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Home News Samsung and Apple's best 'small' handsets face off

Samsung and Apple’s best ‘small’ handsets face off

It seems crazy to think these are “reasonably-priced” phones, but in a world of $2,000-dollar foldables and “ultra” flagships, here we are.

Out of this world

Samsung Galaxy S20

samsung-galaxy-s20-front-cloud-pink-crop

From $1,000 at Samsung

Pros

  • Stunning 6.2-inch Quad HD+ display
  • Small Infinity-O hole punch in display
  • Rear triple camera array
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • 5G built-in

Cons

  • Most expensive baseline Galaxy S series ever
  • Samsung’s update record has been spotty
  • Pretty big for a “small” phone

Samsung seems to be taking a page from Apple’s marketing playbook, positioning this as the baseline S20 model. Even so, it packs a fantastic screen, big battery, and what it hopes are not just the best Galaxy cameras ever, but the best cameras in the business.

The not-so-big Apple

Apple iPhone Pro

iphone-11-pro-cropped-midnight-green.png

From $999 at Amazon

Pros

  • Excellent camera array
  • Apple-only goodies like iMessage and AirDrop
  • Improved battery over iPhone XS
  • Stable software with years of updates
  • Reliable and secure Face ID

Cons

  • iOS still not very customizable
  • Big notch design getting stale
  • No USB-C port
  • Not 5G compatible

Apple’s high-end phone might be its smallest, but it’s also the best iPhone ever. Excellent cameras, amazing battery life, and reliable hardware and software support make this a fierce competitor to any Android flagship. Plus, Apple’s Face ID technology continues to be the standard for biometric authentication.

The iPhone 11 line was a recalibration for Apple — it made the iPhone 11 the “standard” iPhone and formalized the premium tier as the “pro” option. Samsung looks to be following a similar strategy this spring with the launch of the S20 line, where the S20 may be considered the baseline or “standard” Galaxy device. However, just as the iPhone 11 wasn’t a basic phone, the Samsung S20 is no entry-level gadget; instead, it matches up quite nicely against the smaller premium iPhone 11 Pro. Just how well does it compare? Let’s take a closer look.

Spec showdown

Even though these are two of the cheaper premium flagships from Samsung and Apple, they are by no means inexpensive. A quick look at the specs shows just what $1,000 buys you with these leading smartphone manufacturers.

Operating System iOS 13.3.1 Android 10One UI 2.0
Display 5.6-inchOLED2436 x 1125HDR60Hz 6.2-inchDynamic AMOLEDQuad HD+HDR10+120Hz
Processor Apple A13 Bionic Qualcom Snapdragon 865
RAM 4GB 12GB
Storage 64GB256GB512GB 128GB
Expandable Storage Up to 1TB
5G Non Standalone (NSA)5G Sub-6
Rear Camera 1 12MP widef/1.8 aperture 12MP widef/1.8 aperture
Rear Camera 2 12MP telephotof/2.0 aperture 2x zoom 64MP telephotof/2.0 aperture
Rear Camera 3 12MP ultra-widef/2.4 aperture120° field of view 12MP ultra-widef/2.2 aperture
Front Camera 12MP selfie cameraf/2.2 aperture 10MP selfie cameraf/2.2 apreture
Audio Stereo speakers Stereo speakers
Headphone Jack
Charging Port Lighting USB-C
Battery Size 3046mAh 4,000mAh
Charging Speed 18W wired chargingFast Wireless Charging 25W wired chargingFast Wireless Charging 2.0
Reverse Charging Wireless Powershare
Security Face ID Ultrasonic, in-display fingerprint scannerFace recognition
Water Resistance IP68 IP68
Dimensions 71.4 x144 x 8.1mm 69.1 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
Weight 188g 163g

Apple’s advantages

iphone-11-pro-night-mode-photo.jpeg?itok

The iPhone 11 Pro came out in September, as iPhones traditionally do, but it’s still one of the best smartphones on the market. While the hardware and software design language didn’t change that drastically, it dramatically improved over the iPhone XS in the areas it was most lacking in — battery life and camera quality.

The iPhone 11 Pro improved where it mattered most: camera quality and battery life.

Even though the battery size improvement wasn’t huge, the iPhone 11 Pro saw significant performance gains with the battery thanks to the improved SOC architecture of the A13 Bionic and software optimizations in iOS 13. In fact, the iPhone 11 Pro purportedly gets up to four additional hours compared to the iPhone XS!

The iPhone XS’ cameras received mixed reviews, and most had phones like the Pixel 3 and Huawei’s flagship phones outperforming it, particularly in low-light situations. However, with the introduction of a third wide-angle camera and enhancements to their machine learning and image processing, Apple catapulted to the top of the smartphone photography heap (or at least near the top) in just one generation, leaving phones like the S10 and Note 10 series in the dust. The iPhone 11 Pro’s night mode is excellent, and its video recording and stabilization still top in this space. Plus, creative professionals are finding all kinds of uses for the camera array, including utilizing multiple cameras for advanced filming situations.

Let’s also not forget some of the features that make the Apple ecosystem so hard for iPhone fans to consider leaving, such as AirDrop, iMessage, Memoji, and Slofees (I hate myself for even typing that last word). Plus, Apple regularly updates iOS both with security patches and feature enhancements, often for as long as five years. Samsung is certainly no stranger to “fun” gimmicks itself, but it looks to have addressed at least one of these killer iPhone features with its version of AirDrop called Quick Share. It remains to be seen just how this new feature will compare, but I, for one, look forward to seeing my colleagues put it through its paces.

Galaxy’s goodies

galaxy-s20-home-screen.jpg?itok=gd3GjMuG

By all accounts, the S10 family of smartphones was very well-received. Even after almost a full year of use, we still called the line the Best Android Phone you could buy. Despite the strong showing of the S10 series, there was still plenty of room to grow for Samsung to do with its newest flagships. Thankfully it seems like we’ve gotten just about everything we’d asked for in the S20, at least at first glance.

Samsung has always been well-known for having the best displays in the business, but with other OEMs like OnePlus, Razer, and Google offering screens with 90Hz and even 120Hz refresh rates, it was time for Samsung to step up. The S20 line does, in fact, sport screens with 120Hz refresh rates at a time when the best from Apple is still stuck on 60Hz.

The best display in the business gets even better with the S20.

Speaking of that gorgeous display, the screen-to-body ratio is over 90%, compared to the iPhone 11 Pro’s 83%. That may not look like a sizeable numerical difference, but you can feel a more immersive experience thanks to Samsung’s Infinity O display versus the iPhone’s notch.

Samsung phones are usually spec beasts, and the S20 is no exception here. It offers an insane 12GB of RAM compared to the iPhone 11 Pro’s 4GB, though Apple devices are known for getting the most out of their hardware and software integration. The S20 features 128GB of storage out of the box, which you can expand up to 1TB via a microSD card. Now there’s a point for Samsung and Android, as expandable storage is something you’ll probably never get with an iPhone.

Last, but certainly not least, we come to chipsets and operating systems. Of course, Apple’s A13 Bionic is a monster of an SOC that has embarrassed many an Android flagship on various benchmark tests, but the new series of Qualcomm Snapdragon 865s are poised for power as well. Plus, the 865s has 5G compatibility baked into the chip, which is something we’re not sure we’ll see even in the iPhone 12 series in 2020. iOS 13 has been riddled with bugs since the betas were first released, but Android 10 has been surprisingly stable. Also, Android Central has given Samsung’s One UI 2 good marks and other reviewers for its stability and features.

Brass tacks

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What it all boils down to is that these are two impressive smartphones. There likely aren’t going to be too many who are seriously tempted to jump from one ecosystem to the other, much less one device to the other. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating exercise to see how these industry-leaders continue to drive the other forward towards making beautiful, functional and even exceptional devices.

If you’re an Android die-hard or an Apple devotee who is looking to test the waters over here, then the Galaxy S20 is a great choice. With its vastly improved camera system, expandable storage, and world-class display, you won’t be disappointed.

Explore the next Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy S20

samsung-galaxy-s20-front-cloud-pink-crop

A pro in all but name

From $1,000 at Samsung

This isn’t the “cheap” or lite” version of the phone by any means. It’s a full-on flagship that has a great balance of cost and features. Compared to the S20+ and Ultra you’ll miss out on the bigger screen, bigger battery, and mmWave 5G, but compared to the iPhone 11 Pro, this phone wins out on all of these features.

Apple’s best

iPhone 11 Pro

iphone-11-pro-cropped-midnight-green.png

A premium smartphone that’s worth every penny.

From $999 at Amazon
$1000 at Best Buy

Boring design aside, the iPhone 11 Pro is a marvelous phone that does just about everything right. It takes some of the best pictures out there, battery life is ridiculously good, and Apple’s OLED display continues to impress. Add that together with speedy performance and all of the treats that come with iOS 13, and the 11 Pro more than justifies its steep price.

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