iPhone 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S9
At MWC 2018 Samsung announced its flagship smartphone: the Galaxy S9. But how does this shape up against the iPhone 8, its Apple-designed rival? In this article we compare the two devices for design, build quality, features, tech specs and pricing.
Design & build quality
The S9 and its S9+ cousin sit at the top of Samsung's slate of phones, and consequently have the most eye-catching design; the iPhone 8, on the other hand, was launched in the shadow of the iPhone X and is far more conservative in look.
The S9 has a far more modern screen design, for example: its Infinity display is almost bezel-less, in the same vein as the iPhone X and most top-end phones and phablets currently available. The iPhone 8 has largely the same bezelled design as the iPhone 6 from autumn 2014.
The iPhone 8 is available in gold, silver and Space Grey. There's also a limited edition (PRODUCT)RED version. The Galaxy S9 comes in Coral Blue, Lilac Purple and Midnight Black. (Our colleagues on Tech Advisor believe that a version in Orchid Grey may launch at a later date.)
Looks are a subjective matter, so here are some photos of the two devices so you can make up your own mind which design you like best.
iPhone 8 in pictures
Samsung Galaxy S9 in pictures
So much for what the phones look like. But what can they do? Here are the highlights of their feature sets.
They're both rated at 12Mp (and neither get dual-lens setups, which are confined to their Plus-branded siblings), but the rear-facing cameras on these phones are separated by a range of appealing features - particularly on the S9.
Dual Aperture mode is one highlight: this means the phone automatically adjusts between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the shooting conditions, and should mean better results in both daylight and low light.
The S9's slow-motion video mode (a whopping 960fps) can understandably only be switched on for a short period, which makes it tough to get the shot. This is where the clever auto motion detect mode comes in: this lets you tie the start of the video to movement in a specific part of the shot, such as a balloon popping.
The iPhone 8 has Live Photos, of course, but that's fairly old news.
After the announcement of Apple's silly but fun Animoji feature last autumn, Samsung decided it needed to have something similar.
It's a little different to Animoji, however, sharing only the general brief of 'animated emoji'. These are emoji of human faces, rather than the animals (robots, aliens, turds etc) Apple came up with, and they're specifically intended to be your face: you take a photo of yourself and the system generates an emoji version, plus various set-piece animations, messaging badges and so on.
It's altogether a lot less charming than Apple's efforts, in our view, and we're not alone: the general consensus is that they look a bit, well, creepy. But note that the iPhone 8 doesn't get Animoji, a feature that requires the iPhone X's front-facing sensor array.
Water and dust resistance
Both phones have impressive resistive properties, but Samsung comes out ahead.
The iPhone 8 is rated IP67, almost top marks for handling solid and liquid intrusion: that translates into "dust tight" and resistant against "immersion up to 1m".
But the S9 gets IP68, the highest score commonly given to consumer devices. That equates to "dust tight" and resistant against "immersion beyond 1m".
Let's take a look at the phones' tech specs in more detail.
iPhone 8 tech specs
- A11 Bionic processor chip with 64-bit architecture, Neural engine, Embedded M11 motion coprocessor
- 2GB of RAM
- 64GB or 256GB storage
- 4.7in (diagonal) Retina HD LCD screen, 1334 x 750 resolution at 326ppi, 1400:1 contrast ratio (typical), 625 cd/m2 max brightness (typical), True Tone, 3D Touch
- 12Mp rear-facing camera, ƒ/1.8, Quad-LED True Tone flash, 5x digital zoom, OIS, panorama up to 63Mp, 4K video recording (up to 60fps), slow-mo 120fps or 240fps at 1080p
- 7Mp front-facing camera, ƒ/2.2, 'Retina Flash' screen feature
- 1821 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery, claimed life up to 14 hours (wireless talk time), 12 hours (internet use); fast charge up to 50% in 30 minutes (claimed); wireless charging with Qi-certified chargers
- Touch ID fingerprint scanner in Home button
- 802.11ac Wi‑Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, Lightning port, no headphone port
- Stereo speakers
- IP67 water- and dust-resistant
- iOS 11
- 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm; 148g
Samsung Galaxy S9 tech specs
- Octa-core Exynos 8910 processor chip (4 x 1.7GHz efficiency cores, 4 x 2.7GHz high-speed cores; replaced by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in some markets)
- 4GB of RAM
- 64GB internal storage, plus microSD card slot (up to 400GB)
- 5.8in (diagonal) Quad HD+ Super AMOLED 'Infinity' screen, 2960 x 1440 resolution at 568ppi, 18.5:9
- 12Mp rear-facing camera, f/1.5, OIS, slow-mo 960fps (with auto motion detect)
- 8Mp front-facing camera, f/1.7
- 3,000mAh rechargeable battery (no claims have yet been made for battery life); fast charging via USB-C; wireless charging
- Fingerprint scanner on rear; iris scanner on front
- 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, USB-C, headphone port
- Stereo speakers
- IP68 water- and dust-resistant
- Android 8.0 Oreo
- 148mm x 69mm x 8.5mm; 163g
The Samsung Galaxy S9 falls somewhere between those two stools, at £739/$719.99. It comes with the lower amount of storage (64GB), but bear in mind that onboard storage is less of an issue for it, since it comes with a microSD card slot that allows for removable storage up to 400GB.
These two phones share a sense of mild anticlimax: they are both fairly minor upgrades on their predecessors. But the S9 still feels like it's ahead in a lot of departments.
It has a far larger and near bezel-free screen, better camera features, slightly better water-resistance, and an iris scanner to go with its fingerprint scanner (whereas the iPhone 8 misses out on Face ID).
On the flip side, that fingerprint scanner is on the rear of the device, which we find rather user-unfriendly. And the iPhone 8 is also slimmer, lighter and generally more portable - as you'd expect, we suppose, given its smaller screen. The 8 is £40/$20 cheaper for the same storage allocation (not often we find ourselves saying that about Apple products!) and we prefer iOS as a user experience.