The mid-range phone market has a new entry: the HTC U12 Life. And it's a whole different beast compared to its U11 Life predecessor, featuring a larger screen, larger battery and smaller price tag. Here's the lowdown on the main differences.
- U12 Life: glass back with laser etching; U11 Life: Acrylic Liquid Surface finish
- U12 Life: rear-facing fingerprint scanner; U11 Life: front-facing scanner
- U12 Life: splashproof (no IP rating); U11 Life: IP67 certified water/dust resistance
- U12 Life: 3.5mm headphone jack; U11 Life: USB-to-3.5mm conversion only
The U12 Life features a glass rear with laser-etched stripes, designed to negate fingerprinting, whereas the U11 Life is fully shiny with its Liquid Surface finish.
As the U12 Life's display has changed (more on that below), the newer handset is also taller in the hand, while the fingerprint scanner moves to the rear to fit in with smaller bottom bezel (the U11 Life has a front-positioned scanner).
While both phones are weather resistant, the U12 Life doesn't receive official rating, whereas the older U11 Life gets official IP67 certification.
The U12 Life also brings back the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a simpler solution than the (sometimes hardware locked) USB-to-3.5mm solution of the U11 Life.
- U12 Life: 6.0-inch LPTS LCD; U11 Life: 5.2in Super LCD
- U12 Life: 1080 x 2160 resolution; U11 Life: 1080 x 1920
- Both handsets: No notch present
The big change in the U12 Life comes in the screen: its a 6-inch panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio, making it larger and taller than the 5.2-inch panel of the U11 Life.
The U12 Life's panel is also an LPTS LCD (that's low temperature polysilicon) for better power consumption.
Resolution between the pair isn't dramatically different, but as the U12 Life's screen is an 18:9 aspect ratio its added height adds more pixels. Both handsets run 1080 vertical lines of pixels, but the U12 has 2160 rows compared to the U11's 1920 rows. No biggie.
Oh, and in the era of the notch – that black-out 'dip' to the top of a screen, where the front-facing camera, speaker and other sensors can be housed – HTC bucks the trend by avoiding this design. In both Life handsets it's traditional screen, straight borders and all.
- U12 Life: Dual cameras (16MP and 5MP); U11 Life: Single 16MP camera
- U12 Life: 13MP front-facing camera; U11 Life: 16MP front-facing
- U12 Life: Adds bokeh/Portrait mode (U11 Life lacks this)
The U11 Life was very much a single rear camera phone, while the U12 Life doubles down with dual cameras. That means the new handset introduces the blurred background 'bokeh' effect, often referred to as Portrait mode.
Hardware & Software
- U12 Life: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, 4GB RAM; U11 Life: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630, 3GB RAM
- U12 Life: HTC Sense over Android 8.1 operating system; U11 Life: Android One software
- U12 Life: 3,600mAh battery, fast-charging; U11 Life: 2,600mAh battery, fast-charging
The U12 Life brings its mid-tier Qualcomm processor up to date, which HTC is keen to point out means an up-to-40-per-cent boost in performance compared to the U11 Life. There's an extra gig of RAM in the new model too. The user experience isn't likely to be dramatically different though.
There are two rather more distinct differences: the U11 Life runs Android One, Google's all access software setup, which we had assumed would be HTC's path of choice moving forward. But that's not the case, as the U12 Life opts for HTC Sense, albeit a slightly softer version as there's no Edge Sense (squeeze/tap control) present.
The other major bump up for the U12 Life is the 3,600mAh battery, which is a whole 1,000mAh greater than the U11 Life (which we complained had poor battery life). That's great news as, combined with these specs and the low-temp LCD type, should make for far improved longevity.
Price & Conclusion
- U12 Life: £299 / €349
- U11 Life: £349 / €369
Best of all is the U12 Life's price dip, at a pound shy of £300, bringing it in-line with its near competition (the £269 Moto G6 Plus and £349 Nokia 7 Plus). That's really good news, as it positions HTC in a far more competitive position at this price point, without compromising on the specification overall.