Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Two titans clash

The iPhone 12 Pro is Apple’s latest flagship smartphone. Providing the most significant redesign since the iPhone X, it introduces an angular flat-sided design, 5G support, the powerful A14 Bionic processor, and an improved camera setup. It looks very, very good, but it isn’t the only $999 flagship smartphone you can buy right now, with the Samsung Galaxy S20 also having much to offer.

We’re assuming most readers don’t have the luxury of owning two high-end smartphones at the same time, so in this article, we compare the iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 in a head-to-head. We examine their specs, performance, designs, displays, batteries, cameras, and special features, which should hopefully help you decide which one to is the best for you.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 iPhone 12 Pro
Size 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm (5.97 x 2.72 x 0.31 inches) 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 163 grams (5.75 ounces) 189 grams (6.67 ounces)
Screen size 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution 3200 x 1440 pixels (563 pixels per inch) 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 11 iOS 14
Storage 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Samsung Pay, Google Pay Apple Pay
Processor Exynos 990 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 in the U.S.) Apple A14 Bionic
RAM 8GB (12GB in the U.S.) 6GB
Camera Triple-lens 12-megapixel wide, 64MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide rear, 10MP front Triple lens 12MP wide, ultrawide and telephoto rear, 12MP TrueDepth front
Video 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 30 fps 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C, 3.2 Lightning connector
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display No, FaceID instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,000mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging

TBC

Fast charging (20W charger sold separately)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace  Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Cosmic Grey, Cloud Blue, Cloud Pink, Cloud White, Aura Red Silver, graphite, gold, Pacific Blue
Prices $999+ $999+
Review score 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

iPhone 12 Pro blue

The iPhone 12 Pro looks striking, largely because its design is quite a departure from previous models. It features flat-edged sides, in the vein of the iPhone 5 or latest iPad Pro, while it also boasts smaller bezels and a narrower notch than before. It looks very modern and refined, and is arguably more attractive than the Samsung Galaxy S20, which doesn’t depart too dramatically from the S10.

That said, the Galaxy S20 is still a very attractive phone. Its edge-to-edge display is one of the sleekest around, while it’s also more than 30 grams (more than an ounce) lighter than the iPhone 12 Pro, making it more comfortable to hold for extended periods. It also comes with a sharper and more impressive display, despite being over half a year older. This display packs 3200 x 1440 pixels, which, at 6.2 inches, provides you with 563 pixels per inch. By contrast, the iPhone 12 Pro’s 6.1-inch display goes only as far as 2532 x 1170 pixels, working out at 460 pixels per inch.

There’s also the fact the S20 supports a 120Hz refresh rate, meaning that its images and visuals update much more smoothly than standard. This is something the iPhone lacks, and combined with 100 fewer pixels per inch, you really do notice the difference in quality.

Both phones have been given an IP68 rating. This means they can withstand immersion in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. However, Apple claims its new Ceramic Guard glass will provide greater protection against falls and damage, which will boost its durability even further.

Even with better durability, we feel that the difference isn’t so significant as to outweigh the fact that the Galaxy S20 has a distinctly better screen. We’re therefore giving this opening round to Samsung’s phone.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20

Performance, battery life, and charging

Samsung Galaxy S20 charging port
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

Much is being made of the iPhone 12 pro’s A14 Bionic chip, and rightly so. By using 5nm technology, it allows for a significantly greater number of transistors, which in turn increases its processing power and efficiency. Coupled with 6GB of RAM, it will enable the iPhone 12 Pro to handle pretty much everything you’ll throw at it, from the latest games to juggling multiple tasks at once.

It certainly beats the Samsung Galaxy S20 if you happen to buy Samsung’s phone outside of the United States. If you buy it outside of the U.S., it will come with an Exynos 990 processor and 8GB of RAM, which will underperform Apple’s phone, given the superiority of the A14 and the fact that iPhone’s require less RAM. That said, if you buy the Galaxy S20 in the U.S., the phone will come with a more powerful Snapdragon 865 chip and 12GB of RAM.

This puts it on a similar level to the iPhone 12 Pro, and you’ll have no problem using it for all kinds of applications and purposes. Both phones also come with 128GB of internal memory as standard, although the S20 provides a MicroSD card slot for upgradable storage.

Our review of the S20 found that its battery was solid if a little underwhelming, lasting about a full day under moderate-to-heavy usage. The same can’t be said for the iPhone 12 Pro, which our review found lasts comfortably into a second day in the vast majority of cases, even if continuous 5G use can send it into Low Power Mode.

Taken together with the faster processor, we can only give this round to Apple’s device.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Cameras

iPhone 12 Pro
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S20 has an interesting camera setup. Equipped with 12-megapixel wide and 12MP ultrawide lenses, it also offers a 64MP telephoto lens. This beefy telephoto camera provides 3x optical zoom, giving you more detail with close-up shots. However, its support for a 30x digital zoom is more of a nice gimmick than anything else, since shots using this feature generally lack the detail and clarity of shots using only optical zoom.

The iPhone 12 Pro has the same basic setup, but with a 12MP telephoto lens instead of a 64MP alternative. While this puts it at a slight disadvantage when it comes to zoomed shots, the 12 Pro’s camera is more effective and versatile overall than the S20’s. our review of the iPhone 12 Pro, we found a number of a significant improvements over the 11 Pro, which was already a great camera phone. This includes a wider aperture on its main lens, which allows for more detailed and clearer photos in low-light conditions. It also includes a LiDAR sensor, which allows for enhanced depth perception when using Portrait Mode.

The iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 can both capture 4K video at 60 frames per second. The iPhone 12 Pro goes a step further by offering a low-light mode for video, while also supporting a higher frame rate for 1080p video.

All in all, this is a slim win for the iPhone 12 Pro. It goes one step further than the iPhone 11 Pro’s camera, which in our view is already a touch more useful and impressive than the S20’s.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Software and updates

Samsung Galaxy S20 screen
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

It’s not really possible to offer a direct comparison of the software of each phone. The iPhone 12 Pro runs on iOS 14, while the Samsung Galaxy S20 uses OneUI 2, which is Samsung’s own skin of Android 10. It’s fairly common knowledge by now that iOS and Android each have their own respective strengths and weakness, so an objective judgment isn’t really possible.

Still, iOS 14 is pretty much the best iOS version in a long time, seeing as how it introduces such features as an App Library, a Translate app, home screen widgets, and more. By the same token, OneUI 2 is one of the best Android skins, improving on Google’s underlying OS by streamlining the design and user interface, offering greater customization, and making sure everything runs efficiently.

Even though each operating system has its own pros and cons, we can safely say that Apple is a clear winner in terms of updates. It has a much better track record of providing timely updates, while it has also supported its devices for noticeably longer than Samsung. With this in mind, we’re giving another win to Apple’s phone.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Special features

The iPhone 12 Pro finds Apple bringing 5G to its smartphones for the very first time. This is great news, but what isn’t so great is that the faster mmWave will be available only with iPhone 12s sold in the United States. Those outside the U.S. will have to make do with the slower sub-6Hz band, although this will still be much faster than 4G. This may be a little disappointing, but the Galaxy S20 didn’t actually support the faster mmWave at all at launch, regardless of where you were in the world. It now supports mmWave if you happen to be on Verizon, but only on Verizon.

Another special feature offered by the iPhone 12 Pro is its MagSafe compatibility. With MagSafe, the phone can be used with magnetic chargers and accessories, such as dashboard mounts and cases. It also supports the now long-running TrueDepth camera, which enables Face ID unlocking and payments.

As for the Galaxy S20, its only other special feature of note (besides 5G support) is its 120Hz refresh rate. It’s worth repeating how much better this makes the screen look, and while other Androids do also support 120Hz, it still stands out (particularly in comparison to iPhones).

We’re calling this round a tie. The iPhone 12 Pro has slightly wider 5G support than the S20, and has a new special feature in its MagSafe compatibility. However, MagSafe is a fairly modest addition, while few of us will have the opportunity to make the most of mmWave 5G just yet.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The iPhone 12 Po can be ordered directly from Apple and starts from $999 for the 128GB version, while upgrades to 256GB or 512GB will cost you $1,099 or $1,299, respectively. It’s also available from every major carrier and the vast majority of big retail outlets, so you will likely find some good iPhone deals during the Black Friday sales.

The Galaxy S20 officially costs $1,000 and is available to buy from Samsung, as well as from all major carriers and most major retailers. It has now been superseded by the Galaxy S20 FE (to an extent), so you may be able to find it online for less than $1,000.

Overall winner: iPhone 12 Pro

iPhone 12 Pro front

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is unquestionably a very good smartphone, but the iPhone 12 Pro is definitely a better device overall. Its revamped design is a bit more interesting, while it provides superior performance (at least outside the U.S.), a more versatile and powerful camera, and a longer-lasting battery. It’s certainly one of the best smartphones out right now, and while the Galaxy S20 is good, it’s just not quite as good.

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