(Pocket-lint) - HTC was clear when launching the U12+ that its naming was designed to square up to other flagship rivals. And let's be blunt - there's one big plus size phone out there to take down and it's the Samsung Galaxy S9+.
Samsung launched earlier in the year to great reviews, pushing its big flagship forward; HTC has just announced its latest model, the HTC U12+. There is no "normal" U12, all of its efforts are thrown into this big screen powerhouse.
So how do the two compare? You'll be surprised how much they have in common.
Design: Samsung is eye-catching, HTC is more unique
- HTC U12+: 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7-9.7mm, 188g
- Samsung Galaxy S9+: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm, 189g
- Both metal and glass, IP68
Samsung's design is immediately recognisable, the company barely changing anything since the Galaxy S8 launch in 2017. Curved edges to the display meeting curved edges of the glass rear make for a distinctive package, albeit in fairly safe colours - black, blue, lilac at launch and others since.
Surprisingly, the HTC U12+ comes within millimetres of Samsung's dimensions. Although a flatter device without those curvy edges, HTC's phone is shorter and about the same width. It's also metal and glass, but without the curves of Samsung's edges it feels a little bulkier.
HTC's Liquid Surface glass rear is more interesting, offering much more engaging colours, but it feels like Samsung has made a more compact phone when you actually grip it. What HTC does do better is the side "buttons". On the U12+ these are pressure-sensitive for a futuristic feel - Samsung's addition of a Bixby button means there's buttons on both sides.
HTC's Edge Sense allows squeezing and tapping to open apps using the edge (you can read more about that in our preview below), so it doesn't need so many buttons - and we like that cleaner finish. Both are waterproofed with an IP68 rating.
Display: Samsung's AMOLED takes the headlines
- HTC U12+: 6-inch, 2880 x 1440 pixels, 537ppi, 18:9
- Galaxy S9+: 6.2-inch, 2960 x 1440 pixels, 530ppi, 18.5:9
Both these devices are in the same ballpark. Samsung's 6.2-inches includes the curve, and that curved areas, while looking wonderful and giving a sense of no bezel - hence "infinity display" - isn't all useful. In some cases, you can't reliably tap on stuff on the edges as you might on the flat.
HTC's display is flat, so arguably, gives you more screen space that you can actually utilise. Both offer a high Quad HD+ resolution so are as detailed as each other (on paper at least), but there's a difference in the display technology.
Samsung uses its famed and preferred AMOLED. This offers deep blacks and punchy colours, but the vibrancy can veer away from the realistic. HTC by contrast uses a quality LCD panel. This looks more natural, but it less impactful in blacks - and doesn't have the same extreme brightness that Samsung can push.
There's a dab of personal preference here - for big screen movie watching, HTC might be the better choice. Both claim to support HDR content.
Hardware simplicity from HTC
- HTC U12+: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 6GB RAM, 64GB storage + microSD, 3500mAh
- Samsung Galaxy S9+: Exynos 9810 or SD845, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage + microSD, 3500mAh
When you cast your eyes over the hardware specs, there isn't a huge difference on paper between these two devices. But, for those in the UK, it's the Exynos version of the Galaxy S9+ that you get.
Many will tell you that Qualcomm is the better option - and HTC is offering the Snapdragon 845 globally, so you know what you're getting. When it comes to RAM and storage there's some parity again, with both offering microSD expansion too.
Samsung stepped up its audio offering in the S9+ considerably: its speakers are now the equal of BoomSound and Samsung offers another advantage - it still has a 3.5mm headphone socket, where HTC doesn't, although HTC's USonic headphones offer active noise cancellation.
Both phones also have 3500mAh batteries, both offer fast charging. That's not a huge battery for devices of this size, so it may well be that the HTC is average in battery performance, like the Samsung.
Software makes all the difference
- HTC: Android Oreo with HTC Sense
- Samsung: Android Oreo with Samsung Experience UX
With few hardware differences in the core specs, it's really in the software that the massive difference lies. Both these phone run on the same version of Android, however the experience is very different.
Samsung's user interface changes every element and piles in more functionality that pretty much any phone out there. HTC, by comparison, is closer to Android, only changing a few things. Samsung gives you more out of the box, but HTC is cleaner and simpler, without the same number of added apps or a second app store to think about.
But Samsung's software is also very mature and slick and loaded with useful options. HTC will almost certainly best Samsung when it comes to upgrading to Android P, but Samsung is a little more exciting to use.
Samsung offers Bixby, but HTC is likely to have a bigger hit support Amazon Alexa as a second AI option.
As the HTC is so new we've not had the chance to really test the software experience for stability and optimisation - ultimately, the day-to-day feel of the phone will come down to how well the software holds together. Needless to say, Samsung is very good.
HTC vs Samsung cameras
- HTC U12+: 12MP, 1.4µm, f/1.75 main + 16MP, 1.0µm, f/2.6 zoom; dual 8MP front
- Samsung Galaxy S9+: 12MP, 1.4µm, f/1.5 + f/2.4 main + 12MP, 1µm, f/2.4 zoom; 8MP front
There's a lot happening on the camera front - and ultimately, this has now become the measure of a phone - how well the camera performs.
HTC brings back dual cameras on the U12+, pairing a 12-megapixel camera with a 16-megapixel camera, the second offering 2x optical zoom.
We suspect that both HTC and Samsung use the same sensor hardware - as both have large 1.4µm pixels on the main camera. The lenses are very different, however, with Samsung offering its dual aperture technology. This lets the camera switch from f/1.5 to f/2.4 depending on the conditions - so it's a strong low light performer. HTC sits in the middle with f/1.75.
When it comes to the zoom, both offer 2x zoom, but HTC goes with 16-megapixels while Samsung sticks to 12-megapixels. A smaller sensor for Samsung has allowed them to give a slightly wider aperture at f/2.4, whereas HTC settles on f/2.6. We expect the experience to be similar.
Both offer adjustable portrait/bokeh modes using data from both lenses. In reality, HTC has everything to prove, while Samsung has had a good run of cameras on recent phones.
HTC offers dual front cameras for selfie prowess - also aiding the face unlocking - but it doesn't enter the realm of gimmicks/fun as Samsung does with AR Emoji.
HTC U12+ vs Galaxy S9+: Price and conclusions
- HTC U12+: £699 (64GB)
- Samsung Galaxy S9+: £869 (128GB)
- See the best Samsung Galaxy S9+ deals
Now we come to the crunch: the HTC U12+ is £170 cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and in many cases, you're getting comparable hardware (on paper, at least) - although there are plenty of good deals to be had on the Galaxy S9+.
When it comes to design Samsung is a little more iconic and those curves make for a great looking phone, but HTC has more adventurous colours and finishes and the flatter display may actually be more useful.
In terms of power, both are well equipped and some of the price difference is explained by the double storage that Samsung offers - although adding microSD is a cheap alternative.
On the camera front Samsung has excelled and HTC has everything to prove - something we'll do in a full review as soon as we can. On the software front, Samsung really owns the experience - you get a lot more out of the box than you do from HTC. While it's not all essential, it's a really slick experience, but one you pay for.