Apple iPhone X vs Galaxy Note 8: Phablet face-off
Apple's freshly announced iPhone X will go head to head with Samsung's impressive Galaxy Note 8, but which phone is better?
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Apple's approach to its processors is to have custom silicon built for it, and in the case of the 2017 iPhones, it comes in the form of the A11 BIONIC CPU. That's a 6-core processor built in on a 10nm process that Apple claims is up to 70% more efficient than previous iPhone models. Apple has always done rather well in making the absolute most out of its processors thanks to the tight integration between its phones and the iOS operating system, while Android manufacturers run on a platform that has to support many different processor types.
On the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 side of the fence, you're looking at the well-established Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or the Exynos 8995 CPU. Here in Australia we get the latter, as we did with the Galaxy S8, and it's an excellent, high-powered unit that runs well on Samsung's hardware.
The flip side of that is that it needs the power, because Android is a general purpose OS that has to cover multiple processors and approaches, where Apple can fine-tune its approach to just a few processors, especially for iOS versions where it cuts the cord on older processors.
The bottom line here, however, is that neither phone is likely to be a processing slouch, and that's to be expected at this kind of price point. Both Apple and Samsung charge big dollars for premium phones, and you should expect no less.
Apple's pitching heavily on the strength of the iPhone X camera. At the rear, its dual cameras gain an additional "Portrait Lighting" feature that should make for more visually pleasing portrait photos. The real hype is around the front, where FaceID features enable unlocking of the phone, as well as the new Animoji feature.
The Note 8 represents a first for Samsung, because it's the company's first dual-lens camera, and one of the very few instances where Apple can claim to have been there first. Broadly the approach is the same, however, with dual wide and telephoto lenses that can combine for a focus-blurring bokeh "portrait" effect.
The Note 8's ability to pull focus on a live basis or after a shot is impressive, and while we've only had a short hands-on period with the Note 8 to date, it's definitely pulled Samsung's photo game into the premium space against stiff Android competition, let alone Apple's premium phone.
Again, though, you should expect premium photographic quality within what's feasible for a smartphone camera from either device, especially at these prices.
The iPhone X is Apple's first phone to feature an OLED display rather than a more traditional (and generally more power-hungry) LED, which is what you'll find on the Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. Apple's quite specific about how it calibrates its display screens, and as such it can usually deliver better results even at lower pixels-per-inch (PPI) rates than many of its competition.
The elephant in the room here is that the OLED panel in the iPhone X is apparently made by Samsung itself. It has considerable experience in the small-screen OLED space, and that's shown to a great extent in the Note 8's 6.3 inch display. The used of curved edges and the "Edge Display" feature on the Note 8 will have its fans and its detractors, but Samsung has at least tried to take advantage of Android 7's dual app ability with the inbuilt app pairing feature on the Edge Display.
Fundamentally this is Samsung's position to lose from, and if it's just screen clarity and resolution you're concerned with, it's hard to fault the Note 8.
For the longest time, the true weak spot in the iPhone's armour has been its battery life. Let's not mince words here, because early iPhone battery life was terrible, and when you're talking a sealed battery, there's nowhere to go but down from there.
Apple hasn't announced specific capacities for the iPhone X battery, but it is notable that last year's iPhone 7 Plus was the one handset that Apples' produced that seemed to break the iPhone battery curse, delivering battery performance that was on par with its Android counterparts. Again, Apple's ability to optimise iOS and the new A11 processor, combined with an OLED display that should suck down less power for its colour could put Apple onto a winner here.
Samsung's not going to go down without a fight, even though it's still smarting from the whole Note 7 battery debacle. It's spent up big on battery testing and the results so far with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ suggest that battery failure woes are definitely yesterday's news. It did go a little more conservative with the Note 8's 3300mAh battery where typically Note devices tended to have the largest battery capacities of its Galaxy lines. Instead, for this year, that's an award that the Galaxy S8+ can claim. We've once again still got to wait for our final Note 8 battery life score, but our early impressions suggest that it's got plenty of juice to keep going.
This is the head to head battle for smartphones in 2017, even though we're still to see competitor handsets from Google and Huawei (the Pixel 2 and Mate 10 respectively). Sales figures, our own smartphone popularity index and every analyst's figures agree that the premium battle is one that's currently fought between Apple and Samsung, and right now no phone is more important to each company than the iPhone X or the Galaxy Note 8.
Pricing is a key component here, with the Galaxy Note 8 coming in a single 64GB configuration for an outright local price of $1,499. Comparatively, the iPhone X will come in 64GB and 256GB capacities, priced at $1,579 and $1,829 respectively. That's a whole new area of smartphone pricing for a handset. You'll have to wait for pre-orders on the new iPhone X, which will commence on 27 October 2017, with availability from 3 November 2017.
Carriers have already announced plans and started taking pre-orders for the Galaxy Note 8, which launches here in Australia on 22 September 2017. That's also the same day that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will go on sale here in Australia, with pre-orders for those handsets starting from 5pm on 15 September 2017.
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