This year’s marathon of smartphones releases has entered its final stretch, with Apple seeing increased competition for its enviable market share. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9, released in August at the beginning of the season, attempts to woo savvy users by cramming laptop specs into a handset. Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 3, released earlier this month, leverages the power of A.I. to make its great camera even better. But will that sort of competition be enough to loosen Apple’s grip?
As of July, Apple dominated 40 percent of the American market, with second-place Samsung coming in at 25 percent, according to Counterpoint data.
For those embedded in the Apple ecosystem, picking up an iPhone XS Max might be a no-brainer. But when Apple has settled for an “S” Year, all of the Android heavy-hitters have come out swinging with specialized smartphones and features that might just give Apple’s triad a run for their money.
Best Smartphones 2018: iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR
This year, Apple debuted a roster of iPhone X’s doppelgängers. The iPhone XS is the identical size of the X with improved internals, while the XS Max touts a display that is 0.7-inches larger diagonally. Both have notched, OLED screens with facial recognition capabilities. A newly introduced A12 chip offers powerful and efficient processing power. The XS starts at $999 and XS Max at $1,099.
The XR is the budget-friendly version of the three, but don’t expect a slower phone stuck with last year’s specs. Even though the XR starts at $749, it packs the A12 chip, capable of 5 trillion operations per second, compared to the A11 chip’s 600 billion. Apple chose to downgrade the hardware of the phone to make it slightly more affordable. Instead of an OLED screen, the XR comes with a 6.1-inch LCD screen and it houses a single, 12-megapixel rear camera compared to the dual setup of the XS and XS Max.
Across the board, a lot has stayed the same. In fact, playing back the announcement could make it seem like it was more about the chip than anything else. This makes the XS, XS Max, and XR ideal for Apple users who have been waiting to upgrade for a few years now.
Still rocking the 6S? Any of these phones will blow you away. But if you picked up the X, it might be worth waiting another cycle or two or risk suffering from tech déjà vu.
Best Smartphones 2018: Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note 9
Samsung unveiled a treasure trove of smartphones this year, but the S9, S9+, and Note 9 were the company’s answer to Apple’s lineup. The S9 and its larger variant came out early in 2018 as an appetizer for the Note 9 announcement in the summer.
Starting at $720 and $840, the S9 and S9+ come with specs and features akin to those of the iPhones. The S9 has a 5.8-inch OLED display, just like the XS, and the S9+ has a 6.2-inch screen, which is slightly smaller than the XS Max.
The S9 comes with one rear camera, while the S9+ has two. Both are capable of 12 MP, exactly like Apple’s releases. The only difference is that the S9 and S9+ have an 8 MP selfie cam, while all of the iPhones are 7 MP. The Note 9 takes all of these features and levels them up with stellar use of hardware.
Samsung’s answer to the XS Max, has a 6.4-inch OLED screen, a Bluetooth enabled stylus, and can hold up to 1-terabyte of storage capacity. This perfectly complement’s the company’s “DeX” feature, which enables users to plug their phone into a monitor and use it as a handheld PC. Designers can use it as a small sketch tablet and photographers can take over 100,000 before having to move images to another drive.
The Note 9 starts at $999 and is best suited for the smartphone power user. Its 4000 mAh battery is the largest out of any of the previously mentioned phones, at almost double the milliamp hours of the iPhone XS. This gives it the ability to become an all-in-one tool for productivity, creativity, and communication without worrying about running out of juice.
Best Smartphones 2018: Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
The dark horses in all of this are the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. Google has struggled to compete against Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market simply because the Mountain View firm is a software company before anything else. But this has proven to be its biggest asset.
Google has meshed its A.I. prowess into every aspect of its new flagship handsets. The phones both only come with a single, 12.2 MP rear camera, but machine learning makes for the even more stunning images compared to last year’s Pixel 2. They can use the Google Assistant to screen a suspicious call to weed out if its spam or not. Finally, the camera comes with integrated Google Lens capabilities letting users Google items by simply pointing their camera at them.
These are just three of the most notable A.I. enabled features, but there are an array of more subtle details that could give the Pixel 3 and 3 XL the spot for best software experience of the year. That’s due to the fact that Google makes the Android operating system that powers many smartphones worldwide.
In terms of hardware, the 3 XL will have the most notable difference in the form of its loathed, top notch. It comes with a 6.3-inch OLED display compared to the 5.5-inch screen of the Pixel 3. The chassis of both phones have stayed pretty similar to its predecessors with the exception of the fogged-glass finish on the back panel.
The Pixel 3 starts at $799 and the 3 XL comes in at $899 and are perfect for the Android purist. If you want to make sure you have the latest, greatest, and unadulterated Android experience then pick up the phone from the company that is making it.