Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max: Battle of the biggest

Watch out plus-sized phones, there’s a new king in town. Samsung has taken the wraps off its new Galaxy S10 range, and it has spared no expense in upgrading its signature flagship range. If you’re a fan of phablets, the Galaxy S10 Plus has probably caught your eye — and with the Snapdragon 855, five camera lenses, and a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, we can see why.

But a big phone attracts big competition, and the iPhone XS Max is one of the biggest. Samsung vs. Apple is one of the greatest rivalries around, but which wins when these two phones go head-to-head?

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Apple iPhone XS Max
Size 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm (6.20 x 2.91 x 0.30 inches) 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 175 grams (6.17 ounces) 208 grams (7.34 ounces)
Screen size 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 6.5-inch Super Retina HD OLED True Tone display
Screen resolution 3,040 × 1,440 pixels (526 pixels per inch) 2,688 x 1,242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie iOS 12
Storage space 128GB, 512GB, 1TB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Apple A12 Bionic
RAM 8GB, 12GB 4GB
Camera Triple lens 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle, 12MP variable aperture, and 12MP telephoto rear, 10MP and 8MP front dual lens Dual 12MP (with dual OIS) rear, 7MP TrueDepth front camera
Video 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, ultrasonic in-display No
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,100mAh

Fast charging (QuickCharge 2.0)

Qi wireless charging

3,174mAh

Fast charge capable (Additional charger needed)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Flamingo Pink, Ceramic Black, Ceramic White Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Price $1,000 $1,100
Buy from Samsung Apple
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You want power? Both these devices put an incredible amount of power at your fingertips and will allow you to play the latest 3D games, view amazing augmented reality (AR) content, and more. You’ll find Apple’s A12 Bionic processor in the iPhone XS Max, while the Galaxy S10 Plus uses the all-new Snapdragon 855. We haven’t had a chance to test the S10 Plus properly yet, but some initial Snapdragon 855 benchmarks suggest it could eclipse the XS Max in pure power. However, it’s not likely to translate to better real-life performance, as the XS Max is silky-smooth.

The S10 Plus has the edge in RAM with 8GB, and the base model comes with 128GB of storage and room to expand via MicroSD card. The iPhone XS Max makes do with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage in the base model with no expansion option. The RAM difference may not be very telling, as the two platforms handle memory differently, but the extra storage will be important for some people.

Both of these phones also come with the biggest batteries in their range — 4,100mAh in the S10 Plus and 3,174mAh in the XS Max. Again, we haven’t had much chance to play with the S10 Plus, but at least a day’s worth of use between charges is expected. The XS Max delivers similar usage. Battery charging is where both fall slightly. Samsung persists in including the outdated QuickCharge 2.0, and it means fast charging isn’t as fast as what you can expect from the XS Max. However, you’ll need to buy an additional fast charger for the XS Max, as it doesn’t come with one in the box. Qi wireless charging is included in both.

Since we haven’t had much time with the S10 Plus yet, performance is tough to judge, so we’re going to call this a tie for now.

Winner: Tie

Design and durability

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is one exceptionally beautiful phone, and Samsung’s new design includes a display with a hole-punch camera. Simply put, the front of the phone is almost all display, except for a single cutout for the dual front-facing cameras. It’s an exceptionally clean design, and that cleanness extends to the glass back too. There you’ll find three camera lenses and no fingerprint sensor — as it has moved into the display. The 512GB and 1TB models will also come with a ceramic back plate, rather than glass, which offers improved durability and an exceptionally luxurious feel.

But the XS Max is no stranger to luxurious beauty, and Apple’s supersized phone is definitely a match for Samsung’s on a style front. The new gold effect is quite stylish, and the edge-to-edge notched design has quickly become iconic, despite some people still disliking the notch.

You’ll find IP68 water-resistance on both, so they can survive a slip into the pool or bath. Glass is glass though, so you might want to slap on a case regardless of your choice. The ceramic-backed S10 Plus will be more durable, but ceramic is still prone to shattering, so it’s still even here.

There’s no obvious winner here — both are beautiful, fragile phones. It’s a tie.

Winner: Tie

Display

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone XS Max packs a beautiful 6.5-inch AMOLED screen running a 2,688 x 1,242-pixel resolution. Apple’s penchant for odd resolutions aside, the screen is beautiful — it’s bright and crisp, and shows vibrant colors and deep, inky blacks. TrueTone, Dolby Vision, and HDR10 are back too, so expect some excellent viewing.

But Samsung makes the best phones screens in the business, and its latest are its best yet. The S10 Plus is packing a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, and it’s a beauty. The first phone screen to be HDR10+-certified, it filters blue light, and offers incredible color accuracy. It’s also running a extremely crisp 3,040 x 1,440-pixel resolution.

While the iPhone XS Max’s display is beautiful, the S10 Plus’ screen hits a new level.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone XS Max has two rear-facing lenses — both 12-megapixels, with a f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture respectively. The second lens is a telephoto lens, which helps with portrait mode shots. It’s a stunner of a camera, and easily one of the best camera phones. The 7-megapixel TrueDepth front camera also takes great selfie shots, and you can capture 4K video at 60 frames-per-second with the rear camera’s video capabilities.

The S10 Plus has really taken things up a notch, though. It’s packing a triple-lens camera — a 12-megapixel lens with variable aperture, another 12-megapixel telephoto lens, and a new 16-megapixel wide-angle lens. The front camera uses two lenses, a 10-megapixel and an 8-megapixel lens — which should hopefully improve selfie shots. Both front and rear cameras will also record 4K video. We haven’t had a chance to play with the S10 Plus’ camera system yet, but camera specialist DxoMark has awarded it the highest rating for selfies, and placed the rear cameras at the top of the heap along with the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro.

You’ll get a phone with a phenomenal camera regardless of which you choose, but we think the versatile S10 Plus camera suite is a winner.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Software and updates

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The S10 Plus runs Samsung’s new One UI software based on Android 9.0 Pie. We really like it — it’s much better than previous Samsung UIs. But is it better than the iPhone XS Max’s iOS 12? A lot of that will be personal preference, so we can’t really judge for you.

Updates don’t come down to personal preference, though, and it’s here that Apple runs away with it. Since it creates and distributes the OS itself, Apple’s iOS updates have always been extremely prompt and come to a lot of older iPhones. The last iOS 12 update came to 2013’s iPhone 5S. By comparison, it takes Samsung months to update to the latest Android version, and most phones can usually only expect to see two major upgrades — three at most. By comparison, the aforementioned iPhone 5S started on iOS 7, and has been upgraded ever since.

Winner: iPhone XS Max

Special features

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There phones are packed with the latest tech, from the AR-powered Memojis and AR Emojis, to the range of available A.I. assistants. While the S10 Plus has the advantage in sheer number of features — the Dex desktop mode, virtual reality support, and reverse wireless charging with Wireless PowerShare — we think the audience for these will be fairly niche.

Of much larger interest are the unlocking features available on both. The XS Max eschews a fingerprint scanner in favor of Face ID facial unlocking. It’s fast, and thanks to the TrueDepth camera, it’s secure too. The S10 Plus still uses a fingerprint scanner, but it’s been moved inside the display, and it uses ultrasonic technology — which Samsung claims boosts security. While it’s impressive, we’ll need some time with it before we can judge which is better.

Winner: Tie

Price

The iPhone XS Max is currently available, and prices start at $1,100 for the 64GB model. It’s available from a variety of retailers, and works on most major U.S. carriers. The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is currently available for pre-order, and releases March 8. The 128GB model costs $1,000, and it will also work on all major U.S. retailers.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

As ever with these two brands, it’s an exceptionally tight race — but the Galaxy S10 Plus takes the title with just one more category than the iPhone XS Max. But there are a lot of ties, and we haven’t had much chance to play with the S10 Plus yet, so this verdict may change during our testing period. It’s also worth pointing out that many of the elements that matter most to people — performance and battery life span — came up tied. While the S10 Plus has a superior display and likely a superior camera, most users will be more than happy with both of those things on the iPhone.

So really, it all comes down to personal taste — do you love iOS or Android? Either way, we think you’ll be satisfied with whichever one of these amazing phones you choose.

Mobile

Lyft’s wallet-friendly Shared Saver option arrives in six more U.S. cities

Lyft is expanding its wallet-friendly Shared Saver option to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle after launching it earlier this year in Denver, New York City, and San Jose.
Mobile

Leaked cases show off the new iPhone's squared camera module

The last iPhones just launched, but rumors about the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.
Mobile

Cardinal red Galaxy S10 doesn't appear destined for the U.S.

Samsung 2019 flagship smartphone lineup is here, and there aren't just two phones as usual — there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.
Mobile

OnePlus 7 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: Which Android powerhouse is for you?

If you're after a real powerhouse of a smartphone, then you've probably considered the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. But you could save yourself some cash by opting for the OnePlus 7 Pro. Find out what sets these phones apart in our comparison.
Mobile

The best bezel-less phones cut all the right corners without losing space

As the smartphone industry marches toward a bezel-less future, we compare the shrinking bezels on the latest and greatest devices. Find out which manufacturers have the smallest bezels on their smartphone as we compare them side by side.
Mobile

Huawei's situation in the U.S. may improve when trade war is resolved

The U.S. Commerce Department has added Huawei to its "Entity List." Google, Intel, and ARM are all confirmed or rumored to be ceasing business with the company, which may have disastrous effects on Huawei.
Product Review

Garmin’s Forerunner 245 Music is all a runner needs to measure performance

Garmin's new Forerunner 245 fitness watch offers advanced metrics, onboard color maps and music. Is this trio a winning combination? We put the watch through its paces to find out.
Mobile

You can't fool us -- this is definitely the Moschino Honor 20 Pro phone

Honor has launched the Honor 20 Pro and the Honor 20 at an event that took place in London. The new smartphone is surprisingly compact, with an impressive four-lens camera for taking stunning shots, day or night.
Deals

Amazon Memorial Day sale: Apple Watch, Surface Pro, and 4K TV Deals

Amazon is discounting a number of different items. Smartwatches, tablets, 4K TVs, smart home devices, and laptops are all getting discounts to stay competitive with prices from Walmart and Best Buy.
Deals

Best Memorial Day sales 2019: Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart drop discounts

If you're looking to save big on some shiny new stuff for Memorial Day 2019, we've gathered everything you need to know into one place. Find out where to save the most money before the summer hits its stride.
Mobile

The 20 best iPhone SE cases to keep your phone looking like new

Protect your iPhone properly with one of the best iPhone SE cases or covers. That metal-and-glass body is prone to scuffs and scratches, so it pays to buy a decent case. We've got protective and stylish options for you here.
Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone, tablet, and other battery-powered gear

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for May 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals for…
Mobile

Get your gaming on the go with the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else entirely.