensitivity across the three keys. The power key is generally more sensitive than the volume keys, which sometimes require an unreasonably strong press to register. Normal clicky buttons don’t do this, and it’s bad.
  • Inconsistent sensitivity in the same key — i.e. at different times, the sensitivity of individual buttons will vary wildly. It’s unclear why this happens: perhaps due to changing battery charge levels or external temperature. Either way, also bad.
  • Ghost presses on the pressure-sensitive keys, particularly power. Sometimes they’ll trigger when you’re merely resting a finger on them. Sometimes they’ll trigger all by themselves. Both Hayato and myself have witnessed our phones hard rebooting themselves due to long ghost presses on the power key.
  • The double-tap gesture on the side bezel to activate one-handed mode suffers from similar ghost input problems.
  • Edge Sense squeezes failing to register when the screen is off.
  • Edge Sense registering a squeeze when the phone is just being held, even lightly.
  • Edge Sense registering light squeezes (showing the animation on-screen) for no particular reason.
  • Multiple taps on the power or volume keys failing to register in quick succession.

You get the picture. It’s worse in every way than a regular micro switch, which works fine on every other phone. I’m also baffled by how much of a mess Edge Sense seems to be on this device, considering it worked pretty well on the U11 and U11+.

In short, right now the pressure-sensitive buttons (and Edge Sense) are a net negative.

HTC tells us that a firmware update will be arriving in future to refine button sensitivity and fine-tune Edge Sense based on the feedback received so far. We’ll revise this review if there’s any major improvement to what we’re seeing here.

If you’ve already used an HTC U11 or U11+ on Android Oreo, or read our review of the U11+ from last November, then you’ll have already seen almost everything The U12+ has to offer on the software side.

We’re still running Android 8.0 here, not the newer version 8.1. (The main impact for many of us: no Netflix support for picture-in-picture mode.) Otherwise, The user-facing side of Android 8.1 is largely identical to 8.0.

Sense remains locked in the same holding pattern it’s been stuck in for much of the past couple years.

Otherwise, it’s another year with virtually no changes in either the way HTC Sense looks or functions. On one level, that’s fine. Sense is so close to stock Android now that there’s not much need for surface-level changes.

On the other hand, Sense is still littered with the dregs of older software versions. As we’ve noted in earlier reviews, many core apps like Weather, Contacts, Messages and the Dialer haven’t changed in more than three years. In Sense Home, more subtle clues of HTC’s lack of design effort can be seen: The rows of home screen icons are aligned for a 16:9 display, not the U12+’s 18:9 panel.

The biggest changes are, in fact, two very welcome additions: The one-handed mode, which is necessary on a phone this large. It’s activated with a double-tap on the bezel (see above — this does not work well!), or a triple-tap on the home key. And the U12’s dual front cameras help to enable face unlock, which is among the fastest on any Android phone I’ve used. HTC’s software can also light up the display for better face detection in darker conditions

Beyond those few upgrades, this is a fast, relatively clean Android UI that’s in dire need of a facelift. As I said six months ago, HTC needs to either go all-in on a near-stock Android experience like OnePlus’s OxygenOS, or truly differentiate its software with a new completely new look that doesn’t look like it belongs in 2014.

htc_u12%2B_hands_on_2.jpg

For all its troubles, HTC continues to excel at smartphone photography.

The U12+’s saving grace is its camera setup, an area where HTC is truly competitive with the best phone cameras of the moment. This dual-camera array around the back can absolutely go toe-to-toe with the Galaxy S9+ and Huawei P20 Pro, and in some cases come out on top.

HTC combines a 12-megapixel main sensor with f/1.75 lens and optical stabilization with an f/2.6, 16-megapixel telephoto camera. The telephoto has smaller pixels on the sensor and no OIS — an on-paper disadvantage compared to Samsung’s zoom camera.

But HTC’s secret sauce is its HDR Boost function. First seen on the U11, the second-generation of HTC’s post-processing feature allows it to bring out awesome fine detail and high dynamic range, even in challenging situations. As I’ve said before, HDR Boost is a competitive recreation of the post-processing setup Google uses in HDR+ on its Pixel phones, though I’ve noticed that in darker conditions HTC’s will favor grainier output in order to produce a brighter-looking shot. Whether that’s good or bad is a matter of personal preference. Some may prefer the softer but less noisy output of Samsung’s Galaxy S9+.

It’s also worth noting an additional caveat: Despite its dizzying DxOMark score of 103, the U12+ can’t match the insane low-light detail provided by the Huawei P20 Pro’s industry-leading low-light mode.

HTC takes another crack at software bokeh, and the results range from competent to truly impressive.

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HDR Boost also allows the U12+ telephoto camera to eke out better-looking telephoto shots than it has any right to given the optics of its secondary camera. In many darker situations, the HTC camera would stick with a shot from the secondary camera, as opposed to a digital crop of the main sensor.

HTC has also built out its own software bokeh mode, which doubles as portrait mode on the U12+, adding artificial lens blur to shots. On the whole, it’s technically proficient, and I’ve captured some impressive shots of people, food and pets using HTC’s bokeh mode. The end results are on par with what I’ve seen from the Google Pixel 2 and Huawei P20 series, and it’s also possible to edit the level of blur after the fact in Google Photos — though this option is somewhat hidden.

Meanwhile, around the front, HTC packs a twin 8-megapixel camera setup, allowing accurate bokeh shots through the front camera without the software guesswork of some rivals. As with the main camera, selfies from the U12+ are grainier than competitors like the Galaxy S9, particularly in darker conditions, but they often retain more color detail pics from the Samsung device. There’s a full array of beauty modes too, if that’s your thing.

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For what it’s worth, HTC also has Animoji-style stickers in its camera app, the existence of which I’ll note here for the record. They’re there. I guess they’ll be fun if that’s your thing. Like Samsung’s AR Emoji, I’ve mostly ignored them in my time with the phone.

My only real complaint around the U12+’s camera has to do with its speed. The app is frequently slower to load than most rivals, and processing times for HDR Boost are a little on the long side. The trade-offs, with patience, are worth it, but on a couple of occasions, I’ve missed shots due to the camera taking too long to fire up.

HTC’s new flagship also has a competent video camera, building on features like 3D Audio and Acoustic Focus — amplifying volume from specific areas as you zoom — that debuted in the U11. Advances in optics and processing bring predictable improvements in video quality for HTC, however, it’s a little disappointing to see electronic stabilization limited to 1080p resolution. Some rivals, including the cheaper OnePlus 6, can manage stabilized video at 4K resolution.

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HTC U12+ Bottom Line

Were it not for the busted digital buttons, the HTC U12+ would be a commendable Android flagship mostly worthy of its high price tag. Standout features include fast software, some stunning glass back panel designs, and a truly impressive camera setup.

But the slapdashedness of the Edge Sense and the digital button setup underscores how far HTC has fallen since the glory days. I wonder whether the HTC of 2013 would have shipped such a core feature in such an unfinished state.

HTC didn’t have to devote its resources to this new button system, but it did. And the result, right now at least, is this product’s Achilles heel. Problems of this kind with such a fundamental part of the hardware are unacceptable at any price point, let alone $799.

2
out of 5


As noted earlier, firmware updates are coming, and as someone who’s enjoyed many HTC phones over the years, I sincerely hope the company can fix whatever’s wrong. Until then, we simply can’t recommend this phone.

See at HTC

11
Jun

Best Android Phones Without a Notch


You know what is even better than an edge to edge display? Symmetry.

People want the biggest screen they can have in the smallest body they can have, and to get there as quickly as possible manufacturers have started making phones with notches in the top of the display. The people who tell you notches are the future and you should just get used to it are wrong, and they should feel bad. This design is temporary, until display makers figure out an inexpensive way to hide the front-facing camera and sensors under the display without impacting quality. It’s unlikely this trend is going to last more than a generation or two, so you might as well skip it if you can.

Not every manufacturer forces you to use a notch. These are the phones you want to look at if you’d rather avoid this situation entirely.

  • Our pick
  • Runner-up
  • A classic pick
  • A budget pick

Our Pick

Samsung Galaxy S9+

galaxy-s9-plus-hero.jpg?itok=VM4KNPWq

See at Amazon

A great all-around phone for everyone

For all intents and purposes, Samsung was the first major smartphone manufacturer to approach the whole “bezel-free” design with its curved Infinity Displays. These phones have been giving the appearance of a display which melted off the side of the phone for several generations now, but in exchange, you get a little forehead and chin to hold all of the necessary sensors and buttons for the front of your phone.

There’s no denying these phones look nice, are practical to use, and Samsung makes the Galaxy S9 in standard and plus sizes, so you can have your choice of how much screen you want in your hand. Most important, these are great phones. In fact, even with its unsightly forehead and chin, the Galaxy S9+ remains our top pick as the best Android phone you can buy today.

Why the Galaxy S9+ is our top pick

Outside of the work Samsung has done in making the Infinity Display a perfect answer for why we don’t need notches in our phones to make them feel bigger, the Galaxy S9+ is a beautiful, well-made phone. The camera is outstanding in every situation, the phone charges quickly through USB-C or wireless power. The headphone jack exists, but also delivers quality audio even if your headphones aren’t the best. This is a fantastic all-around phone, something that can be picked up by truly anyone and enjoyed.

But ultimately it does come down to the display. More important than the decision to keep the forehead and chin, Samsung’s displays are among the highest quality in a phone you can buy today. The panel on the Galaxy S9 gets brighter than any other phone, the colors are vibrant, and the included Blue Filter mode makes it a lot more eye-friendly when using it at night. When you put all of this together, the Galaxy S9 becomes an obvious top choice for just about everyone.

Runner-up

Google Pixel 2 XL

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Living on the bleeding edge of Google’s Android

This phone comes in two different sizes, standard and XL, and they look very different from one another. The standard Pixel 2 has great big bezels on the top and bottom, looking almost like a phone from a previous generation. The Pixel 2 XL has a more modern design with a taller display and much smaller bezels, but still, a noticeable forehead and chin compared to some of its notch-laden competition.

See at Google Store

Where most manufacturers have opted to move phone speakers from the front of the phone to the bottom, Google’s Pixel phones exist as one of the few left where you can get quality audio pointed right at your face when you’re listening to music or watching a video. No need to cup your hand to point the audio at you, and no concern that you’ll be covering the speaker when playing a game. The trade-off for this design choice, obviously, is you have speakers on the front of your phone instead of that all-display experience. While it will soon be possible to hide sensors under the display, you can’t really do the same with speakers.

Not only do you get a quality speaker situation with these phones, Google’s Pixel 2 series is where you want to be for the best of Android software straight from Google with the latest features as soon as they are announced. On top of that, these phones are packing some of the best cameras in any phone ever, so you’re guaranteed to have a blast no matter which one you go with.

Classic features pick

BlackBerry KEY2

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If your friends are going to mock you for having an old-school phone just because it doesn’t have a notch, you might as well go all the way back to the classic and enjoy BlackBerry’s latest creation, the KEY2. Not only does it have a decent 4.5-inch display with the sensors hidden in the bezel instead interrupting the display, the physical keyboard has made a comeback and it is incredibly fun to use. BlackBerry has done an amazing job making Android work well with some of the classic BlackBerry software tricks, including top of the line security and ridiculously good battery life.

See at BlackBerry Mobile

It’s certainly not a phone for everyone, but the BlackBerry KEY2 is a stellar phone with all of the classic features. It used to be a guarantee that a phone would have a headphone jack, expandable storage, and a quality keyboard. Now we’re leaning on something with an almost retro charm to it in order to have all of these experiences in one place.

Budget pick

Motorola Moto G6

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Few companies have done as many clever things with phone displays as Motorola, and it has thankfully avoided the notch so far in all of its phones. Instead, you get the unmatched quality of Moto Display, the always-on experience with tons of information at your fingertips without ever needing to fully wake your phone. There really is nothing else quite like the experience Moto puts on its phones today, and it works without a funky display shape to seem more futuristic.

See at Amazon

What really sets Motorola apart from the rest is its G series. The Moto G6 is an amazing phone at any price, but it just so happens that its price is $250. This makes a great budget phone, or first phone, or even a backup phone. Any way you want to use it, Motorola’s software is going to be a pleasure to use.

Conclusion

There are many phones on the market today free of the scourge of notch. From the Galaxy S9+ to the Pixel 2 XL to the BlackBerry KEY2 and Moto G6, there’s a notch-free phone for everyone.

Does it matter whether your phone has a notch? Well, that’s up to you to decide. It matters to some people, and that’s all that matters to us.

Our Pick

Samsung Galaxy S9+

galaxy-s9-plus-hero.jpg?itok=VM4KNPWq

See at Amazon

A great all-around phone for everyone

For all intents and purposes, Samsung was the first major smartphone manufacturer to approach the whole “bezel-free” design with its curved Infinity Displays. These phones have been giving the appearance of a display which melted off the side of the phone for several generations now, but in exchange, you get a little forehead and chin to hold all of the necessary sensors and buttons for the front of your phone.

There’s no denying these phones look nice, are practical to use, and Samsung makes the Galaxy S9 in standard and plus sizes, so you can have your choice of how much screen you want in your hand. Most important, these are great phones. In fact, even with its unsightly forehead and chin, the Galaxy S9+ remains our top pick as the best Android phone you can buy today.

11
Jun

The Google Pixel 3 XL’s notch could be a deal-breaker


Not everyone is pleased with what we’re seeing so far.

Last week saw a heap of hands-on photos make an appearance that showcase what’s supposedly a prototype of the Google Pixel 3 XL. The photos show a phone that’s all-glass, retains a single rear camera, has two front-facing cameras, and comes equipped with the infamous notch.

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Render from @PhoneDesigner

These pictures give us a better idea of how the notch will be incorporated into the phone compared to the screen panels that leaked before them, and now that the phone is quickly coming together into a finished product, even more potential buyers are quick to share their thoughts on what we’re seeing.

The Android Central forums already has a lot of discussion regarding the Pixel 3 XL’s design, and for a lot of people, the notch isn’t looking too hot.

avatar752687_8.gifTraderGary
06-09-2018 11:15 PM

Right now I still feel very negative about the notch. I had fully intended to get the Pixel 3 XL but if there’s a notch, I’ll be in full revaluation mode.

Reply

avatar2909240_3.gifKirstein Gourlay
06-09-2018 03:20 PM

Am keeping my 2 XL. It is on a 2 year contract so my upgrade will be the Pixel 4 XL. Skipping the 3, especially with that awful notch

Reply

Then again, some don’t seem to mind it all that much.

avatar908749_5.gifDarkNeo
06-09-2018 02:33 PM

It’s not, we just have to get used to phones having one for a while. We can “protest” all we want but it won’t change anything.

I’m hoping for a better camera if it’s even possible lol.

Reply

avatar1884208_31.gifSactoKingsFan
06-09-2018 07:05 PM

I don’t mind a minimal notch like on the Essential Phone. Would rather not have a much wider notch. If I stick with Pixel phones I’ll probably go with the smaller Pixel 3 which has a much more appealing design.

Reply

What do you think? Is the notch a deal-breaker on the Pixel 3 XL?

Join the conversation in the forums!

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