Apple iPhone XS Max or Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Which One to Buy?

The recently launched Apple iPhone XS Max goes up against the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 this year.

Updated
Gadgets
5 min read
Apple iPhone XS Max (left) and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (right)
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The big (literally) iPhone launch has come and gone and now we have the iPhone XS Max, the biggest phone so far by Apple. How big you ask? It sports a 6.5-inch screen which is 0.6-inch more than what we had with the iPhone X last year.

And with these dimensions, it would be hard not to compare it with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which comes with an S-Pen or stylus.

Strangely, Apple thinks that people can live with using the iPhone XS Max without a stylus, and maybe Steve Jobs had some role to play in that.

Apple iPhone XS Max or Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Which One to Buy?
(Photo: Harsh Sahani/The Quint)

Design

The Galaxy Note 9 is a bit bigger, feels a tad heavier in the hand and the buttons have been moved a bit. But again, it feels like I am holding the same old Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in my hand.

Talking about the iPhone XS, nothing about the design is new enough to force a switch from last year’s model. The glass is supposed to be more durable but we’ve not performed drop tests yet.

The size difference between iPhone XS and XS Max is visible. 
The size difference between iPhone XS and XS Max is visible. 
(Photo: @2shar/The Quint)

With the Galaxy Note 9, there are no changes in the overall form factor and the build remains exactly the same as its predecessor. The Note 9 weighs in at 201 grams while the iPhone XS weighs 208 grams with thickness of both these measured at 8.8mm and 7.7mm respectively. This ensures the iPhone XS Max is actually slimmer than the Galaxy Note 9.

The fingerprint sensor has been moved below the rear camera assembly, which I feel is more accessible, sensible and practical than before. Apple has completely removed the physical fingerprint sensor button from its iPhones, relying on Face ID for the biometric unlocking feature.

This is what powers the Face ID on the iPhone. 
This is what powers the Face ID on the iPhone. 
(Photo: @2shar/The Quint)

Unless you hold the iPhone XS and the XS Max next to each other, it’s difficult to tell one from the other, but once you hold it in your hand, XS Max is way more ‘plus-sized’ than any iPhone so far, and in a good way.

Display

Even the display resolution of the the Galaxy Note 9 is the same, minus the display size which now stands at 6.4-inch. It’s a beautiful display so one really doesn’t need to complain. There’s very little that is new about the Super AMOLED screen of the Galaxy Note 9 and we’ll leave it at that.

Galaxy Note 9 sports a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen. 
Galaxy Note 9 sports a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen. 
(Photo: The Quint)

The iPhone XS Max sports a 6.5-inch OLED screen from Samsung (oh, the irony) and looks rather stunning. The new HDR OLED screens are noticeably more vibrant than the outgoing X and you don’t lose any pixel density if you pick up the Max.

iPhone XS (left) and iPhone XS Max (right)
iPhone XS (left) and iPhone XS Max (right)
(Photo: @2shar/The Quint)

The bigger screen of iPhone XS Max affords more details on the screen, including the landscape orientation for app layouts that Plus users have enjoyed over the years.

If you were seeking a bigger display than last year’s X, the XS Max is here to cover that.

Hardware and Software

The Galaxy Note 9 comes with a new Exynos 9810 octa-core chipset coupled with RAM options of 6GB and 8GB. Samsung has done away with the 256GB storage variant and is now offering 512GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 1TB via the hybrid SIM slot.

You already know that the Galaxy Note 9 supports intelligent scan for iris and face detection to unlock the phone. This is something we saw with the Galaxy S9 Plus and works well even if there’s no light in the room.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
(Photo: The Quint)

The S-Pen definitely has more ‘Stylus’ and the wherewithal to come out as a true utility tool. What really is a game changer is the addition of Bluetooth technology inside the S-Pen. It can be used as a remote control to navigate certain apps in the phone. This year’s Note 9 comes loaded with a 4000mAh battery.

Apple’s new A12 Bionic processor, which Apple claims is 15 percent faster than the A11, but anyone reporting tech will remind you this is the first 7-nanometer chip available in the market, which allows for lower power consumption and better battery life.

The iPhone XS series gets OLED screen with Super Retina resolution. 
The iPhone XS series gets OLED screen with Super Retina resolution. 
(Photo: @2shar/The Quint)

The A12 Bionic ships with a 4-core GPU and a 6-core CPU along with an 8-core Neural Engine, which handles machine learning and other AI tasks.

Camera

The megapixel count on the Note 9 is exactly the same as on the Samsung Galaxy S9+, but the Note 9 adds some AI (artificial intelligence) features. Even the aperture count is the same, so the results are expected to be no different.

Same cameras on the Galaxy Note 9 as the Galaxy S9+. 
Same cameras on the Galaxy Note 9 as the Galaxy S9+. 
(Photo: The Quint)

You might find this funny, but Apple highlights that the XS and Max dual cameras now allow you to select the amount of bokeh after the shot, so that you can get the right amount of blur for your photos. Cute.

Having said that, there are improvements across the board – larger pixels on the wide-angle lens, a wider aperture on the telephoto lens and a faster selfie camera as well.

Which One Worth Buying?

If you ask me, from a price-to-specs point of view, the Galaxy Note 9 for Rs 67,900 does sound like the better deal. Big screen, S-Pen for multimedia and more, big battery now and pretty impressive cameras on board. It’s unlikely you can go wrong with this top-end Android device.

Having said that, Apple caters to a different set of buyers, those who upgrade no matter what cost they end up paying (iPhone X for instance). This is also its first ‘Max’ size phone with a 6.5-inch screen, but it remains to be seen if iOS 12 gets acclimatised to such a big change.

The new iPhone XS will start from Rs 99,900.
The new iPhone XS will start from Rs 99,900.
(Photo: Screengrab/Apple.com)

The cameras sound good on paper, but we’ll have to wait for the reviews to show its worth. Most importantly, the XS Max starts from Rs 1,09,900 for the base variant, going up to Rs 1.45 lakh for the 512GB storage option.

If you’re aware of all these parameters and want to go with the tried-and-tested then the Galaxy Note 9 gets our vote. For the Apple fanboys, they are probably going to pick what suits them.

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