The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra is an unexpected delight. The first smartphone from ZTE to be released in the United States for several years, this is an Android phone that offers great performance, a beautiful display, and a long-lasting battery at a reasonable price. While it only has 5G support from T-Mobile (and only one 5G band at that), it’s a great all-around phone, and one any Android fan should consider if they’re looking to buy something new. Of course, if you’re also open to iPhones, the amazing iPhone 12 happens to be in its price range, and it offers equally impressive specs.
To decide which of the two phones is the best, we put the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra and the iPhone 12 to a face-to-face comparison test. We look at their specs, design, display, performance, camera, software and special features, weighing them to decide which is the better device overall. This will help you decide which of these two phones is right for you.
|iphone 12||ZTE Axon 30 Ultra|
|Shape||146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 in)||161.5 x 73 x 8 mm (6.36 x 2.87 x 0.31 in)|
|weight||164 grams (5.78 oz)||188 grams (6.63 oz)|
|screen size||6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED||6.67-inch AMOLED|
|screen resolution||2532 x 1170 pixels (460 pixels per inch)||2400 x 1080 pixels (395 pixels per inch)|
|Operating System||iOS 14||Android 11 (MiOS 11)|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||128GB, 256GB, 1TB|
|microSD card slot||No||No|
|tap-to-pay Services||hefty pay||No one|
|Processor||Apple A14 Bionic||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|Rama||4GB||8GB, 12GB, 16GB|
|camera||Dual lens 12-megapixel wide and 12MP ultrawide rear, 12MP TrueDepth front||Quad lens 64MP standard, 64MP wide, 64MP ultrawide and 8MP periscope telephoto rear, 16MP front|
|Video||4K up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps||8K at 30fps, 4K at up to 60fps, 1080p at 30fps|
|bluetooth version||bluetooth 5.0||bluetooth 5.2|
|ports||lightning connector||USB C (3.1)|
|fingerprint sensor||No, FaceID Instead||yes in-display|
|water resistance||IP68||no ip rating|
Fast Charging (20W charger sold separately)
qi wireless charging
Fast Charging 65W
|App Marketplace||apple app store||Google Play|
|network support||all major carriers||T-Mobile and AT&T|
|colour’s||Black, Blue, Green, White, and Red||black, white, blue, light gray|
|review score||4.5 out of 5 stars||3 out of 5 stars|
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra is a good looking phone even if it doesn’t rock the boat and goes for a unique look. It has an aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass 5 rear, which tapers smoothly at the edges. The same goes for the front of the phone, which houses an edge-to-edge display with a punch-hole selfie camera at the top-center. It’s sharp and modern, though some can be put off a bit by the rather bulky camera module on the rear.
It’s a similar story with the iPhone 12, which looks the part without doing anything too radical or particularly impressive. It now sports the tried-and-true notch at the top of the display, which is otherwise edge-to-edge. Apple recently saw fit to introduce a new design element with the flat sides of the phone ripped from the iPad Pro model. This gives the phone a more angular look, which may or may not be an improvement depending on your taste.
The iPhone 12 comes with a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display, which offers 2532 x 1170 pixels (or 460 pixels per inch). Meanwhile, the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra flaunts a larger, 6.67-inch AMOLED display with 2400 x 1080 pixels (395 pixels per inch). The iPhone looks a bit crisp and rich in some respects, although the ZTE supports a 144Hz refresh rate. This gives its screen more fluidity than that of the iPhone, making moving images look more realistic and vivid.
While the refresh rate will give the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra an advantage here, it lacks an official IP rating. In contrast, the iPhone 12 is IP68 certified, indicating that you can submerge it in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. Apple also claims that the ceramic guard glass of the iPhone 12 will provide more protection against falls and damage than previous models, further enhancing its durability.
Given that this improved durability is balanced by the ZTE’s refresh rate, we’re calling this early run a tie.
The iPhone 12 is powered by Apple’s latest smartphone processor, the A14 Bionic chip. Its biggest claim to fame is that it employs 5nm (nanometer) transistors, which are smaller than the 7nm varieties used on previous chips and therefore offer better speeds. Basically, it ensures that the iPhone 12 handles the latest video games and applications with ease, even those that incorporate machine learning and other advanced technology.
It’s an impressively fast chip, but then so is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which also uses 5nm transistors. Coupled with the 8GB of RAM you get as standard with the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, it makes for a more seamless smartphone experience, and ensures that the ZTE phone will last you a few years before falling behind on speeds . Whether it’s faster or more powerful than the A14 Bionic is a tough call, although the Geekbench (5.1) test for the ZTE yields a score of 3,582, while the iPhone 12 scored a score of 4,067.
When it comes to the battery, things are again pretty much the same. However, this time around, we’ll say that the ZTE is all about its edges. Its 4,600mAh battery will give you a decent chunk of power, even after a day of heavy use, more than the iPhone 12, which still serves most users well with its 2,815mAh cell . Then there’s the fact that the ZTE supports 65W fast charging (the iPhone 12 only goes up to 20W), so you can almost fully recharge the phone from 0% to 100 while making a cup of coffee.
While the ZTE has a slightly better battery, the iPhone 12 has a slightly stronger processor. This round is another draw.
If you are just looking at the specifications, you would think that the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra comes with a better camera. It has a quad-lens setup, consisting of a 64MP standard lens, 64MP wide lens, 64MP ultrawide lens, and an 8MP periscope telephoto lens. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, only has a dual-lens rear camera, with a 12MP wide lens and a 12MP ultrawide lens.
It might sound overwhelming at first glance, but the iPhone 12 eventually takes better pictures. Apple’s Neural Engine, Smart HDR3, Deep Fusion and other software tricks mean its shots are well-balanced, clear, bright, and dynamic in a lot of conditions. Photos are realistic and colorful without getting too saturated, while low-light shots do well at capturing enough detail.
Sadly, for all its hardware, this performance is just something the ZTE can’t match. Our review found the picture quality to be a bit inconsistent making this a great camera phone, with some shots too dark and others saturated with colour. It’s a shame, as the phone is good at most other things, but its camera just doesn’t match up to its other features.
Winner: iPhone 12
The iPhone 12 operates using iOS 14 (soon to be iOS 15), which offers some of the greatest software Apple has provided in years. It features a home screen widget, an app library, app clips (letting you download only part of the app), and a native translation app, all while offering the simple interface we all know and love.
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra runs on Android 11 with ZTE’s own MyOS 11. Its treatment of the native Android experience is mostly cosmetic, with a few different icon sizes and colors, a different layout for the notification shade, and a few other minor touches. It’s very fast, but there are issues with some notifications at the moment.
With the upgrade, you can be almost certain that iPhone 12 users will be serviced more regularly with the new software version, and will be supported for a longer period of time with updates. This is simply because Apple develops its own operating systems, while ZTE has to get new versions of Android from Google and then apply its own skin on top.
Winner: iPhone 12
The iPhone 12 is the first Apple smartphone to support 5G. Fortunately, this support covers both the mmWave and sub-6Hz 5G bands, so you can be sure you’ll get the fastest download speeds (if 5G is available in your area). The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra is also a 5G-ready phone, but unfortunately you won’t be able to connect to a 5G network with the phone in the United States. Of course, this feature is (only) a 5G carrier band that T-Mobile connects to, but it doesn’t support 5G with AT&T, the other network supporting phones in the US.
The iPhone 12 also includes MagSafe charging and accessories, so you can attach wireless chargers and many other gadgets by touching them to the back of the phone. We should also point out that, like every flagship iPhone since the iPhone X, the iPhone 12 supports Face ID.
As far as ZTE Axon 30 Ultra is concerned, there is no special feature in it. Lack is probably the operative word here, in fact, since it lacks an IP rating, lacks support for wireless charging, and lacks support for all-but 5G (in the US). Taken together, this provides the iPhone 12 with an easy win.
Winner: iPhone 12
The iPhone 12 starts at $799 for the 64GB version, while the 128GB and 256GB versions will cost you $849 and $949, respectively. It is available from every major carrier and the vast majority of major retail stores.
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra starts at $749 (for the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of memory), and goes up to $849 for the model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s supported by T-Mobile and AT&T, and can be purchased from ZTE, or select online retailers.
Make no mistake, the iPhone 12 is a…