Samsung Galaxy Note 9 prepares to face the 2018 iPhones

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The Galaxy Note 9 will have to face not just the iPhone X, but also the models Apple will launch next month.
The Galaxy Note 9 will have to stand up to not only the iPhone X, but also the models Apple will launch next month.
Photo: Apple/Samsung/MobileFun

This spring’s Galaxy S9 hasn’t sold all that well, so Samsung is pinning its hopes on the Galaxy Note 9, just announced this morning.

This 6.4-inch Android device will have to compete with the iPhone X, and also the new smartphones Apple will introduce in a few weeks. Let’s see how it compares.

As mentioned, the Note 9 has a 6.4-inch screen. That’s larger than Apple’s biggest, the 5.8-inch iPhone X.

That said, numerous leaks point to an iPhone XS Plus with a 6.5-inch display coming in September. An updated version of the X with the same 5.8-inch screen is anticipated next month as well.

The Note 9 doesn’t have a screen cutout, as Samsung has openly criticized that bit of design. Instead, the new device has a relatively large bezel across the top of the display. There’s another wide bezel at the bottom. With the exception of the notch, Apple went with much smaller bezels on the X and all its upcoming models.

Samsung included an OLED display in its model, but the same type is used in the current iOS flagship. This is even made by Samsung. And both the top-tier 2018 iPhone models are expected to have OLED screens too.

Galaxy Note 9 and S Pen

A highlight of the Note series is support for the S Pen, a pressure-sensitive stylus. The new version of this accessory adds Bluetooth, enabling the button on the pen to perform a range of actions at a distance, like act as a remote camera control, or start/stop music.

So far, Apple has resisted bringing support for the Apple Pencil to any of its smartphones. Still, the iPad released this spring was the first budget tablet to support this active pen, and it’s not impossible that the same will happen with the 6.5-inch iPhone. It’s undoubtedly a long shot though.

Android vs. iOS

Google just introduced Android 9 Pie, with some nice new features, including a handy gesture system. But the Galaxy Note 9 can’t run it yet. Instead, the smartphone starts out with February’s Android 8.1 Oreo.

This is because Samsung doesn’t use a “stock” version of Android. The Korean company overlays its own user interface elements, and also makes many other changes to the operating system’s functions. This process takes months, so Galaxy devices never get the latest versions when they become available. This is true for most other Android makers too.

By contrast, Apple releases iOS versions for all recent phones and tablets at the same time. The iPhone X is expected to get iOS 12 next month. The 2018 iPhone models will launch running this same version.

Snapdragon against Apple A11

The Note 9 has either a 2.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor or the latest Samsung Exynos chip, depending on whether its sold in the U.S. or elsewhere. The base model has 6GB of RAM, while the more expensive version has 8GB.

No matter where it’s sold, the iPhone X sports a 2.39GHz hexa-core Apple A11 processor, with 3GB of RAM. The comparison means less than one might think, as iOS is more efficient about memory use.

Plus, the best way to compare the performance of disparate smartphones isn’t by looking at specs, but by running benchmarks. And the iPhone X solidly beats the Note 9 on speed tests. And that’s a comparison of last year’s iPhone with the brand-new Samsung. The 2018 iPhone models anticipated next month will use an even faster Apple 12 chip.

Fingerprints vs. Faces

The Galaxy Note 9 has a fingerprint scanner on its back. It’s not under the screen, has early rumors had indicated.

Apple began to phase out fingerprint scanners with the last year’s iPhone X. None of the 2018 iPhone models are expected to have one. Instead, these devices use Face ID to do facial recognition. Apple claims this is up to 20 times less likely to give false positives than its old fingerprint recognition system.

Samsung continues to build iris scanners into its devices. There are questions about how reliable this biometric method is, and concerns about the long-term health effects of shining IR light into one’s eye. Many people complain that it’s uncomfortable. That’s why the fingerprint scanner is still included.

Samsung and Apple cameras

The two phone makers have out themselves very close to parity with the cameras in their top-tier devices. The Note 9 and iPhone X both have dual 12MP shooters, with one telephoto lens and one wide-angle lens.

Samsung put an 8MP front camera in, while Apple has a 7MP FaceTime camera in its flagship.

Speaking of those forward-facing cameras, each of these companies has created their own version of digital avatars to send in texts. Samsung’s is called AR Emoji while Apple’s is Memoji.

Galaxy Note 9 vs. iPhone battery life

One of the highlights of the Note 9 is is 4000 mAh battery, up from 3,300 in its predecessor. This allows Samsung to promise an “all day” battery life. The Korean company has already begun advertising the battery life of this device, so expect to hear quite a bit about it in future advertisements.

The iPhone X has a 2,716mAh battery. Apple promises about 12 hours of use, and it solidly outperforms the Galaxy S9. The battery lives of the upcoming 2018 models are, of course, a mystery at this point.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 price comparison

People threw up their hands in horror at the $999 iPhone X but hardly blinked at the Note 8’s $930 price tag. Well, we get another opportunity this year: the Galaxy Note 9 starts at $999. This includes 128GB of storage. A 512GB version is also available from Samsung at $1250.

The base model iPhone X has 64GB of storage, and there’s a 128GB version too. Whether the 2018 models will include additional capacity is not yet known.

When Apple’s new models launch next month, the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Plus is expected to cost between $900 and $1000. The replacement iPhone X could be cheaper than its predecessor at $800 to $900.

After being unveiled today, the Galaxy Note 9 will hit store shelves August 24.  Of course, the iPhone X is already available. The 2018 iPhone models are anticipated in September.