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

Galaxy S9

The Galaxy S9 is one of the most full-featured Android phones on the market, with powerful specs and a gorgeous AMOLED display. Its dual aperture camera excels in low light, and perhaps best of all, there's no notch occupying part of the display.

Galaxy S9

Android superphone

Significantly cheaper than the iPhone XS
Excellent dual aperture camera
Multiple authentication methods
Mediocre battery life
Bixby Button still isn't very useful

iPhone XS

The iPhone XS is Apple's most powerful phone yet, with the remarkably powerful A12 Bionic chip. It has a great 5.8-inch display in a compact body, and excellent stereo speakers. FaceID replaces a fingerprint sensor, and the cameras have gained some powerful new features.

iPhone XS

Big screen, small phone

Incredibly powerful A12 Bionic chip
120Hz touch sensing display
Improved FaceID
Siri is still behind Google Assistant
No fingerprint sensor

Software preferences aside, the Galaxy S9 and iPhone XS are actually pretty similar phones. Both have glass and metal industrial designs with high screen-to-body ratios, along with IP68 resistance, wireless charging, stereo speakers, and so on. The biggest difference is price — the S9 has fallen below $650, while the iPhone XS sits at a hard to swallow $1000 starting price.

What are the differences?

A large deciding factor in which phone you should buy is, of course, the operating system behind it. By now, you probably know where you stand on Android versus iOS (and if you're here at Android Central, we've got a good idea at which one you prefer). Both have their various pros and cons, but in short, Samsung's software on top of Android offers an extremely customizable but arguably cluttered experience, whereas iOS 12 is simple to use but lacking in custom options.

It's hard to find any major flaws with either phone's hardware. Both have very similar 5.8-inch AMOLED displays, but many will prefer the Galaxy S9's notch-less approach. Hidden within that notch are Apple's newly improved Face ID sensors, which are more secure than Samsung's facial recognition, though the S9 offers more ways to unlock your phone, retaining the "legacy" fingerprint sensor and throwing in an iris scanner.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Galaxy S9iPhone XS
Operating systemAndroid 8.0 OreoiOS 12
Display5.8-inch AMOLED, 2960 x 1440 @ 570ppi5.8-inch AMOLED, 2436 x 1125 @ 463ppi
ChipsetSnapdragon 845A12 Bionic
Rear camera 112MP, 1.4μm, f/1.5-2.4, OIS, LED flash12MP, 1.4μm, f/1.8, OIS, True Tone flash
Rear camera 2None12MP 2x telephoto, f/2.4
Front camera8MP, f/1.77MP, f/2.2
ChargingUSB-C, wireless chargingLightning, wireless charging
Water resistanceIP68 dust and water resistanceIP68 dust and water resistance
SecurityFingerprint sensor, face unlock, iris scannerFace unlock

One big difference between the two phones is the cameras. The iPhone XS features dual cameras, while the Galaxy S9 has a single camera with dual apertures. Apple made a big deal during the iPhone XS announcement over some of the improved camera features, including adjustable aperture in post and stereo audio during video capture, but the S9's camera is no slouch either, with a wide range of manual controls and post-processing effects of its own.

Unless you really prefer iOS over Android, there's not much reason to spend nearly $400 more on the iPhone XS.

Then there's storage. The iPhone XS reaches all the way up to 512GB of storage, doubling the Galaxy S9's maximum capacity, but that kind of storage doesn't come cheap. Even at the matching 64GB base options, there's nearly a $400 difference in price, leaning in the S9's favor. What's more, you can simply upgrade the storage in the Galaxy S9 with a microSD card — once you buy an iPhone XS, you're locked into the storage option you chose without room for expansion.

The wide price gap will be more than enough to push a considerable amount of consumers towards the Galaxy S9, and with good reason. You're getting a very similar experience in terms of performance, cameras, and physical dimensions at a much cheaper price — but if you're already tied into the Apple ecosystem with other products like a Mac or iPad, or you simply prefer iOS over Android, the iPhone XS is certainly a compelling option.

Hayato Huseman

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.