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 choosing between the Apple iPhone 11 and XS or the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S9. You may even have your eye on Samsung’s premium Galaxy Note series.
Both brands produce phones that are at the very expensive end of the market. The lowest configuration 128GB S10 cost £899 at launch to buy outright, while the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro cost £1,049.
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:
- Quiz: Should you buy an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy?
- Apple iPhones vs Samsung Galaxy S
- Our Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S recommendations
- How we rate iPhone and Samsung smartphones
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 such as the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro 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 give 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 11 Pro Max. This isn’t quite as high as Samsung’s offering on the S10+, which touts a resolution of 3,040 x 1,440 pixels.
If you’re looking for a phone with a bigger screen, you’ll be split down the middle. The 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro 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 11 Pro 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 XDR 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 can use more power when displaying brighter colours and aren’t as visible in sunlight as OLED displays.
Apple has finally succumbed to the new standard of having multiple lenses on its smartphones with the launch of the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, which feature a triple rear camera lens, each lens capturing in 12Mp.
Apple was previously known for remaining steadfast with its dual rear camera setup, while some of its competitors are onto their fourth lenses. You can still find a dual 12Mp rear lens on the cheaper iPhone 11.
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 setup, which features a 16Mp ultra wide angle lens capturing a 123-degree field of view wider than 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. 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 11 range, you’ll find 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 11 Pro 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. The highest-spec Samsung S10 has 512GB which, when paired with the external storage capacity of 512GB, gives a massive 1TB of storage.
Famous for its in-house expertise, Apple iPhones use 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 the largest smartphone manufacturer running on the Android operating system. Samsung Galaxy devices are typically launched with the newest version 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 with the iPhones, Apple had introduced the iPhone XR (£749), as a less expensive alternative to the iPhone XS (£999) and XS Max (£1,099).
It has maintained the same structure with the iPhone 11s, which once again is a three-phone line-up. The new series features the expectedly premium iPhone 11 Pro (£1,049) and 11 Pro Max (£1,149), while the standard iPhone 11 was released at a much more forgiving price (£779).
Samsung’s Galaxy range is a (slightly) less painful purchase. The top-tier Samsung S10+ (£899 at launch) came in at £250 cheaper than its Apple equivalent. The cheapest S10 on offer (£669) was close in price to the older-generation Apple iPhone 8 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 little 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 11 Pro Max or 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 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.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of March 2020.
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 webpages. All these factors enable us to generate our star ratings and give every phone a score.
We know a thing or two about mobiles phones after testing more than 100. Head to our mobile phone reviews to find the perfect model for you.