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Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Which should you buy?

We've seen it play out year after year. Samsung vs. Apple, Galaxy vs. iPhone. The latest iteration of this comparison is the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X. They're both primarily comprised of metal sandwiched between glass, but we all know there's more to it than that.

Here's what you can expect if you're cross-shopping these two smartphone titans, or at the very least looking over the fence at how green the grass really is.

What's the same

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

Whether by careful calculation or pure market forces, Samsung and Apple have ended up making very similarly designed high-end phones. This metal-and-glass sandwich design has propagated across the industry, but you could argue Samsung and Apple are doing it best. The Galaxy S9's combination is a bit more sleek and curvy, with curved glass on both sides and a narrower overall footprint. Apple's is a bit more monolithic, and its glossy coating even on the metal sets it off from the Galaxy S9's metal that has switched back to more of a natural textured finish.

Samsung and Apple have ended up making very similarly designed phones.

The overall size and shape, though, is very similar. The Galaxy S9 is a tad taller and narrower, which with its curves makes it a bit easier to manage in one hand. The iPhone X has a luxurious density and amazing build quality to it that is a cut above Samsung's phone if you're really into that sort of thing, but honestly most people wouldn't perceive a difference unless they spent a lot of time with both phones together.

Samsung Galaxy S9 specs

In terms of hardware features, Samsung and Apple have also converged. The iPhone X added water resistance and wireless charging, and also switched to an OLED screen (and a great one at that) — all hallmarks of Samsung's flagships, including the Galaxy S9. Samsung hopped on the dual speaker train, which is something Apple's talked up on its latest devices. Both phones have super-powerful internals and plenty of storage, plus batteries that are good for a day of average use — but either one is likely to need charging before the end of the day if you hit it hard.

What's different

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

There is obviously a massive difference in the software and company ecosystem at play here, and that's not really the goal of this comparison. There are plenty of other places to discuss (and argue about) that elsewhere. Let's cover the hardware, feature and capability differences.

Apple gets the attention for its notch, but Samsung offers a full screen and better screen-to-body ratio.

Both phones have the same 5.8-inch diagonal screen size, but it's interesting to see how Samsung and Apple take different approaches to reducing screen bezels — or at least, the perception of bezels. Samsung chooses to go with asymmetrical bezels, thicker on the top than on the sides, and then goes a step further by curving the display in a way that the side bezels seem even smaller. As noted above this makes the Galaxy S9 a bit narrower, which is a clear win unless you happen to have troubles with accidental touches on those curved sides.

The iPhone X has a consistent border around the screen, which arguably makes the bezels seem smaller overall even though the screen-to-body ratio of the iPhone X is slightly lower than the Galaxy S9 — about 82.9% versus 83.5%. That's because of "the notch," as it's affectionately called. Differences between iOS and Android mean Apple can take up that top center of the screen and not have it affect users most of the time, but it does rob you of lots of usable screen real estate when viewing full-screen apps. Samsung almost goes too far the other way, with its 18.5:9 aspect ratio often being filled out with black bars to make full-screen apps work — though I think I'd rather have that situation than be forced to a smaller view by a physical border.

The iPhone X's dual rear cameras are a clear differentiator.

The Galaxy S9 still has a headphone jack, which is a huge bonus for most people and a nice-to-have feature for the rest — I don't think anyone prefers not having a headphone jack available on their phone. Samsung's in-box AKG headphones are a big improvement over those EarPods you get with an iPhone X, too. The same goes for comparisons of a fingerprint sensor versus Face ID: sure, Apple's security system works well, but there's a certain simplicity of knowing the fingerprint sensor works every time in all situations. Not to mention that Samsung, too, improved its own facial recognition system in the Galaxy S9, combining face unlock and iris scan into a single system called Intelligent Scan.

The iPhone X's big win in this comparison is its dual cameras, as the smaller Galaxy S9 doesn't have them like the GS9+. You can argue that the portrait mode shooting and lossless 2x zoom isn't as important as the photo quality from the main camera, but it's something the iPhone X can do the Galaxy S9 just doesn't match. The Galaxy S9's new dual-aperture main camera and 12MP sensor have what it takes to produce fantastic photos on par with the iPhone X, but we'll have to see how that plays out when the Galaxy S9 is released.

Bottom line

Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X

Here's the thing: this comparison is top-of-mind for so many people, but I question whether it's really a comparison many people should be making considering the price differential at play. The iPhone X famously starts at $999, while the Galaxy S9 comes in considerably less, about $800. For someone buying on a carrier payment plan or even a lease deal, it's not a huge difference — but buying at full retail or paying any attention to your full price paid over two years will make some hesitate to make that price jump.

This comparison favors the GS9 in an ideal setting — but outside influences get in the way.

But if you take that price differential as a secondary factor, well below the choice between Android and iOS even, you see two phones that have so much in common. Build quality, materials and hardware features line up extremely well, with each getting their small victories down the line. Samsung has a headphone jack, a simple fingerprint sensor and expandable storage; Apple can point to slightly nicer build quality, dual rear cameras and exclusive Face ID authentication.

Which one is right for you? The Galaxy S9 will be a go-to for anyone who already uses Android, as well as someone who wants a high-end phone for less money with much of the same features — plus some extras — as the iPhone X. Obviously if you're upgrading from an iPhone currently, the iPhone X has to be on your list, but also if you want that nicer overall hardware and some of those Apple-exclusive features.

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

20 Comments
  • The S8 and now S9 are very nice looking phones. The best looking from all the other Android phones.
    The front of the iPhone X with the border bezel going all the way around giving that look of an all screen minus the top middle bezel aka the notch I much prefer over the S8 /S9 look.
  • I feel as though this comparison should have been between the GS9 and the iPhone 8. The iPhone X is more up the Note 8's alley with regard to comparison purposes.
  • Why? The two phones compared almost identical in every which way hardware -wise. The differences between the two would always be about software and a very short list of features regardless which Samsung model is used. S9 is flagship model. X is flagship model. Good comparison of the phones which should be compared. I would compare the S8 with the iPhone 8 and note 8 with 8+.
  • I disagree, but, I would say the the S9+ is a better comparison to the X
  • Samsung continues to push the envelope with great design and bezel reduction.
    Apple was stale for years and then came out with a half-assed design with a hideous screen impeding unibrow. Not to mention the near half centimeter bezel border all around.
    There is no comparison.
  • Here is the best part; BOTH phones are excellent. There is no bad choice here.
    you CAN like Android AND Apple at the same time. They both have really good features, and they both have a few bads as well. Not sure why people have to make a one sided choice. People miss out on so many good things hating one side or the other... fanboyism is SO dumb.
    The winner is the person who buys EITHER.
  • The S9 by a wide margin over the iPhone X (especially with that ugly notch) or any iPhone for that matter but I'd pick the Pixel 2 XL over both as I'm a stock Android and Google lover who likes a clean, smooth and consistent experience with consistent updates and security patches and that's the only area that Apple beats Samsung but with the S9 running Android it kills the iPhone X by default as iOS is jail and I'm speaking as a former iPhone user who broke free from the limited, restrictive and bland iOS for good and has no regrets and is never coming back to Apple and their overpriced and inferior phones.
  • " I don't think anyone prefers not having a headphone jack available on their phone. "
    Did we somehow get transported back to 2000? Seriously? Headphone jacks? THAT is what you're going to ding Apple on? Keep on digging.
    Meanwhile, here in 2018, the best have moved on to bluetooth. Headphone jacks are for those that just refuse to update " Apple's security system works well, but there's a certain simplicity of knowing the fingerprint sensor works every time in all situations."
    So does FaceID.. I've yet to have FaceID not recognize me. Hell, half the time it doesn't even prompt me, because I'm already looking at the phone. Seamless is better
  • "I've yet to have FaceID not recognize me"
    Right there, there's a 99% chance it's a lie.
    And a headphone jack isn't a negative feature in any way. But as Apple has (courageously) decided to get rid of it (to be able to sell more AirPods and Bluetooth Beats headphones), now it's a con to have it... iFan's and logic...
  • The guy I know with the iPhone X dislikes it because it has no fingerprint backup for Face ID. It will not unlock his phone when he wears his sunglasses. He said he would be happy with it if it had the fingerprint sensor, or if Face ID was more reliable at an $800-900 price point, but is overall dissatisfied for the $1200 he paid. Either way, it's the only iPhone thus far that has caused me to consider an iPhone.
  • He does know you can turn off the necessity for it to scan your eyes, right?
  • I've had Iphones exclusively since the 3GS, and I've watched in dismay as Apple has made their phones worse since the 6S Plus. The headphone jack DOES matter, unless you live in Tim Cook's Ivory Tower. Musicians around the world are not transporting to 2018 and suddenly using bluetooth. Headphone jacks are a common, useful tool for audiophiles. It's a tipping point for me and a lot of people who have clearly not "upgraded" to Apple's anti-consumer, "brave" downgrades. No headphone jack, no home button, screen? we're gunna notch it away. Upgrade able storage? Oh no. Ohhhhh no. Battery? worse. Charging speed? Nevermind. Mm remove the fingerprint sensor? So brave! Bezels? Well we notched it but see, "infinite waterfall" screens that roll off the sides don't match a blocky bezel. Cmon this is 2018 am I right? Then the PRICE. I've finally had it. Apple doesn't care about making the best product and I'm done supporting that. S9 will be first Android, will see!
  • The headphone jack is essential for music production applications. I do like both phones though.
  • Wait... Are you sure you're an Android centric blog? For a moment there, I thought I was on MacRumors or iMore.
    Dual cameras? The Pixel and the S8 single cameras (way better for the Pixel) are already better than the X. This one should destroy it.
    Portrait mode? just LOL. iPhone's portrait/studio mode is just bad.
    And the iPhone's SAMSUNG screen is better than.. Samsung screen, seriously? And, ok, maybe you only wanted to make a short vid but on software, there's just no comparison between iOS and Android (here, TouchWizz). None. iOS is so limited it's ridiculous. Anyway, that people pay $1000 + tax for a me-too phone with bezels all around it, with no headphone jack, no fingerprint scanner, no SD card slot, no customizable home screen, no choosing default apps, no file manager etc... and a notch is beyond me.
    iHateAppleFanboysCOM
  • Can you zoom 2x on a pixel with no loss? No
    The X camera is on par with those phones. You hate apple fanboys? Funny coming from an Android fanboy who clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about
  • Android central is becoming a real dump.
  • Why? Because it doesn’t say that iPhones are bad?! Can’t you ilagine thaat both systems are great?! Guys like you shoukd grow up! That are just phones, 2 great ones
  • « by curving the display in a way that the side bezels seem even smaller«  And the screen too. It lakes part of it unusable As for the notch and black bars, it’s the same thing border wise, physical or not.
  • « the fingerprint sensor works every time in all situations«  The fingerprint sensor doesn’t work every time in all situations : greessy hands, wet hands, with gloves...
  • I only tried s8&+/note8 and iphone x for a while (s9 still not here yet.. but i believe theres not much difference in their basic use). I am android user and to be honest, iphone x is a phone that i want to get among them if money doesnt matter.
    S8/+ display crazily crisp and its the best display i ever seen On phone. But its have occasional delay/lag/bug that is very damn annoying. Hope s9 fix that because its the dealbreaker for me. Pretty phone without actually useable.
    Note 8 on other hand is awesome. The display is not losing much with s8 (s8 wins because of curve) and its perfectly usable unlike the previous phone. If you can bear the build quality and the tall size. For Iphone x its clearly the more expensive between the bunch, comparable display,sound quality,crazy smooth over any android, camera. Sure theres things i dont like when apple 'force me' to use three finger, adapter, and face id when i can use home button/fingerprint/headphone jack in samsung. Not to mention that bulging, distracting back camera and lack of any button. Theyre blazing fast that it was indeed okay. But once one of them like face id bugged/broke/lost for some reason then its becoming obsolete phone. The chance of it happened is higher than fingerprint sensor broke.. so a perfect phone but once something screwed, its screwed all over.. something that i think is the opposite of samsung. Samsung is not perfect but you can live without one or two of its feature . If i had comparison, iphone is diamond, samsung is sapphire