iPhone XS and XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: $1,000 phablet showdown

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Now that the wraps have been taken off Apple’s newest flagship phones, the only natural thing is to compare them to the best phone Android currently has to offer: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. (Sorry Pixel fans, you’re going to have to wait until Google’s new phone lands on October 9.) This year, Apple has not one but two $1,000-plus phablet phones, with the smaller screen clocking in at the same 5.8 inches as last year’s iPhone X, and the larger measuring a gaudy 6.5 inches.

But Samsung’s latest handset doesn’t start at a thousand bucks for nothing—it has the best specs and displays you can get in any Android handset anywhere. So let’s see how it stacks up to Apple’s newest four-figure-plus phones:

iPhone XS and XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9: Design and dimensions

iphone event xsApple

The Note 9 isn’t a small phone. Its bezels are ever-so-slightly bigger than the Note 8, and while its forehead and chin are slimmed, they’re still quite a bit bigger than they are on either on Apple’s new iPhones:

  • iPhone XS: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm
  • iPhone XS Max: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm
  • Galaxy Note 9: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm

All three phones use the newer 18:9 ratio to keep the size down, and even though it leads the pack in height by several millimeters, the Note 9 is still surprisingly pocketable. And it doesn’t have a display notch like so many of its peers. But Apple’s design has spawned a great many imitators for a reason: It’s one of the best looking phones you’ve ever seen.

iPhone XS and XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Display

apple event iphone 6s maxApple

Before the iPhone XS Max arrived, the Note 9 laid claim to being the biggest (if not also most expensive) phone you can buy. That’s not the case anymore, as the iPhone bests the Note 9 by a tenth of an an inch. The iPhone XS Max has a whopping 6.5-inch screen, making it Apple’s largest phone ever by a wide margin, nearly three-quarters of an inch. The specs:

  • iPhone XS: 5.8-inch OLED, 1125 x 2436, 458ppi
  • iPhone XS Max: 6.5-inch OLED, 1242 x 2688, 458 ppi
  • Galaxy Note 9: 6.4-inch OLED, 1440 x 2960, 516ppi

While the screen on the iPhone X may be bigger, Samsung has a higher resolution and pixel density. However, all three are well within the realm of what you’d call “retina,” so it’s going to be tough to discern much of a difference when it comes to image quality. The proof will be in the color accuracy and brightness, where Samsung often excels.

iPhone XS and XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9: Performance

galaxy note 9 s penChristopher Hebert/IDG

As always, Apple and Samsung have fitted their latest phones with the best possible silicon:

  • iPhone XS and XS Max: A12 Bionic
  • Galaxy Note 9: Snapdragon 845

We already know that the Snapdragon 845 brings first-class speeds and tremendous power efficiency that lets the Note 9 easily last a full day. However, we don’t know anything about the A12 Bionic other than what Apple has told us, which is typically bombastic: “The Apple-designed A12 Bionic, the smartest and most powerful chip in a smartphone, features the first 7-nanometer chip ever in a smartphone that delivers industry-leading performance in a more power-efficient design.” The A11 is already a great chip so even if the A12 brings just moderate improvements, it’ll be a winner.



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