After skipping last year's event, Samsung has opened Mobile World Congress 2018 with the reveal of its new flagship phones, the Galaxy S9 and S9+. Samsung seems to be gunning pretty hard for Apple's premium iPhone X, with the most radical upgrades thrown towards the camera. So just how well do the Galaxy S9 and S9+ stack up against the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the five leading phones of 2018.
The Galaxy S9+ sure is plus-sized, coming in slightly shorter and a fair bit narrower than the mammoth iPhone 8 Plus. Both of Samsung's new phones are also quite a bit thicker than the iPhones, and in that department they've actually put on a bit of bulk since last year.
The iPhone 8 Plus still tips the scales as the heaviest device, but the Galaxy S9+ is closing the gap. If it's hard to visualize these numbers, just keep in mind that a US nickel weighs exactly 5 grams, so the difference between the phones can amount to lugging around pocketfuls of extra change.
Along with the usual black and gray options, Samsung has added a splash of color with blue and, for the first time on a Galaxy, purple.
Metal backs seem to be going out of style again. All five phones have opted for glass front and back, ringed in metal – aluminum for the Galaxies and stainless steel for the iPhones.
The three iPhone models have been rated IP67 for water resistance, which means they can survive submersion to a depth of 1 m (3.3 ft) for up to 30 minutes. The Galaxy phones' IP68 rating means they can apparently extend that down to 1.5 m (4.9 ft). In practical terms, all of these devices will shake off accidental spills, dust and dunkings, but you're still better off keeping them away from pools and bathtubs.
Both S9 models have the same size screen as their last-generation counterparts. The S9+ leads the pack with a massive 6.2-inch screen, while the iPhone X sports the same size as the S9, at a very-respectable 5.8 inches. Meanwhile, the base model iPhone 8 is starting to look a bit on the small side, which still might appeal to some.
Modern phone design is all about making the most out of front-facing real estate. Samsung has been banishing bezels since the days of the S6 Edge, and now it's focusing on shrinking the top and bottom. The iPhone X gains ground with its edge-to-edge screen, but arguably loses some style points with the "notch" along the top that houses the camera array. The 8 and 8 Plus are also starting to look dated with the thick bars along the top and bottom.
The QHD displays on the Galaxy phones remain unchanged from last year. Apple has positioned the iPhone X's screen as one of its key selling points, yet it falls a little short of Samsung's efforts. Still, that's just a numbers game – Apple is known for squeezing some spectacular visuals out of even sub-HD screens.
Both Galaxy phones sport Samsung's so-called "Super AMOLED" screens, while the iPhone X marks Apple's first foray into the territory. This tech generally results in brighter screens and higher contrast than IPS LCD, but the latter may offer more natural colors. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are some of the last holdouts in the IPS LCD camp.
Fingerprints are the baseline biometric nowadays, although the iPhone X ditched the sensor to focus on its Face ID system. The Galaxy phones offer both plus an iris scanner, and for added security Samsung has added the option to require a combination face and iris scan to unlock the phone or access certain information on it.
The iPhones are powered by Apple's latest processor, the A11 Bionic. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are running on octacore chipsets, but just which one depends on your region. In the US and China, it's a Snapdragon 845 at 2.7 GHz, while the rest of the world gets the Exynos 9810 at 2.8 GHz. That said, most users probably won't notice much difference.
All five phones offer a minimum of 64 GB of built-in storage space, and a roomy 256 GB max. The two new Galaxies, however, add a middle-tier option of 128 GB.
If you run out of space down the track, Samsung's phones can be expanded with a MicroSD card, up to an extra 400 GB. The walled garden of Apple, on the other hand, would prefer you stick to what you're given.
The batteries powering the Galaxy S9 and S9+ remain unchanged from the S8 and S8+. This is yet another case where the iPhones look lacking on paper, but again the all-seeing eye of Apple can optimize its phones to do more with less. In practical terms, any of these devices are likely to need a daily charge with regular use.
Samsung has so far resisted the urge to kill off the 3.5 mm headphone jack, which began with the iPhone 7 and was later ditched from Google and HTC devices. As you'd expect, the new Galaxies charge via USB Type-C, while the latest iPhones are left with just a Lightning port on the bottom.
Fast charging has been a staple for many years, and the Galaxy S9 and S9+ can do so out of the box. The iPhones can also be fast-charged, but only with the purchase of a separate accessory.
Wireless charging is becoming more common too, although for all five of these phones it requires a separate accessory.
Samsung is positioning the camera as the main area of improvement for the new Galaxy generation, particularly the S9+. All of these phones (bar the iPhone 8) have dual 12-megapixel cameras, with decent aperture ranges to let more light in. With an f-number of f/1.5, the Galaxies have the best aperture we've seen on a flagship phone, while the S9+ combines a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens.
Once basically ignored as the realm of selfies, front-facing cameras are getting increasingly more powerful. The Galaxy S9 range features 8 megapixels and an f/1.7 aperture, while the latest iPhones all sport 7 megapixels and an f/2.2 aperture. The iPhone X goes a step further with its depth-sensing function, allowing it to scan faces in three dimensions to create a more advanced facial recognition system.
High-dynamic range (HDR) images and slow-motion video is common to all five of these phones. That said, Samsung has knocked it up several notches with a ridiculously Super Slow-mo mode of 960 frames per second, at a decent 720p resolution.
Samsung has also taken a not-at-all subtle page out of Apple's book to create what it calls AR Emoji, which allows users to create cartoonish versions of themselves to send as still or animated emojis through various messaging apps. Although it's still in the development stage, Apple's ARKit looks very promising for mixing real and virtual worlds, and is so far unemulated by its competitors.
All five phones come preinstalled with the latest versions of their respective operating systems.
Siri looks here to stay on Apple devices, while Samsung is ramping up the functions of its relatively-new Bixby assistant. One of its coolest new tricks is to translate foreign-language signs and documents seen through the camera.
Both companies offer their own mobile payment systems to replace the plastic cards in your wallet.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were first launched in September 2017, with the iPhone X following a two months later. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are due for launch on March 16, 2018.
Samsung's new offerings fall squarely in the middle of the iPhone's prices, which range from $699 for the base model iPhone 8 right up to an eye-watering $1,149 for the 256 GB iPhone X. We currently only have the starting prices for the Galaxy S9 and S9+, but we wouldn't expect the expanded model to soar quite that high.
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