Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max: Get Plus or go Max?

Love a big phone? The new Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is one of the biggest and best around, with a massive 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED display and an incredibly versatile quad lens camera. It’s not the only big phone out there, though, and it seems everyone has one they prefer. For many, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max is the big phone of choice, with powerful flagship hardware, a long-lasting battery, and a jaw-droppingly good camera.

If you’re due for an upgrade or simply want something new and shiny, both of these massive, powerful flagships are tempting purchases. At over $1,000 for each, though, it’s unlikely you can buy both. Which is better for you? We found out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
Size 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm (6.4 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches) 158 x 77.8 x 8.1 mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 186 grams (6.6 ounces) 226 grams (7.97 ounces)
Screen size 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution 3200 x 1440 pixels (525 pixels per inch) 2688 x 1242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 10 (under One UI 2.0) iOS 13
Storage space 128, 512GB 64, 256, 512GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 1TB No
Tap-to-pay services Samsung Pay, Google Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Apple A13 Bionic chip
RAM 12GB 4GB
Camera Quad lens 12-megapixel, 64MP telephoto lens, 12MP ultrawide lens, and ToF sensor rear, 10MP front Triple lens 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 12MP telephoto rear; 12MP TrueDepth front
Video 8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display No, Face ID instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,500mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging

3,969mAh

Fast charging (18W)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colors Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, Cosmic Black Midnight Green, Space Grey, Silver, Gold
Price $1,200 $1,100
Buy from Samsung, AT&T Apple, Best Buy
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Looks aren’t everything, but when you’re spending so much, you want something you can show off. Thankfully, both of these phones are stunners. The Galaxy S20 Plus is probably the more unique of the two, with a sleek bezel-less design with curved edges and a single hole punch for the selfie camera. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no ugly duckling, either, and while the notch is sizable, the bezel-less design is no less stunning.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a slightly smaller display, but it’s still huge. The 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR display runs a 2,688 x 1,242 pixel resolution, and it’s crisp with deep colors and inky blacks. The S20 Plus’ 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display has a sharper 3,200 x 1,440 pixel resolution, though you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference in real use. The S20 Plus’ display also has the option for a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, which will please gamers.

There’s a substantial difference in weight, though, and that’s down to build materials. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a stainless steel frame, which is likely to be stronger than the S20 Plus’ aluminum frame. Durability differences end there, though, and both have an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.

It’s very hard to separate these two, but based on the screen, the S20 Plus has to take the win.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Performance, battery life, and charging

rear of Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
John Velasco / Digital Trends

There’s power-a-plenty here, and both phones have top flagship specs. The S20 Plus is rocking the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, while the iPhone uses Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. Benchmark scores between the two processors are split as to which is the more powerful, but what’s sure is you’re not going to lack power either way. Both phones will offer smooth performance in apps and games alike.

The S20 Plus has 3x more RAM than the iPhone, but this isn’t the slam dunk you’d expect, since iOS and Android handle RAM differently. There’s more of a difference with storage. Apple really needs to ditch 64GB as a storage option on the basic iPhone, as it just isn’t enough. The S20 Plus starts at 128GB and has support for 1TB MicroSD cards as well. The iPhone’s 256GB and 512GB models are better, but paying over $1,000 for 64GB of storage just isn’t acceptable.

Things are rosier for the iPhone where battery life is concerned. A full charge will take you into the next day and beyond, with our review unit hitting 35% at 5 a.m. after coming off the charger at 8 a.m. the day before. The S20 Plus has a sizeable 4,500mAh battery, and our review saw it last through days of heavy use without coming up short. It’s safe to say neither of these big phones will let you down. The S20 Plus’ 25W charging is faster than the iPhone’s 18W charging, but the difference is small. Both have wireless charging, but only the S20 Plus has the headline reverse wireless charging to charge other phones.

It’s extremely close to call, but we give it to the Samsung phone for the reverse wireless charging and faster wired charging.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Camera

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The latest iPhones and Galaxy phones have had significant camera upgrades, making this an important category. The iPhone 11 Pro Max sports a triple-lens camera configuration on the back, with wide, ultrawide, and telephoto lenses (all 12MP), and a 12MP TrueDepth selfie lens around the front. It’s a phenomenal camera, and although we have some issues with the ultrawide-angle lens, it’s absolutely the best camera phone at the moment. Smart HDR has been improved and produces even better composite images than before, and the new Night Mode is excellent. The 12MP selfie camera is similarly impressive.

Samsung has squeezed an enormous quad lens camera onto the back if the Galaxy S20 Plus, and it’s comprised of a 12MP wide-angle lens, a 64MP telephoto lens, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a Depth Vision (time-of-flight) sensor. It also includes a 3x optical zoom, 30x digital zoom, Space Zoom A.I. stabilization, and 8K video. Is it better than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, though? It’s capable in most situations, but it falls short of the iPhone’s camera excellence. While it takes great images, edge detection in portrait mode can be dodgy, and the Night mode isn’t as powerful.

While the S20 Plus has some excellent new features, the iPhone 11 Pro Max definitely has the stronger overall camera.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro Max

Software and updates

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

Android vs. iOS is a tale as old as time, and it’s repeated here. You probably know which one you prefer at this point, but if you don’t, there’s plenty to love about both, and we wager you can get used to either pretty quickly. Samsung’s One UI interface is a good Android skin, with plenty of customization options and some fun cosmetic touches.

Samsung’s Achilles’ heel has always been updates, though, and it’s here the iPhone really shines. Fresh iOS updates come through on the day of release, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max can expect to be updated for years to come. Samsung’s flagships have to wait at least six months for the latest version of Android and tend to be cut off from updates after two years. Apple’s record on updates is stellar, and that wins it this round.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro Max

Special features

iPhone 11 Pro Max iOS 13
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn’t have too many special features outside the powerful camera software, but the features it has are polished and impressive. There’s the Face ID-powered Animoji and Memoji, and there are whispers the spatially aware U1 chip could end up being used for something other than the upgraded AirDrop.

The Galaxy S20 Plus is packed with special features. The Bixby button may have gone, but Samsung’s A.I. Bixby remains, and you can choose between that and the Google Assistant. There’s also the DeX desktop mode, Wireless PowerShare, the in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, and — most importantly — 5G is built into every S20 Plus. While it may seem a little odd to list this in special features, the inclusion of 5G helps to future-proof this phone.

The Galaxy S20 Plus’s array of special features and support for 5G makes this a one-sided contest.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is now available. It starts from $1,200 for the 128GB model and will work on most U.S. carriers — though you’ll need to make sure your carrier has a 5G network to use 5G. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is currently available, and it starts at $1,100. Like the S20 Plus, it’s available on most U.S. carriers and from many stores.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung vs. Apple is a battle almost as old as smartphones themselves, and this time, Samsung’s new contender has come out on top. Based on the spec sheet and the categories above, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the stronger choice. It has powerful flagship specs, an exceptional screen, 5G support, and a galaxy of features. It’s a tight contest, though, and if you prefer Apple or iOS, or really love the great camera or long battery life, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is still a great choice.

If you don’t care whether you’re using iOS or Android and simply want the best phone, go for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus.

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