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HTC U12+ vs. Samsung Galaxy S9+: Which should you buy?

Samsung has been enjoying the limelight for a few years now as the leading Android brand, but it wasn't too long ago that HTC was a major competitor, stealing customers away with its far superior build quality and audio delivery. These days though, neither of those features are unique to HTC anymore. Ever since Samsung shifted from plastic to glass and metal in its flagships, its build quality has been top-notch, and the more recent dual speaker system has made its newer phones formidable in the audio realm as well.

Recent years haven't been terribly kind to HTC, with the company gradually fading into obscurity. That's more the fault of availability than the quality of its products, as HTC has still been putting out great devices each year and even building the last two generations of Google's Pixel devices. The company's most recent announcement, the U12+, is a perfect example — an excellent flagship-tier phone that won't be available in any physical locations in North America.

That doesn't mean you can't still order one online, though, and if you're buying unlocked to use in the States, it'll work on just about every network but Sprint. So should you buy the fancy new U12+, or stick with the tried and true Galaxy S9+?

Specifications

While it's by no means the only way to compare phones (or even the best way to), it's good to know where the U12+ and the Galaxy S9+ differ in terms of hardware specs. Like most flagship phones these days though, they're pretty much the same across the board.

CategoryHTC U12+Samsung Galaxy S9+
Operating SystemAndroid 8.0 OreoAndroid 8.0 Oreo
Display6-inch 18:9 Super LCD 6
2880 x 1440, 537PPI
6.2-inch 18.5:9 Super AMOLED
2960 x 1440, 529PPI
ChipsetOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, four 2.8GHz Kyro 385 Gold cores, four 1.7GHz Kyro 385 Silver coresOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, four 2.8GHz Kyro 385 Gold cores, four 1.7GHz Kyro 385 Silver cores
GPUAdreno 630Adreno 630
RAM6GB6GB
Storage64GB/128GB64GB/128GB/256GB
ExpandableYes (microSD slot)Yes (microSD slot)
Battery3500mAh3500mAh
Water resistanceIP68IP68
Rear Camera12MP f/1.8 + 16MP f/2.6, PDAF + laser autofocus, 4K at 60fps12MP f/1.5-2.4 + 12MP f/2.4, PDAF, 4K at 60fps
Front Camera8MP f/2.0 (x2), 1080p video8MP f/1.7, 1440p video
ConnectivityWiFi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, USB-CWiFi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, USB-C
SecurityFingerprint sensor (back), face unlockFingerprint sensor (back), iris scanner, face unlock
SIMNano SIMNano SIM
Dimensions156.6x 73.9 x 8.7mm158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm
Weight188g189g

What the HTC U12+ does better

The U12+ is HTC's most modern-looking phone yet, with all the necessary stylings to fit in with other 2018 flagships — a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor with face unlock as a fallback, a tall 18:9 display, IP68 water resistance, and so on. Unfortunately, it also follows the recent trend of bucking the headphone jack (as did last year's U11), but you don't have to worry about a notch taking up part of your display up top.

Edge Sense is the U12+'s big differentiator.

The real advantages of the U12+ come in the form of its software. Though little has changed about HTC's Sense interface in years, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the company continues its effort of leaving stock Android mostly alone with a few minor tweaks here and there. Those tweaks include the new Edge Sense 2, which improves upon last year's ability to detect launch certain actions by squeezing the sides of the phone. Now, in addition to squeezing, you can double-tap either side of the phone to trigger a separate action — by default, the screen shrinks down to one-handed mode and moves to the side you tapped, but you can reprogram this action to do just about anything you'd like.

Edge Sense is also now able to detect when you're holding the phone vertically by feeling how your fingers are gripping the sides, and automatically lock the orientation accordingly. This means that you can you can use the U12+ while lying in bed without having to toggle auto-rotation or fumble with trying to keep the phone mostly vertical.

Read more: HTC U12+ hands-on preview

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Like the Galaxy S9+, the U12+ has dual cameras, with the same combination of wide angle and telephoto lenses, but while we haven't yet spent any quality time with the cameras, the U12+ got a DxOMark score of 103, beating out the S9+'s score of 99. While benchmarks certainly aren't everything, this at least instills some early confidence that the U12+ may be formidable for stills. While both phones offer portrait mode photography, the U12+ also allows you to adjust your point of focus and amount of background blur after the shot is taken.

The U12+ looks great for video, as well. While it can't match the S9+ is slow-motion video (HTC maxes out at 240fps at 1080p, versus Samsung's insane 960fps in 720p), it's the only one of the two able to shoot 4K in 60fps, and it's backed by both OIS and EIS for stability. In addition, HTC uses what it calls Sonic Zoom to allow you to directionally amplify audio on a distant subject, quieting down the surrounding noise when you zoom into a subject while filming.

See at Amazon

What the Samsung Galaxy S9+ does better

HTC may be one of the original champions of premium design, but Samsung has stepped up its game considerably in recent years. While the curved glass may not be in everyone's favor, it's hard to argue with the striking aesthetic and in-hand feel of the Galaxy S9+. The rounded sides make the S9+ feel smaller than it actually is, and unlike the U12+ it still retains a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio. The S9+ is also the only one of the two phones to support wireless charging, though in HTC's defense, many will find Quick Charge 4 much more useful — the S9+ only supports the slower Quick Charge 2.

Samsung's software has always had a reputation of being bloated and overcrowded with too many Samsung and carrier apps, and while that's still true to some extent, the software on the S9+ is cleaner than ever. More importantly, the additional software is finally actually useful. While not perfect, Bixby is able to pull off quite a few actions Google Assistant can't do just yet, particularly with system-level commands. Samsung Pay is the most widely supported mobile payment service around, thanks to the MST technology that emulates a physical card swipe. Apps Edge makes the curved glass functional with quick access to favorite contacts and frequently used apps.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S9 review

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Photography is an area where Samsung has always excelled, and the S9+ features the company's best camera experience yet. Just like the U12+, the S9+ makes use of a wide-angle and a telephoto lens, but the primary sensor features dual apertures — with the tap of a button, you can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4, adding nearly 1.3 stops of light for night shots. The results are really fantastic; photos from the S9+ look great in nearly any circumstance, but particularly in low light, this is one of the best options money can buy. Add to that the ability to shoot slow-motion video at 960fps, and the Galaxy S9+ has plenty of room for creative shots of all kinds.

Perhaps the S9+'s biggest advantage, though, is simply its availability. While the U12+ looks like a fantastic phone, you won't find it on any store shelves; HTC is only selling the phone directly from its own site and through Amazon. On the other hand, Samsung is absolutely everywhere; nearly every carrier store worldwide is plastered with ads and banners for the S9+, and you can buy one directly in-store. If you live in the U.S. and like to try before you buy, the S9+ is your only viable option between the two phones.

See at Amazon

Which one is right for you?

There are plenty of reasons to go for either phone over the other, but for consumers in North America, the choice is practically already made for you; the Galaxy S9+ is the only phone of the two that you can actually pick up and handle before buying it, and it's the only option for customers on Sprint's network. HTC allows for financing and trade-ins on its site to make the U12+ more affordable upfront, but you'll have nowhere to turn if something goes wrong with the phone later on down the line — you'll just have to ship it off under a warranty claim.

If you live somewhere that will actually carry the U12+ in stores, it becomes a much more compelling option. While a bit pricey at $799, it's still cheaper than the Galaxy S9+, and offers a cleaner software experience and a flat display that should be less prone to damage. In addition, some will find Edge Sense 2 much more convenient than the Bixby button on the S9+ — especially because HTC actually lets you customize your actions. However, if you like to leave your wallet at home and depend on mobile payments instead, there's a very compelling argument to be made for Samsung Pay on the Galaxy S9+.

Which phone would you buy, given the two options? What, if anything, would you bring over from the other phone? Would you like to see Edge Sense on the Galaxy S9+? Or maybe dual apertures or MST payments on the U12+? Let us know in the comments below!

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

42 Comments
  • Neither
  • Neither, wait for the Sony XZ2 Premium.
  • But the Sony XZ2 Premium is basically an HTC U12+ (looks similar) minus the 2:1 aspect ratio and squeeze controls, isn't it?
  • Go for the htc, why BIXBY nobody wants it and samsung to much bloatware and miles behind in software updates.
  • No carrier support here in the US leaves the u12+ out of reach for me. I always purchase my phone thru my local carrier for warranty & protection! No carrier support will hurt the sales of this phone, plain & simple!
  • True that. If the U12+ was coming to T-MO, I wouldn't have picked up the S9.
  • You can use LTE on unlocked HTC phones **Currently using the U11+ on T-Mobile**
  • Buy it from their website and you get all the carrier models you desire.
  • Except Sprint for some reason. I would get this phone too.
  • HTC needs to push this as an Amazon , Alexa phone. It's one of the few phones that comes with Alexa built in and if Amazon advertises it as such, they could get a good push. No one handles or used the echo when it launched on Amazon, but people night the hell out of it.
  • S9+, of course. OLED, a headphone jack, and superior engineering. Case closed!
  • I just don't think people are jumping phones like they use to. So probably neither.
  • I wouldn't buy either the U12+ or the S9, its still the Pixel 2 XL for me. Its still ok to buy a 2017Android flagship ya know.
  • The pixel 2 xl is a nice phone, but the color shift in the screen is a big no no for me. It's terrible and should not be sold with that screen.
  • The screen issue has been Largely resolved on the Pixel 2 XL, in fact I when in to an EE store (the carrier that sells the Pixel 2 XL other than Google in the UK) and didn't notice any blue tint.
  • Did you notice the burn in? I do, frequently. Id still consider a Pixel, but they remain way too high in price. I love the HTC, just wish the battery was bigger, and the thing had wireless charging. Other than that, nice device.
  • Their wasn't any burn in on the Pixel 2 XL display unit either. I think it was only the first batch that had that issue but you're right about the price though but there's no use complaining about it. I'd still buy it as just about justifies it's price with the camera and fantastic software experience and timely updates from Google.
  • Carphone warehouse also sells the Pixel. Might be cheaper too as they have it on sale.
    I've also checked them out at a few stores and never seen any issues with the screens.
    There is an article about it somewhere apparently 2018 phones are ok.
  • The repair of htc phones is very bad. They take 14 to 20 days to repair my defective htc 10 screen. They ship it very slowly. Though I prefer the software on htc I don't want to buy htc due to bad support of the phones which I personally experience
  • I consistently hear this. Shame, as that seems to have been a big cause of their demise. Contrast that with my Microsoft 950xl repair. 5 days after shipping, it was back in my hands.
  • Neither both are meh, Pixel or P20 Pro for me.
  • HTC U12 Plus of course... why? because of the camera improvements, better software, faster future updates (considering Google and HTC are partners) since we know how pathetic Samsung is with updates. Furthermore, you have better audio quality with the U12 Plus both externally and internally, even if it is sadly missing the headphone jack. Faster charging is also significantly better with quickcharge 4.0 on the U12 Plus and finally, it is slightly cheaper as well.
  • I'm actually thinking of selling my Note8 and get me the HTC. It's not out yet so I still have a few days to think it over! 😂
  • Here in 🇨🇦, the HTC U12+ costs $1099. A Samsung Galaxy S9+ costs $1180. The negative bloatware comment about the S9+ is such a dead, 2010 smartphone era argument. There are no performance issues. On the bright side, it's greater choice. The Samsung Messages & Contacts apps are much cleaner looking (superior) to stock Android... Although soon arriving improvements to Android Messages will probably win me over once they arrive. Fair comparison article overall. In my opinion, the HTC U12+ needed to be at least $200 cheaper because it is not sold by any carrier in Canada or America.
  • I've been on Sprint for probably 15 years, my last 4 phones have been HTC, and I would have already pre-ordered the U12+, but NO SPRINT!
    They're probably forcing Sprint customers over to Samsung 🤢
  • Makes no sense considering it has the band support on the s845. Ive also Beena long time HTC supporter and now I'm just SOL in support.
  • Aren't Sprint and T-Mobile merging?
  • Seen the S9 + for £580 in the UK.
    Think that's £100's cheaper than the U12?
  • Where? Be interested to hear.
  • Haven't a clue if it genuine. https://www.hotukdeals.com/deals/samsung-galaxy-s9-plus-g965fd-dual-sim-...
  • Could be dodgy. People say they get thier stuff but they are Chinese models that you get sent NO WARRANTY.
  • seriously this is amazing information admin :) I really appreciate your efforts thanks a lot :)
    https://technnews.in/latest-top-10-mobile-phones-under-rs-40000-smartpho...
  • Came here to warn about my return experience with an HTC 10 bought directly from HTC USA. Had an issue and returned it for warranty coverage. After 4 months of waiting, I filed a complaint with Washington state consumer affairs and finally received my original phone back 5 months after HTC received it. I've bought 3 HTC phones over the years and am disappointed that my next phone will be from someone else.
  • I have a S9 and yet have hung on to my HTC11. I've got to say the Samsung is so friggin laggie in comparison. I use my phone for work and can't deal with lag. May sell both of mine and get the 12 when price drops.
  • Lag is an issue for sure. Last year's U11 is still faster than the S9, and I expect the U12 to trounce it in the real world speed tests.
  • I have several Samsung flagships. Most recently the s7edge and now the s8+. I have never encountered any kind of lag, maybe their earlier phones but not with these two. On my s8+ I usually change launcher's but not with the plus. The Samsung experience or touch whiz works very well. Maybe I've have been lucky but I kind of doubt it!
  • Decent article. I would say that the headphone jack is a wash because there's nothing you can plug into the 3.5 jack that can touch USonic, and even the DAC in the adapter is hi-res audio certified. People that use a lot of legacy headphones will find the S9 more convenient though. You can fondle an S9 in advance, and although HTC has a no questions asked full refund policy, it is less convenient. Repairs on the S9 will be easier, but HTC is better on any software issues. Updates? HTC U11 users got the Oreo update last year while Samsung users waited and waited. Performance on the U12 will be faster, and when battery size is similar, HTC usually comes out on top. Wireless charging is a plus, and provides an alternative charging method in case of hardware problems. However, wireless is still slow and Samsung is using an obsolete version of QC which is also slow. You can't charge the Samsung fast like the HTC no matter what you do. I will say it's good to have choices though :)
  • Both mobiles is same operating system, ram, rom and display. Samsung is the best companies of all time. you have good choice htc u12+. that price is low and best. but Samsung is best mobiles.
    www.mytechnologypress.com
  • Mr Asif, I totally agree, the most premium features of any phone on the market!
  • I think people are overlooking the squeeze function as a gimmick, but it's REALLY convenient. It adds an extra level of control to your phone with just one hand. I used it with my HTC U11 quite frequently, and it gave me quick access to apps I used often. It's like having 2 extra buttons (squeeze & squeeze and hold) for your convenience. Too bad it was stolen on my trip to Vietnam...
  • Yeah the squeeze function is amazing. Use it everyday on my U11. Much better than the useless Bixby button that you can't remap. Now on the U12+ you have can tap the side as well so now you have 3 extra quick shortcuts that are fully customisable.
  • « you don't have to worry about a notch taking up part of your display up top » It doesn’t take part of the screen, but of the statut bar, in a way it gives you more usable screen area