Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. iPhone XR: Cut-price flagship showdown

Samsung Galaxy S10e Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung’s newest range of flagship phones is always a highlight of the new year — but Samsung has gone above and beyond this time, launching not two, not three, but four new models under the S10 umbrella. Knowing which to pick is a struggle, but if you’re looking for a flagship for a little less, then check out the Samsung Galaxy S10e. It comes with the same power and beautiful design as the other S10 models, but at a more modest $750 price tag.

Samsung isn’t the first to dance this fandango — the iPhone XR is Apple’s way of offering the iPhone XS’s power in a lower-cost package. With an identical price point, it’s inevitable these two phones will go head-to-head. Which comes out on top? We found out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S10e iPhone XR
Size 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm (5.60 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches) 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm (5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 inches)
Weight 150 grams (5.29 ounces) 194 grams (6.84 ounces)
Screen size 5.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD IPS LCD
Screen resolution 2,280 x 1,080 pixels (435 pixels per inch) 1,792 x 828 pixels (326 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie iOS 12
Storage space 128GB (with 6GB RAM), 256GB (with 8GB RAM)
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Apple A12 Bionic
RAM 6GB (with 128GB storage), 8GB (with 256GB storage) 3GB
Camera Dual 12MP (with OIS and variable aperture) and 16MP wide-angle rear, 10MP front 12MP (with OIS) rear, 7MP TrueDepth front
Video Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 720p at 960 fps Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 60 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C, headphone jack Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, side-mounted No
Water resistance IP68 IP67
Battery 3,100mAh

QuickCharge 2.0

Qi wireless charging

2,942mAh

Fast charge capable (Additional charger needed)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google App Store Apple App Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Flamingo Pink, Black, Blue, White, White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral, (Product) Red
Price $750 $750
Buy from Samsung, Amazon Apple
Review score Hands on 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Samsung Galaxy S10e Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Want power? You’ll find powerful hardware in both of these flagship phones. The iPhone XR uses Apple’s A12 Bionic core, and it’s an exceptionally powerful chip. We haven’t had much chance to play with the Samsung Galaxy S10e’s Snapdragon 855 chip, but we know Qualcomm’s new processor is fast and efficient.

But what of battery life? Battery sizes are similar — though the S10e’s battery is slightly larger — and both should see you through a day fairly easily. Both have wireless charging capabilities, and fast wired charging, but only the S10e will come with a fast charger in the box. The iPhone XR, like all of Apple’s phones, only comes with a 5W charger, so you’ll need to spend extra for faster iPhone charging.

It’s a tough category to call, and both of these phones come with a lot of power — both in performance and battery. We haven’t had chance to really test the S10e’s capabilities yet, so we’re going to call this a tie for the moment.

Winner: Tie

Design and durability

iphone xr back
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We love the iPhone XR’s design — it’s bright and colorful in a way no iPhone has been for years, it feels great in the hand, and the aluminum body feels solid. The S10e is slightly smaller, but you’re getting no less phone, thanks to the new Infinity-O hole punch display that allows for an incredible 93.1 percent screen-to-body ratio. The iPhone XR’s design is nice, but the notch continues to divide opinion, and we think the hole punch display is much cleaner (though you may still disagree on that). Samsung also continues to support the headphone jack and finds room for a MicroSD card in case you want to expand the storage.

In terms of physical durability, both phones have their limits thanks to the glass builds. You’ll definitely want a case. But the S10e has an edge in water-resistance, its IP68-rating trumps the iPhone XR’s IP67-rating.

Design is always hard to call, as so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. We love the front on the S10e, but we think the iPhone XR’s rear design is the more eye-catching of the two phones so it takes the win.

Winner: iPhone XR

Display

apple iphone xr review front top
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Apple introduced its new Liquid Retina LCD tech in the iPhone XR, and it’s a beautiful display, but it’s not a match for most OLED screens in terms of displaying vivid colors and deep blacks. At 6.1-inches, it’s also a great size, though the resolution is disappointingly limited for a phone this expensive.

Samsung arguably makes the best phone displays in the business right now, and the new S10 range’s displays could be the best ever. The S10e is using Samsung’s new Dynamic AMOLED technology, and it promises to deliver incredible color accuracy, a crisper picture, and comes with HDR10+ certification. The S10e is the only S10 model to use a flat screen — the first flat flagship Samsung phone we’ve seen since the Galaxy S7 — and it has that incredible 5.8-inch, Infinity-O, hole punch display. The S10e runs away with it.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10e

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S10e Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As usual, Apple’s phone is packing a formidable camera. There’s only a single 12-megapixel lens with optical image stabilization (OIS) and an aperture of f/1.8, but it’s still a great shooter, and it produces strong images in a variety of lights. Particularly impressive is its ability to take portrait mode shots with a single lens. The 7-megapixel TrueDepth selfie lens is the same you’ll find on the rest of the XS range, and it’s similarly impressive.

We haven’t had much chance to play with the S10e’s camera yet, but we’re confident it’ll be a strong performer. You’ll find two lenses on the back — a 12-megapixel primary lens with optical image stabilization and a variable aperture of f/1.5 or f/2.4. The secondary camera is a wide-angle 16-megapixel lens with a 123 degree field-of-view and an aperture of f/2.2. A.I.-powered scene optimization is back, along with software that suggests easy ways to improve the shot you’re taking. A 10-megapixel lens sits on the front, and it’s capable of capturing 4K video like the rear-facing lens.

It’s another hard category to judge, since we haven’t had much time with the S10e’s camera, so we’re calling this a tie.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

iphone xr app store
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You’ll find the latest versions of Android and iOS here — Android 9.0 Pie on the S10e, and iOS 12 on the iPhone XR. Android vs. iOS is always going to be a matter of personal preference, and there aren’t that many differences between the two these days in any case.

However, there’s an enormous difference between the speed of updates. As Samsung uses a customized skin — One UI — updating its phones to the latest software can take a rather long time. Since Apple makes and distributes iOS itself, eligible iPhones will generally receive an update to the latest software on day one. Apple also supports its handsets for longer, having recently updated 2013’s iPhone 5S to iOS 12. You can’t argue with that support.

Winner: Apple iPhone XR

Special features

Samsung Galaxy S10e Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As flagship phones, both are packed with special features. Apple has eschewed the fingerprint sensor since the iPhone X, and it has been replaced with the excellent Face ID. It’s snappy and secure, and it also powers many of Apple’s other features, including the excellent Animoji and Memoji AR features. The gesture navigation is excellent, and it’s joined by all the usual iOS regulars like Siri. Unfortunately for iOS veterans, 3D Touch is missing.

The S10e packs similar features, so you’ll find AR Emojis, and facial recognition software. However, it’s not as secure as Apple’s Face ID, so you’ll need the side-mounted fingerprint scanner as a secure biometric login. But Samsung really starts to pile on the features here, with Wi-Fi 6, more Bixby options (as well as Google Assistant), the desktop Dex Mode, and Wireless PowerShare, which lets your phone wirelessly charge other Qi-enabled devices. Some of these features may vary on usefulness though, and the iPhone’s Memoji are definitely better than AR Emojis, so we’re leaving this as a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price

The iPhone XR is currently available from most carriers, and prices start from $750 for the 64GB model. The Samsung Galaxy S10e will start from $750 for the 128GB model, and will be available for pre-order from February 21, with a full release following on March 8. It’ll be available from all major U.S. carriers too.

Overall winner: iPhone XR

Samsung’s newest flagship is off to a great start, but there are several ties here, and eventually the iPhone XR scored an extra win to keep it on top. It’s a tight battle, and the outcome may change the more we review the new S10e as there are some categories that still need further testing.

The iPhone XR is the best value iPhone you can buy right now, thanks to its powerful hardware and playful design. But if you can’t stomach iOS, the S10e is a compelling alternative.

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