Apple unveiled the iPhone 11 Pro in September 2019 (alongside the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max), and the phone is a beauty – even if, new cameras aside, little has changed on the outside since the release of the iPhone X in 2017.
But it’s undeniably the best iPhone yet – so how does it stack up to the Samsung Galaxy S10? Yes, the latter has been surpassed by the Samsung Galaxy S20, but it's still a very powerful flagship with a spot on our best Android phones list and good competition for Apple's best.
Both the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10 are incremental upgrades on their predecessors, though that still makes them some of the best phones available. In features and price, they’re certainly two of the top flagship phones of 2019. And as one has been replaced and the other soon to suffer the same fate, their prices will only continue to drop, only further adding to the value available.
But what sets them apart? We've broken down a comparison into key categories to see how these top devices measure up. Wondering which has the better display? Curious which packs a better suite of cameras? We’ve got you covered.
iPhone 11 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10 design
As far as design, both phones look much like their predecessors. The Samsung Galaxy S10’s ‘Infinity Edge’ bent display and camera arrangement are one style, while the iPhone 11 Pro is a round-edged rectangle. The Samsung enjoys a 6.1 inch screen, while the iPhone 11 fits a 5.8 inch panel, both are so similar in size on this front that each is a good choice where one-handed operation is a consideration.
The iPhone adopts the ‘unibrow’ notch containing various infrared Face ID sensors for a touchless unlock, while the Galaxy S10 has a hole-punch camera and no such secure functionality baked in - though a Face Unlock option is available.
On the rear, the situation becomes a little different. Though both manufacturers are clearly inspired by a particular blend of functional, utilitarian industrial design, the camera clusters offer a little differentiation. The Galaxy 10 adopts a continuous line for all of its sensors to inhabit, while the iPhone goes for something a little more reminiscent of a stove-top. Both are iconic in their way, but any decision between the two will definitely be a matter of personal preference.
iPhone 11 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10 display
The iPhone 11 Pro’s 5.8-inch OLED screen looks sharper than ever, and it’s even got a new marketing-approved name, 'Super Retina XDR'. Sadly, those early rumors were correct: Apple has kept the notch, which looks larger than ever in a year where phonemakers strained to give users more and more screen.
As for the Samsung Galaxy S10, the front-facing camera has been reduced to a single punch-hole in the top right of the display, while the fingerprint node on the back has been eliminated in favor of an in-screen sensor.
It’s more attractive than a notch, and the best compromise this side of workarounds like pop-up cameras or exposing lenses by sliding down the front screen.
Overall, this is an OLED vs OLED battle, and though the resolution figures differ, they by in large look great. The Samsung Galaxy S10’s 1,440 x 3,040 pixels are bigger than the 1,125 x 2,436 pixels in the iPhone 11 Pro - which makes sense, given the former has a bigger screen than the latter.
Telling the difference between the two is a fools game, these are both some of the best panels available at any price point. Both boast excellent colour reproduction, strong brightness and contrast and are excellent for almost any use-case.
iPhone 11 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10 camera
Adding more lenses to the mix is a new trend for smartphones which is unlikely to disappear. Nary a device today arrives without at least a ‘Quad-AI camera’ sticker attached.
Both the Galaxy S10 and iPhone 11 Pro arrive with a trio of cameras attached. Each has a similarly sized primary 12MP sensor, though only the Samsung sports a variable aperture, with telephoto and wide-angle sensors in tow.
Performance from both is at a flagship level, at every level of zoom, difference between the two will largely be subjective to a preference in photo style. Apple tends toward more natural colors and warmer hues, while Samsung amps up the sharpness and contrast in its images, each tends to a different preference in taste.
Both have night modes, though in testing we found Apple’s to be a little more consistent in its capabilities, even if the Samsung proved to be no slouch.
With such a large variety of lenses on offer, there isn’t a situation that either device will be unable to cope with.
Video capture on both is good and detailed, and will be more than enough for most use cases.
iPhone 11 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10 performance
The iPhone 11 Pro packs the new A13 chipset, making it the fastest iPhone yet. At its September ‘19 launch event, Apple said this is the fastest chip ever in a smartphone. As in every device since the iPhone X, expect this chip to power the new handset’s AR and AI capabilities to new heights.
In general use, it has proven to be among the nippiest handsets we have ever gotten our hands on - though there isn’t anything in the App Store which can trouble a modern handset. Expect the performance overhead to be used by Apple in years to come to help absorb the hit of OS upgrades, the iPhone 11 Pro will receive these for some years to come. Samsung will offer a shorter software version support window for the Galaxy S10.
The iPhone 11 Pro also comes with another mystery chip - the U1. Its Ultra Wideband tech allows the handset to find other devices packing the same chip. This has been interpreted as a reference to the Apple Tags tracking tiles, which went unmentioned at the September event - but in any case, it’s additional tech that lets devices running on the cohesive iOS ecosystem to play even nicer with each other. A use case for this has yet to be debuted.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 packs either the Snapdragon 855 chip in the US or the Exynos 9820 in the rest of the world - both powerful processors, and the best you can get in an Android phone outside of the new, expensive Snapdragon 865. Despite the relative age of this older chipset it still packs enough of a punch to offer flawless performance.
Given that neither of these devices are 5G-capable, they’re mostly going neck-and-neck for processing and streaming media via mundane networks. In a showdown, we'll end up seeing Apple’s new chip edge out the Snapdragon 855 (the A12 chip was more powerful than the 855 in some tests), but it doesn’t much matter: both are capable and fast enough to play games and watch TV shows.
iPhone 11 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10 battery
Apple didn’t announce the iPhone 11 Pro’s specific battery capacity - but it never does. A previous estimate put the iPhone XS battery at 2,658mAh, and rumors pegged the new handset at 15% larger (or more).
And with the improvements to the display technology in the 11 Pro and the new, more-efficient chipset we found that the handset has more than enough juice to make it to the end of most days, if not into the next as well.
Officially, Apple claims the iPhone 11 Pro gets four more hours of battery life than the iPhone XS, which is a big jump.
The handset also swaps out its tired 5W charger for an 18W plug in the box, which Apple claims will juice up the new phone by 50% in 30 minutes. The wall adapter portion uses USB-C while the new iPhone sticks with Lightning. The added charging capacity makes quick top-ups in hairy situations all the easier and is much appreciated.
The Galaxy S10 doesn’t exceed the battery life of the iPhone 11 Pro, even if it has a slightly larger battery pack. It’s faster charger proves to be enough of an edge to push it through however. That said, the S10 does have an edge in utility: it can charge other devices wirelessly through its Wireless PowerShare feature (elsewhere called Reverse Wireless Charging). This is useful for charging the likes of the Galaxy Buds, or offering a friend a top-up when in need.
The iPhone 11 Pro is the most refined Apple phone yet, as much as the Galaxy S10 is the among the best versions of Samsung's line. Which is as much to say that neither have made great strides ahead of their predecessors, but they’re the top choices available for each series if you don't want to go 'Plus' or 'Max'.
It’s tough to pick a favorite between the two - and not just because we’ve had so little time with the iPhone 11 Pro. The differences coming to iOS 13 and Android 10 have divvied these phones up even more than they seem after pitting their specs against each other.
But it’s also clear that both phones have pivoted to becoming camera powerhouses, with a similar spread of main, telephoto and now ultra-wide lenses. If you want a handset to last you years, well, either will do you fine - clearly, no phones are introducing must-own features to pull ahead of the competition anytime soon.
Each device is a compelling option in its own right, and among the best choices for its respective operating system. But with the customary depreciation in full swing, the Galaxy S10 offers almost as much phone as the iPhone 11 Pro for a much lower price point, and should be a strong consideration for most.
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Sean is a Scottish technology journalist who's written for the likes of T3, Trusted Reviews, TechAdvisor and Expert Reviews.