HTC revived its budget smartphone lineup this year with two new additions to the long-running Desire series – the Desire 12 and Desire 12 Plus. The Desire series is renowned for bringing top-end features in a wallet-friendly but unremarkable package.
The tech-packed HTC Desire Pro 10 released almost two years ago and helped HTC break the cycle of mediocrity by offering a handset worth getting excited for. The Taiwanese manufacturer looks to achieve the same effect with the Desire 12 and 12 Plus by bringing large screens, premium design and stronger build qualities at a lower cost.
The specifications look fairly modest considering the price, and falls short of current rivals such as the Honor 7x, Nokia 6 and Moto G5S Plus, which offer higher resolution screens, pixel-packed cameras and faster chipsets in the same price range.
There are some brilliant budget phones on the market today with more being released every year like the Moto G6 and the upcoming LG Q7. Will HTC’s budget compromises be enough to reinvigorate the Desire series or will the Desire 12 Plus fall to HTC’s curse of mediocrity?
Price and Availability
- Launch price of AED 899
- Now available at leading retailers
The Desire 12 Plus is priced at AED 899 and is now available online and at retail marketplaces. It will initially come in two colors, Cool Black and Warm Silver, with a signature shiny Royal Gold in the works for a later date.
Pricing is a little awkward as it puts the phone at the higher end of budget phones but just shy of other budget and mid-range rivals that offer more features in the same price bracket.
- Posh design with a reflective mirror finish
- Light and comfortable to hold
- Fingerprint magnet
The HTC Desire 12 Plus strikes a premium look at first glance. It mimics the polished Liquid Surface look from HTC’s U11 flagship but is made of durable acrylic instead of glass and is just as much a fingerprint magnet.
This is a large phone measuring at 158.2 x 76.6 x 8.4mm but it totes a slim profile and a very manageable weight of 157.5 grams. It’s a well built phone that sits snugly in your hand and is quite skinny but it’s not waterproof so you’ll want to be cautious around liquids.
The front houses an earpiece and an 8MP selfie camera sans flash on the top. It is covered in 2.5D glass that softly curves around the matte plastic frame that runs along the phone, while the rear edges curve smoothly into the flat back panel, giving the phone a great and comfy in-hand feel.
On the back, you’ll find an array of dual-cameras tucked away at the top-left edge together with a well-placed fingerprint scanner that works without a hitch and unlocks the phone quickly, even with partial finger placements.
The bottom is home to a microUSB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a neat-looking grille for the mono-speaker, while the volume rocker and textured power button are positioned on the right side opposite the hybrid dual-SIM tray.
Overall, the Desire 12 Plus feels rather premium given its price, and is pleasant to hold thanks to an optimum 18:9 aspect ratio and a thin profile.
- Generous 6-inch HD+ display
- Crisp but not very bright
The Desire 12 Plus packs in a sizeable 6-inch IPS LCD screen with an HD+ resolution of 720 x 1440, resulting in an acceptable pixel density of ~281ppi. Images on the Desire 12+ are sharp and have an impressive level of clarity despite the modest resolution. It doesn’t pack the punch of an OLED screen, but it does a fine job of producing natural looking colors and detailed images.
The 18:9 aspect ratio is great for viewing content whether it’s websites, ebooks, games, apps and videos. It also keeps the bezels small so that you get more screen for your buck.
Colors are a touch on the warmer side straight out of the box, but that can be fixed by using the color temperature option in the Display settings. If you want to fine tune and play around with contrast and gamma, you’ll have to rely on a third-party app.
Speaking of contrasts, the HTC Desire 12 Plus definitely has one of the better IPS panels offering deeper blacks than most phones, and great viewing angles for when you want to watch a video with other people. There’s also a Night Light mode that reduces blue light on the screen to protect your eyes and help you fall asleep easier.
One area where it falls short is brightness levels. Where most IPS displays are remarkably visible under direct sunlight, the Desire 12 Plus is just okay, often requiring you to squint your eyes to get a better glimpse of the screen.
- 2,960 mAh battery
- Easily lasts a day with mixed use
The battery life on the HTC Desire 12 Plus is not large by any means, especially for the screen size, but it is able to comfortably last a day after moderate use with 20% left in the tank towards the end of the day.
One good thing about having a low capacity battery is that it won’t take up too much time to charge, which is helpful in Desire 12 Plus' case as it lacks fast charging. We were able to charge the phone to 70% in an hour and a half, which is slower than some phones but plenty fast for most folks. If you’re planning to stay out for most of the day, it’s better to charge the phone overnight.
In day-to-day use we found that an hour’s charge can last you a better part of the day, which is impressive stamina for a phone in this price bracket, but power users will run dry by the end of day.
Running our standard battery test that involves playing a 90 minute 720p video with brightness cranked to max and accounts syncing over Wifi, the Desire 12 Plus lost 25% of its battery life which is typical for a bright IPS panel of this size.
- Dual 13MP + 2MP cameras on the rear with LED flash
- 8MP snapper on the front
- Frustrating shutter lag
The HTC Desire 12 Plus features a dual-camera setup on the rear, with a main 13MP sensor that does most of the work and a 2MP sensor for depth-sensing. While top-end flagships use their second sensors for zooming in, the second 2MP sensor on Desire 12 Plus exists solely for the purpose of taking depth of field photos for artsy bokeh effects.
The rear shooter turns out some pretty stunning shots, but getting there takes some effort. The camera app is plagued with lag, and shutter speeds are slow even during daylight conditions. But if you’re in a well-lit environment and have steady enough hands AND your subject doesn’t move too much, you can snap some beautiful shots.
Color reproduction on photos is impressive too for such a modest camera. We rarely found photos to be overexposed or blown out in brightly lit scenarios and were pleased to find that images retained their vibrancy without going dark or dull.
The dual setup allows for multiple focal point capture at the same time, allowing you to adjust focus in photos later so if you aren’t happy with your shots, a quick tweak in the Photos app can put things right.
There is an HDR mode on board, but it is tucked away in the settings menu. It’s a nice feature to have on a budget phone but unless you have a lot of time to take a shot, it’s best left alone.
You can take some pretty striking bokeh shots as well with reasonably blurred backgrounds for portraits and such, if you manage to line up your shots properly. We were able to take some solid defocused shots that kept the subject reliably sharp.
Low-light scenarios are a real struggle for the Desire 12 Plus but that is a common irk across most budget to mid-range phones. You can’t expect to whip out your phone at a moment’s notice and expect to be able to take a shot instantaneously. The camera will take its time to focus, and shutter speeds are even worse. That being said, photos can be reasonably detailed and well-lit when taken in poorly lit areas with surprisingly low levels of grain and noise.
Selfies on the HTC Desire 12 Plus turn out reasonably well with accurate tones but there’s a noticeable loss in detail, and shutter speeds are even slower than the cameras on the rear, so taking a selfie while walking is out of the question.
Settings-wise, the Desire 12 Plus doesn’t offer much apart from basic camera modes. There’s no true manual mode for enthusiasts who’d like more control, but you can adjust ISO, white-balance and exposure under general settings for certain modes.
You can shoot 1080p video at 30fps on the rear cameras and the resulting footage is decent enough for social sharing, although nothing to get too excited over. There’s no slow motion capture but it does offer basic white balance correction and image stabilisation. Overall, the cameras on HTC Desire 12 Plus are more than capable albeit on the slow side and can deliver results rivalling its mid-range competitors.
Interface and reliability
- Runs Oreo out of the box
- Clutter-free UI with minimal bloat
The Desire 12 Plus runs a slightly tweaked version of Android 8 but stays true to the Android experience. It’s devoid of bloatware, save for HTC’s Blink Feed and Sense Companion. The former is an aggregated feed that displays posts and updates pulled from your social media accounts and news sites.
Sense Companion is more interesting. It was previously only available on HTC’s U series flagship phones but has made its way into the budget lineup. It’s an AI assistant that gives you suggestions throughout the day on how to make the most out of your phone.
Using information like location, time and usage patterns it gives you suggestions such as restaurants near you and traffic conditions. If Sense Companion sees that you have an appointment later in the day and your battery is not going to last till then, it will send you a prompt to charge your battery ahead of time. It’s a helpful gimmick to have but at the end of the day, is non-essential.
HTC has opted to stick with the Google suite of apps instead of developing their own duplicate versions of the same. These apps are excellent and feature-rich although Photos can get a touch irritating by slowing down access to photos while it connects to the cloud.
Navigation is fast, clean and smooth on the Desire 12 Plus with no noticeable lag. Loading times are zippy, with the exception of a few intensive apps. Surfing the web with multiple tabs open together with multitasking and switching quickly between apps also goes off without a hitch.
Music, movies and gaming
- Large screen is perfect for watching videos
- 32GB storage expandable to 2TB with microSD
- Satisfactory gaming performance
The 6-inch HD+ screen on the Desire 12 Plus offers good detailed viewing despite the low resolution and is great for Netflix marathons or a YouTube binge. Since it’s on an 18:9 aspect ratio, you’ll need to tap on the full-screen prompt to get your content to fill the screen and make most out of the display.
Like most budget phones, the Desire 12 Plus has a single downward-firing mono speaker on the bottom. Unlike most budget phones, the audio quality is loud and clear for the most part and avoids sounding too reedy.
The Desire 12 Plus retains the 3.5mm headphone jack for wired headphones, and supports Bluetooth ones as well. We recommend using a good pair for the best sound experience as it can be easy to cover up the speaker grille when the phone is held in landscape mode.
Storage-wise, there’s a humble 32GB on board which was reduced to 20 GB after we installed our usual selection of apps. It should be enough for the average user but media hoarders and heavy gamers would want to look into buying a microSD card. Memory cards are slotted into the tray designated for the second SIM, so keep that in mind if you use two SIMs and thinking about expanding storage.
Gaming is a fairly enjoyable experience as long as you don’t push it too much with graphic-intensive games like Injustice 2 and Dead Trigger 2. The Desire 12 Plus is able to take on most games comfortably without dropping too many framerates and the wide screen makes the experience even more enjoyable.
Performance & Benchmarks
- Snapdragon 450 with 3GB RAM
- Snappy performance with negligent slowdowns
- Geekbench scores on par with competitors
The HTC Desire 12 Plus is powered by a newer and more efficient Snapdragon 450 chipset that allows for dual-camera support at higher resolutions and better battery optimization. The SoC is paired with 3GB of RAM and makes the phone more than capable at handling general tasks and apps.
While it’s not a powerhouse by any stretch, it performs faster than most phones in this price range. Certain memory-hogging apps can take longer to load than you’d like, but in our daily use we never found ourselves peeved by the phone’s speed.
Geekbench scores are respectable too, with the Desire 12 Plus returning a multi-core score of 3,758, marginally better than Honor’s 7x and Honor 9 Lite that scored 3,579 and 3,696 respectively. But it scored lower than the current Nokia 6 and Moto G5S Plus that managed to scored more than 4,000 on slightly overclocked SoCs.
Connectivity on the Desire 12+ is adequate too, much like any other phone at the price point. A micro USB port in 2018 is a bit disappointing as most phones are making the move to USB-C, so is the lack of 5GHz Wi-fi band support and NFC.
The HTC Desire 12 Plus isn’t a groundbreaking phone by any means but it’s a solid performer. Like most of its predecessors, it’s a good phone but there’s nothing remarkable about it.
It utilizes every bit of its humdrum budget specs to deliver snappy mid-range level performance. The large HD+ display is clean and crisp making it great for viewing content and some gaming, although we would have liked it to be brighter.
It’s got a posh look and a slim curved profile that feels great in your hands. The cameras are not stellar but can take stunning shots if you’re patient enough, and battery life is more than acceptable.
But in a sea of remarkable budget phones that offer much more bang for buck, the Desire 12 Plus falls flat. Within the same price bracket you can nab yourself a phone with a 1080p screen, better camera and a slightly better chipset.
Who's it for?
For those after a budget phone with a plush appearance that feels light and comfy in the hands, you can’t go wrong here. If you’re looking for a big screen phone with snappy performance and a decent camera, but you’re not too fussed about extra features, the HTC Desire 12 Plus is a solid entry-level choice that’s also easy on the wallet.
It would make a good first phone for kids and young teenagers or non-tech savvy loved ones.
Should you buy it?
If all you want is a lightweight phone with a massive screen that can handle moderate daily usage then you’ll be quite happy with the Desire 12 Plus.
But if you want to use your smartphone to watch Full HD content, play demanding games and take superb selfies, you’ll want to look elsewhere and consider spending a touch more.
The HTC Desire 12 Plus is a good phone for the money, but the following handsets are decent alternatives.
Honor 9 Lite
Costing AED 849, the Honor 9 Lite sits at the lower end of the Android smartphone price spectrum, making it an attractive option if you're looking for a wallet-friendly purchase.
Read the full Honor 9 Lite review
Moto G5 Plus
For around the same price as the HTC Desire 12 Plus, you can pick up a Moto G5 Plus. This offers more power under the hood, but a less elegant design, and none of the front camera effects the 9 Lite brings to the table.
The Nokia 6 is also available for AED 799 at the moment, offering stereo speakers, a more traditional screen aspect ratio, and a much more stock Android experience, though the battery life leaves a little to be desired.