The battle between super-large, super-premium smartphones has been renewed with the introduction of the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, a phone that's even more sizable than the jumble of words that comprise its title.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is essentially a newer version of the iPhone XS Max, bundling in a load of small upgrades while keeping mostly the same overall form. Given how much we loved last year's phone, that's a very good thing.
However, the competition is stiffer than ever, and Samsung is always a key rival. Can the iPhone 11 Pro Max beat the Samsung Galaxy S10+ in a head-to-head battle? Here's what we think for now, based on the specs, and we'll update this with a final verdict once we post our iPhone 11 Pro Max review.
Design: They're beauties
The name of the game right now is minimizing bezel, the black space around the screen, and Apple and Samsung have very different ways of attacking that challenge.
Apple's approach, of course, is to put a fat notch atop the screen – but to have completely uniform, slim bezel elsewhere all around the display. It's a strong approach overall, and the initially imposing notch stops being a distraction pretty much immediately. And apps and games have had plenty of time to be updated to work around the notch by now.
On the other hand, Samsung opted to poke a hole in the screen for the front-facing camera – and on the Galaxy S10+, it's a double-wide hole. It's a little bit awkward, but ultimately not problematic. And the resulting nearly-all-screen face is a delight. Both ways work well.
It's all glass on the back here, with Samsung going a little flashier (depending on colour choice) and Apple a bit more subdued. Pick your pleasure here.
Screen: Large and in charge
Both of these phones give you plenty of screen real estate, with the Galaxy S10+ screen at 6.4in and the iPhone 11 Pro Max a tiny smidge larger at 6.5in.
The S10+ has the edge on resolution, with a QHD+ screen at 3040x1440, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max arrives at 2688x1242. We couldn't really tell a difference in clarity between the iPhone XS Max's screen and QHD+ panels, so we're guessing that'll hold true again.
In fact, Samsung made the iPhone XS and XS Max panels, so chances are pretty good that they're behind the iPhone 11 Pro Max ones as well. In any case, the Galaxy S10+ screen is absolutely brilliant – one of the best around – and we expect the iPhone 11 Pro Max's screen to be extremely close in quality.
Camera: Super shooters
Apple has finally gotten on the triple-camera train with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which adds an ultra-wide 12MP sensor alongside the 12MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto sensors from before.
That's very similar to the 12MP/12MP/16MP cameras on the Galaxy S10+, although Samsung also has a depth-sensing fourth camera on the back. That kind of setup makes the Galaxy S10+ an incredibly versatile camera capable of snapping super shots, and we suspect the iPhone 11 Pro Max will do about the same.
Apple has made some lofty claims during its presentation about enhanced Smart HDR, neural processing, and a long-awaited Night Mode – not to mention the quality of its 4K shooting. But we'll have to see whether it bests Samsung's setup once they're side-by-side.
Performance: Power to the Max
Apple's A12 Bionic processor from last year's phones beat the Galaxy S10+'s Exynos 9820 chip in Europe, not to mention the S10+'s Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip in the States. So yes, in terms of raw benchmark numbers, it's pretty obvious that the iPhone 11 Pro Max's new A13 Bionic chip will widen that gap further.
In terms of everyday usage, however, the Android 9-packing Galaxy S10+ feels super fast and capable, just like the iOS 13-toting iPhone 11 Pro Max will be. Both should be able to handle any game, app, or task thrown their way.
Battery and perks: Questions remain
We're very curious to see how the battery battle shakes out. Apple is promising up to five more hours of uptime with the iPhone 11 Pro Max over the iPhone XS Max, with up to 20 total hours of video playback.
Samsung doesn't offer stats like that, but the Galaxy S10+'s beefy 4,100mAh makes it a pretty sturdy one-day phone even with heavy games or media usage – although it's not built for much more than a day.
Both phones give you wireless charging, but only the Galaxy S10+ has the PowerShare "reverse wireless charging" for topping up wireless earbuds on the back of the phone… or maybe a mate's nearly-depleted handset. Thankfully, Apple is finally including a fast charger with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, just like Samsung has done with its phones for ages now.
In terms of storage, this is a clear win for Samsung. Apple still doesn't support external storage, so you get either 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB of space depending on which model you buy. The Galaxy S10+, meanwhile, is sold with either 128GB, 512GB, or 1TB inside, and then you can augment it further with cheap microSD cards.
Initial verdict: It'll be close
This one's tricky, and we can't make a proper call until we've reviewed the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
That said, we gave last year's iPhone XS Max a better score than the Galaxy S10+, which is impressive but had a few bugs and deficiencies right out of the gate. Barring any major issues with the iPhone 11 Pro Max that weren't in the last model, it should be the clear winner… right?
We'll see. Apple has jacked up the price further to £1,149, which only puts a larger gap between that and the £899 Galaxy S10+. Neither phone is for the frugal, of course, but £250 is nothing to shrug at.
In any case, we're excited to spend more time with the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max and see how this all shakes out. Check back soon for our final take.