Apple's iPhone XS takes on Samsung's Galaxy S9+, but which phone is actually superior?
Apple and Samsung are bitter rivals in the smartphone space and that's no doubt because they individually control a lot of the sales of premium phones, while seeing off challenger brands such as Huawei or LG.
If you're a die-hard Apple or Samsung fan you're unlikely to change camps in any case, but for the rest of us, there's a choice to be made. While the iPhone XS Max more closely lines up with the Galaxy Note9, Apple's mid-range OLED iPhone has some fascinating contrasts against Samsung's earlier Galaxy S9+.
Apple's claims for the A12 Bionic found in all 3 of its 2018 iPhone family are impressive, with 6 CPU cores, 4 GPU cores and a new neural engine. Apple's claim for the GPU is that it's up to 50% faster than the A11 bionic found on the Apple iPhone X, which was already a pretty nippy performer. The new 8-core neural engine replaces the 2-core model on the A11 Bionic, capable of 5 trillion operations per second.
Of course, we'll have to wait to see precisely how the A12 Bionic performs in the real world and the differences in operating systems between iOS and Android means it's not quite a precise like-for-like comparison.
Just as it does for the Galaxy Note9, Samsung adopts a dual-processor approach, with either Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 or its own Exynos 9810 processor on the Galaxy S9+. Here in Australia we officially get the Exynos 9810, although some direct resellers do offer the Qualcomm variant. If you're keen to know more about the Galaxy S9+'s performance, you can read our comprehensive Galaxy S9+ review here.
The Galaxy S9+ is a very powerful phone in the premium space, although it's somewhat outdone by the newer Galaxy Note9 if power is your only concern. It is worth noting that it's only currently running Android 8 ("Oreo") rather than the newer Android 9 ("Pie"). Google's upcoming Pixel 3 handsets will be the first phones to come with Android Pie out of the box, but hopefully Samsung will come to the Pie party sooner rather than later. By way of comparison, the iPhone XS will come with iOS 12 preinstalled and day one availability for iOS 13 when that appears in roughly 12 months' time.
At the level these two phones operate, app performance isn't typically an issue except for very intensive games and some video processing applications. Apple does get some extra oomph out of its processors thanks to the optimisations it can bring from being both the software and hardware provider that Samsung isn't privy to, but neither handset is a slouch in performance terms.
Apple's iPhone XS offers dual 12MP cameras, with no sign of the rumoured triple-camera array that some expected. Still, Apple fine-tunes its cameras and especially its camera software for ease of use, making them a good general-purpose camera option. Apple's big party trick here is the inclusion of the ability to adjust focal depth on pictures once they've been taken in portrait mode, which could give you a lot of flexibility in your compositional choices. It's claiming improved low-light performance thanks to optimisations on the A12 Bionic chip on the iPhone XS, but again we'll have to wait to see how it fully compares.
The Galaxy S9+ built on the dual-camera approach of 2017's Galaxy Note8, delivering a phone with an exceptional camera, perhaps only bested by Huawei's P20 Pro. Apple is naturally breathless about how good the cameras on the iPhone XS are, but we'll have to wait until we can more formally test out its prowess head-to-head with the S9+.
One factor that might tilt you one way or the other is that Apple is very much in the controlled photo space, with manual controls much less of a factor than on Samsung's premium flagship. If you prefer pro-level tweaking, the S9+ might be a better bet.
Apple's always cagey about its precise battery figures, often preferring to talk in generalities when it comes to battery life rather than actual numbers. We won't likely know the precise capacity of the Apple iPhone XS until it's pulled apart by third parties such as iFixit, but it will be interesting to see how well it can compare in a market where larger batteries are fast becoming the norm. Apple's claim that it can last for "up to 30 minutes" longer than the iPhone X isn't particularly encouraging, because the iPhone X battery life wasn't that great to begin with.
That's particularly true for the Samsung Galaxy S9+, one of the top performers in our battery life tests. It comes with a 3,500mAh battery and its performance, even when pushed hard, is generally exceptional, only really beaten out by the even larger Samsung Galaxy Note9.
The iPhone XS is a premium phone and so is the Samsung Galaxy S9+, so you're looking at a serious investment either way.
Here in Australia, the iPhone XS will cost $1,629, $1,879 and an eye-watering $2,199 for the 64GB, 256GB and 512GB variants respectively. That's well above any price point for the Samsung Galaxy S9+, which retails for $1,349 (64GB ) and $1,499 (256GB).
The reality for Apple's phones is that they tend to hold value longer than their Android counterparts, but that's actually good news if you're keen on a Galaxy S9+, as there are more than a few bargains to be had on that handset. Our weekly bargain phones round-up frequently features deals on the Galaxy S9+ that can shave hundreds off the regular asking price.
Samsung Galaxy S9+
Samsung's superb photo phone
Samsung combines an industry-leading camera with serious processing in the stylish Samsung Galaxy S9+.
Don't expect similar deals on Apple's phones for some time and bear in mind that the razor-thin margins that Apple gives its retailers means that you're often only saving tens of dollars (if that) rather than hundreds.
At the time of writing, there's no sign of contract pricing for the iPhone XS, although we can expect a lot of jostling between Optus, Vodafone and Telstra to try to entice consumers.
The Galaxy S9+ is widely available on contract and you can check the latest deals below: