The world of top smartphones has polarised in the past few years into two distinct factions: Apple or Android. More specifically, it's Apple vs Samsung at the top of the tree for phones sold.
Both shipped over 70 million devices in Q4 2017, occupying the two top spots according to analyst IDC.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Apple iPhone X: Design
- Galaxy S9: 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm, 163g
- Apple iPhone X: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm, 174g
It's easy to say that Apple's iPhone X design is slightly fresher than the Samsung Galaxy S9, because Samsung chose to keep the design of the Galaxy S8, meaning it's familiar. However, both these devices are trendsetters.
Samsung was the first to curve the edges of its phone and get creative with the display forming and it was one of the first to push out of 16:9. Essentially, it led the way in shifting display aspect, which dominates device designs in 2018.
Apple pushed for even less bezel and created the notch design, which is (like it or not) setting a new trend. Apple uses stainless steel and glass, while Samsung sticks to aluminium and glass.
The difference in display implementation results in the iPhone being shorter, but it is slightly wider than Samsung's phone. Samsung has those remaining bezels top and bottom, but to the sides of the display the design looks less bordered than the iPhone X, aided by those curves.
Due to the shape and material difference, they do feel different in hand. Stainless steel makes the iPhone quite heavy, while the S9 is a little lighter and more comfortable to hold.
Apple is perhaps more ground-breaking with the display dominating the whole of the front of the phone, but those curves of Samsung never fail to get us excited. Samsung's fingerprint sensor location on the back is still a bit awkward, although it is far easier to reach and use than the S8's was.
Both offer waterproofing, Apple to IP67 standard, Samsung to IP68.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Apple iPhone X: Display
- Galaxy S9: 5.8-inch, 2960 x 1440 pixels, 570ppi, OLED
- iPhone X: 5.8-inch, 2436 x 1125 pixels, 458ppi, OLED
Both the S9 and X have the same size display at 5.8-inches, both are OLED and both are sourced from Samsung Display, so you might expect some similarity.
On the spec sheet there is a difference, with the Galaxy S9 offering a much higher resolution, resulting in 570ppi compared to 458ppi of the iPhone X. However, Samsung defaults to a lower resolution for normal use, running at 2220 x 1080 pixels. At this resolution, there's very little difference between them in terms of sharpness. However, if you look closely enough, you can tell the difference when you change the setting to the full resolution.
Although Samsung takes the prize for a higher resolution, Apple has had a lot of praise for the display performance on the iPhone X. It's bright, it's accurate and it looks stunning.
However, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is a newer generation of OLED display that has been enhanced to be more accurate and brighter. The accuracy is important, because that's been a particular focus over the past year. This year's panel is really bright, colourful and whites look comparatively crisp and clean without being overly warm.
As per the design section, Apple wins points for having a higher screen-to-body ratio, but Samsung's S9 display really looks superb.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Apple iPhone X: Hardware
- Galaxy S9: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Samsung Exynos 9810
- iPhone X: A11 Bionic with M11 motion coprocessor
When it comes to hardware, things get very complicated as the playing field isn't level. Different hardware and different software produces different results. Apple introduced the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X and it's had rave reviews.
Samsung pitches in with either the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 depending on where you live. The level of RAM is higher at 4GB, but it's all relative and not really comparable based on numbers alone.
All these hardware platforms offer boosted core and graphics performance over previous versions, while increasing efficiency and both have a leaning towards AI. Generally speaking, Apple benchmarks better than its rivals.
Samsung starts at 64GB storage with microSD support, which gives a natural advantage over Apple with cheap expandability. The iPhone X offers 64 or 256GB storage.
Apple dropped the fingerprint scanner in favour of Face ID, which Samsung counters with Intelligent Scan, which fuses face recognition and iris scanning. Apple's approach is more secure than Samsung's face scanning, but Samsung gives you a fingerprint scanner too. All these biometrics can be bypassed with manual unlocking, so it's only really as secure as your password or PIN.
Both phones unlock pretty quickly, although if we were pushed, we would say the Face ID was slightly faster than the Intelligent Scan on the Samsung. There's very little in it, and not enough to tarnish the experience.
Apple doesn't declare the size of the battery - it's thought to be 2710mAh - while the Galaxy S9 is 3000mAh. Apple claims it's 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7, which doesn't help much. In daily use we found the iPhone X was good to last a whole day fairly comfortably with moderate use. The same can't be said for Samsung's latest phone. With very light use, the S9 can last to bed time, but most days with moderate use we had to plug it in before then.
Both offer fast charging either wired or wireless, although in this instance, the Samsung fast charging is more powerful and quicker to fill up the empty battery, providing you have a powerful enough compatible charging base. Samsung does have one hardware advantage though - it still has a 3.5mm headphone socket.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Apple iPhone X: Cameras
- Galaxy S9: 12-megapixel Dual Pixel, dual aperture f/1.5 & f/2.4 with OIS
- iPhone X: 12-megapixel dual camera, f/1.8 wide angle and second f/2.4 zoom lens with OIS
Apple's immediate advantage over the Galaxy S9 is that it offers a dual camera system on the rear giving you 2x optical zoom. If you want that from Samsung you'll have to step-up to the larger Galaxy S9+ (although that's still cheaper than the iPhone X, so worth considering).
Apple's camera is a stellar performer, offering 4K video capture and slow-motion at 240fps, while it offers a portrait mode with studio lighting effects which remains a unique feature. Apple offers animoji on its front camera paired with its TrueDepth front camera.
Still, Samsung's camera isn't short of features. The new dual aperture feature aims to give you much better low light photos, while it also offers slow-motion at 960fps as well as 4K video capture. The amount of light it can capture in dimly lit scenes is impressive, and the super slow motion is impressive, when you get the timing right (which is pretty difficult, even with the motion activation feature).
Portrait modes are included in Samsung's phone, while it also offers AR emoji, letting you capture your face and create your own emoji characters. It's not quite as polished as Apple's animoji, and the reactions don't appear as smooth either, but it is a fun feature.
These two phones currently have the best performing cameras on the market and we're sure that the comparisons will continue until both are replaced.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Apple iPhone X: Software
- Galaxy S9: Android Oreo with Samsung Experience UX
- iPhone X: iOS 11
The iPhone X carries the latest version of Apple's operating system, updating in line with the rest of the Apple universe, with parity in features across pretty much all Apple devices. The iPhone X offers a slightly different take on the user interaction, with a swipe gesture to bypass the need for a home button. It's slick and fast.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 offers Android Oreo with Samsung Experience UX over the top. This adds a completely new look to Android while retaining its core functions and Google services. Samsung adds a lot of native functionality to support its own ecosystem - like connecting to Samsung TVs - but it also doubles-up on some core apps and services, like the browser and the gallery.
Samsung's record of updating Android isn't going to be anywhere near as slick as Apple's iOS updates, although the difference in functionality from one Android version to the next can be rather minimal.
Which you prefer may well come down to personal preference, but when it comes to core apps and services, both pretty much offer the same choice of apps that run in very much the same way.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Apple iPhone X: Price and conclusions
- Galaxy S9: £749
- iPhone X: £999
There's no way to get around the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S9 is £250 cheaper than the iPhone X. Even the larger Galaxy S9+ is £130 cheaper than the iPhone X. If you're looking for flagship performance then Samsung is going to be your cheaper option whether you're buying outright or on contract.
Apple manages to give you a more compact phone for the same screen size, with a display that fills the front of the phone to a greater degree along with the notch which you'll either see as iconic design or slightly awkward - although most iPhone X users don't notice it at all.
Apple's hardware and software sing together, often leading to performance that's difficult to match, making day-to-day use slick and fast. Software updates will be more predictable, while you're enjoying an ecosystem that's huge.
Android has its own ecosystem as does Samsung and you find some crossover and duplication in the offering of both these systems. It's a rich experience, but has the potential to confuse with so many avenues and options.
Samsung's new device has an outstanding display and camera and while the design might continue that of the Galaxy S8, we still think it's one of the best looking devices on the market.