On Sunday, the Samsung Unpacked event took place, where Samsung finally unveiled the brand new Samsung Galaxy S9. It’s a very premium phone and stands right up against the iPhone X. But how do they compare?
@wsjudd and I go head to head in yet another fan battle to share our views on both devices, baring in mind that the S9 is not officially released yet. So, we’ll be going off everything we learned about it in the Unpacked event. Let’s go.
Design & Display
shadylady: When you think of the iPhone X design, you probably automatically think of the notch that sits in the centre, at the top. But as an iPhone X user, I can honestly say that the hate towards it is massively over exaggerated. Don’t get me wrong, I disliked it too. In fact, I hated it so much when I saw it but when I got the phone in my hands it really wasn’t that bad. It’s something you get used to very quickly and with most of the main, popular apps optimised for it it looks perfectly fine. As a daily user of it, you’ll barely notice it. Believe me. It’s also a very distinct design feature so you’ll easily know when you see an X, which is one of the nice things about it. It doesn’t just look like every other iPhone.
On the whole though, the X is super sleek. Its 5.8” OLED display is absolutely stunning and colours just pop. Apple always do a good job with aesthetics and even with the notch the iPhone X is a beautiful smartphone. With its glass body, it’s even more sleek and feels really good to hold. Every premium smartphone should look this good and feel this good.
wsjudd: The Galaxy S9 is a minor evolution of the design that debuted last year with the Galaxy S8. It's telling that Samsung have only made a few changes here; they got a lot right the first time around. The biggest difference is the location of the fingerprint reader, which has been moved into a more accessible position below the rear camera. Another new addition are stereo speakers, which should be 40% louder than the mono speaker we saw on the S8. Thankfully, the 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable Micro SD storage remain intact -- neither of which you'll find on the iPhone X.
The tall 18:9 screen remains a major selling point of the Galaxy series, with a choice between a 5.8-inch tall screen on the S9 and a 6.2-inch display on the S9 Plus. The screens are a little brighter this time, but otherwise unchanged. Unlike the iPhone X, which has that ugly notch right in the centre of the screen, Samsung sensibly chose to keep the full area of the screen intact, ensuring it looks good in portrait or landscape.
shadylady: The iPhone camera has always been good but in the iPhone X, it’s the best one yet. With a 12MP dual camera (wide-angle f/1.8 and telephoto f/2.4 aperture), it takes some stunning shots. It certainly doesn’t beat the S9’s f/1.5 aperture, in fact it doesn’t even beat the S8’s camera overall but it still does a great job. I’ve always been impressed by Samsung’s smartphone cameras so here’s one area that the iPhone has never beat, yet. Still, it’s the best camera in the iPhone to date and Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting are a nice touch to it too. No doubt the camera will be improved in the next one.
wsjudd: The camera was a big focus in Samsung's Unpacked event, and indeed they've continued to innovate with the S9. Each phone comes with a dual-aperture lens, which intelligently switches between a super bright f/1.5 and a smaller f/2.4 depending on ambient conditions. The wide aperture allows for 28% more light to enter compared to the f/1.7 lens on the Galaxy S8, while the narrower aperture is used in bright scenes to avoid over-exposure. On the Galaxy S9 Plus, you also get a second lens that allows for a zoomed-in shot and DSLR-style depth-of-field effects. Of course, Samsung have made strides in other areas too -- faster focusing, better noise reduction in low light and 960 frames per second slow motion video recording. Samsung's Galaxy S8 was very much the equal of the iPhone X, and the Galaxy S9 looks set to surpass Apple's flagship.
Animoji vs AR Emoji
shadylady: Animoji is a cool feature. It’s actually very impressive how the TrueDepth camera works to recognise your facial expressions. It’s nothing but a fun feature though and most people will probably stop using it after the first few weeks. The same goes for the S9’s AR Emoji, which is a step up from Apple’s Animoji since you get to become an animated version of yourself as opposed to an animal. Both of these are cool and fun but neither are necessary or a reason to buy either of these smartphones.
wsjudd: Animoji and AR Emoji are slightly different takes on the same basic premise -- turning your face into a digital character. On the iPhone X you turn into an animal, while on the S9 you become an animated human. From here, you can customise the look of your avatar with different hairstyles and accessories, then send your digital likeness to your friends in 18 animated stickers. It's not as flexible as the iPhone X's system, but I can see it being equally fun to play around with. No doubt some will love it, but most people will stop using it after a few weeks.
shadylady: The iPhone X is the first ever iPhone to feature Face ID and whilst the Galaxy S9 also features this, we’re yet to see which one does it better. I compared face recognition on my Galaxy S8 to Face ID on the X and the latter worked way better. It’s super fast and works even in the dark. The S8 failed to unlock when I held it in front of my face in the dark so it’ll be interesting to see if the S9 handles it better. I have a good feeling that the X will still do better.
The only other alternative is to use a passcode, which is pretty much standard, but I don’t see this as a negative just because Face ID works so perfectly. Who needs Touch ID?
wsjudd: The Galaxy S9 offers a range of different authentication options, from the usual PIN codes and fingerprint recognition to something new: an ‘Intelligent Scan’ mode that combines face recognition and iris scanning. The system is relatively barebones; the S9 will use your face to unlock the phone in good light, or scan your eyes in low light. Neither option seems as foolproof as Apple’s Face ID, but at least we’re seeing some progress here. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the fingerprint scanner.
shadylady: The iPhone X remains as one of the leading smartphones in the market for more than just its looks. It’s powered by Apple’s fastest ever processor yet; the A11 Bionic chip, 3GB of RAM and either 64GB or 256GB of internal storage. Whilst the RAM is lower than majority of Android smartphones the X is still super efficient and its performance is as good as perfect. It’s worth remembering that there’s a significant difference in the way iOS and Android run, hence Android phones are always equipped with more RAM. And even when the iPhone was on 2GB RAM, performance was still very very smooth and iOS is a contributing factor to that.
As for the battery, the iPhone X runs off a 2,716mAh battery, so whilst it’s slightly under the capacity of the battery found in the S9, they’re probably on par with each other. As I mentioned earlier, iOS plays a big part of that due to its efficiency and the iPhone X easily lasts an entire day, sometime a day and a half depending on how it’s been used. So, in terms of tech specs I wouldn’t say these two smartphones are majorly different.
wsjudd: The Galaxy S9 remains on the bleeding edge, with an Exynos 9810 octa-core processor in the UK or the Snapdragon 845 in the US and China. This is backed with 4GB of RAM on the S9 and 6GB on the S9+, and 64GB of expandable storage. Battery sizes are also considerable, at 3000mAh for the smaller S9 and 3500mAh on the larger S9+. The Note 8 was remarkable in its ability to not feel slowed down by the extra features that Samsung added, even months later, and hopefully we'll see the Galaxy S9 and S9+ continue that trend. Of course, the iPhone X is also a powerhouse; we should see relatively similar performance between the two models so I don't see it as a major point of differentiation.
shadylady: The iPhone X is, very clearly, the most expensive smartphone on the market but that’s no reason to knock Apple or the X. Smartphone prices are climbing and this really just needs to be embraced. The S9 is a great example of this as it costs slightly more than the Galaxy S8 did at launch and, eventually, you’ll see Samsung’s next premium device hit the £900 mark, possibly even more. Apple went there first though, so it’s understandable why they get bashed for it.
I’m not saying it’s a good price because, no doubt, £999 for the 64GB model and £1149 for the 256GB model is rather steep. However, Samsung aren’t really too far away from those price points and with technology constantly improving and new technology being developed, it only makes sense that prices will make their way up. They’ll never go down or remain constant with all this awesome technology we’re getting. Am I wrong?
wsjudd: The Galaxy S9 should cost around £739, while the Galaxy S9+ reaches £869. That's around £50 more than we paid for last year's Galaxy S8, as flagship smartphone prices continue to climb. The iPhone X remains at £999 for a 64GB model, making it once again the most expensive phone on the market. In my eyes it's not worth the premium, but I can understand Apple fans thinking exactly the opposite.
Interested in buying either of the phones?
You can buy the iPhone directly from giffgaff iPhone X (64GB: £999 or 256GB: £1149) or register your interest for the Samsung Galaxy S9 here.
Samsung S9 or iPhone X?
What team are you on? Does the brand new Samsung S9 sound good enough to snap up or would you rather have the iPhone X? Both are premium devices at premium prices that run off completely different software so we’d be keen to know which one tickles your fancy. Let us know in the comments below and thanks for reading
Sadia produces tech reviews, tech tips & tutorial videos at XALIRATE and posts here on Wednesdays and Saturdays
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