Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone 8: Which flagship is better?
Apple and Samsung have been butting heads in the battle of the flagship for years, trying to one-up each other at every annual release. With the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S9, the fan squabble over the better phone starts all over again. So which is it: the iPhone 8 or the Samsung Galaxy S9?
Now that we’ve had a chance to review and play with Samsung’s newest flagship, we’re finally able to compare the two, and help you decide on which one of the expensive powerhouses you should buy. Both the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the iPhone 8 are excellent handsets, but which one belongs in your pocket?
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Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone 8: Design
Both the iPhone 8 and Samsung Galaxy S9 look almost identical to their predecessors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as both are among the best-looking you can buy. This does make it a tricky contest to judge, however.
This does come at a cost though, and not just one that can be measured in pounds and pence. For starters, both phones are pretty fragile, having delicate front and backs made out of glass. The iPhone 8 comes in Space Grey, Silver and Gold. The S9 on the other hand, comes in some more adventurous colours: Midnight Black, Lilac Purple and Coral Blue.
There is definitely more screen over bezel on the S9 compared to the iPhone 8, which looks a bit more stylish, but that means no physical home button on the S9, with the fingerprint scanner relegated to the back side.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 is IP68 dust and water-resistant, while the iPhone 8 is IP67 rated. Both phones can resist the elements, but while the iPhone 8 can be submerged for half an hour in one metre of water, the Galaxy S9 can be submerged in 1.5 metres of water for the same amount of time. There’s not really much setting that apart, since we wouldn’t recommend swimming with either phones anyway.
As for wireless charging, Samsung’s Galaxy phones have had the feature for years, and that’s no different for the Samsung Galaxy S9. Thankfully, Apple has finally introduced it into the iPhone 8, so that’s an important step towards parity.
The one thing that might be a deal breaker for some of you is that beloved 3.5mm headphone jack. While Apple seems to have done away with the headphone jack on its iPhones for good, including the iPhone 8, lots of people will be pleased to hear that the Galaxy S9 still has one. The Galaxy S9 is a true contrarian here, as the nearly every other Android flagship seems to have already killed it, or be in the process of doing so.
They both look beautiful, but the extra screen and headphone jack gives Samsung the edge.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone 8: Display
The Samsung Galaxy S9’s display is stupendous, and is one of the best screens on the market, making it difficult for the iPhone 8 to really compete.
The S9 has a 5.8in Quad-HD AMOLED (2,960 x 1,440 resolution) display with 567.5ppi. It’s pretty much the same as the Galaxy S8. The only difference being that the bezels on the top and bottom have been reduced very slightly, so there’s even more screen real estate.
The iPhone 8 display is smaller than the S9 and, unfortunately, isn’t OLED like the iPhone X. Boasting a 4.7in (1,334 x 750 resolution) IPS display with 326ppi, it might not sound as spectacular as the Galaxy S9, but it certainly manages to hold its own. The iPhone 8 is the first iPhone to take advantage of Apple’s TrueTone technology (first found on the iPad Pro), meaning the colours blend in with the environment and are more natural to look at. There’s just a lot more adjustable display settings on the S9 – from colour profiles to the screen resolution itself, which pushes it over the edge.
As for brightness, with the Galaxy S9, we recorded an impressive automatic maximum brightness of 992cd/m2, with a peak manual brightness of 465cd/m2. While with the iPhone 8, we recorded a maximum brightness of 577cd/m2.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone 8 Camera
This is where the Galaxy S9 really shines. It’s got a 12-megapixel rear camera with an aperture of f/1.5, making it the brightest camera on any smartphone ever. The iPhone 8 isn’t too far behind, also boasting a 12-megapixel rear camera, but instead with a slightly narrower aperture of f/1.8.
The S9 also has a nifty new aperture adjustment feature. When there’s enough light, the camera will automatically shift to f/2.4, giving photos a touch more detail.
In our tests, the Samsung Galaxy S9 performed flawlessly in all conditions, including low-light, but that wasn’t at all due to the aperture as we wrote in our review. In fact, on occasion, the S9 would produce overly-bright pictures, resulting in lower quality photos. The iPhone 8 didn’t suffer any of these issues, taking consistently good photos – just not quite as incredible as the Galaxy S9 is capable of on its day.
As for camera features, Both the S9 and iPhone 8 have optical image stabilisation, but other than that, there’ nothing that really makes the iPhone 8 stand out like the Galaxy S9’s automatic aperture shift, or its super slow-motion video recording outlined below.
The S9’s fancy new super slow-motion video recording capabilities means that it can record 720p footage at an insane 960fps. With that, it can drag out 0.2 seconds of footage to a whole six seconds. Both phones can record in 4K resolution, however, but the slow-motion video capabilities really blow the iPhone 8 out of the water.
As for the phones’ front-facing cameras, the iPhone 8 has a 7-megapixel camera, while the Galaxy S9 has an 8-megapixel one. With the new handsets, Samsung has introduced AR Emoji. While this feels like it may be inspired by the success of Apple’s Animoji, these are exclusive to the iPhone X, so aren’t part of this comparison. While AR Emoji themselves are a bit hit and miss, at least the S9 has the functionality, whereas with Apple, it’s exclusive to the iPhone X.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone 8: Battery and Performance
The Samsung Galaxy S9’s battery capacity hasn’t changed from the S8. At 3,000mAh capacity, it will last for just over a day, which is slightly disappointing. While the iPhone 8’s 1,821mAh battery is considerably smaller, the phone seems to manage a decent show of it, and usually managed to clear the day.
As for performance, both handsets are incredibly nippy.
The S9 is a lot faster than its predecessor, and this is courtesy of its octa-core Exynos 9810 processor. The chip is built on a 10nm process, very similar to Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845. This is all backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB.
The iPhone 8 uses Apple’s six-core A11 Bionic processor, with an M11 co-processor and neural engine. It has half the RAM of the S9, but out performance tests still gave the iPhone 8 a very slight edge. In real world conditions, 99% of people would not notice a difference.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 also allows you to expand the standard 64GB internal storage, supporting micro-SD sizes up to 400GB. As expected, Apple has not relaxed its longstanding objection to expandable storage, so you’re stuck with either 64 or 256GB of space, depending on the model you buy.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone 8: Price and verdict
Both of these handsets are overwhelmingly expensive, costing above £700, so the decision between the two shouldn’t be made lightly.
The 64GB iPhone 8 model costs £699, while the 256GB iPhone 8 model costs £859.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 is slightly more expensive than the base iPhone 8 model, costing £739.
With more bang for your buck, I think the Samsung Galaxy S9 just tips the balance in many ways. It’s got a bigger battery that lasts longer, the camera is better, and of course, it has our old friend the headphone jack.
Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone 8 is a great smartphone, but for my money it’s just not as good as the Samsung Galaxy S9.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9