Galaxy S10+ vs. Pixel 3 XL: Which should you buy?

Galaxy S10+

The Galaxy S10+ is an all-around winner. It's packed with high-end specs, every feature you could ask for, and has the best screen available on a phone today. The main camera is bested by the Pixel 3 XL, but the telephoto and wide-angle camera help fill the gap.

Galaxy S10+

Best for most

Best screen available today
Headphone jack
Ultra-wide-angle rear camera
Amazing spec sheet
History of slow software updates
Software has a steeper learning curve

Google Pixel 3 XL

The Pixel 3 XL offers a simpler software experience that's enticing for many people. Google integration is great, and the software is clean and intuitive. The efficient and beautiful hardware complements it, too, and the camera is absolutely amazing in any lighting condition.

Google Pixel 3 XL

Best camera

Amazing photo quality in all conditions
Simple and intuitive software
Guaranteed frequent software updates
Simple, subtly great hardware design
Weaker battery life
No headphone jack
Good, not great, screen quality

Samsung and Google take two different philosophies to making a smartphone. Samsung goes all-out with everything, and wrangles in the most potential customers with specs and features. Google takes a more reserved approach, and delivers a very specific experience that's extra enticing to some people but doesn't have as much mass appeal. Here's what you need to keep in mind for your choice between the two.

Where the Galaxy S10+ is better

Samsung wins the specs battle across the board, with substantially larger battery in particular.

Samsung has always focused on a strong spec sheet, and being a newer device the Galaxy S10+ immediately has some advantages. The Snapdragon 855 processor is a step up in performance and efficiency from the 845, but those differences are marginal. The real difference makers are the 8GB of RAM, which is double the Pixel 3 XL's, and the base 128GB of storage. The battery is perhaps the biggest differentiator: at 4100mah, it's nearly 20% larger than the Pixel 3 XL's and that leads directly to dramatically better battery life. The Pixel 3 XL can get you through a day fine, but doesn't stand up to heavy use in the same way to the GS10+ does; in most cases, that 20% larger battery leads to more than 20% longer battery life, which is impressive.

The display is also a constant differentiator for Samsung, and the Galaxy S10+ is no exception. It simply has the best smartphone screen available today by any measure, and excels in all of the areas you want: great colors, high contrast, amazing brightness, and good pixel density. Yes, the Pixel 3 XL's display is no longer an extremely weak point as it was on the prior two generations, but it's nowhere near the differentiating beat-all-comers level of quality the GS10+ offers.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryGalaxy S10+Pixel 3 XL
Operating systemAndroid 9 PieOne UI 1.1Android 9 Pie
Display6.4-inch AMOLED3040x1440 (19:9)6.3-inch OLED2960x1440 (18.5:9)
ProcessorSnapdragon 855or Samsung Exynos 9820Snapdragon 845
Rear Camera12MP f/1.5 or f/2.4OIS12MP f/2.0OIS
Rear Camera 212MP, f/2.4OISn/a
Rear Camera 316MP, f/2.2n/a
Front Camera10MP, f/1.9auto focus8MP, f/1.8auto focus
Front Camera 28MP, f/2.2auto focus8MP, f/2.2fixed focus
AudioStereo speakers3.5mm headphoneStereo speakers
ChargingQuick Charge 2.0 (15W)Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (12W)USB-C PD (18W)Wireless Charging
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityUltrasonic fingerprint sensorCapacitive fingerprint sensor
Dimensions157.6 x 74.1 x 7.4 mm175 g(Ceramic: 198 g)158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm184 g

The only other places where the Galaxy S10+ beats out the Pixel 3 XL are in simple excess — it just has more features and more little things that can be appealing to more people. There's a headphone jack, microSD card slot, faster wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, and optional variants with a ceramic back and massive 1TB of storage. You may not see value in each and every one of those things, but there's likely one that catches your eye as a nice-to-have feature that you'd prefer your phone to offer.

Where the Pixel 3 XL is better

Google offers a simpler software experience across the board, and an amazing camera.

The name of the game with Google's Pixel phones is simplicity, efficiency, and offering a set of features that are powerful but restrained. You don't get the same volume of software and hardware features, but instead, get a more cohesive and easy-to-manage system across the board. That makes the Pixel 3 XL easier for anyone to pick up and enjoy without a bunch of configuration, letting it appeal to both novices and discerning enthusiasts.

On the software front, Google's take on Android is just clean, simple and great to use. Everything "just works" without distraction or unnecessary cruft getting in your ways. It's only loaded with Google apps, with no duplicates like Samsung has, and the entire system feels deeply integrated from top to bottom. And Google commits to keeping the Pixel 3 XL up to date frequently, with monthly security patches, and for a long time, with two years of guaranteed platform updates and three years of security updates.

Nothing can match the photo quality coming from the Pixel 3 XL; no matter how many lenses you have.

On the hardware front, we've already established that Google doesn't really have any wins to speak of when it comes to specs; but it does have an appealing design. The Pixel 3 XL is built just as well as any phone, and its metal and lightly etched back glass is a classy combination — some may think it's boring, but others will find the GS10+ a bit too flashy in return. And it's built incredibly well, and that solidity comes across every time you pick it up — and every time the phone vibrates, thanks to amazing haptics.

The final differentiator for the Pixel 3 XL, which is certainly not the least important, is its camera offering. It may only have one rear camera to the Galaxy S10+'s three, but it can take better photos across the board in every kind of lighting condition. Every single shot is crisp, accurate and colorful with a single press of the shutter; no pro mode tweaks required. Photos manage to be lifelike while also adding that little bit of color and contrast that looks fantastic. And with Night Sight, the Pixel blows the Galaxy S10+'s camera out of the water in low light. It is so impressive.

The Pixel's camera deserves a knock down a peg for its slow and inconsistent performance, but it's impossible to argue with the results. It's the one feature that no other phone can match right now, and it makes the Pixel 3 XL a bit more enticing even when you take into account the fun shooting options enabled by the Galaxy S10's additional wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

Which should you buy?

Most people are better off with the Galaxy S10+, but the Pixel's camera and software could steal the show for some.

The Pixel 3 XL appeals to a far more specific audience than the Galaxy S10+. I would start your search by considering the Pixel 3 XL — primarily, because it's cheaper (at base configuration) than the Galaxy S10+. If the Pixel 3 XL's simple and efficient software is appealing, and you've been blown away by what you see of its camera capabilities, the Pixel 3 XL may be the right phone for you.

But if it isn't immediately appealing, it means you're likely going to be a fan of the Galaxy S10+. Sure it's more expensive, but it just offers so much more. Better specs, a better display, a headphone jack, a still-great triple camera, longer battery life and more features than you could ever want. You just have to give up some of the simplicity in order to get it all.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.