HTC U12 Plus in a person's hand.

The HTC U12 Plus.

  • HTC may not be the manufacturer responsible for the HTC U12 Life.
  • HTC tipster LlabTooFer suggested in a tweet that the company had instead outsourced the handset.
  • HTC has outsourced smartphones in the past but has typically produced those from its flagship lineups in-house.


HTC may not be the manufacturer behind the rumored upcoming smartphone, the Imagine Life (HTC U12 Life). In a tweet posted yesterday, developer and HTC tipster LlabTooFer suggested the company had outsourced the handset, adding that it would ship with Android 8.1 Oreo.

HTC is no stranger to smartphone outsourcing — it’s been doing it for years like many other smartphone makers (including Apple, Xiaomi, and Huawei). This has typically applied to mid-to-low-end devices from HTC’s less popular ranges, however. Outsourcing the HTC U12 Life — which would be part of its flagship U12 series — would be a turning point for the manufacturer.

Though LlabToofer says it will be ODM “manufactured,” we don’t know if this was shorthand for design, development, and manufacturing, or just the latter. Apple, for example, employs Foxconn to manufacture its iPhones, but it takes care of the rest of the process itself (a strategy that’s proved highly successful).

Outsourcing design, development, and manufacturing would make for an HTC approach that’s more in line with HMD and TCL’s strategy. HMD and TCL licensed the Nokia and BlackBerry names respectively, taking care of design and manufacturing with little to no input from the original companies.

If the speculation is accurate, the move to outsourcing should mean HTC saves some cheddar, but we can’t predict the effect it would have on how the handset turns out. HTC’s phones haven’t been setting the world alight in recent times — its latest flagship, the U12 Plus, was pricey and lacked standout features — and if HTC is still responsible for the overall design and direction it may not represent a marked improvement.

HTC has been on a losing streak lately, it had its worst fiscal year for 13 years in 2017 and its Q1 2018 earnings reflected a 43% drop in revenue compared to Q1 2017. It doesn’t look like the situation is going to dramatically improve as we head towards the end of 2018.

If you want to know what the HTC U12 Life might offer in terms of specs, check out our exclusive leak here.

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