Apple iPhone XS vs. Sony Xperia XZ3: Which is the best phone for you?

Sony and Apple have a long history of turning out great consumer electronics, but Japanese manufacturer Sony has struggled to gain a foothold in the smartphone market, while its American competitor has dominated. With both companies just releasing new flagship phones, we decided to compare the best each has to offer.

Apple’s newly unveiled flagship is the iPhone XS, which comes hot of the heels of Sony’s latest contender, the Xperia XZ3. They’re both attractive, powerful, and expensive, but which is best? Let’s take a closer look.

Specs

Apple iPhone XS Sony Xperia XZ3
Size 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches) 158 x 73 x 9.9 mm (6.22 x 2.87 x 0.39 inches)
Weight 177 grams (6.24 ounces) 193 grams (6.81 ounces)
Screen size 5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display 6-inch OLED display
Screen resolution 2,436 × 1,125 pixels (458 ppi) 2,880 x 1,440 pixels (537 pixels per inch)
Operating system iOS 12 Sony UI (over Android 9.0 Pie)
Storage space 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot No Yes, up to 512GB
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Google Pay
Processor A12 Bionic Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera Dual 12MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front 19MP rear, 13MP front
Video 2,160p at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps 2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1,080p at 960 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5 Bluetooth 5
Ports Lightning USB-C
Fingerprint sensor No Yes
Water resistance IP68 IP68/IP65
Battery 2,658mAh 3,330mAh
App marketplace Apple App Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray Black, Silver White, Forest Green, Bordeaux Red
Price $1,000 $900
Where to buy it Apple Amazon
Review score Hands-on review Hands-on review

Performance, battery life, and charging

Apple iPhone XS Hands On
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Apple has hit a new high thanks to the performance of its A12 Bionic processor. This chip is incredibly fast, offering tangible improvements in terms of speed when compared with its predecessor in the iPhone X. Apple has also equipped the XS with 4GB of RAM. Based on our early impressions and the benchmarks that are emerging, the iPhone XS could be the most powerful phone on the market right now. You can pick up the iPhone XS with 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage.

Sony has put the capable Snapdragon 845 processor in the Xperia XZ3, backed by 4GB of RAM. It’s speedy, slick, and plenty powerful for most people, but it can’t keep up with the iPhone XS. The Xperia XZ3 comes with 64GB of storage, but there is a MicroSD card slot for expansion up to 512GB.

On paper, the Xperia XZ3 wins the battery contest with a 3,300mAh capacity. The iPhone XS has a 2,658mAh battery inside. We strongly suspect both will require daily charging. You can fast charge the Xperia XZ3, with the charger supplied, but if you want to fast charge the iPhone XS, you’ll have to buy a fast charger and cable separately. Both these phones support Qi wireless charging.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Design and durability

Sony Xperia XZ3 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Sony overhauled its dated design with the XZ2, introducing “Ambient Flow,” a design language that continues with the XZ3. It’s all about curves. with rounded corners and a curved glass back that sits very comfortably in the hand. The display even curves into the metal frame at the edges, helping to make the device feel thinner than it is. There are still sizable bezels top and bottom of the screen — and we really dislike the fingerprint sensor placement on the back because it’s simply too low.

Apple also overhauled its dated design last year with the iPhone X, introducing an edge-to-edge display with a notch at the top that houses the new camera module and supports secure face unlock. This was a necessity as Apple ditched the old home button and decided to drop the fingerprint sensor altogether. The iPhone XS is identical to its predecessor. The back is glass and there’s a steel frame, but there are no curves like you’ll find on the Xperia XZ3. Apple’s phone is smaller in every direction and a good bit lighter.

Both phones will be prone to cracks and scratches because of all that glass, but they are water-resistant. The IP68 rating allows them to be submerged for up to half an hour in up to 2 meters of water. The Xperia XZ3 has an additional IP65 rating, which covers jets of water from any direction.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Display

iPhone Xs screen
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We’re excited to see Sony adopting OLED in its smartphones for the first time with the Xperia XZ3, something Apple did with the iPhone X last year. The XZ3 has a 6-inch OLED that looks absolutely gorgeous. It boasts a 2,880 x 1,440-pixel resolution, which makes it very sharp indeed at 537 pixels-per-inch (ppi). It’s easily the best display we’ve seen in a Sony phone and the company has drafted its TV division to add picture processing smarts.

Apple’s iPhone XS has a 5.8-inch OLED with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels, which translates to 458 ppi. It’s an excellent screen that’s a joy to read on, play games on, or watch movies on. Both the displays support HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. We need to spend a bit more time with these devices to determine which display is better, so this is a tie for now. Suffice it to say both are extremely good.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Apple iPhone XS Hands On
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As many manufacturers look to add more lenses to their cameras, we were surprised by Sony’s decision to go with a single 19-megapixel sensor in the main camera of the XZ3. It’s not that dual-lens cameras are always better — our favorite phone camera over the last year has been the single-lens Pixel 2 — but Sony did employ a dual-lens camera in the XZ2 Premium. In any case, Sony has nailed camera hardware, but often falls down in the software department, and we found the XZ2 Premium struggled to compete with phones like the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 9.

With the same dual 12-megapixel lens setup as the iPhone X, but with a newer sensor and enhanced software, the iPhone XS looks to be a great performer. Apple has also added the ability to adjust the background blur after taking a portrait shot. There’s also support for Smart HDR, which combines frames to edit out exposure problems and create the best image every time.

Sony’s front-facing camera is rated at 13-megapixels while Apple’s is the 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera, which can also securely unlock your phone by scanning your face and map Animojis so they’re animated along with you. Both phones can record slow-motion video, though only the Xperia XZ3 can do super slow motion.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Software and updates

iphone xs max and xr photo galleries apple hands on 12

Android or iOS is down to personal preference nowadays as, both are accessible, slick operating systems with all the features you need. We’re pleased to see that the Xperia XZ3 ships with Android 9.0 Pie on board, though there is a Sony user interface and some bloatware on top. This category is an easy win for Apple because it always updates its iPhones in a timely manner and they continue to get new versions of iOS for many years after release.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Special features

Sony Xperia XZ3 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

If you’re a gamer with a PlayStation 4, then the PS Remote Play support in the Xperia XZ3 might interest you, as it allows you to stream games on your phone. Sony also includes the 3D Creator app, which allows you to scan yourself and create a 3D avatar. There’s also Side Sense, so you can tap the side of your Xperia XZ3 to open a shortcuts menu, and Smart Launch for the camera, which will launch the camera when you hold your XZ3 up in landscape view as though you want to take a photo.

Apple’s iPhone XS has the aforementioned TrueDepth camera for secure face unlocking that even works in low light, and Memojis have joined Animojis for messaging fun.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ3

Price

Neither Apple or Sony are known for reasonable pricing, so it won’t shock you to learn that these smartphones are expensive. The 64GB model of the iPhone XS will cost you $1,000, while the Xperia XZ3 is a touch cheaper at $900. You can pick up the iPhone from all the major carriers, but you’ll have to buy the XZ3 unlocked, and it won’t work with Verizon or Sprint.

Overall Winner: Apple iPhone XS

With unrivaled performance, a modern design, and a great camera, the iPhone XS is an attractive prospect whatever way you look at it. The Sony Xperia XZ3 has its own high points and is probably the better pick for Android fans, but even the $100 price difference isn’t enough to paper over the areas where the XZ3 falls short. If we could only go home with one of these phones, it would have to be the iPhone XS.

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