Apple iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy mobile phones
By Louise Muyanja
iPhone 8 or Galaxy S9? Find out which flagship mobile phone is best, and how the older models you can still buy stack up.
Apple and Samsung are the titans of the smartphone world, but which is the best brand to go for? Here, we explore the features that separate the two and the overall scores of their key models.
If you're looking for a high-end mobile phone, chances are you're considering the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S9 or the Apple iPhone XS and X. Both brands produce phones that are at the very expensive end of the market. The lowest configuration 128GB S10 costs £899 if you buy it outright, while the 64GB iPhone XS costs around £999.
You can see reviews of the latest Samsung and Apple handsets lower on the page, but if you're still unsure of which model suits you best you can take our quiz to help you decide.
In this article:
We narrow down some of the most important smartphone features and pit these two tech behemoths against each other to help you find your perfect fit.
Apple’s iPhones have come a long way since the rounded, plastic-backed iPhone first released in 2007. Newer models like the iPhone X, XS and XS Max now take on a sleeker glass design with a stainless steel band connecting the front and back. Apple also decided to rid itself of the home button, which doubled as a fingerprint sensor, to provide an edge-to-edge display with only a small bezel at the top of the screen.
Like Apple, Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones have veered away from the plastic design. The S6 Edge was the first of its models to feature its innovative ‘dual-edge’ display in 2015. The most recent flagship S series launch of the Galaxy S10s has developed to feature a larger, bezel-free screen and a holepunch design for the camera to provide a more seamless display.
Apple has increased the display resolution of its smartphones on each of its most recent launches, going up to 2,688 x 1,242 pixels on the iPhone XS Max. This isn’t quite as high as Samsung’s offering on the S10+, which touts a resolution of 3040 x 1440.
If you’re looking for a phone with a bigger screen, you’ll be split down the middle. The 5.8-inch iPhone XS is 0.3 inches smaller than the Galaxy S10 (6.1-inches) but Apple takes the crown for the larger devices, as the huge 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max is 0.1 inches larger than the S10+ (6.4 inches) .
The two phones have differing display types. The newest iPhones have a Super Retina HD OLED display while Samsung's new models come with Dynamic AMOLED displays.
AMOLED displays allow control over each individual pixel, which in theory produces better picture quality. AMOLEDs also have better overall power consumption than OLEDs, but they can use more power when displaying brighter colours and aren’t as visible in sunlight as OLED displays.
Apple has managed to resist pressure to whack multiple lenses on its smartphones but still remains well renowned for its camera. Even the latest iPhones feature a dual 12Mp rear camera lens, while some competitors are onto their fourth lenses, and a 7Mp front camera.
Samsung is right up there when you’re talking about front runners in camera development. The S10+ made headlines for its three rear-camera lens set up, which features a 16Mp ultra wide angle lens capturing a 123-degree field of view wider than even the human eye can see.
Samsung Galaxy loyalists can make use of ‘Scene Optimiser’ to automatically adjust and improve scene quality when the camera recognises the object or scene in the frame. Some of the modes include food, animals, greenery, beaches and sunsets.
Apple is no slouch in the camera department either - it offers a range of genuinely useful and dramatic post-processing effects to enhance your photos, and in the new XS range it introduced features such as Smart HDR - blending multiple photos for the best shot, and the ability to change the depth of field of images after they’ve been taken.
Whichever of the two smartphones you opt for, rest assured both Apple and Samsung are right up there when it comes to the best and latest advanced camera technology.
Apple users have long dealt with the woes of running out of space on their phone. iPhones don’t come with a micro-SD card to expand internal storage, so you need to think carefully about storage configuration before you buy. That said, the largest iPhone XS configuration does offer 512GB of internal storage, which is more than enough for some. Apple does sell a Lightning port to SD card so you can transfer data from your existing SD card onto the device.
If you’re concerned about hitting the storage ceiling, Samsung has more than enough capacity on its newer devices to last you. The highest-spec Samsung S10 has 512GB, which when paired with the external storage capacity of 512GB, gives you a massive 1TB of storage to make use of, although this doesn’t include the bloatware that comes pre-installed on your device.
Famous for its in-house expertise, Apple iPhones the iOS operating system. It may not be as much as of a behemoth as Android but iOS is owned by Apple, meaning that the manufacturer has more control over producing updates, security patches and rolling these updates out to its devices, than users of Google's Android operating system.
Samsung is the biggest smartphone brand in the world and also the largest smartphone manufacturer running on the Android operating system. Samsung Galaxy devices are typically launched with the newest iteration of Android’s software. To optimise the use of its devices, Samsung has ‘One UI’, an operating system skin to overlay Android that offers a range of visual and functional improvements.
Value for money
When it comes to these two tech titans, their premium smartphone ranges sit very close to each other in price.
For the first time in 2018, the iPhone toppled over the £1,000 threshold, making it one of the most expensive smartphones ever made. For those looking for a better deal, Apple introduced the iPhone XR (£749) as a less expensive alternative to the iPhone XS (£999) and XS Max (£1,099).
Samsung’s Galaxy range is a (slightly) less painful purchase. The top tier Samsung S10+ (£899) is £200 cheaper than it’s Apple equivalent. If you’re looking for the cheapest S10 on offer, you’d pay £669 - which is closest in price to what the older generation Apple iPhone 8 was at first launch. You’ll also find a range of Samsung phones outside the top tier. Mid-range models such as the Samsung Galaxy A9 and budget phones such as the Samsung Galaxy J4+ may not have cutting-edge features, but you can still find impressively large displays and high-spec camera setups that are more common on premium models.
Ease of repair
Not that anyone would plan to damage their smartphone, but it’s still good to know how much it would cost if the worst does happen.
Apple’s iPhone’s do cost a pinch more to repair, and of course more to replace. The most expensive Samsung phone, the Galaxy S10+, would cost £259 to replace its screen while the iPhone XS Max would set you back a much heftier £326.44. These prices are based on getting an official replacement through the manufacturer, which we would recommend to ensure that you don’t run into any issues.
To find out more about how much repairs will cost, read our guide on How to repair your smartphone.
Apple iPhones vs Samsung Galaxy S smartphones
Samsung Galaxy S9
Test score %
Samsung's new Galaxy S9, its latest high-end flagship smartphone, looks very similar to last year's Galaxy S8, but the manufacturer says that improvements have been made across the board. Are these changes enough to warrant spending more on the new model - or will last year's handset serve you just as well? And can it beat the latest iPhones?
Apple iPhone 8
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Is the new iPhone 8 really worth the hefty price tag? It has a glass rear for wireless charging and Apple promises better photos and videos. Before taking the plunge and spending a fortune, be sure to consult our results to make sure you're making a wise decision.
Apple iPhone XS Max
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Apple's 2018 smartphone for those who like larger screens, the XS Max comes with an enviable array of features, including a large battery, plenty of storage options and fancy dual cameras. Whether these are enough to max out the test score, though, is what's really important.
Apple iPhone XS
Test score %
The iPhone XS is the 'middle' option from its 2018 line, intended as more of a direct replacement to the iPhone X. It needs to offer enough improvements to justify a higher price and ideally enough to take on Samsung and other Android rivals. Can it succeed?
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of July 2019.
Each and every mobile phone that passes through our test labs is subjected to the same set of tough lab tests. This enables us to compare them side-by-side and tell you which are worthy of your money. You can use our test results to avoid slow phones that can't take decent photos, and instead spend your money on a good-quality model that won't constantly need recharging.
We examine everything, including processor speed, screen and camera quality, battery life and call quality.
Our tests are unique. For example, when testing how quick each phone is, we don't just use the industry-standard speed tests, but we also rate what it's like in everyday use. Our testers assess whether the phone is sluggish when swiping through menus and how quickly it opens web pages. All of these factors enable us to generate our star ratings and give each and every phone a score.
We know a thing or two about mobiles phones after testing over 100 of them. Head to our mobile phone reviews to find the perfect model for you.