"Phone reviews, eh? So what's the best money-no-object phone?"
As much as I try to be creative in my answer, it always ends up including the two flagship devices from Apple and Samsung.
Right now, this means the iPhone 11 Pro series, which includes the compact 11 Pro and the more generously sized 11 Pro Max. And the Galaxy S20 series, which comes in three sizes: S20 (Small), S20+ (Medium), S20 Ultra (Extra Large).
For the lovers of big phones, the option can be narrowed between the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and the iPhone 11 Pro Max
All the specs, side-by-side
|Samsung Galaxy S20+
||Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
||161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm
||3200 x 1440 pixels (525 pixels per inch)
||Samsung Pay, Google Pay
||Standard+ 3x Zoom + Wide-Angle
||On-screen fingerprint sensor
- With a higher screen-to-body ratio and tiny front camera, the S20 design feels more elegant than the iPhone's *
Design and Display
No doubt that when spending upwards of £1,000 on a smartphone, you expect something that will not only look the part, but it will do for the next two or three years. As built-quality and durability go, the two differ little. Both are build using the latest version of reinforced Gorilla Glass, which guarantees unparalleled scratch and shock resistance. And both meet the IP68 standard for water and dust resistance, making them resistant to immersion up to 1.5mt of water without compromising internal components.
Frame construction is different in the materials used, aluminium for the Galaxy and steel for the iPhone. In theory, this makes the iPhone frame more resistant to scratches, but in practical terms, it will all depend on how well you look after your device or if you use a case.
What is affected by the frame material, however, is the overall weight of the device. Aluminium is considerably lighter, and it contributes to making the Galaxy the lightest of the two despite being having a bigger battery.
Not long ago, Apple seemed to have a monopoly on good design, but this is no longer the case. While many low-end brands seem to follow the pattern of iPhone derivative designs, Samsung has refined its design language over the years and more often than not it has produced devices that are consistently better thought out.
The iPhone 11 series is undoubtedly a great looking device, but when put next to the Galaxy S20 we can't help but prefer the Korean company's design solutions. The most noticeable element that differs between the two is the positioning of the front camera. The iPhone has a sizeable notch cutting through the display, an ugly compromise that reduces the screen's usable surface. Samsung, on the other hand, has opted for a "pinhole style" front camera that is now so small that you will forget it's there.
The S20 has also considerably thinner bezels, and overall, it makes the most efficient use of space with its 6.7-inch screen covering over 90% of the front surface which is impressive compared to the 84% of the iPhone.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20+
Performance and Battery Life
Both devices are sure to meet the demands of the most demanding users, thanks to their processing platforms. The Snapdragon 865 for the Galaxy, and the Bionic A13, for the iPhone are mighty capable processors and all benchmark show a tie when it comes to sheer processing power.
Overall performance is, however, notoriously hard to compare fairly. Take the RAM, for instance, the Galaxy S20+ comes with three times as much RAM as the iPhone. Still, you shouldn't use specs when comparing Android vs Apple devices as iOS has an entirely different way to handle resources.
Storage, on the other hand, is somewhat easier to compare and the iPhone doesn't fare as well as the basic model is limited to 64GB compared to the 128GB of the S20+. Furthermore, the Samsung Galaxy supports up to 1Terabyte (that is 1,000GB!) of extra storage via its SD card slot, a feature that Apple has never implemented on any of its phones.
When it comes to battery life, the iPhone has a slight edge thanks to its sophisticated power management but don't expect this to make a massive difference in practical terms.
The same could be said about charging speed. In this case, is the S20+ to have the advantage thanks to its 25W charger (the iPhone uses a 15W instead). Both also support wireless charging and are compatible with any standard charging pad.
Winner: Apples and Oranges. It's a tie.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max comes with a triple-lens setup that includes a Standard 12-megapixel primary camera, a telephoto with 2x Optical Zoom and a 13mm ultra-wide.
Optical Image Stabilisation, a feature that is slowly but surely being adopted by more and more devices, is only implemented by the main camera and depth of field detection is taken care of by Apple's exceptionally good AI-powered imaging software.
On the opposite corner, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ comes with a similar 12-megapixel main camera but improves on the zoom, which is a 3x Optical with Image Stabilisation. You will also find an impressive ultra-wide lens that is one of the best of its kind.
In the case of the S20+, depth of field is supported by a dedicated 3D lens.
In terms of results, both phones have an unmistakable "look".
For the iPhone, a highly saturated style and a camera that absolutely excels for portraits. The Samsung instead delivers realistic colours and more consistent results, especially when using the ultra-wide lens.
Check out our Galaxy S20+ and iPhone Pro review for details on camera performance.
iPhone for Portraits and low light, Samsung for consistently good results and outdoor photography.
Biometrics and Security
Samsung has stuck to its innovative on-screen "ultrasonic" fingerprint sensor. The technology was clearly not ready for prime time when it debuted on the S10 last year. While responsiveness has improved, it is still slower than traditional sensors. The alternative is face recognition, a now mature technology that is practical and reliable in most cases.
Apple, on the other hand, has dropped the fingerprint unlock and relies exclusively on its FaceID for face recognition. Apple's proprietary FaceID differs from what you'd find on any Android devices, including the Galaxy S20, in that it uses infrared light to map a 3D-model of your face resulting in a considerably more secure matching of any competitor.
Winner: Apple iPhone
While super-fast 5G connectivity has spread widely in the Android world, Apple has held back implementing it on its latest models. The iPhone 11 series does not support 5G, and there are no indications that Apple will release a 5G version any time soon.
We expect this to change with its next release coming in the second half of the year, but it's too early to say.
Samsung, on the other hand, was already shipping 5G-enabled devices last year and the S20+ only comes in a 5G version in the UK.
Winner: Galaxy S20+
Price and Value for Money
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is by far the most expensive of the two. It starts at £1,150 for the 64GB and goes up to around £1,300 for the 256GB (an upgrade that we strongly recommend).
The S20+ instead, looks cheaper as it starts at £999 for the 128GB and considering its 5G support and the excellent camera, seems by far the best value for money of the two.
Winner: Galaxy S20+