iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: The battle of flagships

Avatar Written by Abdul Wahab ·  4 min read >
iphone-xs-max-vs-samsung-galaxy note 9

Smartphones nowadays offer premium quality and functionality alongside a premium price tag. With the release of the recent iPhones in the Apple keynote, it is apparent that smartphones crossing the $1000 mark is not unusual. The iPhone XS starts at $1099 while the 512 GB variant stands at a whopping $1449. Another flagship that comes to mind when reading a $1000 price tag is Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 which also offers top of the line specs with the most expensive hardware in the market.

Both of these cater to the needs of their buyers in the best possible way and represent the pinnacle of smartphone prowess. One represents the absolute best iOS has to offer while the other represents the absolute best an Android device has to offer. However, which one of them is better? Which phone gives you more ‘Bang for your buck’? Let’s find out.

1. Build Quality and Design

Both of these phones are designed with the futuristic edge to edge display. The Note 9 has an aspect ratio of 18:5:9 while the iPhone X has an even larger aspect ratio of 19:5:9. However, both of them follow a different approach to their display design. The iPhone X follows a more innovative design which stretches the display all the way down to the very edge of the forehead and chin except a small forehead which essentially covers the front camera and the Face ID detection set-up.

Build Quality and Design

On the other hand, Samsung follows a cleaner looking approach with a more homogenous design where it has shrunken the bezels close to the edge of the forehead and chin with a narrow, full-width bar at the top and bottom of the screen. Furthermore, both smartphones are built from a combination of aluminum and glass with the Gorilla Glass display.

Build Quality and Design - Note 8

2. Software

Apple naturally goes with its in-house designed operating system i.e. iOS while Samsung prefers to run Google’s Android on its devices. The iPhone XS Max will come out with the new iOS 12 whereas the Note 9 was released with Android Oreo 8.1. This is where the balance tilts slightly towards Apple. Apple designs its software alongside its hardware, thus giving iOS devices an edge as they get regular updates, more frequent security patches, and a bug-free and silky-smooth interface due to the custom-built software.

Samsung, on the other hand, does not have its own operating system and therefore uses Google’s OS which is not native to its own environment and therefore results in relatively slow and delayed updates. Furthermore, Samsung implements its own skin on Android OS, which results in an unappealing mixture of Android and Samsung’s TouchWiz.

3. Processing power

Another one of the few categories where Apple overwhelmingly defeats Samsung is in processing power. Apple’s previous generation A11 bionic chip decimated every Android processor in the market. Interestingly, even the most recent android processors (Snapdragon 845) are unable to compete with last year’s Apple A11. With the latest A12 bionic chip installed, this year’s iPhones will prove to be powerhouses in the processing department. BER recently leaked iPhone XS’s geek bench scores and they outperform Galaxy Note 9, as expected.

4. CPU scores

iPhone XS

CPU Scores iPhone X

Galaxy Note 9

CPU Scores Note9


5. Camera Comparison

Both of these phones feature a dual camera set-up with the famous ‘Bokeh-effect’ and both have telephoto lens and an excellent dynamic range.

Camera Comparison

Apple iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS Max features a pair of 12-megapixel optically stabilized cameras with the primary camera having an f1.8 aperture. The cameras are combined with new image signal processing on the A12 bionic chip. With the improved image processing comes a new feature called ‘smart HDR’ which is more commonly known as HDR in Android phones. Furthermore, there is an overall improvement in low-light sensitivity, less noise and an updated portrait mode with an even better edge detection. Apple’s updated Portrait Mode includes a feature allowing the f-stop of the simulated bokeh-effect to be changed afterwards for pictures taken via portrait mode. In simple words, users will now be able to edit blur level of the background of the image according to their preference. This isn’t an entirely new feature since Samsung already implemented it in last year’s Galaxy Note 8.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Galaxy Note 9 also features a pair of 12-megapixel cameras with the primary camera having a dual-aperture f/1.5 or f/2.4 while the secondary camera features 2x optical zoom with f/2.4 lens. This year’s Note 9 camera gives a really shallow depth of field and is blended with Samsung’s classic vibrant colors. The new addition in this year’s Note 9 camera is the AI (artificial intelligence) in the camera settings, Samsung calls it a ‘scene optimizer’. This feature automatically adjusts certain colors e.g. when the camera recognizes a subject, meaning if the user takes pictures of flowers, the camera might boost the warmer colors or with landscapes, it might boost the blue color of the sky. Another feature that comes with it is ‘flaw-detection’, where it will automatically detect ‘red-eye’ or a blurry picture and will notify the user about it so they can take another one. DxO, an online camera testing website recently ranked Galaxy Note 9 as the second-best camera. It should be noted the iPhone XS Max was just launched and once it becomes available, we might see some changes in the DxO smartphone camera ranking.

6. Specs

This is where the Galaxy Note 9 might take the lead since it is jam-packed with features. The Note 9 provides better storage option since it features a Micro SD card. Furthermore, if you have the 512 GB Note 9 variant then adding a 512 GB SD card will stretch your storage to a whopping 1 TB storage. This has never been seen before on a smartphone. The Note 9 also provides 6 GB and 8 GB RAM in its variants while the iPhone provides a maximum of 4GB in the iPhone XS Max version. The Note 9 also features a stylus or an ‘S-Pen’ which is one of the hallmarks of the note line-up. Another feature that is exclusive to Note 9 is ‘Fortnite’, the uber-popular game on the PC platform.

Specs Note 9

Galaxy Note 9 has a specially designed cooling system which enables better processing and an overall better user experience on the game. In the battery department Galaxy Note 9 features a gigantic 4000 MAh battery, the iPhone XS Max’s battery specifications are still unknown but according to the Apple keynote, the iPhone XS Max will last 1 hour and 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X. Both phones, however, have the same display quality as both features super vibrant AMOLED screens.

Specs iPhone XS Max

iPhone X:

  • Weight: 208g
  • Dimensions: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm
  • OS: iOS 12
  • Screen size: 6.5-inch
  • Resolution: 2688 x 1242
  • CPU: A12 Bionic
  • Storage: 64/256/512GB
  • Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP
  • Front camera: 7MP
  • Colors: Silver, Space Grey, Gold
  • Resistance: IP68

Galaxy Note 9 specs:

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • Memory: 6/8GB Storage: 128/512GB
  • MicroSD storage: Up to 512GB
  • Screen size: 6.4 inches
  • Resolution: 2960 x 1440
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, NFC
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Size: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm
  • Weight: 201 g (7.09 oz)
  • Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo

Final Verdict

It should be noted that the base version of Samsung Galaxy Note 9 costs $1000 USD while the base version of iPhone XS Max costs $1099 USD. While both devices have almost same specs, size, and display, the Galaxy Note 9, however, comes with much better storage option as its baseline features a 128GB storage with Micro SD against iPhone XS Max’s 64 GB and no SD card slot. Furthermore, the Note also features a headphone jack while coming with better in-box accessories such as the ‘Fast charger’ whereas the iPhone XS Max continues Apple’s trend of a lack of a headphone jack on its iPhones and comes with a 5W charger in-box rather than a ‘Fast charger’.