Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. iPhone 11 Pro: Which should you buy?

iPhone 11 Pro night mode
iPhone 11 Pro night mode (Image credit: iMore)

The iPhone 11 line was a recalibration for Apple — it made the iPhone 11 the "standard" iPhone and formalized the premium tier as the "pro" option. Samsung looks to be following a similar strategy this spring with the launch of the S20 line, where the S20 may be considered the baseline or "standard" Galaxy device. However, just as the iPhone 11 wasn't a basic phone, the Samsung S20 is no entry-level gadget; instead, it matches up quite nicely against the smaller premium iPhone 11 Pro. Just how well does it compare? Let's take a closer look.

Spec showdown

Even though these are two of the cheaper premium flagships from Samsung and Apple, they are by no means inexpensive. A quick look at the specs shows just what $1,000 buys you with these leading smartphone manufacturers.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Apple iPhone ProSamsung Galaxy S20
Operating SystemiOS 13.3.1Android 10
One UI 2.0
2436 x 1125
Dynamic AMOLED
Quad HD+
ProcessorApple A13 BionicQualcom Snapdragon 865
Expandable StorageUp to 1TB
5GNon Standalone (NSA)
5G Sub-6
Rear Camera 112MP wide
f/1.8 aperture
12MP wide
f/1.8 aperture
Rear Camera 212MP telephoto
f/2.0 aperture
2x zoom
64MP telephoto
f/2.0 aperture
Rear Camera 312MP ultra-wide
f/2.4 aperture
120° field of view
12MP ultra-wide
f/2.2 aperture
Front Camera12MP selfie camera
f/2.2 aperture
10MP selfie camera
f/2.2 apreture
AudioStereo speakersStereo speakers
Headphone Jack
Charging PortLightingUSB-C
Battery Size3046mAh4,000mAh
Charging Speed18W wired charging
Fast Wireless Charging
25W wired charging
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Reverse ChargingWireless Powershare
SecurityFace IDUltrasonic, in-display fingerprint scanner
Face recognition
Water ResistanceIP68IP68
Dimensions71.4 x144 x 8.1mm69.1 x 151.7 x 7.9mm

Apple's advantages

iPhone 11 Pro night mode

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The iPhone 11 Pro came out in September, as iPhones traditionally do, but it's still one of the best smartphones on the market. While the hardware and software design language didn't change that drastically, it dramatically improved over the iPhone XS in the areas it was most lacking in — battery life and camera quality.

The iPhone 11 Pro improved where it mattered most: camera quality and battery life.

Even though the battery size improvement wasn't huge, the iPhone 11 Pro saw significant performance gains with the battery thanks to the improved SOC architecture of the A13 Bionic and software optimizations in iOS 13. In fact, the iPhone 11 Pro purportedly gets up to four additional hours compared to the iPhone XS!

The iPhone XS' cameras received mixed reviews, and most had phones like the Pixel 3 and Huawei's flagship phones outperforming it, particularly in low-light situations. However, with the introduction of a third wide-angle camera and enhancements to their machine learning and image processing, Apple catapulted to the top of the smartphone photography heap (or at least near the top) in just one generation, leaving phones like the S10 and Note 10 series in the dust. The iPhone 11 Pro's night mode is excellent, and its video recording and stabilization still top in this space. Plus, creative professionals are finding all kinds of uses for the camera array, including utilizing multiple cameras for advanced filming situations.

Let's also not forget some of the features that make the Apple ecosystem so hard for iPhone fans to consider leaving, such as AirDrop, iMessage, Memoji, and Slofees (I hate myself for even typing that last word). Plus, Apple regularly updates iOS both with security patches and feature enhancements, often for as long as five years. Samsung is certainly no stranger to "fun" gimmicks itself, but it looks to have addressed at least one of these killer iPhone features with its version of AirDrop called Quick Share. It remains to be seen just how this new feature will compare, but I, for one, look forward to seeing my colleagues put it through its paces.

Galaxy's goodies

Galaxy S20

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

By all accounts, the S10 family of smartphones was very well-received. Even after almost a full year of use, our colleagues over at Android Central still called the line the Best Android Phone you could buy. Despite the strong showing of the S10 series, there was still plenty of room to grow for Samsung to do with its newest flagships. Thankfully it seems like we've got just about everything we'd asked for in the S20, at least at first glance.

Samsung has always been well-known for having the best displays in the business, but with other OEMs like OnePlus, Razer, and Google offering screens with 90Hz and even 120Hz refresh rates, it was time for Samsung to step up. The S20 line does, in fact, sport screens with 120Hz refresh rates at a time when the best from Apple is still stuck on 60Hz.

The best display in the business gets even better with the S20.

Speaking of that gorgeous display, the screen-to-body ratio is over 90%, compared to the iPhone 11 Pro's 83%. That may not look like a sizeable numerical difference, but you can feel a more immersive experience thanks to Samsung's Infinity O display versus the iPhone's notch.

Samsung phones are usually spec beasts, and the S20 is no exception here. It offers an insane 12GB of RAM compared to the iPhone 11 Pro's 4GB, though Apple devices are known for getting the most out of their hardware and software integration. The S20 features 128GB of storage out of the box, which you can expand up to 1TB via a microSD card. Now there's a point for Samsung and Android, as expandable storage is something you'll probably never get with an iPhone.

Last, but certainly not least, we come to chipsets and operating systems. Of course, Apple's A13 Bionic is a monster of a SOC that has embarrassed many an Android flagship on various benchmark tests, but the new series of Qualcomm Snapdragon 865s are poised for power as well. Plus, the 865s has 5G compatibility baked into the chip, which is something we're not sure we'll see even in the iPhone 12 series in 2020. iOS 13 has been riddled with bugs since the betas were first released, but Android 10 has been surprisingly stable. Also, Android Central has given Samsung's One UI 2 good marks and other reviewers for its stability and features.

Brass tacks

iPhone 11 Pro hero

iPhone 11 Pro hero (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

What it all boils down to is that these are two impressive smartphones. There likely aren't going to be too many who are seriously tempted to jump from one ecosystem to the other, much less one device to the other. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating exercise to see how these industry-leaders continue to drive the other forward towards making beautiful, functional and even exceptional devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is a superb Android smartphone. Still, If you're an Apple devotee who is comfortable in the Apple ecosystem and is looking for the best possible mobile experience, then you won't be disappointed by the iPhone 11 Pro.

Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.