Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Apple iPhone X: Heavyweight smartphone clash

Samsung’s latest flagship sailed onto the scene at MWC in Barcelona boasting an impressive new camera, a refined curved body, and a few other improvements over last year’s Galaxy S8. It’s an attractive smartphone that’s sure to tempt many, but in order to claim the title, it will have to knock out Apple’s reigning champion — the iPhone X. We decided to compare the two in various categories to see which comes out on top.

Specs and performance

Galaxy S9 iPhone X
Size 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm (5.81 x 2.7 x 0.33 inches) 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 163 grams (5.74 ounces) 174 grams (6.14 ounces)
Screen 5.8-inch Super AMOLED 5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display
Resolution 2,960 x 1,440 (529 ppi) 2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458 ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo iOS 11
Storage 64GB 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
NFC support Yes Yes (Apple Pay only)
Processor Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 630 A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M11 motion co-processor
RAM 4GB 3GB
Connectivity 4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi 4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera Super Speed Dual Pixel 12-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front Dual 12 MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front
Video Up to 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps Up to 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 5.0 Yes, version 5.0
Biometric authentication Iris, fingerprint, face unlock, Intelligent Scan Face ID
Other sensors Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, proximity, iris Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Water resistant Yes, IP68 rated Yes, IP67 rated
Battery 3,000mAh Fast charging (Quick Charge 2.0), wireless charging (Qi and PMA) 2,716mAh 21 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 14 hours of video playback, and up to 60 hours of audio playback Fast charging – 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, wireless charging (Qi standard)
Ports USB-C, headphone jack Lightning
Marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Colors Lilac Purple, Midnight Black, Coral Blue Space Gray, Silver
Availability March 16 AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple
Price $720 $999
DT review 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Samsung Galaxy S9 comes with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 processor, which is faster and less power-hungry than last year’s Snapdragon 835. It’s backed up by an ample 4GB of RAM. This is a phone that’s capable of handling the latest and greatest games and switching between apps with seamless ease. This challenger is certainly no slouch in the performance department. For all its power, the Galaxy S9 is up against a behemoth in the speed stakes. Apple’s iPhone X is packing the company’s A11 Bionic chip and it’s lightning fast, blowing away all comers in benchmark testing.

The iPhone X only has 3GB of RAM, but iOS handles memory management differently than Android, so it doesn’t translate to inferior multitasking performance. Both phones come with 64GB of onboard storage, but there’s also a 256GB version of the iPhone X, though it does cost an extra $150. The Galaxy S9 offers a MicroSD card slot for easy, and potentially cheap, memory expansion of up to 400GB. It’s arguable whether you really need the extra processing power, but there’s no doubt that the iPhone X is faster, so it has to take this round.

Winner: iPhone X

Design and display

galaxy s9 Plus hands-on review front full
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The design of the Galaxy S9 is a slight refinement on the Galaxy S8, but you could easily mistake the two phones for each other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the S8 is one of the best looking phones ever released. Samsung has refined the design, smartly responding to feedback by moving the fingerprint sensor underneath the camera module, where it really should have been from the start. Samsung’s stunning 5.8-inch, curved, Super AMOLED, Infinity Display is gorgeous, sporting an 18.5:9 aspect ratio at a razor sharp 529 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The sloping glass sides and incredibly slim bezels have enabled Samsung to fit a relatively big screen in a phone that’s easy to manage one-handed.

Apple’s iPhone X is a very different design, with a glass back that houses the dual camera module in the top left corner. There’s no fingerprint sensor to be found, because Apple opted for FaceID instead, which employs the dual front-facing camera setup on the front. The iPhone X has an almost all-screen bezel-less front, but the front-facing camera and a few other bits and pieces have been packed into a notch that digs into the top of the display. The Super Retina AMOLED in the iPhone X is also 5.8 inches, but it has a more traditional aspect ratio, and isn’t quite as sharp as the S9 at 458 ppi. It’s still a very good-looking display indeed.

Side by side, you will be hard pressed to pick the better display. The designs are so different that it really comes down to personal preference, though the lack of a fingerprint sensor on the iPhone X can be annoying at times. We’re going to give the S9 a narrow win here.

Winner: Galaxy S9

Camera

apple iphone x
The headline feature for the Galaxy S9 is the camera. Samsung has packed in what it’s calling a Super Speed Dual Pixel camera, which is rated at 12-megapixels. It’s capable of switching between an f/1.5 aperture and an f/2.4 aperture, which means it can adjust for low light situations to take in more light with a larger aperture. It also takes shots with 30 percent less noise than the S8, by employing a multi-frame system that snaps 12 shots and combines them for best results. As for the front-facing camera, it’s rated at 8-megapixels and sports a fairly large f/1.7 aperture. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus actually has a better, dual camera setup which allows for telephoto zoom and a more pronounced bokeh effect.

Apple also put a lot of effort into the iPhone X camera with dual 12-megapixel lenses with f/1.7 and f/2.4 apertures. It’s capable of 2x optical zoom and can produce a great bokeh effect. Apple’s front-facing camera is rated at 7-megapixels and has an infrared counterpart that enables it to detect faces, even when it’s dark. The portrait mode in the iPhone X camera is also superb. Having directly compared the Galaxy S9 camera with the iPhone X camera in the wild, it’s a tight competition, but the iPhone X won us over more often than not.

Winner: iPhone X

Battery life and charging

You’ll find a 3,000mAh battery in the Galaxy S9, which should see you through an average day with change. That’s the same size battery that’s in the Galaxy S8 and it’s just about right. Because the Snapdragon 845 is more power efficient, and Samsung doesn’t seem to have added anything that would be an obvious battery drain, the S9 offers a slight improvement over its predecessor, but you’ll still have to charge it daily. The iPhone X battery is rated at 2,716mAh. We’ve lived with it for quite a while now and find that it offers average day-long performance, almost always making it to the end of the day with a little left in the tank.

Both phones support wireless charging, which is handy. They also both support fast charging, though Samsung has chosen to limit the S9 to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, even though the Snapdragon 845 would in theory allow for QC 4. Although the iPhone X can also be charged up quickly, Apple neglects to include a fast charger in the box with it, which is annoying considering the price of the phone. There isn’t enough to separate these phones, so we’ll call this a tie.

Winner: Tie

Software

The Galaxy S9 comes running Android 8 Oreo with Samsung’s user interface on top. It’s a solid combo that runs smoothly and does everything you might want it to. Samsung has done some good work to improve and streamline its UI, but it’s still a far cry from stock Android. Apple’s iPhone X runs iOS 11, which is tailor made for the device and silky smooth to navigate. We’re not going to get into Android vs. iOS again here, suffice to say both are great and your preference will probably be based on what you’re used to.

Samsung has surprised no one by throwing AR Emoji onto the S9, allowing you to create an emoji that reflects your facial expressions, just like Apple’s Animoji. The big software extra for Samsung’s S9 is Bixby, which has a range of AI tricks up its sleeve, enabling you to identify objects around you and translate in real-time. A lot of the same things can be done with Google Assistant and other Google apps, so we’re not entirely convinced that Bixby is essential.

The iPhone X also boasts FaceID, Apple’s sophisticated face unlock security, which is certainly a bit faster and easier to use than Samsung’s Iris scanner, though possibly not as secure. We can’t pick a clear winner here.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

Both phones are available from all the major carriers in the U.S. and you can buy them unlocked direct from the manufacturers, or on Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and a few others retailers. The Samsung Galaxy S9 costs $720 unlocked, however, which is far cheaper than Apple’s iPhone X, which starts at $1,000.

Overall winner: Apple iPhone X

This is a really tough contest to pick a winner for — yes, the Galaxy S9 is cheaper, but it all still comes down to how the camera and battery perform. We love the display and the design of the Galaxy S9 and Samsung has eliminated the biggest gripe we had with the S8 design by moving the fingerprint sensor. The S9 is a beautiful device and it feels great in the hand.

There’s no doubt that the iPhone X is also an attractive device with a stunning display. It’s also faster in the performance stakes and we prefer the camera. There’s nothing to separate them in terms of battery, so the iPhone X scores a narrow win and remains our current pick for best smartphone.

Product Review

Someday it will do 5G, but the Moto Z3 is already a great phone

Motorola’s flagship smartphone of 2018 looks exactly like its mid-range smartphone of 2018, but powered by a processor from 2017. It’s still a great-performing phone for $480, and it will be the first upgradable 5G smartphone next year.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. Huawei P20 Pro: Two high-end phones clash

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is here and it's a big, beautiful beast of a smartphone. But today's market is demanding -- does the Note 9 measure up to other flagships? We pitted it against the Huawei P20 Pro to find out.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. Apple iPhone X: Battle of the ultra-premium smartphones

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the company's latest ultra-premium smartphone. The device boasts top-tier specs, an excellent design, and more. But can it take out the Apple iPhone X, Apple's own ultra-premium device?
Mobile

Bigger isn’t always better: 5 of the smallest smartphones worth buying

Phones are getting larger and larger, but what options exist for the small-of-hand, or people who just want a phone they can use one-handed? In a world of phablets, some of the smallest smartphones can still pack a punch.
Wearables

Leak suggests Fitbit may soon release another 'swim-proof' fitness tracker

Fitbit is reportedly launching another fitness tracker -- the Fitbit Charge 3. The new wearable is expected to include a touchscreen display, connected GPS, the ability to reply to text messages, and more. Here's everything we know about…
Mobile

We found out which Sony Xperia phones will get Android 9 Pie in 2019

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Product Review

From its stunning screen to its slick S-Pen, Samsung's Note 9 is a masterpiece

It’s jaw-dropping how much tech Samsung has fit inside the Galaxy Note 9. It’s one of Samsung’s largest phones ever thanks to its 6.4-inch screen, and the S Pen is better than ever.
Mobile

Google may finally create its first flagship store in Chicago

Google is reportedly nearing an agreement on a lease for its first flagship retail store. The store will be located in Chicago, and will presumably be where the company shows off Google Pixel phones and other hardware.
Home Theater

The best MP3 player you can buy (and four alternatives)

Want to go for a run, but your phone is weighing you down? No worries. Can't fit your whole music library on your smartphone? Don't sweat it. Check out our list of the best MP3 players, and find one that works for you.
Mobile

Google confirms it still tracks users who turn Location History off

Google is tracking your location -- even when you tell it not to. According to an investigation by the Associated Press, Google services store location data, regardless of whether privacy settings claim otherwise.
Mobile

Is your smartphone frozen? Here's how to reset your iPhone

You can do a lot with an iPhone, but if you ever run into an issue with it, the first thing you should do is restart it. In this guide, we tell you how to reset your iPhone, and explain how it differs from a factory reset.
Mobile

The HTC U12 Plus is now available in color-shifting Flame Red shade

HTC has released some pretty great flagship phones in the past few years, and it's now aiming to follow up with another one. After plenty of rumors and leaks, the company has finally taken the wraps off of the new HTC U12 Plus.
Home Theater

Crazybaby’s Air 1S true wireless earbuds won’t make you look like a dork

Audio technology company Crazybaby has launched the Air 1S true wireless earbuds, offering considerable connectivity improvements over previous models while retaining the sleek style and supreme comfort.
Mobile

A subway passenger may have snagged a shot of the upcoming Pixel 3 XL

It hasn't been too long since Google launched the Pixel 2, but it's already gearing up for the next iteration, the Google Pixel 3. Here's everything we know about the upcoming phones so far.