Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The HTC U12 Plus ($1,800 at Amazon) was too gutsy for its own good. But the HTC U12 Life that the company debuted at the IFA 2018 conference in Berlin is so tame, it echoes a phone from 2017: the Pixel 2 ($140 at Amazon).

In the U12 Life, HTC backs away from the U12 Plus' squeezable side and static "buttons" that vibrate instead of pressing in. In its place, the U12 Life is all purple or blue eye-candy with a partial glass pane on the back that mimics the backing on Google's flagship phone of 2017. (The Pixel 3 ($179 at Amazon) is expected as soon as Oct. 9, by the way.) 

From what we can see, HTC, which has always excelled at smooth, eye-catching design, has done a better job here than it did on the Pixel ($84 at Amazon) and Pixel 2 that the company also designed to Google's specifications.

This "mimicry" is no real surprise, given HTC's relationship with the Googs. In January this year, Google absorbed HTC engineers, who were already working on the Pixel phones, into the Googleplex. It isn't clear how much of the Pixel's design language would have flowed between the two companies before Google closed its HTC deal. 

The HTC U12 Life will sell in Europe but not the US or Australia. It's a midprice offering that will sell for £299, which converts to about $390 or AU$535. Apart from the Pixel-like backing, the U12 Life has some pretty compelling features for a phone of its quite reasonable price. There's a large, 6-inch display, two rear cameras for portrait mode, expandable storage and a rare headphone jack. (See all specs below.)

We'll be keeping tabs on this one. It's shaping up to be an interesting contender in the midrange space.

HTC U12 Life specs

  • 6-inch display with 18:9 screen ratio and 1,080x2,160-pixel resolution (FHD+)
  • 16-megapixel and 5-megapixel dual rear cameras (f2.0)
  • 13-megapixel front-facing camera (f2.0)
  • Octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor
  • 3,600-mAh battery
  • 64GB or 128GB internal storage
  • 4GB or 6GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Headphone jack
  • USB-C charger port
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • Moonlight Blue and Twilight Purple colors

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