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  3. iPhone X vs Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: head to head review

iPhone X vs Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: head to head review

We put the best Apple and Samsung have to offer to the test.

Without a doubt, Apple and Samsung are the two biggest names in the smartphone industry. And, whether you love them or hate them, everyone has a preference for one over the other.

Ever since smartphones took over our lives, these two brands have been battling it out to be the best . And this long-standing rivalry has been great both for customers and for the industry as a whole. After all, in their relentless pursuit to outdo one another, they each offer better and better capabilities with every new handset.

But how do their latest flagships stack up against each other? We find out in this battle between the Samsung Galaxy 9 Plus and iPhone X.

Already know Apple's latest handset is the one for you? Check out our best iPhone X deals.

Want the Samsung instead? Here are our best Galaxy S9 Plus deals.


iPhone X and S9 plus handsets headphone slots

It’s hard to draw a comparison just by looking at the technical specifications between the two devices. But as soon as you see them side by side, you can instantly tell that they’re two very different devices.

Both phones are built with an all-glass back. While this is nothing new for Samsung, it’s the first time we’ve seen this on an iPhone, as Apple has opted for an all-metal construction for almost all the previous generations.

A glass back makes these devices look great when you first get it out of the box and makes them appear positively gleaming in marketing photography. But, as soon as you start to use the device, it becomes a fingerprint magnet, becoming a smudgy mess after a few hours of use.

So far, so similar. But things get more interesting when you look at the shape of the glass and metal frame.

The iPhone offers a slightly protruding, but simply flat display that ends at a seamlessly rounded chrome frame

The glass on the Galaxy S9 Plus, on the other hand, curves to meet a metal frame that thins on the sides, making the phone feel slimmer than it really is.

iPhone and S9 Plus backs Both have highly reflective glass backs. Note the protruding double camera on the iPhone X.

Neither of these solutions are great ergonomically as both can be slippery and it’s all too easy to drop them accidentally, especially the S9 Plus, which is considerably bigger. In fact, while these phones are lovely to look at, I can’t help but feel like Apple and Samsung have both prized the looks of their respective handsets above the comfort of their users.

The location of the buttons is very similar. Both place the power/standby button on the right while the volume is operated from the left side. The iPhone adds a mute switch located above the volume buttons, a useful feature that iPhone users would be already familiar with.

Samsung has instead opted for a wide volume rocker instead of two separate buttons. Below this is the dedicated Bixby button, which fires up the virtual assistant. It’s placed perilously close to the volume, so it’s all too easy to get the two mixed up, especially when you’re in a hurry.

When we come to the display, both phones have foregone the physical button allowing room to stretch to the bottom of the device. But while the Samsung repeats the same shape at the top leaving a narrow bezel to accommodate the speaker and camera lens, the iPhone goes further by wrapping the display around the camera lens, resulting in a visible black “notch” in the screen.

Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll get used to the notch surprisingly quickly and you’ll probably stop noticing it within a few days.

Overall, the curved edges of the S9 Plus gives the phone a classy look, while the iPhone has a more conventional look that’s less likely to stand out, particularly if you have it in a case.

But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The minimalist shape and compact dimensions make the iPhone easier to hold, especially compared to the larger S9 Plus. And the additional hardware button for the AI assistant slightly tarnishes the otherwise well thought out design of the Samsung.

Design Winner: Apple iPhone X

Screen and sound

iPhone X and S9 Plus screens

Both phones use Super AMOLED technology for their displays. So, as you’d expect, they’re bright, sharp and crystal clear. And they’re made of scratch and shock resistant Gorilla Glass 5 to help them survive the rough and tumble of everyday life.

The iPhone X is smaller at 5.8 inches and has a lower resolution of 1125 x 2436 pixels, compared to the larger 6.2 inches Samsung, which has a resolution of 1440 x 2960. Naturally, this means that the S9 Plus will give you much sharper images and videos.

Colour rendering is also quite different. Both phones are able to adjust the colour levels, brightness and saturation depending on the application and the surrounding environment. But the Samsung has a superior level of customisation and offers higher brightness compared to the iPhone X.

And then there is the notch. While the S9 Plus offers an immersive experience with its symmetrical screen and extremely narrow side bezels, full-screen videos on the iPhone will inevitably be hindered by the black notch on one side.

If you habitually use your phone for video, especially for TV, Netflix or to catch up on your favourite sport, the Galaxy S9 Plus is the one that wins hands down on the display front.

Both phones are quite capable of delivering excellent sound through the headphones. But the iPhone X has no headphone jack, so in order to use your existing wired headphones you’ll have to purchase a USB adaptor to connect your headphones through the charging port. Or you can use a wireless set of headphones.

The Galaxy S9 Plus, on the other hand, has a traditional audio jack port at the bottom next to the charging port, which means you can use your favourite headphones without a bulky adaptor or additional expense.

Screen and sound winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus



Both phones have a dual camera setup composed of two 12-megapixel lenses. If camera performance is not a top priority you’ll definitely be pleased with the results offered by either of these phones.

But, if you care about cameras, it’s worth getting to grips with the differences between the two.

The 12-megapixel main lens on the Galaxy S9 Plus is capable of adjusting the aperture according to light conditions by choosing between a large f/1.5 or a f/2.4. For bright scenes, the aperture is lowered to manage the amount of brightness.

iPhone X Galaxy S9 Plus

It comes with an easy to use autofocus that’s ideal for bright scenes and landscapes. This automatic adjustment works flawlessly and provides consistently good results in a great variety of conditions.

The secondary lens is a telephoto that delivers 2x optical zoom with no loss of detail. This lens is also used to create the soft focus portrait mode.

The iPhone X has a slightly different approach with a fixed aperture main lens that performs adequately in most conditions without the colour oversaturation of previous iPhones. However it doesn’t match the low-light performance that the Galaxy S9 Plus delivers thanks to its dual aperture setup.

A secondary 2x Zoom lens is also included in the iPhone X.

The portrait mode is one of the areas where the iPhone X has the edge. The two lenses combined with graphic processing create beautiful portraits that are still unrivalled. Even when using the front camera for selfies, results are outstanding.

iPhone X Galaxy S9 Plus

The Apple flagship is the obvious choice for portraits thanks to its its realistic rendering of skin tones and textures. Things fall apart in less than bright conditions however, as the S9 Plus delivers consistently brighter images thanks to its variable aperture technology.

The iPhone X offers much better image quality than any previous iPhones. But the versatility and low-light performance of the S9 Plus place it slightly ahead when it comes to the camera.

Winner: Galaxy S9 Plus, but only just


iPhone X setting up Face ID

Removing the fingerprint reader from its latest model was a bold move from Apple. If you own an iPhone X, face recognition is the only way to unlock your phone, unless you opt to enter a 6-digit passcode. Although not the fastest, iPhones X’s “Face ID” technology is extremely reliable and works flawlessly, even in very dark conditions.

The same cannot be said about the Galaxy S9 Plus. Samsung’s face recognition is slower and doesn’t always work in the dark.

Luckily this isn’t the only way to unlock a Galaxy S9 as Samsung has included pretty much all possible unlocking technologies currently available on smartphones.

As well as face recognition, the phone can be unlocked with a swipe pattern, a practical fingerprint reader on the back of the phone, iris recognition and even the old 4-digit PIN. Once all these options have been set up, you’re sure to find one that suits you best.

Security experts advise that the best security comes in layers and it’s a good thing to have a number of ways to protect your data instead of one. Still, I’m of the opinion that having one well implemented feature always trumps a number of flawed methods and Apple easily wins over Samsung on this.

Winner: Apple iPhone X


iPhone waterproof generic smartphone

The glass panels on both the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9 Plus are built with Corning Gorilla Glass 5. It’s the highest grade currently available on smartphones and offers a very high level of resistance to scratches and accidental drops.

More so in the case of the iPhone X as the protrusion of the camera lens on its back makes this component more vulnerable to scratches if dropped.

iPhone X camera back hero size The shiny iPhone X frame is easy to scratch if you don't have a case.

Both phones are water and dust resistant. But while the iPhone X conforms to the IP67 which means it can be immersed in water up to 1m for 30 minutes, the Galaxy S9 Plus has an even more impressive rating of IP68.

This means it can survive in up to 30 meters of freshwater for as long as half an hour. Samsung has been shipping waterproof devices long before Apple and has a clear advantage in the engineering required.

I know that, if I were to go kayaking, I would be more confident taking the Samsung with me. But for everyday use, they're both durable devices that will survive most of what your life will throw at them. Particularly when paired with a good case, either one should be fine.

Winner: It’s a tie


iPhone X and S9 Plus homescreens

Given that the S9 uses Google Android, while the iPhone X runs on Apple's iOS software, comparing technical specs adds little to the understanding how these two very different devices compare in real life performance.

Take RAM, for example: the iPhone X has 3GB while the S9 Plus has 6GB. But does this translate to visible differences in performance? The short answer is not really. There are vast differences between iOS and Android in the way they manage system resources. And a proprietary OS like Apple’s is always going to have an advantage in efficiency over Android.

That considered, 6GB of RAM on the S9 Plus is the most any Android phone currently has to offer and it'll ensure longevity as new versions of Android are released.

If you’re considering a switch from one system to the other, let me warn you that it can be a little jarring at first and will take some time to get used to.

Overall, both devices are more than capable of handling everyday tasks as well as games and videos with no lag. There are some areas where performance can appear different such as when unlocking (the iPhone is faster) or using the camera (the Galaxy camera feels more responsive overall). But this has more to do with the interface design and its optimisation rather than a lack of processing power.

You'll notice a big difference when it comes to storage though. While the iPhone X comes with a either 64GB or a more expensive 128GB, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus has 256GB as standard that can be upgraded to a staggering 512GB with a memory card in the SIM drawer.

If you’re serious about local storage space and want to install as many apps and games as you want without worrying about running out of memory, the S9 Plus is definitely the better choice.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Battery life

iPhone X and S9 Plus backs hero

On paper, this is another area where the S9 Plus should beat out the competition. While the Galaxy packs a 3500mAh power pack, in keeping with Samsung’s tendency of increasing battery capacity at every iteration, the iPhone has a considerably smaller 2716mAh.

Average use and standby time is comparable, with both phones easily lasting almost two days if used sparingly. But once they're put through their paces with either constant YouTube video watching or gaming, the S9 starts to appear the better of the two, but only marginally.

Both handsets support fast and wireless charging. But in order to charge the iPhone X to the promised 50% of charge in 30 minutes, you will have to purchase an optional charging pad.

An hour of charge with the supplied cable will take the battery from 10% to around 60%.

There is no clear winner with regard to the battery life as the excellent power management and smaller screen of the iPhone makes up for its smaller battery capacity delivering similar performance.

Winner: It’s a tie

Value for money

iPhone X and S9 Plus homescreens side by side

At £999 for the 64GB (and £1,159 for the 256GB model), the iPhone X is the more expensive of the two. It is, in fact, the most expensive smartphone in the market in 2018. And it's unlikely this will be topped by any other phone, save probably for the new model expected at the end of the year.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, on the other hand retails at £869, still at the very high end compared to any other Android phones.

Which offers best value for money? Surprisingly, this is not an easy question to answer. If you were to consider the pure bang for buck in terms of functionality, the Samsung is the clear winner.

Having said that, the Apple iPhone X is a clear improvement over the previous generation of iPhones. And if you're a long-standing Apple customer comfortable within Apple app ecosystem and cloud services, the iPhone X will certainly not disappoint you.

Add to that the legendary reliability of Apple products and high resale value, the iPhone X, especially on a good contract deal or even a refurbished offer, is money well spent.

Winner: It’s a tie

The winner

iPhone X and S9 Plus backs

If you're either an Apple or Android fan and have no intention of switching sides, you know already which of the two to pick. But is it worth getting the best iPhone or Samsung on the market? Absolutely.

Despite its shortcomings and high price, the iPhone X represents the best Apple can offer. And it’s hard to find any other Android smartphone that offers the same level of build quality and performance of the S9 Plus.

If you’re open-minded about the operating system and your priorities lie in overall camera quality and versatility, we feel that the S9 Plus is the obvious choice. Its camera quality, exceptional screen and storage expandability more than make up for its messy approach to facial recognition security.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Want our favourite Samsung device? Here are our best Galaxy S9 Plus deals.

Convinced you need Apple's latest handset instead? Check out our best iPhone X deals.

Still undecided? Compare phones of all makes and models, using our phone comparison table.

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