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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs Apple iPhone XS Max: Which is right for you?

We compare the two top current flagship smartphones from Samsung and Apple: the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and the iPhone XS Max.

Published onAugust 10, 2019

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Aura Glow back at angle 2

The newly announced Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the latest top-of-the-line flagship handset in the Note family. It has lots of high-end features, including a huge screen, plenty of RAM and onboard storage, an embedded stylus, and much more.

How does the Note 10 Plus compare to the current flagship phone from Samsung’s biggest rival? Let’s compare the specs and price of the Note 10 Plus with the Apple iPhone XS Max.

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is almost as large as the Galaxy S10 5G, which was first released just a few months ago in May 2019. Design-wise, its bezels are smaller compared to the older Note 9 phone, with a huge screen-to-body ratio. Its front-facing camera uses the popular punch hole design to add even more display space to the phone. The screen itself is a huge 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O display with 498ppi and a resolution of 3,040 x 1,440.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus specs: Two steps forward, one step back

Inside the Note 10 Plus, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor for the U.S. version, and Samsung’s own Exynos 9825 chip for other international markets. The Note 10 Plus has a massive 12GB of RAM and onboard storage options of either 256GB or 512GB. It even comes with a microSD card slot for adding even more storage.

The Note 10 Plus has four rear cameras — an ultra-wide 16MP sensor (f/2.2) with a 123-degree field-of-view, a wide-angle 12MP camera (f/1.5-f/2.4, OIS), a 12MP telephoto lens (f/2.1, OIS), and a VGA “DepthVision” camera (f/1.4). It has a single 10MP front-facing selfie camera.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10: Haters gonna hate
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus charging port and s pen

The Note 10 Plus’ other hardware features include an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, an IP68 rating, and a way to access Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby directly from its power button.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a member of the Note family without the embedded S Pen stylus. It adds handwritten note-taking functionality to the Note 10 Plus, along with Air Actions, a feature first found on the Galaxy Tab S6 tablet. You can even connect the Note 10 Plus to a Windows PC with a USB cable and use its Dex desktop mode if you want to do some serious work on the phone.

The Note 10 Plus has a 4,300mAh battery that supports Qi-based 15W wireless charging, and 45W fast charging if you get the optional Superfast Charge adapter. It also supports Samsung’s Wireless Powershare so you can wirelessly charge other supported smartphones and devices with the phone.

It has stereo speakers onboard, but the Note 10 Plus lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack.

iPhone XS Max in man's hand against a white backdrop.
Apple and Samsung will continue to be Blackberry's biggest challengers in the enterprise market.

In Apple’s corner, the iPhone XS Max has a smaller AMOLED 6.5-inch display with a resolution of 2,688 x 1,242. The screen’s corners are more curved than what you’ll find on the Note 10 Plus, but it also has a much larger notch on top for its selfie cameras. The iPhone XS Max has a mere 4GB of RAM, but more storage options: 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. However, it lacks a microSD card so there’s no way to add more storage to Apple’s handset.

The iPhone XS Max includes Apple’s in-house A12 Bionic chip, and it uses its front-facing cameras with Face ID technology to unlock the phone. Of course, it has its own Siri digital assistant, as well as an IP68 rating. It lacks an embedded stylus, and there’s no Dex-like functionality like you will find on Samsung’s phone.

Like the Note 10 Plus, the iPhone XS Max has stereo speakers, but no a 3.5mm headphone jack.

iPhone XS Max camera review: An easy-to-use camera that won't fail (or amaze) you
iPhone XS Max closeup on camera module and Apple logo

The Apple iPhone XS Max has a much smaller 3,174mAh battery with wired support for only 15W. It also supports Qi-based wireless charging. It also has two 12MP rear cameras. The primary sensor has a wide-angle f/1.8 aperture while there’s a telephoto f/2.4 lens on the secondary sensor. On the front of the phone, there’s a 7MP primary camera. There’s also a TOF 3D camera on the front for the phone’s Face ID feature.

The Note 10 Plus is, as you might expect, a highly expensive phone, with a starting price of $1,099 for the 256GB version. The iPhone XS Max is also a pricey phone. In fact, it starts at the same price as the Note 10 Plus.

Another big difference between the two phones is that Samsung plans to release a version of the Note 10 Plus this year with 5G support. The iPhone XS Max does not have 5G, and Apple is not likely to release 5G iPhones until at least the fall of 2020. On the other hand, 5G network support in the U.S. will be spotty, to say the least, for a while, so ultimately this won’t be a huge factor when buying a phone this year.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 PlusApple iPhone XS Max
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
Apple iPhone XS Max
6.5-inch AMOLED
2,688 x 1,242 resolution
458 ppi
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Global: Samsung Exynos 9825
U.S.: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Apple iPhone XS Max
Apple A12
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Apple iPhone XS Max
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
microSD card slot
UFS 3.0
Apple iPhone XS Max
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Ultra-wide: 16MP sensor, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 123-degree field-of-view
Wide-angle: 12MP sensor, Dual Pixel autofocus, ƒ/1.5+ƒ/2.4 apertures, OIS, 77-degree field-of-view
Telephoto: 12MP sensor, ƒ/2.1 aperture, OIS, 45-degree field-of-view
Depth Vision camera: VGA, ƒ/1.4 aperture, 72-degree field-of-view

10MP sensor, Dual Pixel autofocus, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 80-degree field-of-view
Apple iPhone XS Max
Wide angle 12MP sensor, ƒ/1.8 aperture
Telephoto 12Mp sensor, ƒ/2.4 aperture

7MP sensor, ƒ/2.2 aperture
TOF 3D sensor
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Apple iPhone XS Max
IP rating
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Apple iPhone XS Max
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Android 9 Pie
Samsung One UI
Apple iPhone XS Max
iOS 12.4
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm
Apple iPhone XS Max
157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs Apple iPhone XS Max: And the winner is…

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Aura Glow back at angle

In terms of specs, the Note 10 Plus beats the iPhone XS Max in pretty much every way. It has a bigger display with a huge screen-to-body ratio, more RAM onboard, a larger battery that charges faster (if you get an optional charger), and you can add more storage to it with a microSD card. The S Pen is also a big plus for Samsung’s phone if you want to make some handwritten notes. Finally, the starting price tag for the Note 10 Plus is the same as the iPhone XS Max, but you get 256GB of storage for that $1,099 price on Samsung’s phone, compared to just 64GB of storage for Apple’s flagship smartphone

If you have the cash, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the phone to snap up.

The only major issue we can identify with the Note 10 Plus is that Samsung takes a fairly long time to update its phones with the latest Android versions. It will ship with Android 9 Pie, but don’t expect this phone to get the next big Android OS upgrade, which is due to roll out very soon, for at least several months. The iPhone XS Max has already updated from its original iOS 12 to iOS 12.4 since it launched in late September 2018, and will likely get iOS 13 immediately when Apple rolls it out this fall.

If you crave regular software updates on your phone above all else, the iPhone XS Max is the flagship smartphone to buy. If you are willing to overlook Samsung’s slow OS updates and you have the cash, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the phone to snap up.

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