Samsung, Google or Apple: Who had the best flagship in 2018?

Sushant Talwar
Sushant TalwarDec 08, 2018 | 19:41

Samsung, Google or Apple: Who had the best flagship in 2018?

2018's about to come to an end, and if you are planning to buy a premium flagship smartphone, you'd be hard-pressed to choose between all the great options that flood the market currently. 

From Huawei to Samsung and LG, all big smartphone makers currently have worthy options in the segment that promise best in class features and performance along with silken looks to woo potential buyers. 


Yet, the fight for the premium-flagship crown, well and truly, remains restricted to the offerings from the three of the biggest names in the tech industry – Google, Samsung and Apple. 

As such, today, we take a look at Samsung's Galaxy Note 9, iPhone Xs Max and the Pixel 3 XL to figure out which of these devices is the best for you. 

note-91-copy_120818061347.jpgThe Galaxy Note 9 comes sporting a 6.4- inch display. (Photo: DailyO)


First things, first. All three are gigantic phones, and as such, no matter which one you choose, you're not going to find your phone lacking in terms of screen real-estate. 

While the iPhone XS Max has with the largest screen of the three at 6.5-inch, the Galaxy Note 9 and the Pixel 3 XL don't fall too far behind as they come sporting 6.4 and 6.3-inch panels respectively. In terms of paper specs, the three displays also differ slightly when it comes to the kind of panel used and resolution. 

While the Pixel 3 XL comes with a P-OLED display capable of a max resolution of 2960x1440, the Galaxy Note 9 comes with a Super-AMOLED panel running the same resolution. The iPhone Xs Max runs a slightly different resolution – 1242x2688 – on a similar Super-AMOLED technology panel as used on the Galaxy device. 


Away from the paper specs and into the realm of real-world performance, all three phones are a joy to carry out daily tasks and consume multimedia content on. Though all three displays differ slightly in terms of pixel density, texts and images appear equally crisp on all of them. 

The only big differentiating factor here – apart from the absence of the notch on the Galaxy Note 9 when compared to its rivals – is the difference in screen calibration. While the Super-AMOLED panels on the Note 9 and the iPhone Xs Max ensure that the colours feel a bit oversaturated, the p-OLED panels feels a little more accurate. 

Having said that, many users today prefer the vibrancy of a slightly oversaturated panel, and as such, the final choice here depends on the user's preference. 

iphone-xs1-copy_120818061419.jpgThe iPhone Xs Max is the biggest of the three phones.(Photo: Reuters)

Specifications and performance

Now considering that all three are flagship devices, it doesn't come as a surprise that they do not miss a trick when it comes to core specifications. 

Yet, despite the three phones claiming to offer the best in class performance, there does exist some difference when it comes to the raw computing power they can churn out to carry out tasks you throw at them. And, the biggest reason behind this is the use of different chipsets to power the devices. 


While Samsung and Apple use custom in-house solutions in Exynos 9810 and the A12 Bionic SoC, Google's Pixel 3 XL uses Qualcomm's trusted Snapdragon 845 SoC. Now, because of all three devices are optimised quite efficiently, you will find them perform equally well when tasked to handle basic tasks and games. 

However, in synthetic benchmarks, the iPhone Xs Max pulls ahead courtesy of the newer – and faster – 7nm process created silicon, the A12 Bionic SoC. Although Snapdragon 845 and the 9810 are essentially the same SoC, its the Snapdragon chip that takes the lead in this particular race because of its better energy efficiency. 

Another point of difference between the three is the RAM configurations on board. 

While the iPhone Xs Max and the Pixel 3 XL have 4GB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with up to 8GB of RAM. Although this lack of RAM does not bother the Apple phone, the Pixel 3 XL does appear to be a phone that could suffer later because of Google not adding an extra GB or two of RAM on its phone today. 

pixel-3-copy_120818061454.jpegPixel 3 XL arguably has the best camerason a smartphone in 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

Camera performance

To be honest, in terms of optics, all three phones perform exceedingly well.

But again there are slight differences that help differentiate one from the other and help us find a winner – the Pixel 3 XL in this case. 

As far as the specs go, the iPhone Xs Max and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 bring with them dual camera setups that both great at clicking pictures in both low light and well-lit situations. To achieve this, Apple uses a dual-rear camera setup which 12-Megapixel+12-Megapixel sensors with wide f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture lenses. The Galaxy Note 9 also comes with two 12-megapixel sensors at the back, however, these sensors also come with a variable aperture that can be toggled between f/1.5 and f/2.4.

Both these phones also are capable of clicking Portrait shots in which the level of depth effect can be altered after clicking the picture – a feature missing from the Pixel 3 XL. Yet, despite the presence of a single 12.2-megapixel lens, it is the third generation Pixel device, which arguably ends up clicking  – albiet marginally – better-looking portrait shots than the other two phones. 

This is largely because the Pixel 3 XL provides better software powered post-processing and also comes with features such as HDR+ and Night Sight. 

note-92-copy_120818061519.jpgThe Note 9 also packs a bigger battery than its rivals. (Photo: DailyO)


In terms of battery, it's the Galaxy Note 9 which comes with the biggest mAh pack – and as such the best battery performance between the three phones. 

Having said that, the iPhone Xs Max with its 3179 mAh pack and the Pixel 3 XL with the 3430 mAh pack – in comparison to the mammoth 4000 mAh battery on the Galaxy Note 9 – still perform quite well, and promise approximately a days – moderate to heavy – use on a single charge. 

note-98-copy_120818061543.jpgGalaxy Note 9 is also the most affordable of the three flagships. (Photo: DailyO)

Which one should you buy?

Well, to be honest, all three phones are pretty well-rounded devices and as such represent great buys regardless of your eventual choice. Having said that, there is the small matter of the gulf between the price of the three phones that does make matters more interesting. 

Despite being in the same playing field in terms of features and performance, the least expensive variant of the Galaxy Note 9 can be bought for as little as Rs 67,900 – a price that is almost 20k short of what the Pixel 3 XL is being sold for. This gulf in price expands some more when you compare it to the iPhone Xs Max which is currently available for purchase for almost Rs 1,05,000 for its 64GB variant. 

Now considering that the Note 9 comes with more storage and at a lesser price, it becomes clear what the choice is. 

Last updated: December 08, 2018 | 23:14
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