Naturally, it's that time of the year when everyone is looking over the newest Apple devices and comparing them with the just-released Note in another classic battle of Android versus iPhone. As fans know, Samsung originally wanted the Note line to have a release schedule that coincided with the iPhone to try and steal heat leading up to the holiday season in North America. It's a successful tactic, but that doesn't account for the whole of Samsung's success as the Note 9 seems to have captured reviewer's hearts more so than Apple's latest and greatest this time through. Let us say that it wouldn't be the first and likely won't be the last time it happens.
The most notable improvement that reviewers and users alike are finding with the iPhone XS and XS Max is the battery life, which actually exceeds Apple's findings by a considerably wide margin and leaves their claims well-founded. This is not entirely surprising since Apple has generally been pretty up-front about flat figures dealing with basic, hard-to-argue metrics such as how long your phone will last over the course of an average day's use. Other noteworthy improvements include the plethora of features tiny and large that are peppered throughout iOS12 ranging from enhanced Do Not Disturb settings to refined memory management. However, you just can't argue with 24-26 hours of heavy usage inside a single charge, which blows away the iPhone X's 19-hour rating.
If you expected this to faze Samsung, however, you'll be surprised to know that it only lands in the ballpark of the recent S- and Note-series battery ratings. The Note 9 took it even further with improvements to the Note 8's phenomenal efficiency and then paired it with a 4,000 mAh juicer to boot.
While the memory management and general processing power puts Apple's devices far ahead of Samsung's, the practical nature of their handset, especially when you put the price in perspective, is a different beast. Samsung's UI skin has taken strides from the bloated TouchWiz of past into something that more closely resembles stock Android while packing in productivity features to the brim, and that will unsurprisingly hold its own over Apple's glossy "simple but works" philosophy. Audiophiles still have a headphone jack on the Note 9, a Bluetooth S Pen to conduct functions such as selfies from a distance, and absolutely zero notch to speak of. This all comes with 512 GB of storage, like the XS and XS Max, and 8 GB of LPDDR4 RAM for heavy multitasking.
Other cited advantages of the Note 9 include:
- Roughly twice the charge rate of the XS and even more so than the XS Max — 105 minutes against 195 and 210 respectively, which is all thanks to Apple including a 5W USB-A charger with their cutting edge handsets for some reason
- Durability, especially when dropped although the margin of durability isn't significant overall
- Considerably faster cold-loading of various non-Google apps although this was offset in the long run by the memory management in the Note 9 tending to shut down those apps later on while the iPhone would still leave them open
With that said, Apple continues to prove time and again that raw numbers don't mean what people have been trained to think, and with an efficient ecosystem, they can do considerably more with less. Still, remember that while iPhones are generally monsters on benchmark tests — specifically AnTuTu — these aren't necessarily telling of how they'll function in the palm of your hand. The gap in benchmark prowess between Apple and Samsung didn't really manifest in practical usage and actually painted the opposite picture of what users expected in day-to-day usage. Of course, Apple gets their own claim to fame with a camera that's still just a smidge ahead of Samsung's own.
Overall, we could sum it up the same way that we always have:
- Benchmarks are benchmarks: They don't mean much.
- Samsung's camera is slightly behind Apple's for general shooting but excels by a long shot when it comes to featutes.
- Samsung's phone is more productivity-centric while Apple's is about simplicity and seamless interaction.