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Google Home Max review – it's my new TV soundbar

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The Google Home Max is my new TV soundbar, thanks to the simple inclusion of the 3.5mm aux audio input that’s included on this device.

I’ve bemoaned the loss of the headphone jack (an aux output) on many new smartphone designs in the past, and I think that the usefulness of this input port on the Google Home Max proves my point that despite being analog technology, these jacks are useful and worth including. But I digress, so back to our review of the Google Home Max.

As we reported last week, the latest and biggest addition to Google’s smart speaker family is available in Canada as of today, May 16 and it’s on sale for $499 from the Google Store and Best Buy Canada. It joins the original Google Home and the Google Home Mini as the latest addition to the family of speakers with built-in Google Assistant made by Google (or should I write that #madebygoogle ?). It’s available in charcoal or chalk colours.

The Google Home family of hardware. Max is the big one.

Looking at this in the competitive market, Google Home Max squares up against the Apple Homepod in terms of price and performance. But only consumers in the U.S. have that choice to make right now, as Homepod hasn’t been made available in Canada yet. (Though you can use it here and we’ll have a video about that soon.) It’s also competitive with the Sonos family of smart speakers, which now includes the Sonos One with built-in Alexa (and presumably soon enough, Google Assistant as well.)

Since the Google Home Max has been available in the U.S. for some time, it’s been well reviewed by many tech writers. So I’m not going to write about how well its polycarbonate frame handles the powerful and distortion-free bass this speaker is capable of, or how it nicely separates the left and right channels across a room, or how it’s the first speaker with Smart Sound from Google that uses machine learning to “listen” to reverberation from its surrounding environment to adapt accordingly.

Google Home Max - vertical position
The Google Home Max can be positioned in either horizontal or vertical position. Whatever fits best in your space.

Plus, it has the same Google Assistant integration that we’ve described in our deep dive look at the Google Home. So I won’t remind you about about how this device can play your personalised music libraries from Spotify or Google Play, or connect to Chromecast devices on your network to stream Netflix and Youtube to your TV via voice command, or control your smart home lighting, or play Hashtag Trending in your daily briefing, or make phone calls, or connect with If This Than That, or broadcast a message across multiple speakers, and so on. That’s what hyperlinks are for.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about how Google Home Max is my new soundbar.

Using Google Home Max as a soundbar

Here’s my entertainment system setup: I’ve got a 43-inch Philips 4K UHD TV. It has an aux output that’s feeding into Google Home Max and I’m using that as the only sound output. I have the option of turning up the TV’s built-in speakers to use in conjunction with the Max, but I find this just muddles the sound.

The TV has Chromecast built-in, and I have a Windows PC and an Xbox One X connected to it. All of these systems feed their audio through the TV and it passes it to the Max, and it handles it all just beautifully. My previous audio setup was to use the TV’s speakers as a centre channel, amplified by a Bose Companion 20 multimedia speaker system for left and right channels. The Bose speakers were good and provided decent bass, but I found that there was a big gap between quiet dialogue scenes and loud action scenes. As a result, I had the habit of scrambling to adjust the volume often.

Rear connections on the Google Home Max are a 3.5 mm aux input, a USB-C port, and AC power. There’s also a switch to turn off the microphone.

Not so with the Max. It really delivers clean and crisp dialogue and then nicely transitions to booming action scenes. The stereo separation on the one Max speaker isn’t fantastic, as the two 4.5-inch speakers are right next to each other. If you buy two Max speakers, it’s possible to connect them wirelessly as a stereo pair. I wasn’t able to test this.

Apparently the aux input sound on the Max suffered from a fraction-of-a-second delay before an update was delivered exactly one week ago fixing this. It’s a good thing for me, because having the video out of sync with the audio would have been a deal breaker for use as a soundbar. But with the fix in place, I’ve been in the clear.

Aside from sounding great, the Max is able to juggle both being a smart speaker and playing audio from the aux input. There are no problems making voice requests via the Max while it’s handling aux audio input. The speaker will prioritize audio playing natively from Max over audio from the aux input at all times. Here’s a few examples of this in action:

  • If you’re watching TV and ask for the weather, the Max will mute the audio from the TV and tell you the weather, then resume the audio at the same volume when the weather request is completed.
  • If you’re listening to Spotify on Max and then start playing your TV via the aux input, the Max will continue to play music from Spotify and not play the aux input. Once you stop the music from Spotify using a voice request or the Google Home app, you’ll hear the TV.
  • If you’re watching TV and you ask for music from Spotify to start playing, you’ll hear the music from Spotify and not the TV. This will continue until you stop Spotify.

With my setup, what’s nice is since I have Chromecast integration with my TV, I can ask for a video from Netflix or Youtube to play and the sound will come through the Max. I can even ask for Spotify to be played on my TV so that I can listen to it through the Max, and see album art and song details on the TV. It’s a pleasing synergy.

The options to use the Home app to see what source is currently playing audio can be useful. Also to control volume with more precision, and in the case that the sound from Max is overpowering your voice requests (this can happen, although Google makes a point of saying it trys to prevent it.) You can also adjust treble and bass in the equalizer settings to your preference.

The Max isn’t perfect as a soundbar. I discovered a quirky interaction between the Chromecast integrated in my TV when the Max speaker is connected to the aux output. I can use voice requests via Google Home to start videos from Netflix and Youtube, but not pause them, stop them, or jump around on the timeline. I suspect this is a bug related to the Max playing the audio from another Chromecast device. In any case, I can still use the Home app to access these functions.

Since there’s only a single aux input available, it can’t be integrated into a surround sound setup. A semi-mysterious USB-C port on the back makes you wonder if that could change through an adapter. At present, the best guidance I can find on the purpose of this port is from a Google Home Help Forum, where an answer indicates it’s to allow for Ethernet connections via an adapter. It can also be used to charge your phone, if you’re so inclined.

Conclusion

Overall I’m pleased that Google made some design choices to make this speaker versatile. The choice to include a simple aux input means you can integrate this device to your TV, or even the legacy audio equipment you’re hanging onto at home like an LP player. These are features that other smart speakers at a similar price point have elected to exclude.

If you demand great music quality and you’re interested in a smart speaker, this is an expensive purchase but a worthwhile one. It will connect nicely with your other Google Home hardware in multi-room setups and likely with the rest of your smart home gear.

If you already have great speakers at home, you probably don’t need this. Buy something like a Chromecast Audio device to connect it and add a Google Home Mini for voice controls and you’re set for much less money.

But if you do need a booming new speaker and you like the smart assistant aspect, this is the speaker to buy in this category in Canada. Maybe it’ll find a home as your new soundbar.

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HTC U12 Plus says bye to real buttons and embraces the squeeze

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The HTC U12 Plus gets skinny bezels and does away with actual buttons.


Josh Miller/CNET

It looks like a button, feels like a button, but it’s not a button. That’s right, there are no clicks on the new HTC U12 Plus. The sleep/wake button and the volume keys are nothing more than haptic feedback illusions.

Apple did something similar when it replaced the home button on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus with a touch-sensitive area that simulates the action and feel of a real button. But HTC took it a step further and replaced all of its buttons with digital ones. Getting rid of mechanical buttons reduces the risk of a part breaking and allows the phone to have a dust- and water-resistance rating of IP68.

When the phone is powered off, the sleep/wake button still works. Apparently, the pressure-sensitive button requires so little power that it will work on a dead battery. Like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, it will be interesting to see how people adapt to the new feel of these nonbuttons. 

These haptic buttons are one of the biggest differences you’ll notice between the U12 Plus and last year’s U11. But there are many more refinements aimed at making HTC’s new flagship an antidote to our current crop of Android phones — especially those with a notch.

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The sides have pressure sensitive “buttons” and the edges can accept taps and squeezes to trigger actions.


Josh Miller/CNET

Touch-sensitive and squeezable sides

Much like last year’s U11 and Google Pixel 2 — which HTC manufactures — the left and right sides of the U12 Plus are squeezable. But now, with the upgrade, you can squeeze short, squeeze long or squeeze and hold. Each squeeze is customizable and triggers a different action. You can have it open an app, turn the flashlight on or open the camera and take a picture, among other things.

The sides of the U12 Plus are touch-sensitive and can receive tap input. For example, you can tap with your thumb and index finger on each side of the phone to minimize the screen for one-handed use. The U12 Plus can even identify which hand you’re holding it with and offset the shrunken display accordingly.


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Bokeh mode and 4 cameras

The new phone also comes with four cameras. Two on the front and two on the back. Both pairs enable bokeh mode, which adds an artistic blurry background to portraits you take. You can adjust the focus point before or after you take a picture and change the amount of blur.

The HTC One M8 was the first phone with dual-rear cameras years before it became trendy. Like the iPhone X ($999.99 at T-Mobile USA) and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ($799.99 at Amazon.com), the U12 Plus has 2x optical zoom, which should make photos look sharper than a digital zoom would.

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Sonic Zoom uses the phone’s four microphones to focus in on your subject for better audio when you zoom in while recording video.


Josh Miller/CNET

There’s a nifty feature called Sonic Zoom, which, if you zoom in during a video recording, uses the phone’s four microphones to hone in on your subject for better audio.

The U12 Plus shoots HD and 4K video at both 30 and 60 frames per second. It also shoots slow motion video at 240 fps at 1080p.

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The translucent blue version of the phone allows you to see the actual components of the U12 Plus.


Josh Miller/CNET

Snapdragon 845 processor and other niceties

The U12 Plus follows the skinny bezel, tall display trend with an 18:9 6-inch Quad-HD (2,560×1,440-pixel) display. HTC managed the smaller bezels without having to incorporate a notch. Though its fingerprint reader has migrated to the back.

The phone runs on a Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM and comes with either 64GB or 128GB of storage. The U12’s battery is larger than the one in the U11, but with the larger display, it will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

Despite the Gorilla Glass 3 back, the phone doesn’t have wireless charging. But it does have Quick Charge 3.0. The phone comes with Usonic earbuds, a clear case that allows for access to the sides and a Quick Charge 2.0 charger — a Quick Charge 3.0 power adapter can be purchased separately.

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From left-to-right: translucent blue, ceramic black and flame red.


Josh Miller/CNET

The phone comes in three colors:

  • Flame red — looks like Iron Man’s suit
  • Ceramic black — isn’t actually made of ceramic, it’s still glass
  • Translucent blue — lets you see the insides of the phone

Preorder the HTC U12 Plus

The HTC U12 Plus is now available for preorder through HTC’s website and supports AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. It will ship in mid-June. In the US, the 64GB model costs $799 and the 128GB model $849. UK and Australian prices will be announced soon, but $799 converts to about £600 or AU$1,060.

HTC U12 Plus specs compared with Galaxy S9 Plus, Pixel 2 XL, iPhone X and OnePlus 6

HTC U12 Plus Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Google Pixel 2 XL iPhone X OnePlus 6
Display size, resolution 6-inch; 2,880×1,440 pixels 6.2-inch; 2,960×1,440 pixels 6-inch; 2,880×1,440 pixels 5.8-inch; 2,436×1,125 pixels 6.28-inch; 2,280×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 537ppi 529ppi 538 ppi 458 ppi 402ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.17×2.91×0.34-0.38 in 6.22×2.91×0.33 in 6.2×3.0x0.30 in 5.7×2.79×0.30 in 6.13×2.97×0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 156.6×73.9×8.7-9.7mm 158.1×73.8×8.5 mm 157.9×76.7×7.9 mm 143.6×70.9×7.7 mm 155.7×75.4×7.75 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.6 oz; 188 g 6.66 oz; 189 g 6.17 oz; 175 g 6.14 oz; 174 g 6.2 oz; 177 g
Mobile software Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo iOS 11 Android 8.1 Oreo
Camera 12-megapixel standard, 16-megapixel telephoto Dual 12-megapixel 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel 16-megapixel, 20-megapixel
Front-facing camera Dual 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 7-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Apple A11 Bionic Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Storage 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 6GB 6GB 4GB 3GB 6GB, 8GB
Expandable storage Up to 2TB 400GB None None None
Battery 3,500mAh 3,500mAh 3,520mAh 3,300mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back of phone Back Back None Back
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack No Yes No No Yes
Special features Water resistant (IP68), Edge Sense 2, Quick Charge 3.0 Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanning Squeezeable sides Water resistant (IP67), wireless charging, TrueDepth front-facing (Face ID) Dash Charging, dual-SIM, super slow mo
Price off-contract (USD) $799 (64GB), $849 (128GB) Varies: $840-$930 (64GB) $849 (64GB), $949 (128GB) $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB) $529 (64GB), $579 (128GB), $629 (256GB)
Price (GBP) TBA £869 £799 (64GB), £899 (128GB) £999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB) £469 (64GB), £519 (128GB), £569 (256GB)
Price (AUD) TBA AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (256GB) AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB) AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB) AU$702 (64GB), AU$769 (128GB), AU$835 (256GB)

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HTC U12 Plus With Edge Sense 2, Dual Front & Rear Cameras Announced: Everything You Need To Know

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The HTC U12 Plus (+) is now official following its unveiling in Taiwan earlier today. This marks the latest smartphone to come through from the company as part of a new line of mobile products branded as ‘U’ phones. Although, unlike some of the other U-series phones, the U12 Plus is the company’s flagship option, following on from the U11 Plus (and the standard U11), the HTC 10 before it, and the One M line before that. Therefore, for those looking for the best the house of HTC has to offer in 2018, look no further than the U12 Plus.

While a number of premium 2018 phones have seen little change compared to their 2017 predecessors, the U12 Plus has changed enough to make this a noteworthy device. So much so in fact that HTC refers to the U12 Plus as its “biggest and boldest flagship phone ever.” Drawing on improvements to its display, its use of Edge Sense, and most evidently in the camera department as the HTC U12 Plus comes equipped with twice the number of cameras the U11 Plus did. As not only is there a dual-camera setup on the rear of the device, but also one on the front. Resulting in the camera experience being one of the aspects HTC is highlighting as a clear selling point of the U12 Plus – along with a refined design and improved general specs.

U12 Plus Specs

The HTC U12 Plus features a 6.1-inch QHD+ Super LCD 6 display along with an 18:9 display aspect ratio, resulting in a 2880 x 1440 resolution and a 537ppi. Although Corning’s Gorilla Glass protection is in use, HTC has yet to specify which version. In addition, the display also features support for HDR 10, as well as DCI-P3 and sRGB modes. Inside, the U12 Plus is powered by the Snapdragon 845 64-bit octa-core processor (clocked at 2.6 GHz), along with a a 3,500 mAh battery. The U12 Plus also supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology which looks to offer a 0 to 50-percent charge in only 35 minutes, according to HTC. Closing out the core spec list is 6GB RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage, with the option to expand as and when needed up to 2TB via a microSD card.

12-megapixel (wide-angle lens, UltraPixel 4, 1.4um pixel size, f/1.75 aperture, OIS) and 16-megapixel (telephoto lens, 1.0um pixel size, f/2.6 aperture) cameras are included on the rear of the phone, along with a fingerprint scanner. A single 8-megapixel (1.12um pixel size, f/2.0 aperture, 84-degree wide-angle lens) camera is positioned on the front and can also be used as one of the security methods by scanning the user’s face. Android 8.0 (Oreo) is also included on the U12 Plus with HTC’s Sense UI over the top, as is an IP68 certification for water and dust resistance. Audio properties include 3D audio with 4 microphones, HTC BoomSound, and Hi-Res Audio recording. The U12 Plus is scheduled to be available in in both single-SIM (nano) and dual-SIM (nano) variants, along with support for the following 4G LTE bands: FDD-LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 32, and 66; TD-LTE bands: 38, 39, 40, and 41. The U12 Plus supports Cat. 18 Gigabit LTE, while Bluetooth 5.0 is also on offer. In terms of the physical dimensions, the phone measures 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7-9.7mm, and weighs in at 188 grams.

U12 Plus Hardware & Design

HTC has never been one to shy away from implementing different ideas into the designs of its phones, and it’s continuing that trend this year with the HTC U12 Plus and the new Translucent Blue color option. The Translucent Blue color of the HTC U12 Plus allows the owner to see right through the backside of the phone, and peering through the glass back, it’s possible to see some of the components on the inside of the device that make it up, something which HTC carried forward from a design choice last year with the U11 Plus. Though the U12 Plus isn’t HTC’s first device with a translucent color option, the translucent color did change this time around. The U11 Plus was available in a Translucent Black while this year HTC has switched things up to a Translucent Blue color instead, while also changing a little bit of what you see through the translucent backing in regards to the hardware components. The remaining two colors are the Ceramic Black, which HTC offered on the U11 Plus too, and a Flame Red.

The translucent color is one of the more noticeable hardware design choices that HTC has made here, but there are other distinctive things to look at. Another obvious one, and perhaps the first thing that users will pay attention to as it’s on the front of the phone and will be the first thing that most will interact with is the screen. HTC has slimmed the bezels down to the most minimal they’ve ever been on any device that HTC has ever made, and this is even more noticeable thanks to the size of the screen which is 6-inches. HTC says the phone is also easier to hold because the screen uses a new 3D glass that sort of curves the edges to help the phone better fit in the hand.

The HTC U12 Plus comes with HTC’s Liquid Surface design, and comes in two additional colors alongside the translucent blue, which include ceramic black and flame red, though HTC does state that availability if the colors will vary by region which means that some regions may not get access to every color. HTC is also using new pressure-sensitive buttons for ‘Edge Sense 2’ which HTC says will help “bring the experience to life,” so the buttons should feel more interactive and perhaps easier to use. Though not different from last year’s HTC U11 Plus, the fingerprint is once again on the back of the device, and as is the case with most phones these days it also comes with an IP68 rating so it is water and dust resistant. This doesn’t mean you should be completely care-free with it around dust or water but should any accidents happen it’s likely that it won’t be the end of the device.

U12 Plus Camera

The HTC U11 Plus featured what was considered one of the best mobile cameras of 2017 and its successor appears to be set to continue the same tradition, drastically improving upon the previous model in nearly every respect, though primarily by doubling the number of total sensors on offer. The new dual-camera setup includes one 12-megapixel sensor that’s relatively similar to the previous one, both in terms of size (1.4µm) and the fact that it’s mounted behind an f/1.75 lens. The change comes in the form of an extra telephoto camera using a 16-megapixel (1.0µm) sensor and an f/2.6 lens, with both supporting phase detection and laser autofocus. 2x optical zoom is also part of the package, whereas digital magnification will get you up to ten times larger image, with the quality of its results naturally being heavily dependent on the amount of lighting in your immediate vicinity.

Both optical and electronic image stabilization are supported by the twin camera setup of the HTC U12 Plus, as are augmented reality stickers and a new real-time bokeh mode enabled by the telephoto lens. Coupled with a dual-LED flash unit and face detection functionalities, HTC’s latest Android flagship should be an extremely capable tool for portrait photography. The device also features HDR support which the company is referring to as “HDR Boost 2,” whereas its manual mode allows for exposures that are up to 32 seconds long and can export RAW files.

The single 8-megapixel (f/2.0) camera of the HTC U11 Plus is now enhanced with the addition of another identical module to the front of the new smartphone, with the phablet being capable of capturing an 84-degree field of view, which should be more than enough for most group selfie scenarios. Every software feature of the flagship’s rear cameras is also supported by its front-facing system, save for the Pro mode. Screen flash is meant to compensate for a lack of a physical flash on the top bezel, whereas the two front cameras of the HTC U12 Plus also allow for Live Makeup, Auto Selfie, and a number of other functionalities meant to take your photography game to the next level.

The front cameras can capture 1080p clips, whereas the rear setup is once again able to deliver 4K recordings at 60 frames per second, being compatible with the same AR stickers that can be attached to your photographs in real time. The U12 Plus is yet another HTC-made device that ships with four microphones allowing for 360-degree audio capture meant to make your video content more immersive, especially given how the quad-module setup is rated for recording 24-bit, 96KHz audio. Slow-motion functionality is also on offer but more as an afterthought, though it’s still better than 120fps footage of the U11 Plus. The newer device can capture 240fps content at a 1080p resolution which won’t slow down action by a lot but also won’t deliver video files that will eat up your flash storage in a matter of days. Hyperlapse and every other conventional video mode that contemporary smartphones — including those from HTC — have already been supporting for years are unsurprisingly included in the U12 Plus as well.

All things considered, the HTC U12 Plus is effectively the U11 Plus with one extra camera on both sides and should hence allow for better portrait photography, low-light performance, and generally be more versatile than its already critically acclaimed predecessor. The user interface of the default Camera app appears to be relatively similar to that from last year, though the overall package now appears to be a mix between Samsung’s AR filter focus and the straightforward nature of the mobile photography experience offered by Google’s Pixel lineup. Compared to other alternatives that are currently available on the market or will be released in the coming weeks, the HTC U12 Plus certainly has the specs to be considered a member of the elite smartphone imaging tier, though time will tell how well its camera holds up in everyday scenarios.

U12 Plus Battery

The battery is one of the few components of a smartphone that hasn’t changed much over the years, and in many respects is the one component that has changed the least. Of course this hasn’t stopped manufacturers from trying to improve the battery life of a device every time they launch a new one, although in the case of the HTC U12 Plus there’s not seemingly that much on offer in terms of battery innovation. Instead, the U12 Plus boasts a battery with a 3,500 mAh capacity with HTC hoping the greater capacity ensures the phone does not run out of power, too quickly.

At the software level HTC has included a couple of options which will look to save on power as and when needed. For example, the U12 Plus features both a power saving mode and an extreme power saving mode. Both of which will turn off just about everything and leave only the essential features working with the idea being the other features cannot demand additional power from the battery while paused. This doesn’t have to just be for when the battery is already low, as it can also be activated when the device is not expected to be in use for longer periods.

When it comes to charging, the U12 Plus features Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 support and with Quick Charge 3.0, the 3,500mAh capacity battery in the U12 Plus can charge up to 50-percent in just 35 minutes. This also means that in around an hour you can have a fully charged smartphone. At present, there does not seem to be any further advanced charging features on offer, such as wireless charging.

U12 Plus Security

HTC has outfitted the U12 Plus with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor in the same place as it was on its predecessor, the U11. The fingerprint sensor is still pretty fast, and also comes with gesture support, like bringing down the notification shade and such. It is located just below the cameras on the back of the U12 Plus, putting it in the perfect spot for use with an index finger without needing to reposition the grip of the U12 Plus.

Those that wish to unlock the U12 Plus without their fingerprint can opt to use their face as HTC has added face unlock here. Generally speaking, HTC has made it pretty easy to set up, and it also seems to respond fairly fast. Of course, it should be mentioned that face unlock is currently not as secure as using a fingerprint and for those more concerned about securing a device, the fingerprint sensor remains the better option. Still, it’s always good to have more options to easily unlock a device.

U12 Plus Variants

HTC has now announced two variants of the U12 Plus which largely differ as 64GB and 128GB storage flavors. It is also worth noting that the company announced that both single-SIM and dual-SIM U12 Plus variants will be available, depending on the market. Other than those points, the different U12 Plus models sport the same specs, and the same design overall. There is always a chance that HTC may announce other, market-specific variants of the U12 Plus in the coming months, and it is possible these might differ in some respects.

U12 Plus Availability

The HTC U12 Plus is available for pre-order starting today from HTC’s website. In the US, the Translucent Blue is going to be priced at $799 for the 64GB model and $849 for the 128GB model. The Ceramic Black is going to be available in 64GB only, with a price of $799 as well. Purchasing from HTC’s website means that you’ll be able to pay for the device in installments, at $0 down and $34 per month for 24 months. The Flame Red color is not yet available, however, HTC has confirmed to Android Headlines the Flame Red color will be coming in the next few months. So if you are looking to pick up the Flame Red color, you may want to sit back and wait a bit. Finally, HTC is not selling through any carriers, but will be selling the U12 Plus through Amazon and Newegg — in addition to its website — when it launches in June. No specific release date has been provided yet.

In Canada, availability is similar, with pre-orders beginning today on HTC’s website. Pricing is a bit different, however, with the Translucent Blue priced at $1,099 for the 64GB model, and $1,169 for the 128GB model. Meanwhile the Ceramic Black model is also priced at $1,099 for 64GB of storage.

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iPhone X2: TSMC 'starts production' of 7nm A12 chips for next-gen iPhones

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APPLE SUPPLIER TSMC has reportedly started production on the processors set to debut inside this year’s lineup of new iPhones.

So says Bloomberg, which reports that the processor – likely to be called the A12 chip – will use a 7-nanometer (7nm) design that will enable smaller, faster and more efficient processors than the 10nm chips found in current iDevices.

And while specifics details have yet to emerge, TSMC claims on its website that its 7nm processor allows for a 20 per cent improvement in performance and around 40 per cent power reduction. 

The Taiwanese chipmaker confirmed to Bloomberg that production had begun, but declined to disclose Apple as its customer.

The report arrives just hours after Samsung announced today that it’ll start producing 7nm chips at scale next year. The company has manufactured iPhone chips in the past and shared production with TSMC on the A9 chip in the iPhone 6S, but TSMC has been Apple’s exclusive SoC partner ever since.

10/5/18: iPhone X Plus will feature the same footprint as the iPhone 8 despite packing a larger 6.5in display, according to Macotakara.

The website, citing a “reliable supplier source,”, claims that Apple’s supersized iPhone X Plus will be the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus – which packs a much smaller 5.5in display – thanks to its dramatically smaller bezels.

However, Macorakara claims that the handset will be slightly thicker (0.2mm) than the iPhone 8 Plus due to a “different implementation” of the rear-facing camera, which means it likely will measure in around the 7.7mm mark. 

Seperately, the report claims that Apple’s second-gen 5.8in iPhone X will feature a larger camera sensor than the original model, although specifics were not mentioned. 

It also notes that the next version of Apple’s mobile OS, iOS 12, will bring support for horizontal Face ID unlocking. Currently, Face ID can only recognize you while you hold the phone vertically, but horizontal unlock makes sense for the near tablet-sized iPhone X Plus.

1/5/18: Apple reportedly won’t bundle a Lighting to 3.5mm dongle with its 2018 iPhones as the firm looks to eliminate the headphone jack completely. 

Ever since Apple decided to drop the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the company has included a Lighting to 3.5mm adaptor in the box. 

However, a research note from Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis, seen by AppleInsider, claims that this will stop this year, with the analyst noting “we currently model no dongle this year”.

Curtis didn’t provide any evidence, but his claims are backed up by earlier reports that Apple wants to lower the cost of its upcoming iPhones, and getting rid of the adaptor would push down the company’s expenses.

Such a move, while frustrating, wouldn’t be the end of the world, as Apple the adaptor as a standalone accessory for £9, which is cheap by the company’s standards.

27/4/18: Apple’s upcoming 6.1in might scrap 3D Touch due to ‘cost constraints’, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

According to Kuo, the entry-level 6.1in iPhone will use a new technology called ‘Cover Glass Sensor’ (CGS) that will see the handset’s touch control module relocated from the display panel to the actual glass. This CGS glass will reportedly make for a lighter and more shock resistant display, according to the note seen by Chinese site Feng

In addition to the in-glass sensor, Apple will also equip the glass with a ‘touch film sensor’. While the purpose of this remains unclear, Kuo notes that it will make the cost of the touch panel 15 per cent more expensive – with Apple set to pay $26 per touch panel, compared to $23 currently. 

In order to offset the cost of the new display tech, Kuo claims that Apple will get rid of the 3D Touch functionality on the 6.1in iPhone. However, it’ll remain intact on Apple’s 5.8in and 6.5in OLED iPhones, Kuo notes. 

These might be the last two iPhones to offer the functionality, though, as the research note claims that Apple plans to incorporate the CGS tech into future iPhones, including OLED models starting in 2019, 3D Touch could potentially be removed from all future iPhones. 

26/5/18: Intel will supply 70 per cent of LTE chips for Apple’s upcoming 2018 iPhones and could soon become the firm’s sole supplier, Fast Company reports.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously hinted that Intel might become Apple’s sole supplier of LTE modems this year, as tensions between the iPhone maker and Qualcomm escalate. 

However, a source with knowledge of Apple’s plans told Fast Company that Intel will supply the majority of the firm’s modem chips in 2018, noting that this is the first year that the chipmaker is fabricating its own chips using the 14nm process. 

“There’s also a chance that if Intel can produce enough chips on time and on budget it could get more than the planned 70 per cent,” the report notes. 

Despite the friction between the two firms, Qualcomm will reportedly provide the remainder of the chips. 

However, the firm could soon be kicked to the curb, as Fortune notes that Apple will transition solely to Intel for its 2019 iPhone lineup if all goes to plan this year. 

25/4/18: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has reportedly started production of the A12 processor that will debut inside Apple’s next-generation iPhones.

The chip is being produced using TSMC’s 7-nanometer (nm) production process, according to Digitimes, making it the first A-series chip to use this process. The A11 Bionic chip used inside the iPhone X and iPhone X was suit on the 10nm process. 

The A12 chip – which will reportedly be the first processor based on the 7nm processor, likely followed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 – looks set to equip Apple’s iPhone X2 with a boost in both speed and a better battery life. TSMC claims on its website that its 7nm processor allows for a 20 per cent improvement in performance and around 40 per cent power reduction. 

Separately, Digitimes notes that TSMC will be the sole producer of A12 chips, despite rumours that Samsung was competing with the firm for A12 production.

19/4/18: Apple’s rumoured 6.1in LCD iPhone, set to arrive later this year, could cost as little as $550, almost half the price of the current iPhone X.

So says respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, which claims that the incoming model could sell for between $550 and $650, while a dual-SIM model will be available for between $650 and $750. 

Kuo claims the upcoming 6.5in OLED iPhone will also feature a dual-SIM variant, but hasn’t coughed on how much this model is likely to cost. The 5.8in OLED iPhone will reportedly be available in a single-SIM version only. 

22/3/18: Apple plans to start a trial production run of its 2018 iPhone lineup in the second quarter, Digitimes reports. 

The move comes as Apple looks to avoid the manufacturing delays that plagued the original iPhone X, which were said to have been caused by low yield rates on the production of its 3D sensor modules.

Digitimes’ source claims that “the trial production will help push ahead the delivery schedules for 2018 iPhone devices so that they will rekindle its smartphone momentum”, noting that sales of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X have all been “lower than expected.”

21/3/18: The next-generation iPhone X will cost “much less” than Apple’s current £1,000 flagship, according to reports.

Apple is expected to launch three iPhone variants this year – a 6.5in OLED model, a 6.1in LCD model, and a 5.8in OLED model.

According to a new report from Digitimes Research senior analyst Luke Lin, the 5.8in variant of the second-gen iPhone X will be much cheaper to manufacture than the current model, despite its expensive OLED display. 

Lin, citing information from Apple’s upstream supply chain, claims the new device’s manufacturing bill of materials (MBOM) will be more than 10 per cent lower than that for the original iPhone X, which reportedly costs Apple $400 to build. 

This cost-saving will be passed along to the customer, claims Lin, who says the 5.85in iPhone X will be the cheapest of Apple’s 2018 iPhones. 

Interestingly, Lin adds that Apple had previously planned to bring an LCD version of the 5.85in iPhone to market this year, but scrapped the project in mid-February.

27/2/18: Just a day after the first images of alleged iPhone X Plus parts surfaced online, Bloomberg is reporting that Apple’s “biggest smartphone yet” will make its debut this year.

Mark Gurman, notorious for legitimate Apple leaks, reports that the iPhone X Plus will see an official launch later this year and will be just one of three new iPhones in 2018.

According to Gurman, the so-called iPhone X Plus will arrive alongside “an upgraded handset the same size as the current iPhone X and a less expensive model with some of the flagship phone’s key features.”

The iPhone X Plus, codenamed ‘D33’, sounds like it will be the most interesting of the three, with its 6.5in OLED display set to fit into a device with the same physical footprint as the iPhone 8 Plus thanks to its lack of physical home button and edge-to-edge display. 

It’s OLED display will pack a 1242×2688 display, according to the report, making it “about as sharp” as the 5.8in screen on the original iPhone X. 

The iPhone X Plus, along with the 5.8in iPhone X successor – codenamed ‘D22’ – could be made available in a gold colour option for the first time, the report claims. Bloomberg notes that Apple tried to develop a gold version of the current iPhone X handset, but abandoned it because of “production problems”. 

All three incoming models, including the more-affordable LCD-equipped model, will pack Apple’s next-generation A12 processor, the report adds, alongside iOS 12 and a built-in Face ID sensor. 

There’s no word as to when the smartphones will be making their debut, but it’s likely Apple will hold its launch event in September.

26/2/18: A leak alleged to have come from an LG display production facility in Vietnam has given us our first glimpse of Apple’s iPhone X Plus. 

A pair of images posted on MacX forums show what appears to be an iPhone X-shaped pane of glass. It’s clearly bigger than the panel found on the current-gen iPhone X, and looks like it could have a smaller notch too – matching up with earlier rumours that claimed that Apple will downsize the notch on future iPhone X models.

Although unclear whether the leak is legit, MacRumours notes that the flex cable looks authentic, as does the part number printed on it. 

Also adding weight to the leak is the fact that earlier rumours also claimed that, while Samsung currently uses Samsung as its supplier for OLED displays, it’s planning to use LG’s OLED facility for its 2018 iPhone models.

16/2/18: Apple will release a 6.1in iPhone this year that will resemble the iPhone X and cost just $699 (around £500) according to KGI.

In a note seen by 9to5Mac, KGI is predicting that Apple’s mooted 6.1in iPhone will “use slightly less premium components” than the iPhone X, such as an aluminium frame instead of stainless steel. Despite this, it will reportedly look nearly identical to Apple’s notch-equipped flagship.

This all sounds like a winning formula to KGI, which expects the 6.1in LCD-screened model to be Apple’s “most popular” 2018 device, and expects it to see total sales of around 100 million units. 

In comparison, KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo expects the current iPhone X to ship a total of 62 million units in its lifetime.

Alongside the 6.1in iPhone, Apple is also expected to launch a new and improved iPhone X with souped-up internals and a larger iPhone X Plus with a 6.5in OLED display. While KGI expects the lesser-specced model to retail for $699, pricing for the other two models is not yet known. 

5/2/18: Apple will reportedly make Intel its sole supplier of cellular modems for its 2018 iPhones, eliminating its reliance on Qualcomm.

So says KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, naturally, who reports via 9to5Mac that: “Intel will be the exclusive supplier of baseband chip for 2H18 new iPhone models, while Qualcomm may not have a share of the orders at all.”

According to Kuo, Intel can meet Apple’s technical requirements and offers more competitive prices. The modem which Apple may be using is Intel’s XMM 7560 modem which supports 4×4 MIMO technology.

This move comes amid escalating tensions between Apple and Qualcomm. One of the firms’ most recent legal squabbles saw the chipmaker accuse Apple of sharing proprietary code with Intel, including confidential information about its chips.

Despite this ongoing hostility between the two firms, Kuo doesn’t rule out Qualcomm returning to the supply chain, perhaps as concessions in the patent lawsuit settlement.

He adds that there’s also a risk that Intel may not be ready for 5G as quickly as Qualcomm, which may also force Apple’s hand.

26/1/18: Apple will launch a single OLED iPhone this year with a 6.5in screen, according to Digitimes, despite earlier speculation that it was also planning a 5.8in successor to the iPhone X.

Digitimes‘ report, which we’d advise to take with a pinch of salt, claims that Apple plans to abandon the 5.8in OLED iPhone form factor after just one generation, and plans instead to launch just the 6.5in iPhone X Plus later this year.

It notes, however, that Apple has “not yet made the final decision” and notes that the firm has been testing four different iPhone designs for 2018.

Still, it seems pretty confident that Apple” 2018 lineup will comprise of 5.8in LCD, a 6.1in LCD and the 6.5in OLED phone iPhone models. 

Elsewhere in its report, Digitimes also claims that an iPhone SE successor with wireless charging, and no 3D Touch, will make its debut later this year.

19/1/18: A new report from KGI, via 9to5Mac, reaffirms previous speculation that Apple will launch a three-tier iPhone lineup this year, including a 6.1in LCD model with a “similar design to the iPhone X”, a sequel to last year’s iPhone X and the 6.5in iPhone X Plus. 

This comes despite KGI’s claims that the iPhone X hasn’t sold as well as first thought. The analyst outfit expects Apple to ship 18 million iPhone X units in the current quarter, significantly below other estimates in the 20-30 million range.

With these lacklustre figures in mind, KGI expects the iPhone X to hit end of life status around mid-2018 with sales of 62 million units in total, lower than its previous forecast of 80 million.

30/11/17: Apple is reportedly developing in-house power management chips that could debut in next year’s iPhones, according to a report at Nikkei

The report claims that the chip “would be the most advanced in the industry” and could dramatically extend the battery life of iPhones. Nikkei says that while a timeframe is not yet locked down, Apple is hoping to debut the chips in its 2018 iPhones.

This could be bad news for UK outfit Dialog, which currently designs the power management chips for iPhones.  If Apple – which last year accounted for 74 per cent of Dialog’s revenue – was to switch to in-house circuitry, it would no longer be required to hand over royalty payments. 

The company’s stock has already fallen by 15 per cent following Nikkei’s report, although neither Apple nor Dialog have commented on the rumours.

Earlier this year, Apple told UK-based Imagination Technologies that it would stop licensing its GPU designs. This news saw the company’s stock tumble more than 70 per cent in a single day, and the two firms are now embroiled in a legal battle

20/11/17: KGI Securities is predicting that Apple’s 2018 iPhone line-up will include ‘significantly faster’ baseband chips, with Intel set to be the main supplier.

KGI says that Intel will provide 70 to 80 per cent of the improved chips, which will pack 4×4 MIMO technology compared to the current 2×2 MIMO chips currently used in Apple smartphones.

The remaining chips are set to come from Qualcomm, according to the research note, despite previous speculation that Apple was set to cut ties with the American chipmaker due to escalating legal tensions between the two firms.

While Qualcomm will still have a hand in next year’s iPhones, KGI notes that Apple is working on building its own baseband chips, in a bid to help it reduce costs in the future. 

14/11/17: Apple will reportedly release three new iPhones next year and all of them will come with a notched display, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. 

Kuo expects Apple to release three iPhones in 2018, including 5.8in and 6.5in models with OLED displays and a cheaper 6.1in handset with an LCD display, according to a research note seen by MacRumours.

“Two new OLED models target high-end market; new TFT-LCD model aims at low-end & midrange markets,” Kuo said.

“The new TFT-LCD model will differ significantly from the OLED models in hardware and design specs (for instance, the PPI will be lower). The primary selling points of the TFT-LCD model may be the innovative user experience of an integrated full-screen design and 3D sensing with a lower price tag (we expect it will likely be US$649-749).”

Kuo goes on to say that all three models will likely come equipped with a full-screen notched design and TrueDepth camera system like that seen on the iPhone X, with all three handsets tipped to dump Touch ID in favour of Apple’s new, crackable Face ID system

Earlier rumours also claimed that next year’s iPhone(s) could ship without modem chips from Qualcomm, with Apple said to be testing modem chips from Intel and MediaTek to potentially include in its 2018 hardware line-up. There’s also talk of the so-called iPhone 11 packing a Samsung-built A12 chip

Kuo also suggested that Apple will have a lot more of the ‘new’ iPhones available at launch when compared to the 80 million iPhone units shipped in the second half of this year.

While Kuo predicts the cheaper LCD model to fetch around $700, there’s no word yet as to how much Apple’s next-gen OLED models are likely to cost.

We’re going to go out on a whim and predict that the new iPhones will probably be announced in September next year. µ

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