Apple iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P20 Pro: Clash of the titans

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The design overhaul that Apple introduced with the iPhone X is here to stay with a trio of new notched iPhones landing this year. The pick of the bunch has to be the iPhone XS Max. Featuring the biggest display Apple has ever put in an iPhone, lightning-fast performance, and slick software, the XS Max is a formidable prospect.

People have been demanding ever bigger and more powerful phones — and that’s reflected in the Android landscape, too. We decided to compare the iPhone XS Max with one of the biggest Android smartphones around, the Huawei P20 Pro.

Specs

Apple iPhone XS Max Huawei P20 Pro
Size 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.2 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches) 155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm (6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches)
Weight 208 grams (7.34 ounces) 174 grams (6.14 ounces)
Screen size 6.5-inch Super Retina AMOLED display 6.1-inch OLED display
Screen resolution 2,688 x 1,242 pixels (458 pixels-per-inch) 2,240 x 1,080 pixels (408 pixels-per-inch)
Operating system iOS 12 Emotion UI 8.1 (over Android 8.1 Oreo)
Storage space 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Google Pay
Processor A12 Bionic Kirin 970
RAM 4GB 6GB, 8GB
Camera Dual 12MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front Triple-lens 40MP, 20MP, and 8MP rear, 24MP front
Video 2160p at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 2160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30 fps, 720p at 960 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5 Bluetooth 4.2
Ports Lightning USB-C
Fingerprint sensor No Yes
Water resistance IP68 IP67
Battery 3,174mAh 4,000mAh
App marketplace Apple App Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T
Colors Space Gray, Silver Black, Blue, Pink Gold, Twilight
Price $1,099 899 euros (around $1,100)
Where to buy it AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple Huawei
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While most Android flagships sport Qualcomm’s wares, the Huawei P20 Pro relies on the proprietary Kirin 970 processor with a special Neural Processing Unit (NPU). That’s backed up by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s a fast phone, and the NPU is designed to offer speedy artificial intelligence.

The iPhone XS Max has Apple’s A12 Bionic processor inside with 4GB of RAM, and it looks to be the most powerful chip around at the moment. If early benchmarks are anything to go by, the iPhone XS Max is significantly faster and more powerful than the P20 Pro. In fact, it’s the fastest smartphone on the market.

The P20 Pro scores some points back with a whopping 4,000mAh battery and support for fast charging out of the box, but it lacks wireless charging support, which the XS Max does have. The battery capacity of the XS Max is significantly lower at 3,174mAh, and we expect it to need daily charging. We’re disappointed that the fast-charging kit costs extra, as it really should be supplied in the box for a phone this price.

Stronger performance carries the day for Apple here.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Design and durability

huawei p20 pro security scaremongering back full opinion

With the XS Max, Apple has supersized the design it introduced with the iPhone X. The front is dominated by a stunning edge-to-edge OLED screen, with that distinctive notch at the top housing the FaceID tech, which replaces the TouchID fingerprint sensor. The stainless steel frame curves into a glass back with a dual-lens camera module at the top left. It’s an attractive phone, and it’s also the closest Apple has come to a bezel-less design. Apple’s assault on bezels has enabled it to squeeze an extra inch of screen into a phone that’s a touch smaller than the 8 Plus.

The P20 Pro also has a notch at the top of a large screen, but with a bottom bezel that also houses the fingerprint sensor, it’s more of a design decision than a necessity. While the XS Max is easily the better-looking of the two from the front, the P20 Pro has a much more interesting back thanks to the gradient finish, which changes color as it catches the light.

Buying a case for the iPhone XS Max or the Huawei P20 Pro is sensible as they’re both mostly glass. The iPhone earns a slight advantage in the water-resistance department with an IP68 rating, which means it can survive in slightly deeper water than the IP67-rated P20 Pro.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Display

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Measuring 6.5 inches diagonally, the iPhone XS Max has the largest screen we’ve ever seen in an iPhone. It’s an AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2,688 x 1,242 pixels and it looks fabulous. Huawei has also used an AMOLED screen in the P20 Pro, but it’s a bit smaller at 6.1 inches and not as sharp at 2,240 x 1,080 pixels.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Camera

huawei p20 pro 31
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

With an unprecedented triple-lens setup, the Huawei P20 Pro is an incredibly versatile device for photography. There’s a 40-megapixel lens, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 20-megapixel monochrome lens in the main camera. It offers 3x optical zoom, massive amounts of detail, and the best low-light performance we’ve seen. There’s also A.I. scene recognition, motion-based autofocus, and super-slow-motion video. The front-facing camera is rated at 24 megapixels. The camera is a major selling point for the P20 Pro.

The iPhone XS Max looks similar to the iPhone X on paper with a dual 12-megapixel lens main camera and a 7-megapixel selfie camera, but Apple has made some important tweaks in the software, powered by that improved processor, and enhanced with a new camera sensor. It excels in portrait mode and you can now adjust the depth after taking a shot to achieve the exact level of bokeh — or background blur — you want. There’s also Smart HDR, which combines frames to create perfectly exposed images.

We think the average person will be delighted with the shots that the iPhone XS Max can capture without the need for any tweaking of options, but there’s no denying that the P20 Pro has more tricks up its sleeve.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro

Software and updates

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Android vs. iOS battle often comes down to familiarity — whichever you’re used to is best. The truth is that both platforms are feature-packed, user-friendly, and offer access to a world of apps and games. With the P20 Pro, you’ll also get EMUI, which may take some getting used to if you’ve never used a Huawei phone before.

The update schedule for Android has long been a problem because manufacturers apply their own user interface on top of the platform and it often takes a long time for new versions to filter through. Sadly, the Huawei P20 Pro is no exception. We know that Huawei plans to roll out Android 9.0 Pie, along with EMUI 9, imminently, but beyond that there’s no certainty.

Apple rolls out new versions of iOS regularly and it tends to continue supporting devices for longer than Android manufacturers do. That alone is enough reason to give the iPhone the win.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Special features

huawei p20 pro 32
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both Apple and Huawei have aimed to turn out strong all-rounders here and they’ve succeeded. That impressive triple-lens camera, which we’ve already covered, is the headline feature for the P20 Pro. The iPhone XS Max has the TrueDepth front-facing camera, which powers FaceID and also enables fun features like Animoji and Memoji. You can also unlock the P20 Pro with your face, but it’s not as secure, so you can’t use it for payments like you can with FaceID. There isn’t anything else here that one of these phones has that the other doesn’t, so this one is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price

When the Huawei P20 Pro first went on sale, it was priced at around 900 euros (about $1,100), but you can order the international version on Amazon now for about $750. There was no official U.S. release for the P20 Pro and it won’t work with Verizon or Sprint as it lacks CDMA and some LTE band support.

The iPhone XS Max starts at a whopping $1,099, but you will be able to buy one through all the major carriers in the U.S.

Overall winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

These are two of the best phones you can buy right now, but the iPhone XS Max ekes out the win largely thanks to unsurpassed performance, a great display, and a stylish design. The P20 Pro has a lot to offer, and it will probably suit Android fans and photographers better, but we think the XS Max is a stronger all-around device. If you’re concerned about the high price, then the P20 Pro probably offers more value for your money, especially now that the price is dropping, but if you just want the best phone then it’s the iPhone XS Max.

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