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Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max: Get Plus or go Max?

Love a big phone? The new Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is one of the biggest and best around, with a massive 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED display and an incredibly versatile quad-lens camera. But it’s not the only big phone out there, and it seems everyone has one they prefer. For many, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max is the big phone of choice, with powerful flagship hardware, a long-lasting battery, and a jaw-droppingly good camera.

If you’re due an upgrade, or simply want something new and shiny, both of these massive, powerful flagships are tempting purchases. But at over $1,000 for each, it’s unlikely you can buy both. Which is better for you? We found out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
Size
161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm (6.4 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches)
158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.32 inches)
Weight
186 grams (6.6 ounces)
226 grams (7.97 ounces)
Screen size
6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution
3200 x 1440 pixels (525 pixels per inch)
2688 x 1242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system
Android 10 (under One UI 2.0)
iOS 13
Storage space
128, 512GB
64, 256, 512GB
MicroSD card slot
Yes, up to 1TB
No
Tap-to-pay services
Samsung Pay, Google Pay
Apple Pay
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Apple A13 Bionic chip
RAM
12GB
4GB
Camera
Quad lens 12-megapixel, 64-megapixel telephoto lens, 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and ToF sensor rear, 10-megapixel front
Triple lens 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, and 12MP telephoto rear; 12MP TrueDepth front
Video
8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps
4K at up to 60 frames-per-second, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0
Ports
USB-C
Lightning
Fingerprint sensor
Yes, in-display
No, Face ID instead
Water resistance
IP68
IP68
Battery
4,500mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging

3,969mAh

Fast charging (18W)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace
Google Play Store
Apple App Store
Network support
AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colors
Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, Cosmic Black
Midnight Green, Space Grey, Silver, Gold
Price
$1,200
$1,100
Buy from
Samsung, AT&T

Apple, Best Buy

Review score
Hands-on review
4.5 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
  • 2.
    Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

Looks aren’t everything, but when you’re spending so much, you want something you can show off. Thankfully, both of these phones are stunners. The Galaxy S20 Plus is probably the more unique of the two, with a sleek bezel-less design with curved edges, and a single hole-punch for the selfie camera. But the iPhone 11 Pro Max is no ugly duckling, and while the notch is sizable, the bezel-less design is no less stunning.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a slightly smaller display, but it’s still huge. The 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR display runs a 2688 x 1242 pixel resolution, and it’s crisp with deep colors and inky blacks. The S20 Plus’ 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display has a sharper 3200 x 1440 pixel resolution, though you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference in real use. The S20 Plus’ display also has the option for a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, which will please gamers.

There’s a substantial difference in weight though, and that’s down to build materials. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a stainless steel frame, which is likely to be stronger than the S20 Plus’ aluminum frame. Durability differences end there though, and both have an IP68-rating for dust and water-resistance.

It’s very hard to separate these two, but based on the screen, the S20 Plus has to take the win.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Performance, battery life, and charging

John Velasco / Digital Trends

There’s power-a-plenty here, and both phones have top flagship specs. The S20 Plus is rocking the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, while the iPhone uses Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. Benchmark scores between the two processors are split as to which is the more powerful, but what’s sure is you’re not going to lack power either way. Both phones will offer smooth performance in apps and games alike.

The S20 Plus has three times more RAM than the iPhone, but this isn’t the slam dunk you’d expect since iOS and Android handle RAM differently. But there’s more of a difference with storage. Apple really needs to ditch 64GB as a storage option on the basic iPhone, as it just isn’t enough. The S20 Plus starts at 128GB, and has support for 1TB MicroSD cards as well. The iPhone’s 256GB and 512GB models are better, but paying over $1,000 for 64GB of storage just isn’t acceptable.

Things are rosier for the iPhone where battery life is concerned. A full charge will take you into the next day and beyond, with our review unit hitting 35% at 5 a.m. after coming off the charger at 8 a.m. the day before. We haven’t had a chance to test the S20 Plus’ battery yet, but we’re not sure if it will be able to match that feat. The S20 Plus’ 25W charging is faster than the iPhone’s 18W charging, but the difference is small. Both have wireless charging too.

The differences between the two are slight, we’re calling this round a tie pending further testing.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The latest iPhones and Galaxy phones have had significant camera upgrades, making this an important category. The iPhone 11 Pro Max sports a triple-lens camera configuration on the back, with wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses (all 12-megapixel), and a 12-megapixel TrueDepth selfie lens around the front. It’s a phenomenal camera, and although we have some issues with the ultra-wide-angle lens, it’s absolutely the best camera phone at the moment. Smart HDR has been improved, and produces even better composite images than before, and the new Night Mode is excellent. The 12-megapixel selfie camera is similarly impressive.

Is the Galaxy S20 Plus the camera to surpass the iPhone 11 Pro Max? We haven’t had enough time with it yet, but it shows promise. Samsung has squeezed an enormous quad-lens camera onto the back, and it’s comprised of a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and a Depth Vision (time-of-flight) sensor. This powerful and versatile setup is completed by some new features, including a 3x optical zoom and 30x digital zoom, as well as Space Zoom A.I. stabilization. It can also shoot video in 8K.

The S20 Plus has an extra lens, but is it better? It’s hard to say at this point, having not completed our review. However, the signs are good, but we need more time to be sure. It’s a tie, for now.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Android vs. iOS is a tale as old as time, and it’s repeated here. You probably know which one you prefer at this point, but if you don’t, there’s plenty to love about both and we wager you can get used to either pretty quickly. Samsung’s One UI interface is a good Android skin, with plenty of customization options and some fun cosmetic touches.

But Samsung’s Achilles’ heel has always been updates, and it’s here the iPhone really shines. Fresh iOS updates come through on the day of release, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max can expect to be updated for years to come. Samsung’s flagships have to wait at least six months for the latest version of Android, and tend to be cut off from updates after two years. Apple’s record on updates is stellar, and that wins it this round.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro Max

Special features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn’t have too many special features outside the powerful camera software, but the features it has are polished and impressive. There’s the Face ID-powered Animoji and Memoji, and there are whispers the spatially aware U1 chip could end up being used for something other than the upgraded AirDrop.

The Galaxy S20 Plus is packed with special features. The Bixby button may have gone, but Samsung’s A.I. Bixby remains, and you can choose between that and the Google Assistant. There’s also the DeX desktop mode, Wireless PowerShare, the in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, and — most importantly — 5G is built into every S20 Plus. While it may seem a little odd to list this in special features, the inclusion of 5G helps to future proof this phone.

The Galaxy S20 Plus’s array of special features and support for 5G makes this a one-sided contest.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is available for pre-order from February 21, and will release on March 6. It will start from $1,200 for the 128GB model, and will work on most U.S. carriers — though you’ll need to make sure your carrier has a 5G network to use 5G. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is currently available, and it starts at $1,100. Like the S20 Plus, it’s available on most U.S. carriers and from many stores.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung vs. Apple is a battle almost as old as smartphones themselves, and this time, Samsung’s new contender has come out on top. Based on the spec sheet and the categories above, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the stronger choice. It has powerful flagship specs, an exceptional screen, 5G support, and a galaxy of features. But it’s a tight contest, and if you prefer Apple or iOS, or really love the great camera or long battery life, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is still a great choice.

But if you don’t care whether you’re using iOS or Android, and simply want the best phone, go for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus.

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