Apple iPhone XR vs Samsung Galaxy S10e full review

If you have always had iPhones you might be forgiven for not realising that it's ten years since Samsung introduced its first Galaxy mobile phone. Apple celebrated ten years of the iPhone in 2017 with the iPhone X (where X equals 10) and this year Samsung is celebrating ten years of the Galaxy with the S10, S10 Plus and S10e.

In this comparison review we are looking at how the S10e - the cheapest new Samsung phone - compares to the iPhone XR. We'll be pitting the S10 against the iPhone XS and looking at how the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus matches up to the iPhone XS Max in separate articles.

There are some very obvious differences and a few similarities between the two handsets. The S10e is a smaller and lighter handset, rather than a notch it has a small ‘hole punch’ on the right where the camera is located, it features both a finger print scanner and facial recognition, and it has a microSD slot.

Like the iPhone XR it comes in a selection of colour finishes, offers wireless charging and it has two more expensive cousins (the S10 and S10 Plus).

Price and availability

The S10e, like the S10 and S10 Plus, was unveiled at Samsung's Unpacked event on 20 February 2019. It costs £669/$749.

Prices for the XR, which went on sale in Oct 2018, start at £749/$749. You can buy it directly from Apple here or check out our iPhone XR deals article to find out if you can get money off the iPhone XR.

The iPhone XR costs the same up-front, but that model comes with 64GB storage as opposed to the 128GB offered by the S10e (which also allows you to add more storage via a micro SD card slot.

Dimensions and Design

Our colleague at Tech Advisor who saw the new Samsung phones at a pre-briefing said that the build quality of the S10e is basically the same as the other S10 phones , emphasising "it doesn’t feel like a budget phone".

As much as we like the iPhone XR we would say that next to the other X-series iPhones it does look and feel a bit cheaper. Partly because of the LCD screen, partly because of the colour options, although thankfully it’s nothing like the plasticky iPhone 5c.

Speaking of colours, all three new phones in the S10 family come in green, blue, white (shown below) or black. The S10e gets an extra share option of yellow - Canary Yellow in fact.

If you really want a yellow phone then there is a yellow iPhone XR too. The yellow iPhone XR is available alongside white, black, blue, coral and red finishes.

Of course the colour of your handset hardly matters if your phone is going to live inside a protective case so it’s unlikely to be a big part of your decision. (Speaking of which we have a round up of iPhone XR cases here).

Samsung S10e back

As we said earlier the obvious difference between the iPhone XR and the Samsung S10e is the size of the handset and the dimensions of the screen. The S10e is a 5.8in display, while the iPhone XR has a 6.1in display.

In terms of actual screen size though there’s probably not that much of a difference. The Samsung benefits (depending on how you look at it) from the absence of a notch. Instead of a big cut out at the top of the display the S10e has a small hole cut into the screen on the right side of the device, behind which is the camera. We’ll talk a bit more about the camera, and the facial recognition technologies below, but for now we will just allude to there being pros and cons depending on whether or not you have a notch.

Because the S10e is a smaller handset it’s also lighter, which might be considered a bonus if the weight of the handset is important to you. For now, at least, the lightest handset offered by Apple is the iPhone XS at 177g with a 5.8in display (although we are hoping for an iPhone SE2).

Here’s how the dimensions compare:

S10e

  • 142.2 x 69.6 x 7.9mm
  • 150g

iPhone XR

  • 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm
  • 194g

The XR is 0.4mm thicker than the S10e, which is itself 0.1mm thicker than the regular S10.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Display

We’ve already mentioned the size of the display on both phones, but there is more to the display than the diagonal measurement.

The S10e display is different to the displays on the other S10 handsets. It’s a flat display while the others have curved edges. Samsung describes it as a Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED screen.

S10e display

The iPhone XR display is similarly flat, but rather than an AMOLED screen it’s an LCD Multi‑Touch display. Apple describes it as a Liquid Retina HD display and emphasises that it has IPS technology.

iPhone XR display

That’s mostly marketing speak. In terms of how many pixels, the iPhone XR screen is 1,792 x 828 pixels at 326 ppi while the S10e screen is 2,280 x 1,080 pixels at 438ppi. That’s quite a few more pixels, although the idea of the Retina display was always that it was the highest number of pixels your eye could see, so maybe it doesn’t really matter.

Both displays are practically bezel-less, but both displays have bigger bezels than their siblings.

Camera

In terms of rear-side cameras, the S10e has two on the back: a 16MP, ƒ/2.2 lens and a Dual Pixel 12MP, ƒ/1.5 and ƒ/2.4 lens.

The iPhone XR only has one camera on the back, a 12MP, ƒ/1.8 aperture lens - but thanks to software it can create the kind of bokeh images, as highlighted by this Apple advertisement that’s airing right now.

The other S10 phones actually go one better than the S10e and offer three cameras on the back. There are rumours that Apple might offer three cameras on the back of the 2019 iPhone.

On the front of the iPhone XR is the True Depth camera system that is required for Apple’s Face ID technology (and is used to create bokeh-effect images). There is a lot of technology crammed into that notch that should make it nigh on impossible to crack Face ID (although it has been done).

iPhone XR front

That said any iPhone is only as secure as the pin number you use, there’s no point using Face ID and thinking your phone is safe if your pin-code is 0000, because that’s all you need to unlock the phone.

We mention this because the Samsung S10e lacks the True Depth camera that Apple uses to make Face ID secure, but still offers face recognition, although only 2D. Until we have the opportunity to test how well this works we will reserve judgement.

The front-facing camera on the S10e does offer a dual pixel 10MP ƒ/1.9 lens, which compared to the 7MP camera, with ƒ/2.2 lens on the iPhone XR might sound impressive - but there’s all the additional technology inside the front facing camera on the XR which doesn’t just enable Face ID but also makes the selfie bokeh-effect images possible.

S10e front camera

Specs

The S10e ships with either 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, or 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, and there is also the option of using the MicroSD slot up to 512GB.

The iPhone XR comes with either 64GB, 128GB or 256GB memory. Apple doesn’t reveal how much RAM is inside but it’s known to be 3GB.

You might think that this means the Samsung phone has the upper hand in terms of RAM, but we’ve always said that piling in the RAM is only really necessary if you don’t have software that manages memory very well. Apple makes the software and the hardware so you should be able to be confident that there won’t be memory management issues (although we have to say that some times, and with certain apps, you might think things could benefit from a little more RAM).

The processor inside both phones is the same as the processor in their siblings. So, in the case of the S10e we have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and in the iPhone XR we have Apple’s A12 Bionic.

One thing in favour of the Snapdragon 855 is that it’s enabled for the upcoming Wi-Fi 6 technology, aka 802.11ax.

In all the tests to date Apple’s A12 Bionic chip has performed exceptionally well, we’ll have to wait to see how the Snapdragon 855 compares to it.

The battery inside the S10e is 3,100 mAh while the iPhone XR packs a 2,942 mAh battery. Both are capable of wireless charging and fast charging. But only the S10e offers Wireless PowerShare, where you can actually wirelessly charge another device by sitting it on the back of the phone. It doesn’t charge quickly but it could come in handy.

The S10e also boasts a higher water resistance rating than the iPhone XR. IP68 rating compared to IP67. IP68 devices should be able to withstand submersion up to a maximum depth of 1.5m underwater for up to thirty minutes, according to Samsung’s own guidelines, while Apple says that the iPhone XR should be good in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

Finally, we’ll mention the Fingerprint scanner on the S10e, which is incorporated on the power button. Many people have missed the Fingerprint scanner on the iPhone since Apple ditched it in favour of Face ID, this strikes us as a way Apple could have kept both technologies. But do we really need both fingerprint and face identification on a handset?

Software

The last thing to mention is software. If you have always used iOS and you are invested in that operating system and the echo-system around it, then the iPhone option is always going to trump Android.

We have always found iOS the more intuitive operating system to use, but it’s what we are used to. But if you fancy trying out Android then maybe this is the phone to do so on.

If you are an Android user wondering whether to get an iPhone XR you should read our iPhone XR review for more information about why we think that’s the best iPhone you can get right now.

iPhone software

Verdict

Since we haven't been able to fully test the S10e yet we'll hold off on our final verdict for now, but we're interested to see just how impressive it is in real world usage. Can the S10e take the crown from the iPhone XR? Stay tuned.

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