A pop-up camera, no bezels to speak of around the screen, and an in-display fingerprint sensor that can recognize two fingers at the same time — these were just three of the reasons we were so excited to see the Vivo Apex concept phone at Mobile World Congress this year. However, while Vivo said we may see some of the technology from the phone in a future device, it was never certain the Apex itself would be released. The good news is, Vivo has decided to release the Apex on June 12.
How similar will it be to the phone we saw at MWC? A teaser video and image show the phone in some detail, and it’s clear two of the three technologies that made the Apex stand out will be in the final version. The bezel-less screen remains, as does the pop-up selfie camera; but it doesn’t appear the exact same in-display fingerprint sensor will make it. That doesn’t mean it won’t have an in-display sensor though. Right at the start of the video, the phone is unlocked with an in-display fingerprint sensor, which more resembles the version we’ve seen on the Vivo X20UD.
It’s likely a sensible decision by Vivo. The Apex’s multi-function in-display sensor wasn’t very reliable, and rarely recognised multiple prints. The Synaptics sensor used on the prototype X20UD was very reliable in our early tests. If it is the same as the X21UD, the Apex has the potential to be a formidable phone.
The screen has almost no bezels at all, no notch, and no chin. Sensors and speakers are all hidden away or sculpted into the body, while the selfie camera motorizes up from the top of the phone when the selfie mode is activated, and then slides away again when it’s not needed. It’s a neat, fun, and eye-catching way to deal with the problem of where to put the lens on bezel-less phones. The Apex phone’s design is likely to be very similar, too, and a render of the phone published on Twitter, apparently based on leaked photos, may show the device in all its glory.
It’s impossible not to be excited about such a futuristic-looking smartphone. Vivo will launch the Apex at an event in Shanghai on June 12, but no price or availability has been provided yet. Vivo does sell some devices internationally, but not officially in the United States, so if you want one after it’s released you’ll probably need the services of an importer. We’ll keep you up to date with all the Vivo Apex’s release news here.
Not so long ago, a New York Times journalist took a look at just how much Facebook knew about him, and was horrified by the answer. Of course, this little experiment begged the question — how much do the other popular tech companies know about their users? To answer that, Jefferson Graham of USA Today looked into how much data Apple had collected from him, and was quite surprised by the answer — not that much.
Now, if you want to see exactly what Apple knows about you, that process has been made a little bit easier — though it’s rolling out first in the European Union. Apple’s new Data and Privacy website lets you download everything that Apple associates with your account, including your Apple ID, App Store activity, AppleCare history, and iCloud data.
For folks in the rest of the world, don’t worry — we’ll get this option in the coming months, too. Apple has also made it easier for you to update your information, deactivate your account, or permanently delete it.
But before we get into how you can go about doing this, let’s take a closer look at what Apple knew about Graham. Like many of us, Graham is quite the avid Apple user, and has an iPhone, iPad, and two Mac computers. As such, it seemed likely that the company could have a veritable treasure trove of key information on someone like Graham. But in a pleasant surprise, this was not the case.
Back in March, Apple made it a bit easier for folks to download their iCloud and Apple ID data in order to comply with European Union rules. Folks also now have the option of correcting personal information, deactivating accounts, or deleting them altogether. But unlike Facebook, these accounts aren’t quite as rife with data as you might expect.
As Graham reported, when Apple finally delivered the requested data (it did take quite a while — eight days, to be exact), it was in a zip file that was only 9 megabytes large. Compare that to Graham’s Google and Facebook files, which were 243 and 881 MB respectively. Part of the reason that Apple’s data package is about 1/100th of the size of Facebook’s is that the majority of your Apple-related information is stored locally on your device, not on Apple’s servers. That means that while Apple has records of your downloads, purchases, and device repairs, it does not have access to your search history either by way of Siri or Safari.
This, Apple says, is a testament to just how seriously the company takes user privacy.
As Graham noted, Apple had time stamps of every time he backed up his iPhone, uploaded photos to iCloud, and his email and physical address. The company also had a copy of every app and song Graham had downloaded over the years. However, Apple did not have the questions Graham had asked smart assistant Siri, even though the company does use user queries to make Siri smarter.
How does this work? Apple says that once you ask Siri a question, Apple uses a “random identifier to mask your identity.” So while Apple knows what questions people are asking, none of those questions can be traced back to a particular user.
While Graham’s data file did include his browsing history from his Macs dating back to July of 2017, Apple claimed to not track that information. That means that Apple doesn’t use this data to send targeted advertisements, again, a very different practice from Google and Facebook. That said, the company does use your data to sell targeted ads based on your activity in the News and App Store apps. You can actually see what information Apple is using here by going to Settings, Privacy, then Advertising. If you tap “View Ad Information,” you’ll see who’s targeting you.
While it’s not quite the case that Apple knows and collects nothing about and from its users, it’s quite clear that in comparison to companies that derive their revenue from advertising (which is to say, Google and Facebook), Apple has relatively little user information.
And with the new Data and Privacy website, you can reduce that information even further. In order to obtain a copy of your personal data (that is to say, information that is personally identifiable as being yours), you’ll need to visit privacy.apple.com. Then, under “Obtain a copy of your data,” click the Get started link. Once you click the boxes of data categories you want to see, you’ll press continue, and select your preferred maximum file size. Apple will send you your data in chunks, up to 25GB. Once you press Continue again, Apple will begin working on sending over your information. You’ll receive a notification when it’s ready to download, and after two weeks, this information will be automatically deleted.
You can also now elect to get rid of your Apple ID, which would mean that you’d be cut off from iTunes, iBooks, and the App Store. You also wouldn’t be able to access any iCloud data, or use iCloud services like FaceTime or iMessage. Apple would also delete all the data it has on you, and this is an irreversible process. So proceed with caution.
Updated on May 23: This is how you can download your own data from Apple.
The all-screen smartphone is an inevitability. The question at this point, really, is who will get there first and how they’ll accomplish that feat. I spoke to a LG rep at the G7 launch, who suggested that the notch is going to be fact of life for the next couple of years, but a number of manufacturers are pushing to get there a heck of a lot quicker.
Back at MWC in Febrary, Vivo’s Apex handset seemed like little more than a concept, but a couple of new teasers suggest otherwise. A new video demonstrates the handset’s flip-up selfie camera in action, along with a “Save the Date” notice for a June 12 event in Shanghai. The handset appears to be, at the very least, a close relative of the concept phone.
“In keeping with the promise to continuously support user habits,” the company notes, “Apex also features an 8MP Elevating Front Camera. The camera seamlessly rises in 0.8 seconds when it is required and retracts after use. Together with the hidden proximity sensor and ambient light sensor, this eliminates the space taken up by conventional front cameras, while offering the same selfie experience to users.”
Vivo’s just one of a number of companies who think they’ve got the answer here. When we met with Doogee back in February, the company showed off a number of prototypes aimed at circumventing the notch, including a similar pop up model and a version that slides to reveal a camera inside.
And then, of course, there’s the Lenovo Z5, which a VP for the company showed off via social media earlier this month. Though that presently seems to amount to little more than a sketch. For the moment, all of this feels like a bunch of companies showing off concepts aimed at demonstrating that they “thought of it first.”
Perhaps next month, however, Vivo will be ready to put its money where its mouth is.
Back in 2016, the social media site expanded its functionality, dipping its toe into the waters of digital commerce. It did this via Marketplace, a feature within the Android and iOS Facebook app that is described as “a convenient destination to discover, buy, and sell items with people in your community.” Initially, we described it as a yard sale in the palm of your hand, but now, it’s much more than that. The latest offering from Marketplace comes in the form of a home services feature for U.S. users. Now, you can hire a plumber, a cleaner, an electrician, or anything else you need for home improvement straight from the social network.
In order to launch this new feature, Facebook has formed partnerships with service providers like Handy, HomeAdvisor, and Porch. Already, thousands of professionals are available for hire.
“More people ask for recommendations related to home services on Facebook in the U.S. than any other topic,” said Deb Liu, vice president of Marketplace, in a statement. And now, Facebook is providing answers. Marketplace also gives users the option to receive a quick quote for services requested, as well as the ability to send out your project details to several professionals at once. And of course, when you’re connected to a potential service provider, you can chat via Messenger.
Using the feature should be pretty straightforward. From the Marketplace menu, you’ll need to scroll over to Marketplace Services, and select the service you need. Facebook will then ask a number of questions to provide the most helpful potential match. You’ll then enter your zip code, and Facebook will show you the people available for the task. You can browse profiles to see more information about a company or individual, with ratings and reviews to boot. The feature has begun rolling out today and will be made widely available across the nation in the next few weeks.
And this isn’t all that Facebook Marketplace offers. Not so long ago, the social network added apartment listings to Marketplace, and there’s also an automobile selection if you’re looking to make a different kind of major purpose.
Facebook’s Director of Product Management Mary Ku previously noted, buying and selling has been taking place on the social network for years, with more than 450 million people taking to the site to barter and trade each month. Marketplace is Facebook’s attempt at streamlining those processes. “Marketplace makes it easy to find new things you’ll love, and find a new home for the things you’re ready to part with,” Ku wrote. “We’ll continue to build new options and features to make this the best experience for people.”
Facebook Marketplace has steadily expanded over the last couple years, slowly moving away from just another version of Craigslist to a more reputable network of buyers and sellers. Marketplace is also showing job postings, and Facebook has added ticket sales as well as products from other retailers’ shopping pages.
“We’ll kind of look and see what’s popular, what people want to engage with,” Deb Liu, the Facebook VP who oversees Marketplace told Recode. “So if people are searching or looking for something, we want to make that available to them.”
So how do you access Marketplace? When you open the Facebook app on your phone, you should now see a shop icon at the bottom. When you tap on the icon, you’ll find photos of items for sale, and you can filter your results by location, category, and price. Much like other online marketplaces, you can further simplify your results by selecting categories like Household, Electronics, and Apparel. And if you don’t want to search in just your neighborhood, you can use the location tool to switch to a different region.
Once something has caught your eye, simply tap on the image for details, such as a product description, name and profile photo of the seller, and its location. If you’re ready to take the plunge, you can send the seller a direct message from Marketplace to make an offer. From there, you’re on your own — “Facebook does not facilitate the payment or delivery of items in Marketplace,” Ku noted.
Update: Facebook Marketplace now offers home services.
HTC may have sold around 2,000 engineers from its research and development team to Google last year, but that’s not slowing the Taiwanese company down from releasing smartphones. Right on schedule, the HTC U12 Plus is here, releasing almost exactly a year after its predecessor, the HTC U11.
The U12 Plus is the only U12 you’ll find – there’s no “regular” model. The new phone has a bigger screen, but also a higher $800 price tag. It’s clear HTC wants to directly compete with the big boys like the Galaxy S9 Plus, the Google Pixel 2 XL, and the iPhone X. Can it hold its own against top-tier competitors?
No mechanical buttons
Take a breath of relief — there’s no notch on the HTC U12 Plus. The notch is a growing trend in Android phones, ever since Apple popularized it on the iPhone X (though yes, the Essential did it first). We’ve grown used to it, having seen it on multiple phones like the Huawei P20 Pro, the OnePlus 6, and the LG G7 ThinQ, but we’re happy to see a phone not jumping on the trend. While the bezels surrounding the display are much smaller than the ones on the HTC U11, they’re not as thin as other modern flagships. Still, the U12 Plus looks attractive. Uniquely, it has two front-facing cameras, but more on that later.
On the bottom of the phone is a USB Type-C charging port, next to a bottom-firing speaker. The speaker works with the top earpiece to provide stereo sound (what HTC calls BoomSound). We haven’t had a chance to try the speakers out yet.
In a twist, the phone’s buttons – even volume — aren’t mechanical at all, meaning they don’t move when you press them. Instead, they’re touch-sensitive like the home button on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7. There zero mechanical buttons on the U12 Plus, and we’re not so sure if that’s a good thing.
Why did HTC eliminate physical buttons? A company spokesperson told us it improves water-proofing, but HTC also wants a phone with a clean look. We’ll have to do more testing on the U12 Plus to see if touch-sensitive buttons interrupt day-to-day use, and if they’re a good idea.
Translucent Blue caught our attention because — like the name suggests — you can slightly see internal components.
Flip the phone around, and you’ll think you bought an LG V30. Both have a dual-camera setup that are horizontally-aligned, a stark contrast to the vertical alignment on many other new phones. There’s a nice, large fingerprint sensor below the separate flash module, and it’s easy to access. There’s a little too much going on in the top half of the phone, and we’d like to see HTC integrate some of the additional sensors and the flash into the main camera module for a cleaner look. There’s also the HTC logo in the middle, and a microphone hole at the bottom.
HTC is still utilizing its Liquid Surface design, which it unveiled last year. That means variations of colors have been added to layers of the glass, allowing it to reflect and display subtle changes in color when held up to light. It still looks fantastic, and we love the new color options — Translucent Blue, Flame Red, and Ceramic Black.
Flame Red won’t be available until later this summer, but Translucent Blue caught our attention because — like the name suggests — you can slightly see internal components on the rear of the U12 Plus. HTC already experimented this design with the HTC U11 Plus last year, but that phone didn’t make its way to the U.S. We love the translucency, but we wouldn’t mind if HTC removed the vertical lines under the HTC logo. Flame Red would be our immediate second choice, because it’s so flashy that it stands out from the competition.
Oddly, HTC is using Gorilla Glass 3 — not Gorilla Glass 5 like all the other flagships — on the rear and front of the phone. HTC told Digital Trends that’s because Gorilla Glass 3 is “the optimal balance of scratch resistance, shatter-proofing, and bendability for the 3D glass edges on the U12 Plus.” No matter what type of glass it uses, you’ll still need a case to protect this phone, and the company provides one in the box. Thankfully, the phone is IP68 water-resistant, which means it can survive a dip in the pool.
Also, glass on the back doesn’t mean there’s support for wireless charging. HTC said it doesn’t think the technology is much more useful than wired charging.
HTC U12 Plus Compared To
Improved Edge Sense
The edges of the phone are rounded, making it comfortable to hold, but the 6-inch screen can be a little unwieldy. It can be tough to reach the top corners. Luckily, HTC has a handy solution, and it involves its Edge Sense technology that debuted on the U11 last year. In addition to a short squeeze and a long squeeze of the phone, you can now double tap either side of the U12 Plus to trigger one-handed mode, which makes the content on the screen smaller and easier to reach.
Flip the phone around, and you’ll think you bought an LG V30.
The squeeze actions are done on the lower half of the phone, and it works thanks to sensors on the edge of the phone that can detect pressure. You can customize the apps you want to open or the actions you want to trigger with all three gestures, or you can turn it completely off. For example, you can set a double tap to open the camera, a short squeeze to launch the camera, and a long squeeze to open your favorite messaging app. Google used this same technology in the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, though only for launching Google Assistant.
HTC also uses the Edge Sense sensors to recognize how you’re holding it. If you are holding the phone in portrait mode and lie down, the screen won’t rotate to portrait. If you hold it in landscape orientation, it will automatically rotate. This feature may be moot, though, considering the next version of Android has a nifty way of managing those sudden screen rotations.
We like Edge Sense, and the level of customizability to make those actions personalized, but we’ll need more testing to see if all these touch-based gestures — including the touch-sensitive buttons — genuinely improve usability.
Super LCD Display
The HTC U11 had a 5.5-inch screen, but the U12 Plus cranks that up to 6 inches. That doesn’t mean the new phone is much bigger, though, as the smaller bezels make the U12 just a tad taller than its predecessor.
The taller screen equates to an 18:9 ratio, a trend with new phones, as well as a 2,880 x 1,440 pixel resolution. That’s a pixel density of 537 pixels-per-inch, and HTC has opted for a Super LCD screen. The screen gets bright, but in our brief time with the phone, we noticed it was still a little tough to see the screen outdoors. The screen is colorful and sharp, though the blacks aren’t as inky as you’d find on an OLED screen.
Performance, software, and battery
The HTC U12 Plus is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor and comes with 6GB of RAM. You can choose between 64GB of internal storage or 128GB, but there’s also a MicroSD card slot to expand it more. We didn’t see any performance issues. Apps opened quickly, and transitions were fluid, though we’ll have to do more intensive testing. Based on the same processor in other phones, we don’t think anyone will have problems with the phone’s performance.
The software is close to stock Android, but there are some of HTC’s flourishes.
The U12 Plus runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and HTC confirmed it will get Android P when it’s released later this year. The software is close to stock Android, but there are some of HTC’s flourishes like Blinkfeed (a collection of personalized news and interests on the left of the main home screen). In the unit we tested, it looked like there’s quite a bit of bloatware pre-installed. We’ll double check with our final review unit when we receive it.
There’s a 3,500mAh battery in the U12 Plus, and it supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology. It also supports Quick Charge 4.0, but you’ll need to find a compatible adapter to utilize the faster charging speed.
There are four cameras on the HTC U12 Plus — two on the rear, and two on the front. On the front, top left corner are two 8-megapixel cameras with f/2.0 apertures each, and a fixed focus. You can’t swap between the two cameras, but the extra lens helps take Portrait Mode selfies — which blurs the background to bring out the focus on a subject. It’s quick to react, and the portrait mode photos it takes are solid. We did notice some issues with blurred edges, particularly with hair, but that’s par for the course with most other phones.
HTC has added AR stickers in the camera app in case you want to don a pair of rabbit ears, and you can also use the front-facing cameras for Face Unlock, which does what it says on the in. It’s meant for convenience, not security, so you can’t use it to access secure apps, as is true on the iPhone X.
HTC is no stranger to dual cameras on the rear — having been among the first to debut the technology in 2014 — but the company went back to a single lens set up for a period of time, kicking up its feet as the rest of the smartphone market fully adopted a dual-lens system. Well, the dual-lens system is finally back, though it’s not too different from the competition. There’s a 12-megapixel standard lens with a f/1.75 aperture, as well as a 16-megapixel telephoto lens with a f/2.6 aperture. The latter lens offers 2 times optical zoom, which means you can zoom in a little more without sacrificing image quality. Both lens have optical image stabilization.
DxOMark gave the U12 Plus a 103 score, which puts it second to the Huawei P20 Pro.
The camera shutter is fast, and the few photos we took look well-detailed, with accurate colors. We’ll do more testing to see how it stacks up in this increasingly competitive field. There’s now a Portrait Mode on the rear as well. You can see the blur effect live in the viewfinder, and you can change the intensity or remove the blur after you capture the image. The camera app also has a Pro mode that lets you access RAW photo files.
HTC has improved on a feature previously called Acoustic Focus. It’s now called Sonic Zoom, and it lets you zoom into a subject during a video. The camera will try to boost the sound of the subject you’re zooming in on, while suppressing other sound. We haven’t given it a try yet, but HTC did say it has genuinely improved, and it’s not just a name change. Speaking of video, you can now shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second, or slow-motion video at 240 frames per second and 1080p.
The camera on the HTC U11 was a surprise hit, competing head to head with the likes of the Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone X, and we’re expecting it to deliver strong results again on the U12 Plus. DxOMark gave the U12 Plus a 103 score, which puts it second to the Huawei P20 Pro.
Price and availability
You can pre-order the Translucent Blue version of the HTC U12 Plus now in either 64GB, which costs $800, or 128GB, which will set you back $850. The Ceramic Black version is also available, but only in 64GB. The Flame Red color will be available later this year. The U12 Plus is also available for $34 per month for 24 months at 0 percent APR. HTC is selling the phone unlocked on its website and on Amazon, and the phone is certified to work on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
The HTC U12 Plus is on track to be a good phone that improves upon its predecessor in almost every way. But while it is unique in a few ways, the U12 Plus doesn’t have a heart-throbbing feature that makes us excited to use it – like triple cameras, for example. At its price range, we’re really hoping the camera delivers, because that’s what separates good phones from the rest.