Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra vs. iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
Samsung has finally released its new flagship phones, but how well do they stack up against the latest devices from industry leader Apple? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra to the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.
In general, this year’s Galaxies have a taller and narrower profile than the iPhones, and are generally thinner – with the notable exception of the S20 Ultra, which is one of the chunkiest phones of recent years at 8.8 mm thick.
The Galaxy S20 is pretty close in size to the iPhone 11, while the S20+ and S20 Ultra dwarf all three iPhone models.
They may be generally smaller, but the iPhones are heavier overall than the Galaxies. The 5G versions of the Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra add two grams of weight, but that’s basically too small to really notice.
Phone manufacturers always seem to scoff at color as tacky, and banish it to the lower-end phones. As such, the iPhone 11 has all the fun options of green, yellow, purple and red, but if you want the higher-end Pro or Pro Max you’ll get either the muted Space Gray and Midnight Green, or the business-casual gold and silver.
Samsung gives its higher-end customers the “choice” of either black or gray, while the entry-level gets pastel blue and pink.
All six of these phones are made with glass front and back, ringed in metal. For the three Galaxies and the iPhone 11, that metal is aluminum, while the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are made with stainless steel.
All of these phones have an official water resistance rating of IP68. That means they’re all completely dust-tight, and can survive being submerged in 1.5 m (4.9 ft) of water for up to 30 minutes.
That said, Apple goes even further and claims this generation of iPhones can be dunked deeper. The iPhone 11 can dive to 2 m (6.6 ft), and the Pro and Pro Max can double that.
Of course, it’s never a good idea to test those claims yourself, but it’s nice to know that a splash of water or an accidental dip in the pool won’t instantly kill your expensive smartphone.
Apple seems to have decided that Pros don’t necessarily need big screens – the iPhone 11 Pro has the smallest at a modest 5.8 inches. Next is the iPhone 11 at 6.1 in, followed closely by the Galaxy S20. After that there’s a bit of a jump to the higher end, starting with the iPhone 11 Pro Max at 6.5 in, then the Galaxy S20+ on 6.7 in, and finally the S20 Ultra on a pocket-stretching 6.9 in.
The iPhone 11 lineup also has generally smaller screen-to-body ratios. They all hover around 80 percent, with the remaining 20 or so taken up by relatively thick bezels, and the notch along the top.
The Galaxy phones, meanwhile, make arguably better use of the real estate. Their cameras are cut into the screen in the hole-punch style, giving them a much smaller footprint.
The Galaxy phones are much higher resolution than the iPhones. The former all have a uniform 3,200 x 1,440 pixels, with differing pixel densities due to different screen sizes.
The iPhone screens still look nice enough, but there’s a definite drop in quality there. After all, the iPhone 11 isn’t even Full HD, which has been the bare minimum for everyone (except Apple) for years.
It looks like the days of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) in phones are almost over – five of these six phones have made the switch to Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) displays. Generally, OLED is said to have brighter colors and deeper blacks.
Selfie cameras are getting more and more important to people, so we’re seeing improvements on that front (pun intended). And all of these phones will give you pretty good results.
The Galaxy S20 and S20+ start the race at 10 megapixels, which is plenty for a good selfie (depending on the face you’re bringing to the equation, of course). The three iPhone 11 models up the game a little to 12 MP, and they also have TrueDepth 3D, the depth-sensing camera that the phone uses for facial recognition and some augmented reality features.
But the far-and-away leader is the Galaxy S20 Ultra, on a ridiculous 40 MP. That should ensure that the world can see every pore and blemish in stunning detail.
The main cameras on the back are arguably the biggest selling point for phone buyers in recent years, and it’s becoming the standard to cram two or three on there.
The iPhone 11 has the smallest camera count, sporting a 12-MP pair with wide and ultra-wide lenses. The 11 Pro and Pro Max add a third 12-MP camera, which has a telephoto lens.
The Galaxy S20 series has a similar setup, with three cameras made up of telephoto, wide and ultra-wide lenses. The difference is that some of these cameras have had a substantial megapixel boost.
On the S20 and S20+, the telephoto camera is a powerful 64 MP, giving users some leg room to zoom and crop photos so they still come out in decent quality. The S20 Ultra drops that to a still-sizeable 48 MP, but the trade-off is worth it for the mammoth 108-MP wide-angle camera.
The beefed-up cameras allow these flagship phones to pull off some fancy photography tricks, including the usual suspects like panoramas and adjustable bokeh effects.
All six phones are capable of snapping shots with High Dynamic Range (HDR). Apple says the iPhones even use artificial intelligence to recognize faces and adjust the light there to make them look their best.
Night mode, present on this whole bunch, takes longer exposures to let in more light and reveal much more detail in the dark.
Augmented reality (AR) is another big selling point. This includes syncing animated characters to the movements of a user’s face and mouth, or dropping Iron Man or Pikachu into your photos. This is made possible by depth-sensing cameras – Apple calls it TrueDepth 3D, while Samsung goes with DepthVision.
While they have many of the same general features, the two companies use them differently. Apple’s Portrait Mode is a range of lighting and focus settings that spruce up portraits by blurring or removing the background, and change intensity of light to make photos look studio-shot.
Samsung’s headline feature is the incredible zoom. Using a mix of optical and digital tech, the Galaxy S20 and S20+ can zoom in 30 times while still keeping images clear and sharp. The S20 Ultra bumps that up to 100 times.
Samsung’s Single Shot mode takes a variety of photos simultaneously – wide angle, ultra wide, cropped, Live Focus, etc – so users can later pick whichever one captured the moment the best.
The Galaxy S20 phones are the first flagships to be able to shoot video in 8K resolution. Arguably though, that might be a largely unnecessary novelty at this point – not many people have access to watch it back at that quality (besides on the phone itself, of course).
Instead, 4K is becoming the new high-end standard, and all six of these phones can shoot that at frame rates of up to 60 frames per second. And it goes without saying that Full HD video is an option across the board, also up to 60 fps.
All six phones can shoot slow motion video too, up to 240 fps at Full HD resolution. The iPhones can also do 120 fps, and slo-mo on the selfie cam for what Apple calls “Slofies.”
The Galaxies crank things up a notch with Super Slo-mo, which captures video at a ridiculous 960 frames per second. That stretches one second of captured footage into 32 seconds of playback – a huge improvement over the S10 series, which could only capture 0.4 seconds.
And, of course, timelapses are accounted for too. Everything is then smoothed out with Optical and Electronic Image Stabilization (OIS/EIS).
All of these phones can be unlocked with a scan of the user’s face, but the Samsung devices also still have fingerprint sensors if that's your preference.
The Galaxy S20 lineup is powered by Qualcomm’s latest chipset, an eight-core Snapdragon 865. The iPhones, meanwhile, are running Apple’s A13 Bionic processors.
RAM keeps phones running quickly and smoothly, particularly while multiple apps are open at the same time. And there’s quite a spread here, as Samsung and Apple try to keep up with the increasing demands of these powerful systems.
The iPhone 11, 11 Pro and Pro Max get by on 4 GB, which has been standard for a few years but is quickly seeming quaint. But although this might seem low, Apple is known for running a tight ship with its operating system, so it can squeeze more juice out of less power.
The Galaxy phones start at 8 GB in the S20 and S20+, with 12 GB options available. The S20 Ultra starts at 12 GB as standard, with the option for a massive 16 GB if you really need it.
Storage starts at 64 GB for the three iPhone 11 models. The Galaxy S20 lineup begin at 128 GB, which is also an option for the iPhone 11.
If you need more, there’s a 256 GB option on five of the six phones (the Galaxy S20 only comes in 128 GB).
If you’re a really heavy user of apps and videos and the like, you can get 512 GB on the Galaxy S20+ and Ultra, and the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max.
Another consideration when thinking about storage space is if you can expand that later via MicroSD card. There’s a clear company split in that regard – Samsung says yes, Apple says no.
In terms of pure numbers, iPhones always have fairly low-looking battery capacities compared to other devices, but they can hold their own in the lifespan department. That’s largely thanks to Apple’s walled garden again. In short, you should easily get more than a day’s regular use out of any of these six phones.
This feature is all but standard on basically every phone. That said, Apple is fairly new to the fast-charging game, and the base iPhone 11 can’t do it out of the box. Instead you’ll need to buy a separate 18-W USB-C charger for US$29.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra ups the game with Super Fast charging, but that requires an optional 45-W charger.
Every phone listed here can also be charged wirelessly, but it’s less of a standard feature. In all six cases, you’ll need to fork out for an extra accessory.
The Galaxy S20 series can also share the extra juice to wirelessly charge other devices, like phones, smartwatches or earbuds, just by placing them on top.
RIP 3.5 mm headphone jack. With this Galaxy generation, Samsung has finally pulled the plug on the once-ubiquitous audio port, following a trend that Apple started several years ago and other companies soon picked up.
There’s now just one neat little port at the bottom of each of these phones. For the iPhones, that’s a proprietary Lightning port, while the Galaxies use the industry-standard USB-C. These are used for both charging and audio, with compatible earphones bundled in with each device. If you want Bluetooth AirPods or Galaxy Buds, those are sold separately.
The phones are all running the latest version of their respective operating systems. For the iPhones, that’s iOS 13. For the Galaxies, that’s Android 10 – which has sadly dropped the sweet naming convention and gone for a more boring-but-practical approach.
Apple’s long-standing Siri is naturally back on the iPhones, while Samsung uses its own, arguably less capable Bixby voice assistant.
The iPhone 11 series has been out since September 2019. The Galaxy S20 range was released in March 2020.
All of these technological advances don’t come cheap.
The iPhone 11 is the least expensive of the bunch, starting at US$699. For 50 bucks more you can double the storage space, while another hundred doubles that again.
After that, it’s a tie between the 128-GB Galaxy S20 and the 64-GB iPhone 11 Pro, at just under a grand. Next in line is the 64-GB iPhone 11 Pro Max, meaning you can pick up a high-end iPhone for less than a mid-tier Galaxy. Whether that’s a bargain or an indictment on the relative power, is for you to decide.
Interestingly, the mid-points of each line match up – for $1,349, you could pick up a 512-GB model of either the Galaxy S20+ or iPhone 11 Pro.
That said, if you’re going to spend that much, it might be worth forking out an extra $50 for the 128-GB S20 Ultra.
After that, things get really pricey at the top end. The highest capacity iPhone 11 Pro Max comes in at almost $1,500, while the biggest Galaxy sails right past that figure to $1,600.