When it comes to phones, Samsung and Apple are the two biggest hitters in the arena. Now, with both companies having unveiled their offerings for the year ahead, we compare the top of the range powerhouses that will fight it out for the crown of best smartphone of 2017.
Price and Availability
Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 8 a month or so ahead of the iPhone X, and with it came a collective gasp as the price was announced to be £869 (US$929). For this you get 64GB of storage (which can be expanded by 256GB thanks to a microSD card slot) and some of the best mobile tech money can buy.
Here are the best Galaxy Note 8 deals.
Not to be outdone, Apple then revealed that it’s iPhone X (pronounced ‘ten’) would cost even more, with a base price of £999 ($999) direct from Apple. This too was for 64GB, but of course as this is an iPhone you can’t expand the storage unless you opt for the 256GB version, which will set you back an incredible £1149.
If you want a big screen but don’t need an S-Pen then Samsung fans can choose the slightly cheaper Galaxy S8+ that costs £779 ($824.99). Apple fans also have the option of the newly announced iPhone 8 Plus, which itself will set you back £799 ($799) for the 64GB variant or £949 ($949) if you want 256GB.
As usual, these huge prices can be offset by purchasing the device as part of your normal tariff, but whichever route you take you’re going to be paying out a great deal for the newest hardware.
The Samsung Note 8 is available now, while Apple will open up pre-orders for the iPhone X on 27 October, with a release date of 3 November.
Read also: Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Features & Design
With the introduction of the iPhone X, Apple has made a device with a larger screen than the iPhone 8 Plus, but a smaller frame. This has been achieved by removing the large bezels that have been a mainstay of iPhone design since the very first model ten years ago.
Doing so allows the engineers to push the screen to the edges of the front panel, making the iPhone X look more like many of the modern Android models on the market.
Glass is most certainly back in fashion on flagship devices this year, as both the Note 8 and iPhone X are adorned with the substance on both the back and front of their casings.
This means that wireless charging is now a feature which finally appears on the iPhone platform. Of course, Samsung have been doing this for several generations, but with Apple now coming to play it could see a more rapid adoption of charging pads in restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and airports.
The especially good news is that Apple took the highly unusual step of adopting the industry standard Qi charging, rather than creating some proprietary tech of its own. This should unify the charging wireless technology sector, rather than bringing any new fragmentation that an Apple-only version would have created.
Both devices are premium in their material choice and execution, with the Note 8 being taller and slight wider than its Apple rival. The iPhone X also weighs in around 20g lighter.
Much of this difference can be accounted for by the Note 8 having a larger display and enclosing the S-Pen within its frame. Neither device is bulky or unwieldy though, but one-handed operation will still be a little precarious, especially when you consider the cost of dropping one of these glass laden powerhouses.
|Galaxy Note 8||iPhone X|
|Dimensions||162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm||143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm|
The S-Pen is still a standout feature for the Note series, with the little stylus giving users the ability to quickly jot stuff down, or navigate the interface with precision. Many owners swear by them, and it certainly remains the most compelling reason to buy a Note 8 over a Samsung Galaxy S8+.
The Galaxy Note 8 also has the ability to turn into an Android powered PC when placed in a DeX docking station. This will connect it to an external display, keyboard, and mouse, so you can get work done or watch video content when you’re in a hotel or at home.
We’ve seen deals where the DeX docking station was included with the Note 8, but ordinarily it’s a separate purchase that will cost you around £100.
Note 8 vs iPhone X: Specifications
Here’s a handy table so you can see how the main specs stack up.
|Specifications||iPhone X||Samsung Note 8|
|Operating System||iOS 11||Android Nougat 7.1.1|
|Display||5.8in, Super Retina HD, OLED, 2456 x 1125, 458ppi, True Tone, HDR||6.3in, Quad-HD, 18:5:9, 1440 x 2960, 521ppi, Super AMOLED, Always-On display|
|Processor||A11 Bionic||Exynos 8895, octa-core|
|GPU||A11 Bionic||ARM Mali-G71 MP20|
|Primary Camera||12Mp dual-lens (f/1.8 wide angle + f/2.4 telephoto), OIS, 4K @ 60 FPS, Slo-Mo 1080p @ 240 fps||12MP dual-lens (f/1.7 wide-angle + f/2.4 telephoto with 2x optical zoom), OIS, records 4K video at 30fps|
|Selfie Camera||7Mp TrueDepth, f/2.2, 1080p HD video, Auto HDR, Face ID, Retina flash, Portrait Lighting (Beta)||8MP f/1.7|
|Wi-Fi||802.11ac with MIMO||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/ 5 GHz), VHT 80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM|
|LTE||4G LTE||4G LTE|
|SIM card||Nano-SIM||Single SIM (Nano-SIM) Dual SIM (Nano-SIM)|
|Battery||Unconfirmed size||3300mAh non-removable|
|Connectors||Lightning port, supports fast charging and Qi wireless charging||USB 3.1, Type -C, fast charging, wireless charging|
|MicroSD||No||MicroSD support up to 256GB|
|Water resistance rating||IP67||IP68|
|Dimensions||143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm||162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm|
Apple has stuck with its no-headphone jack policy on the iPhone X, make of that what you will, but by some technical sorcery Samsung has managed to include one on its device.
The only port you’ll find on the iPhone is of the Lightning variety, while USB-C is the aperture of choice for Samsung, as well as the microSD slot for expanding the storage.
Waterproofing is now a standard feature on modern smartphones and the iPhone X has a rating of IP67, which means it can survive being submerged in water up to a depth of one metre for thirty minutes.
The Note 8 has a rating of IP68, which adds an extra half a metre to the depth. Basically, both should survive a quick fall into the sink, toilet, or having a drink accidentally knocked over them. While it’s technically possible to take them swimming, we wouldn’t want to risk it unless we had very good insurance.
Another first for Apple is the inclusion of a 5.8in OLED display on the iPhone X. This should mean more vibrant colours, brightness, and blacker blacks – all of which are a welcome sight.
The same doesn’t hold true for the ‘bump’ or ‘notch’ across the top edge which houses the TrueDepth camera unit. As with many Android phones, Apple has removed the Home button from the front panel, leaving behind an uninterrupted display – all except for that monobrow.
Whereas the likes of Samsung, LG, HTC and others installed fingerprint readers on the back of their devices instead, Apple has done away with it completely and opted to go with Face ID. This is a facial recognition system that uses a complicated collection of optics and sensors, all of which are housed in the bump along the top of the display.
The technology itself does look impressive, with one camera projecting 30,000 invisible dots onto the user’s face, which are then mapped by an IR camera and compared to the 3D image held in the CPU to see if it matches.
If this all works quickly and reliably, then it could be the first optical security measure that people actually use. Well, in the iPhone X’s case, you’ll have to.
The problem is that normally you would expect the camera unit to be included within a strip across the top of the display, as found on the Note 8 and pretty much every other phone on the market, but Apple has instead chosen to flow the graphics under it.
This looks good on demos with vibrant liquid licking the sides of the bump, but with actual apps you have dead spots where part of the display is missing. Until developers tweak their apps, that is.
Video playback does add bars to black out the bump, depending upon the app you’re using, and when the phone is used in a portrait orientation it become less of an issue. But, for those who prefer to use their iPhone in Landscape it’s a rather odd choice from Apple.
Samsung, which incidentally makes the displays used on the iPhone X, has a 6.3in Super AMOLED panel in the Note 8, which also features curved edges that make the screen seem even bigger.
The 18.5:9 aspect ratio means the Note 8 is quite tall, while retaining a slimness that makes it easy to hold in the hand. As we’ve come to expect with Samsung’s flagship offerings, the display is gorgeous, boasting a 2960 x 1440 resolution with a pixel density of 522.
This puts it above the iPhone X, which still has a very respectable 2436 x 1125 resolution with 458ppi, but both displays are top notch.
Apple has included its 3D Touch feature in the iPhone X, allowing users to access various features such as quick menus and Live photos just by pressing down on the screen.
Meanwhile Samsung has implemented its Always-On display in the Note 8, so users can tell at a glance whether they have notifications without having to unlock the device.
Processors, memory, and storage
With these devices being flagships it’s no surprise that the internal specs are top of the line. Samsung has included its own Exynos 8895 in the UK, while US models will sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. These will be paired with 6GB of RAM to ensure incredibly fast and stable performance.
Apple, as is its custom, announced a new chip for its 2017 iPhones – the A11 Bionic. At the launch event Apple said that the six-core creation would give significant performance boosts to the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus over the previous generation.
The amount of RAM installed has not yet been confirmed, but Apple has a very good track record in optimising its devices no matter how much memory is on board.
Until we can get both devices in our labs we won’t be able to say which is the fastest, but we don’t expect either to be a slouch.
As mentioned above the Note 8 comes in one storage option – 64GB – but this can be increased by up to 256GB via the microSD card slot. Apple offers the iPhone X in two capacities, with either 64GB or 256GB on board.
Samsung and Apple are known for the high-quality optics found in their flagship devices, and this year will not be blotting that copybook.
Both handsets feature dual 12Mp cameras on the back, with dual Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) for buttery smooth visuals.
The iPhone X selection is made up of a wide-angle f/1.8 and telephoto f/2.4, while the Note 8 sports a comparable wide-angle f/1.7 and telephoto f/2.4. Either handset will give you a 2x optical zoom.
Samsung includes a feature called Live Focus, which makes use of the twin cameras to allow you to blur the background, creating the always welcome Bokeh effect. This can even be done after the photo is taken, as the camera stores both the wide-angle and telephoto shots in the data.
Apple does this too with it’s Portrait mode, and has added Portrait Lighting for 2017. This gives the photographer the chance to change how the lighting is measured and represented. It looks to be an interesting tool that could produce stylish results, but as it’s only in beta at the moment, we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve had a chance to test it out properly.
On the video side of things the iPhone X has an advantage thanks to its ability to record video in 4K at 60fps, which eclipses the Note 8 that can only offer 4K at 30fps. This superiority also appears in slo-mo where the Note 8 maxes out with 720p at 240fps, while the iPhone can go to 1080p.
The front-facing cameras are pretty impressive too, with the Note 8 featuring an 8Mp f/1.7 unit can record at 1440p, and the iPhone X not far behind with a 7Mp f/2.2 variant that offers 1080p. Of course, the latter is also responsible for Face ID and Animojis, the newly introduced feature that lets you create animated emojis based on the movement of your head and face.
Due to the removal of the Home button on the iPhone X, Apple has taken the unusual step of adapting the iOS interface for this one device. It runs the latest version of iOS 11, but with new swiping gestures to access the Home screen and other menus.
Coming from another iPhone it might take a little bit of adjustment, but from what we’ve seen it looks pretty straightforward and will no doubt become the regular interface in the years ahead.
Samsung ships the Note 8 with Android 7.1.1, and continues its trend of refining the TouchWiz overlay. We hope to see the new Android ‘Oreo’ 8 appear on the device quite soon, now that it’s beginning to roll out.
In years gone by iOS was always seen as a winning argument when it came to how smartphones ran, but these days Android is its equal and, in some cases, has taken strides ahead. So, it boils down to whichever one you actually prefer to use.