For the past ten years, there's been one battle in the smartphone world that's raged fiercer than any other: Apple versus Samsung.
While there are now plenty of fantastic flagship products out there from other brands now, there's still something about the Galaxy series from Samsung that gets people talking, and spending money. As for the iPhone, well, that's the iPhone.
- Galaxy S10+ starts at £899
- iPhone XS Max starts at £1099
Perhaps the biggest difference between the iPhone and the Galaxy is the price. You'll find in daily use - more than likely - that each has its benefits, and both are genuine flagships. But at £1099, the starting price for the XS Max is steep.
- Both have IP68 water/dust resistance
- Samsung is 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm
- iPhone is 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm
Both companies have had to juggle prioritising technological features and design. For Apple, you'll notice how the rounded corners on the screen match the roundness of the phone corners, and how the bezel thickness is the same all the way round up to the notch.
That gives it a really pleasing consistent and symmetrical appearance from the front, but then that advanced Face ID technology has meant adding quite a hefty notch at the top, and that some times gets in the way of content.
For Samsung, the hardware team wanted to keep using that curved glass on the edges of the OLED screen, and that means the bezel isn't uniform all the way around.
The bottom edge is thicker than the sides, and the top bezel, making it seem a little less balanced, but it's not something that really bothers when you use it day-in day-out. Plus. That hole punch cutout means more of the front surface is dominated by screen.
Turn it to the back, and - despite the oddness of that long rectangle on the back - we like that it makes the rear symmetrical. Apple's camera in the corner is iconic now, but protrudes quite far, even if it is really nicely finished.
Boiling it down to basics: both phones use high quality metal and glass work to make them look and feel every part the premium phones they are. They're both near enough the same size too, although the curved screen edges do mean the Sammy is slightly narrower.
- Galaxy S10+: 6.4-inch curved, Dynamic AMOLED, Quad HD+ 19:9
- XS Max: 6.5-inch flat, OLED, 1242 x 2688, 19.5:9
- iPhone Notch versus S10+ dual punch-hole
Samsung's OLED panel is QHD+ which means it's sharper than Apple's 1242 x 2688 resolution OLED screen. It's a slightly longer ratio 6.5-inch versus Apple's 6.4, and it takes up more of the available space.
Technologically, it's better than Apple's too, being HDR10+ compliant versus Apple's HDR10. But, in real daily use, you're not going to notice that difference really.
Both screens offer fantastic colour reproduction, detail, brightness and contrast.
Which ever phone you use, you're going to get a fantastic display, but each has its compromises. That iPhone notch, with some games and apps, will cut off some of the app detail.
Samsung's minor flaws are different, in that, sometimes the slight curvature means the very top and bottom of some video gets every so slightly distorted.
The other element is that apps often have a black bar to disguise that punch hole camera, making the picture look uneven, with one flat edge, and one with rounded corners.
- S10+: Triple camera - wide, ultra-wide and zoom
- iPhone: Dual camera - wide and zoom
- S10+: 12MP f/1.4 + f/2.5, 16MP f/2.2 and 12MP f/2.4
- iPhone: 12MP f/1.8 and 12Mp f/2.4
With the Samsung, its combination of the regular, 2x zoom and ultra-wide cameras is so useful, and means we miss our real cameras less than before. It's like carrying around a camera with a wide and zoom lens.
With that said, we think the actual end results from the iPhone, considering it's just point and shoot, are a little better. Samsung's primary camera - which has that mechanical aperture - seems to leave photos looking a tiny bit more flat. iPhone's HDR makes daylight shots more dynamic.
And the iPhone's actually decent in low light, despite not having that dual aperture like Samsung. Neither has great night modes though, unlike a few other smartphones. We also think that iPhone's video looks nicer, a bit smoother, detailed and vibrant straight out of the camera.
Hardware and software
- Galaxy S10+: 8/12GB RAM, 128GB/512GB/1TB
- iPhone XS Max: 4GB RAM, 64GB/256GB/512GB
- Galaxy S10+: 4100mAh battery, 15W fast wireless charging
- iPhone XS Max: 3174mAh (approx), 7.5W wireless charging
- Samsung OneUI vs Apple iOS 12
If it was down to pure numbers, Samsung's 4100mAh battery beats the iPhone's 3,174mAh capacity. But with iPhone's optimisations, we found - again - fairly similar results. But the key take away is that you'll easily get through a full day with either phone, without needing to plug them in.
So software and features - there's lots to love here. Samsung, as always loads the phone up with extras. It has DeX - which is a desktop computer like experience, that requires nothing other than a standard cable to connect to a monitor and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. It also has a headphone jack, and removable storage.
iPhones do not have any of those things.
There is iMessage though, and iOS is generally better supported in the software and accessories market, what's more, Apple customer service is really good, comparatively.
Face ID, despite requiring that notch feels a far more natural way to unlock the phone than using the ultrasonic in display fingerprint sensor on the Samsung, and fails a lot less often, if at all. Similarly, Apple Pay for contactless is supported by more of the big banks than either Samsung or Google Pay.
Both clearly have their benefits, it's about choosing which is more suited to what you need.
In truth, it doesn't matter too much which of these phones you buy. If you're in the Apple ecosystem and regularly use features like AirDrop, iCloud and Apple Pay, you're going to be delighted by the XS Max.
In all of our phone testing, Face ID is the most convenient way to unlock your phone.
However, if you want to save money and Apple's ecosystem holds no value to you, the Samsung is the way to go. You'll get a great display, camera and performance, plus you'll save yourself a good chunk of change.