Another year, another batch of smartphones from the main manufacturers. In 2019, Apple released three new iPhones, Google dropped two new Pixels and Samsung decided to outdo them all and throw four Galaxies into the mix. So how do they all stack up against each other? New Atlas compares the specs and features of 2019’s flagship phones – the Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10, S10+ and S10 5G, the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, and Google’s Pixel 4 and 4 XL.
While this is, of course, just a sample of the huge lineup of phones released this year, we decided to keep this list to just the main products from the big three players. Even then, we had to cut some devices. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL, for instance, came out early this year, but we figured they belong to the last generation, so focused on the 4 and 4 XL instead.
These nine phones fall roughly into three size groups. The Galaxy S10e is the smallest, followed pretty closely by the iPhone 11 Pro. In today’s world of bigger and bigger phones, these two are starting to look almost too small.
In the middleweight class, we have (in ascending order) the Pixel 4, the Galaxy S10, and the iPhone 11.
And finally, after another large gap are the premium phones – the Galaxy S10+, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the Pixel 4 XL and the Galaxy S10 5G.
You might assume that weight would follow the same basic pattern as the sizes – but no. The order completely jumps around.
The Galaxy S10e is the lightest at a petite 150 grams, followed closely by the S10. After that it’s the Pixel 4, then the S10+, then the iPhone 11 Pro. The Pixel 4 XL and the iPhone 11 are very close together, to the point where the difference would be basically imperceptible.
Next, sliding just under 200 grams we have a tie with the Galaxy S10 5G and the optional ceramic model of the S10+.
And finally, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is far and away the heaviest phone of this bunch, tipping the scales at an industry-leading 226 g.
Between the three companies, there’s quite a color palette to choose from, whether you want a plain black or white, a splash of flashy color, or some semblance of elegance.
Apple seems determined to make sure people don’t mistake its lower end iPhone 11 with the premium Pro and Pro Max. As such, it’s banished the more playful (arguably cheaper-looking) colors – green, yellow, purple or red – to the basic 11. On the other hand, those who fork out for the higher end are rewarded with classy-but-muted tones of gold, silver, space gray and midnight green.
Google keeps things simple, always offering a choice of black or white, as well as one corporately-quirky color. This time it’s orange.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s chosen color is pink for this Galaxy generation. Besides that, there are white, black and blue versions of its new “Prism” backing, which is designed to catch and reflect light in weird ways. The S10+ offers all four of these for its regular version, or black or white for its ceramic models.
And finally, the S10 5G is only available in silver or black – you wouldn’t want people mistaking your serious, US$1,300 device for a colorful toy, after all.
All nine of these phones have the same general build – glass front and back, ringed in metal. The difference is the metal: it’s aluminum for most, while Apple frames the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max in stainless steel.
The other exception is the special model of the Galaxy S10+, which has a glass front, ceramic back and aluminum frame.
All nine of these phones have been given a water resistance rating of IP68. Officially, this means they’re dust-tight and can be submerged in water down to a depth of 1.5 m (4.9 ft) for up to 30 minutes.
Apple goes one better though, claiming the iPhone 11 can sink to 2 m (6.6 ft) for 30 minutes, and the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max will handle double that depth.
All in all, it’s probably better not to put that to the test yourself. Instead, take solace in knowing that they’ll shake it off if you spill a drink on them or drop them in the pool.
There’s only a one-inch spread separating all nine of these phones, but in terms of display sizes that’s quite a gap.
The biggest of the bunch is the Galaxy S10 5G, at a luxurious 6.7 in. Apple’s premium device follows Samsung’s, with the iPhone 11 Pro Max measuring 6.5 in. Next step down is the Galaxy S10+, followed by the Pixel 4 XL, which is starting to not sound so XL.
The base model iPhone 11 and Galaxy S10 are tied on the next rung down, sporting 6.1-in screens. Next comes the iPhone 11 Pro and Galaxy S10e on 5.8 in, with the Pixel 4 bringing up the rear at 5.7 in.
A few years ago, phone manufacturers decided that bezels around screens were bad, and so started a race to do away with them for good. Lately though the screen-to-body ratio has stagnated around 80 percent – largely thanks to the front-facing camera needing somewhere to go. And each company handles that differently.
Apple started the divisive design trend of the “notch,” where the camera lens is housed in a little black strip that cuts down into the screen. All three iPhone 11 models use this, giving them ratios ranging from 79 to 83.7 percent.
Google has just left a big black bar across the tops of the Pixel 4s like the good old days. That gives them ratios hovering around 80 percent.
Samsung has the cleanest-looking phones. The Galaxy S10e still has fairly chunky borders, but for the other models the screen wraps partway around the sides. Rather than a wide notch at the top, the Galaxies all have a “hole punch” design so the cameras are contained in a small circle (or elongated oval) cut out of the screen.
Out of this group of phones, the highest resolution is a four-way tie between the Pixel 4 XL, the Galaxy S10, S10+ and S10 5G. These all have 3,040 x 1,440 pixels, although with differing pixel densities (pixels per inch/ppi) thanks to the different-sized screens.
If you’re going off pure numbers, that means the Galaxy S10 has the “clearest” screen, but that’s just because it’s a little smaller than that of the S10+, S10 5G or Pixel 4 XL.
On the next rung down sits the iPhone 11 Pro Max, followed closely by the 11 Pro. These two have the same pixel densities, meaning the resolution difference is just down to the physical size difference.
Next is another tie between the Pixel 4 and Galaxy S10e. At 2,280 x 1,080, that makes them slightly higher than Full HD, with the Pixel’s smaller screen giving it a marginally higher density. Good luck spotting those extra six pixels per inch though.
And finally, bringing up the rear is the iPhone 11, with a resolution that doesn’t even qualify as Full HD. Apple still likes to refer to its displays as “Retina” – once justified in press speak as the maximum number of pixels that the human eye can differentiate. The further it falls behind in this respect, the more ridiculous this old statement sounds.
The industry is clearly moving towards Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) displays as standard – in fact, the only device that uses something else is the iPhone 11. Instead this lower-end phone is built with an In-Plane Switching Liquid Crystal Display (IPS LCD), which Apple has stoically stuck to long after everyone else switched to OLED.
There are pros and cons to each. In general, OLED (and variants like AMOLED) have brighter screens, more vivid colors, and deeper blacks than LCD. But the latter isn’t without its own advantages, including more natural colors and better visibility in bright light. Even so, it looks like within a few years OLED will rule the roost.
Scanning your face is the new standard biometric to unlock your phone, as seen on all nine of these devices.
Samsung is the only one still sticking with the fingerprint sensor, but in doing so it might have shown why the tech should be ditched. It recently came out that using a screen protector could trick the scanner into letting basically anybody unlock a Galaxy phone, which is less than ideal. A software patch soon fixed the issue, but the wariness remains.
The iPhone 11 lineup are all running Apple’s latest chipset, the A13 Bionic, which is apparently capable of performing over a trillion operations per second.
The Galaxies and Pixels, meanwhile, are built with the Snapdragon 855, the current standard for flagship Android devices. It’s technically not Qualcomm’s latest chip – that honor belongs to the recently-announced Snapdragon 865 – but these won’t start showing up in phones until next year.
A cosy 6 GB of RAM is about the current benchmark for phones, with 8 GB popular in premium devices. The Galaxy S10+, however, gives users the option of a frankly ridiculous 12 GB, which is nice but unnecessary for most people’s general use.
The iPhones have the opposite problem – they’re languishing behind on 4 GB. That said, Apple does keep tighter reins over the entire iOS ecosystem, so with some clever optimization it can usually squeeze more performance out of less hardware power.
As seen across the iPhone and Pixel ranges, the baseline for built-in storage is a generous 64 GB, which is probably plenty for many people.
For those that need a little more space, the Galaxy S10, S10e and S10+ start at 128 GB, while that’s also an option for the iPhone 11, Pixel 4 and 4 XL.
Still not enough? You can double that again with the iPhone 11 lineup, Galaxy S10e and S10 5G. There’s even a beefy 512 GB option on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, and galaxy S10 and S10 5G.
If for whatever reason you’re downloading every app you hear about or shooting 4K video non-stop, you might want the utter overkill that is the 1 TB model of the Galaxy S10+. This is the same version that comes with 12 GB of RAM mind you, making this rig up there with a decent laptop.
You better choose your storage wisely, because in most cases you can’t expand it later. The notable exception is the Galaxy S10, S10e and S10+, which all have MicroSD card slots to boost storage by up to another 512 GB.
Perhaps surprisingly, the smallest battery in capacity terms belongs to the Pixel 4 – you don’t often see numbers below 3,000 mAh in flagships anymore. The Galaxy S10e, iPhone 11 and 11 Pro just scoot in over that bar.
The batteries in the Galaxy S10 and iPhone 11 Pro Max, at 3,400 and 3,500 mAh, respectively, are about average for flagships. That, of course, makes the Pixel 4 XL above average.
Breaking past the 4,000-mAh mark, the Galaxy S10+ and S10 5G are quite high-end.
In practice though, these numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story. How the phone runs and how it’s used play huge roles in determining battery life, but in general you should expect to get at least a day or more of regular use out of any of these phones before needing to charge.
When it comes time to top up, you can do so pretty quickly – all of these phones come with the ability for fast charging. The only partial exception is the iPhone 11. For some reason, you need to buy a separate fast charger for this model. It’s a strangely archaic move, but thankfully it seems to be on its way out – all of last year’s iPhones had this flaw, and the fact that it’s now only relegated to the low-end model suggests that by the time the iPhone 12 rolls around, it will be gone completely.
Wireless charging is also available across the board. In this case though, you’ll need a separate charger for any of these phones.
The iPhones and Pixels all have just one port on the bottom. For the former, that’s Apple’s proprietary Lightning port, while Google goes with the industry-standard USB-C. That’s used for charging, or plugging in headphones and earbuds if you’re still using wired ones.
Apple is nice enough to include a set of custom EarPods that connect straight to the Lightning port. Google, however, doesn’t throw any in the box at all.
Not only does the Galaxy lineup also use USB-C for charging, but it’s among the last major devices that still come with the old 3.5 mm audio jack.
Although really, by this point you should just switch to Bluetooth already (which all of these phones can do, by the way).
Front cameras are increasingly important as a point of difference between phones, and it’s not just for taking higher-res selfies – facial recognition and depth sensing are enabling new uses.
In resolution terms, the iPhones lead the pack with 12-megapixel front cams, followed by the Galaxy S10 lineup on a decent 10 MP and finally the Pixel 4s on 8 MP. The Galaxy S10+ adds a secondary 8-MP camera.
Aperture widths – which dictate how well the cameras perform in low light conditions – tell a different story. The Galaxy S10 phones all have an aperture of f/1.9, making them the best of this bunch in low light.
The iPhones, Pixels and Galaxy S10 5G all include some form of depth-sensing technology, allowing for more advanced facial recognition and some augmented reality features. Apple calls it TrueDepth 3D and Samsung shuffles it around into 3D Depth, but they’re basically the same thing.
The Pixel 4s go one step further though, adding a new feature we’ve not seen on any other flagship before – motion sensing. This allows users to wave their hands over their phones to do things like skip songs or silence alarms.
Flip these phones over and that’s where the real race begins. Gone are the days of single rear cameras – we’re now talking two, three or even four each.
The most modest setup belongs to the iPhone 11, with a pair of 12-MP cameras featuring a wide and ultra-wide lens. The Galaxy S10e, Pixel 4 and 4 XL are similar, with the resolution of one camera cranked up to 16 MP.
The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, and Galaxy S10 and S10+, all feature three cameras with wide, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses. The main difference is that the two iPhones have triple 12-MP cameras, while the ultra-wide lens on the two Galaxies ramps up to 16 MP.
And finally, there’s the Galaxy S10 5G, which adds a fourth camera to the mix – another dedicated to 3D Depth.
Camera-wise, you can do most of the same stuff on all of these phones. But there are a few points of difference.
All of these phones can snap High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos, and shoot video in Full HD and 4K resolution. For the latter, the iPhones and Galaxies can get up to 60 frames per second in 4K, while the Pixels can only capture that higher frame rate at a lower FHD resolution.
All nine devices can shoot in slow motion. The iPhones can capture 120 fps and 240 fps at 1080p resolution, and the Galaxies can do the latter. Meanwhile, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL have to drop down to 720p for 240 fps. The Galaxies go way further though – Super Slo-mo mode stretches things out to 960 fps, at 720p resolution.
They can all speed up time too with timelapse (or Hyperlapse) modes.
All of these phones can take images with bokeh effects – where the background is blurred to different degrees to make the subject pop. Samsung calls it Live Focus, letting you tweak the settings after the shot is taken. The Galaxy S10 5G can apply the technique to video too.
Shooting in low light has also been spruced up with some fancy software tricks. Google pioneered it with Night Sight, which is available natively on the Pixel phones – and the Galaxies if you download the Google Photos app instead of the included Samsung one. Apple followed recently with its own version of the same thing, dubbed Night Mode.
Samsung’s phones have two unique features: Scene Optimizer can recognize certain objects in frame, such as people, food or sunsets, and automatically apply the best filters and settings to capture them. Flaw Detection will take another shot if someone blinks or something gets blurred.
And finally, all of these phones have augmented reality (AR) functions, either using Apple’s ARKit or Google’s ARCore. That allows users to cartoonify their faces as emojis – Samsung’s AR Emoji and Apple’s Animoji and Memoji modes – as well as project characters from things like Pokémon Go or Minecraft Earth into the real world.
All of the iPhone 11 range are running the latest version of Apple’s operating system, iOS 13. The Pixels come with Android 10 installed out of the box, while the Galaxies are still preloaded with the previous generation. That said, Android 10 is beginning to roll out to Samsung devices already.
Each company has their own version of a voice controlled assistant: Apple has Siri, Google has the Google Assistant and Samsung has Bixby. Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find much difference between them, functionally.
The Galaxy S10, S10e and S10+ are the oldest of this bunch, having been released back in March. The S10 5G model followed in June.
Apple dropped its latest iPhones in September, and Google followed a month later with the Pixel 4 and 4 XL.
There’s a $900 spread between the cheapest and priciest phones this year. The iPhones skew higher generally – it’s Apple, after all – while the Galaxies being older means they’ve already had a price drop.
The list starts off with the Galaxy S10e at $549 for the 128 GB version, or $649 for double that space.
Add an extra 50 bucks and you can get either the 64 GB iPhone 11 or the 128 GB Galaxy S10. Another $50 will double your iPhone 11 storage to 128 GB.
Google enters the fray at $799 with the 64 GB Pixel 4, or for the same price you can get a 128 GB Galaxy S10+.
The 256 GB iPhone 11 is next at $849, followed by the 128 GB Pixel 4 and 64 GB Pixel 4 XL on $899. The 512 GB Galaxy S10 will run you $949, while the 64 GB iPhone 11 Pro and 128 GB Pixel 4 XL just barely skirt in under four digits.
In the $1k+ range, the 64 GB iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,049, followed by the 256 GB models of the iPhone 11 Pro, then the 11 Pro Max, then the Galaxy S10 5G.
The 512 GB iPhone 11 Pro taps in at $1,349, then it’s a tie at $1,399 between the 1 TB Galaxy S10+ and the 512 GB S10 5G.
And sitting atop the pile is the 512 GB iPhone 11 Pro Max, at an eye-watering grand-and-a-half.