Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Which handset should you break the bank for?

Both Samsung and Apple have been the bringers of great (and sometimes heated) debate in friendships, relationships and offices for the last decade. Just as one group believes they’re holding the final word in smartphones, the rival brand will release something better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Which handset should you break the bank for?

The latest big hitters from each company are the S Pen-toting Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Apple’s iPhone Xs.

Each brand is going to extreme lengths to produce top quality phones, meaning it’s more difficult than ever to come away with a clear victor. Nonetheless, we’ve given it our best go at drawing a conclusion between the two.


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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Design

The iPhone Xs is a difficult one to provide new insight on when it comes to design, mainly because it looks exactly the same as its predecessor, the iPhone X. However, credit where credit is due, the iPhone X was a piece of art, and an ageless one at that. So although the Xs loses points for originality, it still remains a looker.

The Note 9 and the Xs each come in three colours. The Xs offers gold, silver and space grey – for reference, the iPhone X only offered silver and space grey. All three look sensational, but if given choice I’d go for space grey.

The Note 9, on the other hand, can be had in midnight black, ocean blue or lavender purple. What’s more, the S Pen will also match whatever overall design you go for – personally I think the ocean blue with a yellow S Pen looks unreal, but that’s just me. The handset’s sharp monochrome metal frame also does wonder for the look and feel.

Getting a serious sprucing up for the Galaxy Note 9, the S Pen now allows for the user to play and pause videos, alter presentations, control other apps, and, most importantly it can be used to take the perfect selfie – just imagine the Insta likes.


Another departure point is the continued presence of the timeless 3.5mm headphone jack on the Galaxy Note 9. Since the iPhone 7, Apple lovers have had to really commit themselves by purchasing adapters or specialised tech in order to listen to music, and this is still the case today. Granted, as Bluetooth headphones improve, this difference will be less impactful to making your decision, and this has been shown through numerous other Android devices getting rid of the jack too. But for now, it’s still a very real plus for Samsung.

Both manufacturers claim high resistance to water and dust, however, the Xs tips it by a nose with a claim to be successfully resistant to water up to 2m for 30 minutes, whereas the Note 9 claims only 1.5m depth for 30 minutes. Importantly, Samsung and Apple state water resistant rather than waterproof, so you’re best off not testing this too hard – though it’s good to have reassurances. As formerly established in previous models, both the Apple and the Samsung have wireless charging, so there’s little worry there –  but it’s worth remembering that only the Note 9 offers expandable storage via microSD card.

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From an aesthetic perspective, the design of the Xs has stood the test of time. For better or worse, Apple has committed good time to design, and the proof is in the pudding: iPhones look incredible. This in no way renders the Note 9 as bad looking at all – it’s a great model and one of their finest to date – but the iPhone Xs is the better of the two.

However, the Note 9’s S Pen, expandable storage and headphone jack are three important features to remember and serve significant practical value; at the end of the day, aesthetics aren’t as important as functionality. To that end, I think that the design goes to the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Display

Sincerely, I believe that this is one of the finer comparison points between the two phones. Each boasts the best possible display so far for their company’s phones, and each one does indeed have sensationally sharp output. But what do the numbers say?

The Note 9 is the bigger of the two, coming in at 6.4in, whereas the Xs is 5.8in corner to corner. Ultimately this is down to personal choice; if you like a big handset then you’re probably more suited to the Note 9, however, if you like a smaller handset then the iPhone might be more up your street.  It’s worth remembering that if you find the iPhone Xs a bit too small, there’s always the Xs Max. If Samsung fans want something smaller, they’ll have to lose the S Pen and get an S9 instead.

The Xs will be beaming at you with a Super Retina Custom OLED display, which holds a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458 per inch). It’s a great panel, providing a top of the range HDR viewing experience. TV shows and photographs really do come alive.


The Note 9 does stand to up the game though, with Samsung using a Super AMOLED display that ’s jam-packed full of pixels, with 516 per inch. So not only is it bigger, but it’s also of greater quality, too.

There’s not a great deal in it, but Samsung remains the manufacturer to beat when it comes to panels.

Two rounds down, two rounds to Samsung.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Camera

Here we see just how much attention to detail each company is going to in an effort to improve their products for customers. Each handset has two rear cameras, both with 12-megapixel sensors, working simultaneously to avoid instances of shaky photos.

The iPhone provides the option for 4K video, recording at a stabilized 60fps, so you’re able to film your best moments with phenomenal detail. In this respect, it does better than the Samsung – and for that matter, everyone else –  which is only able to attain 2160p at 60fps. The Xs’s front camera is 7-megapixels, and is able to film 1080p quality videos at 60fps, so the selfie game is strong with this one too.

Although the Note 9 loses out on video playback, its camera comes with some of its own tricks. The Note 9 comes with a scene optimiser that automatically changes the camera mode to suit the particular shot you’re taking. Moreover, with a new flaw detection system the Samsung device will let you know if your previous pic might have had an issue – blinking or blur as classic examples. There’s also an important 2x optical zoom, and a front-facing 8-megapixel camera.

Putting aside the neat features which each device has in abundance, attention needs to be drawn to Samsung’s ever striving ambition to provide top quality slow motion cameras, and the Note 9 is no different. Samsung’s handset has the ability to capture an incredible 960 frames per second – the iPhone can handle just 240. Granted, you don’t want every video to be super slow motion, but believe me, buttering toast has never looked cooler.

I’m split on this one. I believe that Samsung has produced a great set of user-focused features, and as noted the slow-motion capabilities are something respectable. However, the 4K video performance of the iPhone Xs is yet to be matched by anyone. For that reason, it’s a draw.

Three to Samsung, one to Apple.


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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Battery and Performance

Straight away you can see that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 might prove better here. It comes with a standard 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM – with a version offering  512GB of storage and 8GB RAM available for a bit more. The Xs, on the other hand starts with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. With the Note 9 you can use a microSD card to expand the storage space, but iPhones have never had this ability. You do, however, have the option to spend a little more money on your Xs and get a handset with more internal storage.

The Note 9’s CPU is 55% faster than the Galaxy Note 8, and with its improved water-carbon cooling system it can handle the speed without risking overheating. The memory and 2.7GHz processor means it’s nearing the functionality of an actual desktop, which is handy as the Samsung Dex feature allows you to plug the phone into a monitor and get to work as though it actually is.

The iPhone has come to table with some upgrades too, though. For despite looking the same as the X, its processor most assuredly isn’t. Apple has given the Xs its new A12 Bionic, which has a vastly better Neural Engine that’s designed to learn from your interactions with the device. This means we’re seeing an iPhone designed to learn from your engagement and seek for the better.

But which performs better in our benchmarks? Apple by an absolute landslide.

As the graph above, taken from our iPhone Xs review shows, Apple’s new 7nm chip makes mincemeat with all the big Android rivals – including the S9, which has the same internals as the Note 9. On a practical level, you likely wouldn’t notice the difference – screens are capped at 60fps either way – but for bragging rights and future proofing, the iPhone Xs is the way to go.  

Each claims to survive a day in the working world with their current batteries, however true to Apple’s nature it’s kept details of the battery hidden away. Our battery tests, however, showed a clear win for Samsung. The Note 9 lasted 19 hours and 35 minutes with a looped video at 170cd/m2. On the same test, the iPhone Xs lasted just 12 hours and 45.

The Note 9 is no slouch, and the Dex functionality is hugely useful for power users. Its battery life is also hard to beat. But for raw power, the benchmarks show the iPhone Xs as simply better at churning out the pixels. Whether you’d see the difference in your day to day life is extremely debatable, but you can’t argue with the numbers, so Apple has it.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs: Price and verdict


The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will set you back £899 at its cheapest – this will give you the whopping 128GB internal storage though. For £200 more, however, you get the full 512GB fo internal storage and 8GB of RAM.

The iPhone Xs comes in much more punchy, starting at £999 for the 64GB model, then going to £1,149 for a 256GB handset, and finally £1,349 if it’s to match the 512GB.

I think both phones are great, so I don’t necessarily think there’s a wrong choice. However, this is a versus battle, and I think pound for pound (literally, as the Samsung is masses cheaper) the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the winner.

Samsung has maintained an ambition to provide intricate and user-focused phones, and this is seen across their range, but the Galaxy Note 9 really hits the mark. The screen is phenomenal, its battery lasts, and, above all, it just has the engine to keep everything going at a smooth constant.

Having used the iPhone Xs I believe it works as a supremely user-friendly device, which is stripped of complexity in a deliberate way. Yet the facts need to be faced here – and I’m an Apple user so this is tough – but the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the better of the two devices.

There, I said it.

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