(Pocket-lint) - HTC has announced its new flagship phone, the HTC U12+. HTC is keen to stress that this is its flagship offering for the year, that this is the phone to rival all others.

The biggest surprise smartphone of 2018 has been the Huawei P20 Pro. This phone sees Huawei in real contention for the best phone of the year, proving that it can mix it with the best.

So how do these two compare? How does the upcoming Huawei stand against the experienced HTC?

Design: Huawei squeezes more in

  • HTC U12+: 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7-9.7mm, 188g
  • Huawei P20 Pro: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm, 180g
  • Both metal and glass, IP rating

While HTC's U12+ follows on from its 2017 devices, Huawei's P20 Pro pushes the company in a new design direction. HTC again offers a "liquid surface" glass back, with deep colours that shimmer and change as you move the phone around … and Huawei offers very much the same. 

The Huawei P20 Pro in Twilight has caught a few eyes, offering a similar deep glass colouration but with a little less subtlety than HTC. Huawei's phone is impressively slim, although the overall dimensions are pretty close to those of HTC. 

Yes, you might say it looks a lot like the iPhone X and you'd be right, but Huawei has done a great job packing this all into a quality phone. It even carries an IP67 rating, close to HTC's IP68, so both are waterproof. 

Display: To notch or not to notch?

  • HTC U12+: 6-inch, 2880 x 1440 pixels, 537ppi, 18:9
  • Huawei P20 Pro: 6.1-inch, 2240 x 1080 pixels, 407ppi, 18.7:9, notch

When it comes to display, both offer similar real estate, but with Huawei pushing a notched design, so it's a taller than HTC's display. Given that Huawei's phone is smaller, the fact that it has a slightly larger display is all the more commendable - although that's been achieved thanks to having a notch at the top.

Elsewhere, these displays are very different. HTC uses LCD while Huawei opts for OLED; that latter display is known for its deep blacks and saturated colours, while HTC is likely the more natural display. 

But HTC takes things up a grade when it comes to resolution, offering a 2880 x 1440 resolution display, equating to 537ppi. It's nice and sharp and detailed. Huawei's display is full HD+ however, with 2240 x 1080 pixels, for 407ppi. That's a big difference in technical ability. 

HTC will therefore be able to give you more detailed images, richer graphics in games and so on - but the question is whether that's something you really need all the time - in many cases, such as emails or social media, you won't miss the detail. 

Hardware gives HTC the brand names 

  • HTC U12+: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 6GB RAM, 64GB storage + microSD, 3500mAh
  • Huawei P20 Pro: Hisilicon Kirin 970, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, 4000mAh 

On the hardware front, the HTC U12+ comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 globally - if you buy this phone, that's what you get. It's a powerful mobile platform and other devices using it have impressed us.

Huawei on the other hand uses its own in-house hardware, with a Kirin 970. This is comparable, offering many of the same hardware features as the Snapdragon. Both are supported by 6GB RAM and while the Huawei starts at 128GB storage, it doesn't offer microSD, which HTC does, making it more convenient.

Exactly how the HTC will perform in real life remains to be seen - and owes a lot to software optimisation - but there's a big gap in one area of the spec sheet, the battery.

Huawei has somehow managed to cram in a 4000mAh battery and it shows in the long life that phone offers. HTC on the other hand has 3500mAh. HTC might have good optimisation, but we doubt it can makeup that capacity difference to compete with the P20 Pro. 

Software makes all the difference

  • HTC: Android Oreo with HTC Sense
  • Huawei P20 Pro: Android Oreo with EMUI 8

While both these devices sit on Android Oreo, there's a big difference in appearance at the top. Huawei follows the likes on Samsung, changing just about every aspect of the software experience of Android through its EMUI software. 

In recent years, EMUI has become a lot slicker and less oppressive, but it's still a marked departure, characteristically Huawei and loaded with elements you might never use. 

HTC by comparison still offers Sense, but it's now a lot closer to Android; HTC offers some useful elements, like integrated Amazon Alexa, but the really distinctive element is Edge Sense.

HTC offers pressure-sensitive sides and these can be squeezed to perform various actions, launching apps, taking photos - with lots of customisation available to get the system working for you. It's much more complete than on older HTC devices, and offers a good range of actions. HTC is also already talking about Android P and we suspect that it will be updating before Huawei.

Optimisation will play a key part in the software experience and we'll be updating once we've fully reviewed the HTC U12+.

HTC vs Huawei cameras 

  • HTC U12+: 12MP, 1.4µm, f/1.75 main + 16MP, 1.0µm, f/2.6 zoom; dual 8MP front
  • Huawei P20 Pro: 40MP RGB, f/1.8 + 20MP mono, f/1.6 + 8MP f/2.4 zoom; 24MP front

HTC brings back dual cameras on the U12+, pairing a 12-megapixel camera with a 16-megapixel camera, the second offering 2x optical zoom. 

With large 1.4µm pixels and f/1.75 it should offer reasonable low light performance, although a lot depends on how it processes noise. The front camera offers two 8-megapixel cameras, meaning that the HTC can perform its bokeh tricks on all cameras. Of course, we're yet to definitively test it all.

It's fair to say that Huawei's aim with the P20 Pro was the ultimate camera phone. It's used a dual camera system comprising a 40-megapixel colour sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, which combine information to give great quality images.

There's then a third camera offering 3x optical zoom, so from the off, Huawei gets you a little closer to the action.

Underpinning the whole thing is a lot of AI (which Huawei is overtly talking about, while HTC isn't). The long and short of it is that the Huawei P20 Pro is an outstanding camera, co-developed with Leica, setting a benchmark in smartphones. 

HTC U12+ vs Huawei P20 Pro: Price and conclusions

Some might be surprised to hear that the Huawei phone is more expensive than the HTC - a few years ago, that position was almost unthinkable. While HTC sits at £699, Huawei's phone is £799, although there are a lot of good deals available for it

Ultimately, the Huawei P20 Pro is accomplished: it packs in more hardware, it excels in the camera department and the quality of the build it up there rivalling the quality of HTC. 

Some might prefer to stick to Qualcomm hardware and take a phone that's a little closer to Android. HTC's display can push more pixels and the BoomSound speakers blow the P20 Pro out of the water.

Exactly how the cameras compare we'll still have to see, but we can't help feeling that it's Huawei on the rise here, while the established HTC faces another competitor finding form.

Writing by Chris Hall.