Apple iPhone XS Max vs. HTC U12 Plus: Does more expensive mean better?

Apple has finally taken the wraps off the latest and greatest set of iPhones, including the ultra-premium iPhone XS, the massive iPhone XS Max, and the so-called “budget” device, the iPhone XR. Featuring a new processor, improved camera features, and more, the new iPhones have a lot going for them. In particular, it seems like the iPhone XS Max is a great phone — considering its huge display and top-tier specs.

But how does the iPhone XS Max fare against other flagship phones for the year? The HTC U12 Plus is HTC’s best phone so far, boasting premium specs, a dual-sensor camera, and more. In case you’re considering buying one of these phones, we’ve put them head-to-head to find out which is better.

Specs

HTC U12 Plus Apple iPhone XS Max
Size 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7 mm (6.17 x 2.91 x 0.31 inches) 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 188g (6.63oz) 208g (7.34oz)
Screen size 6 inch Super LCD 6.5 inch Super Retina OLED
Screen resolution 2880 x 1440 pixels (537 pixels per inch) 2688 x 1242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 8.0 Oreo iOS 12
Storage space 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD Card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Apple A12 Bionic
RAM 6GB 4GB
Camera Dual 12MP + 16MP rear, dual 8MP + 8MP front Dual 12MP + 12MP rear, 7MP front
Video 4K at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps 4K at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth  version Version 5.0 Version 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes No
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 3,500mAh

Quick Charge 3.0 (QC 4.0 supported but requires separate charger)

3,174mAh

Fast charging (requires separate charger)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Apple App Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Colors Translucent Blue, Ceramic Black, Flame Red Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Price $800+ $1,099+
Buy from HTC Apple
Review score 3 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

htc u12 plus face down
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Under the hood, the two phones are pretty different devices. While many Android flagships feature the latest Qualcomm processor, Apple makes its own mobile processors for its smartphones. The iPhone XS Max features Apple’s all-new A12 Bionic chip with 4GB of RAM, while the HTC U12 Plus boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 6GB of RAM. Both chips are very powerful, though when it comes to sheer performance, it seems as though the A12 Bionic is ahead of the pack, based on early benchmarks.

The actual battery capacity on the two phones is similar, but the HTC U12 Plus comes out ahead, with its 3,500mAh battery — versus the 3,174mAh battery on the iPhone XS Max. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the HTC U12 Plus will last longer on a charge, especially considering the improvements Apple has made in the processor to boost power efficiency. On top of that, the iPhone features wireless charging, something that the HTC U12 Plus does not offer.

Because of the better performance and the addition of wireless charging, the iPhone is the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Design and durability

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the HTC U12 Plus and the iPhone XS Max are relatively well-designed, but the iPhone simply seems a little more modern. Part of that has to do with the fact that the iPhone boasts an edge-to-edge display, while the HTC U12 Plus has a small forehead and chin. Both phones have a metal frame and a glass back. The U12 Plus has a fingerprint sensor on the back below the camera module, while the iPhone XS Max relies on the front-facing camera for FaceID.

While both phones feature IP68 water resistance, which safeguards against drops into shallow water, they won’t cope well with drops, so cases are a good idea. Neither of the two phones feature a headphone jack. The HTC U12 Plus features a USB-C port, while the iPhone XS Max, as you’d expect, has a Lightning port.

The iPhone XS Max is the more modern and attractive of the two.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Display

htc u12 plus in hand
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The HTC U12 Plus and iPhone XS Max have pretty different displays. For starters, the HTC U12 Plus features a higher resolution, thanks to its 2880 x 1440-pixel display. But in almost every other metric, the iPhone wins out. The iPhone’s display, for example, is larger, and it’s an OLED display which offers much higher contrast and inky blacks you just won’t find with LCD.

While the resolution is slightly higher on the HTC phone, considering the fact that the iPhone’s display is better in every other metric, it’s the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Camera

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the HTC U12 Plus and the iPhone XS Max feature dual-sensor rear-facing cameras, but they’re not necessarily created equal. The HTC U12 Plus features a dual 12-megapixel and 16-megapixel rear-facing camera. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.75, which should be fine for many low-light shots. The secondary lens on the HTC U12 Plus offers 2x optical zoom and a Portrait Mode, which we found to perform decently well in our review.

The iPhone XS Max, on the other hand, offers dual 12-megapixel lenses with an aperture of f/1.8 in the main lens. Like the U12 Plus, the iPhone XS Max’s secondary lens offers 2x optical zoom, and also supports things like Portrait Mode, with the option to adjust background blur after capturing the shot. There’s also a new sensor and software in the iPhone XS Max, compared to last year’s iPhone X, enabling it to combine frames for perfect exposure.

The cameras are similar, but ultimately the image processing and software of the iPhone beat out the camera on the HTC U12 Plus. At this point, if you’re an Android user and want the device with the best camera, the Google Pixel series is probably the way to go.

The front-facing cameras are also relatively different on the two devices. The HTC U12 Plus offers dual 8-megapixel lenses on the front, while the iPhone XS Max instead offers a single 7-megapixel sensor. The iPhone, however, boasts features like Face ID — something the HTC U12 Plus doesn’t have.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Software and updates

htc u12 plus icons
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We’re not going to do a deep dive into the Android vs. iOS debate — but we will go through a few main points. Android, for starters, is generally a little more customizable. You can add widgets where you want to add them, install apps from third-party app stores, and so on. With iOS, on the other hand, you get a slick, accessible platform that’s a little more organized. Everything is pretty much where you expect it to be, and it’s generally pretty secure.

Updates, however, are another issue — and one that iOS far excels in. With an iPhone, you’ll get the update as soon as it’s available, as long as your phone is compatible. With an Android phone, that’s really only true for Pixel phones — HTC phones will likely take a few months to get new Android version updates, if they get the update at all. Because of that, the iPhone’s the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Special features

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the iPhone XS Max and HTC U12 Plus offer a few interesting features. For starters, the iPhone XS Max features Apple’s Face ID — and while some will prefer a fingerprint sensor, it’s still an interesting bit of tech that enables other features, like Animoji.

The HTC U12 Plus offers a few special features, but not all of them will be considered advantages. For example, we found that the digital buttons, while interesting, were overly sensitive and didn’t really work the way they should. One thing that the HTC U12 Plus does offer over the iPhone is the inclusion of Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa — so you can use your digital assistant of choice when you want to.

Winner: Tie

Price

The iPhone XS Max and the HTC U12 Plus come at very different prices. While the HTC U12 Plus starts at $799, the iPhone XS Max costs $300 more than that at $1,099. Safe to say, if you’re on the fence between these two phones and money is a concern, the HTC U12 Plus may be a better choice.

Overall winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

It’s hard to get around the fact that the Apple iPhone XS Max is simply a better device — but it’s also a whole lot more expensive. The iPhone is more powerful, has a better display, a better camera, and will get updates nice and quickly. You do, however, pay for those advantages — so if money is an issue and you’re not too concerned about the special features the iPhone XS Max has to offer, then the HTC U12 Plus may be for you.

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