It has been one of the busiest years ever for new smartphones. You might even say manufacturers have been releasing too many phones. But the good news is that you’re spoiled for choice if you’re shopping for a new device right now. Even better, most of them are excellent smartphones that will serve you well, so you could almost close your eyes, spin in a circle, point to a new flagship and end up with something truly great.
You’ll find similar features and capabilities in the best Android smartphones, but there are differences. We decided to pick out four fantastic flagships and compare them in different categories to see if we can find a winner.
|Google Pixel 3 XL
||Samsung Galaxy Note 9||OnePlus 6T
||Huawei Mate 20 Pro
|Size||158 x 76.6 x 7.9 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches)||161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm (6.37 x 3.01 x 0.35 inches)||157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm (6.2 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches)||157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm (6.22 x 2.85 x 0.34 inches)|
|Weight||184 grams (6.49 oz)||201 grams (7.09 oz)||185 grams (6.52 oz)||189 grams (6.66 oz)|
|Screen size||6.3-inch P-OLED||6.4-inch Super AMOLED||6.41-inch AMOLED||6.4-inch AMOLED|
|Screen resolution||2960 x 1440 (523 ppi)||2960 x 1440 pixels (516 ppi)||2340 x 1080 pixels (402 ppi)||3120 x 1440 (538 ppi)|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 9.0 Pie|
|Storage space||64GB, 128GB||128GB, 512GB||128GB, 256GB||128GB|
|MicroSD card slot||No||Yes||No||No — features proprietary Nano Memory Card|
|Tap-to-pay services||Google Pay||Google Pay, Samsung Pay||Google Pay||Google Pay|
|Processor||Snapdragon 845||Snapdragon 845||Snapdragon 845||Kirin 980|
|RAM||4GB||6GB, 8GB||6GB, 8GB||6GB|
|Camera||12.2MP rear, dual 8MP, and 8MP front||Dual sensor 12MP rear, 8MP front||Dual 16MP and 20MP rear, 16MP front||Triple sensor 40MP and 20MP and 8MP rear, 24MP front|
|Video||2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps||2,160p at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps||2,160p up to 60 fps, 1080p up to 240 fps, 720p up to 480 fps||2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 60 fps, 720p at 960 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||USB-C port||USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack||USB-C port||USB-C port|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes, on back||Yes, on back||Yes, in display||Yes, in display|
Qi wireless charging
Qi wireless charging
Qi wireless charging
|App marketplace||Google Play Store||Google Play Store||Google Play Store||Google Play Store|
|Network support||T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint||T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint||T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon||No official U.S. carrier support|
|Colors||Just Black, Not Pink, Clearly White||Ocean Blue, Lavender Purple, Midnight Black, Metallic Copper||Mirror Black, Midnight Black||Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, Black|
|Price||$899||$1,000||$550||1,049 Euros (around $1,190)|
|Buy from||Google, Verizon||AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Amazon, Samsung||OnePlus||Huawei|
|Review score||4 out of 5 stars||4 out of 5 stars||4 out of 5 stars||4.5 out of 5 stars|
Performance, battery life, and charging
While three of these phones rely on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor, which means they offer similar performance in terms of speed, Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro has its proprietary Kirin 980 processor inside with a dedicated Neural Processing Unit that handles all the artificial intelligence features. Each of these phones feels lightning fast and is capable of running the latest games and the most demanding apps, but in terms of raw power the Mate 20 Pro has a slight edge and racks up the most high scores in benchmark testing. In everyday use, the Pixel 3 XL feels the slickest because it’s unencumbered by a manufacturer skin over the top of Android.
Where the Pixel falls down is the RAM department as it makes do with 4GB, while the others all boast 6GB. If you go for the higher storage models of the Note 9 and OnePlus 6T you’ll get 8GB of RAM. Heavy multitaskers may well feel the difference here, with the extra RAM speeding up the transition between apps by enabling more to stay open in memory at once.
The Pixel also disappoints in the battery department, where the Mate 20 Pro steams ahead once again. Not only does it have the biggest capacity, but we’ve also found that it can last two days between charges. The Pixel 3 XL requires daily charging and the Note 9 and OnePlus 6T struggle to go beyond a day and a half. There’s no wireless charging support in the OnePlus 6T, while the other three all offer it, however, only the Mate 20 Pro can act as a wireless charging mat for other devices.
Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Design and durability
With the deepest, ugliest notch around, the fact that it feels great in hand is not enough to save the Pixel 3 XL here, though we love the matte finish on the glass back. The Note 9 features Samsung’s refined design language with the curved screen, but it’s a little squared off — we actually think the S9 Plus is more attractive. The OnePlus 6T is the most desirable phone that the company has ever turned out with that dewdrop notch on the front and the classy, curved glass back. The Mate 20 Pro is shaped a lot like the S9 Plus, with glass curving into a metal frame. It has a fairly sizable notch in the display, but the colorful finish in the glass on the back reflects light in interesting ways and really catches the eye.
Though there’s no IP rating, the OnePlus 6T is still water resistant, but it won’t be able to survive a dunk as well as the other three which all score IP68 ratings. None of these phones is going to survive a fall unscathed, so cases are a sensible precaution and the Mate 20 Pro is especially slippery.
Design is subjective, so it’s tough to pick a winner here.
It’s amazing how close these phones are in the display department. They’re all almost exactly the same size, they’re all OLED screens, and they’re all fantastic. Samsung has long led the field in screen technology, but there’s strong evidence here that everyone else is catching up. The Mate 20 Pro has the highest pixel-per-inch rating, but the Note 9 display isn’t interrupted by a notch. Looking at them side-by-side, the OnePlus 6T doesn’t quite match up. Sharpness and color accuracy are amazing across the board for the other three, but the Note 9 and Mate 20 Pro edge ahead in brightness. Most people are not going to see much of a difference between the top three here as they all have great displays, but the Note 9 and Mate 20 Pro win out.
Winners: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro
If you just looked at the numbers here, then the Mate 20 Pro would blow away the competition with its triple lens setup, but there’s more to camera performance than hardware. What Google is able to do on the software side to squeeze the best from a single lens main camera is nothing short of amazing. All these phones can take great photos, but there are two key reasons why the Google Pixel 3 XL wins in this category: If you point and shoot in a range of different scenarios it will most often get the best results, especially with photos of people, and it has the easiest camera app to use. There are definitely areas where the Mate 20 Pro, and even the Note 9 outgun the Pixel, but most people want a camera that delivers great results with minimal fiddling. The Pixel 3 XL is simply the best camera phone available right now, but if versatility is important to you, then the Mate 20 Pro might suit you better.
Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL
Software and updates
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 launched with Android 8.1 Oreo and is still awaiting an Android 9.0 Pie update at the time of writing. The Samsung Experience UI adds a lot of options on top of Android, but there’s also some bloat there and it doesn’t always feel as slick as it should. Huawei has thankfully refined its EMUI skin and it offers various customization options and gestures, which is great if you don’t mind taking the time to dig into menus and get it set up the way you want. Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 6T is closest to the clean Android experience that the Pixel offers, but there are a few extra options in there.
Our favorite software experience, and by far the slickest, is offered by the Pixel 3 XL, which should come as no surprise since Google develops Android. None of the others can match exclusive Pixel extras like the Now Playing feature, which identifies music automatically and compiles a list for you, Call Screening, which takes calls for you and transcribes what the caller is saying on screen in real time, and then there’s also Duplex on the way, which will enable Google Assistant to call up and make reservations or book appointments for you. Google’s phone will also continue to get software updates for security and new Android features first and probably for longer than the other three phones here.
Winners: Google Pixel 3 XL
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the only phone here that can wirelessly charge another phone, though we’re not sure how often you’ll use a feature like that. Both the Mate 20 Pro and the OnePlus 6T have in-display fingerprint sensors, but so far we’re finding them less reliable than traditional fingerprint sensors. The Pixel 3 XL’s special features are all about the software, which we just covered in the last section.
The king of special features is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which packs the S Pen with Bluetooth support, which can act as a stylus or a remote control. There’s also the DeX mode, which enables the Note 9 to plug into a TV or monitor via cable and double up as a desktop computer. We’re not so enamored with Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby, but if you have a lot of Samsung devices it can be useful.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Google Pixel 3 XL is going to cost you $900, you can also buy it from Verizon, and the unlocked version will work on all major carriers. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is available from all the major carriers for around $1,000, though you can find it for closer to $900 now if you shop around. The OnePlus 6T costs just $550 and will work on AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the most expensive of the bunch at 1,049 Euros (currently around $1,190) and it’s not available officially in the U.S. though you can import one and you may find it a little cheaper if you search. There’s no official carrier support for the Mate 20 Pro, but you’ll find the bands it supports on the Huawei website; it should work just fine on AT&T or T-Mobile, but there’s no 3G support for Verizon or Sprint.
Overall winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Tempting though it is to cop out on a winner here, this is a specs comparison, and on that basis, we’re giving the Huawei Mate 20 Pro the win. It is probably the most impressive package of high-end hardware we’ve seen to date. It offers the best performance, battery life, and charging options. It comes a very close second in the camera department, eclipsing our winner in some situations, and it sports a stunning design. Unfortunately, there is a “but” coming and it’s a big one: The price and lack of an official U.S. release will mean it’s not the best phone for everyone.
For an amazing camera and the slickest, smartest software, the Pixel 3 XL is an easy choice. If you’ll make use of the Note 9’s unique extras, it certainly won’t let you down and it doesn’t lag far behind in the categories where it didn’t win. Anyone with a limited budget must consider the OnePlus 6T. Though it clearly finishes in last place, the fact that it isn’t completely blown away in company that costs twice the price is a testament to what a great bargain it is.
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