Trends & Guides

Apple iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: The Battle of Two Smartphone Goliaths

28 September 2018 | Jonathan So

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, and now Apple and Samsung… we have been treated to many epic battles throughout history. With the recent release of the iPhone XS Max, Apple looks to cement its position as the best smartphone manufacturer at this day and age. However, the iPhone XS Max faces stiff competition from Samsung’s very own Galaxy Note 9 for the smartphone throne. To see which device will come out tops, let’s proceed to see what both phones bring to the table.

Both phones have large OLED displays, high-end cameras, and powerful processors, hence making this an intense battle. Another similarity that these phones have is their price tag; the iPhone XS and Samsung Note 9 price in Singapore will likely cause you to have shortness of breath, anxiety, and insomnia. #pengsan

Here is a rundown of the key features and specs that both phones offer:


Truth be told, the iPhone XS Max looks like an enlarged version of the iPhone X. This new Apple flagship also comes with a reformulated glass body which is designed to provide enhanced durability. If you are not a fan of the notch, then the Galaxy Note 9 with its Infinity Display might appeal to you more. It looks similar its predecessor, the Note 8, but its back is not as curved.

In terms of the colours available for both smartphones, the iPhone XS Max comes in three colours (gold, space gray, and silver) whereas the Note 9 only has 2 colour options (lavender purple and ocean blue) to choose from. However, the Note 9 has more eye-catching and vibrant hues.

Verdict: Overall, the iPhone XS Max edges over the Note 9 slightly in terms of aesthetics as it has a cleaner and more premium look.


Display-wise, the iPhone XS Max boasts a bigger OLED display at 6.5 inches, compared to the 6.4-inch display on the Samsung Note 9. However, Samsung has always been regarded as the undisputed kings when it comes to smartphone display quality and this recognition is proven true once more. The display panel on the Samsung flagship offers a 2,960 x 1,440p resolution against the 2,688 x 1,242p screen of the iPhone XS Max.

Verdict: Although it is close, the Galaxy Note 9 takes this win as the screen is more colourful and reproduces colours more accurately.


Unfortunately, this is quite a one-sided affair. Its new-and-improved A12 Bionic engine has enabled the iPhone XS Max to set the benchmark in terms of performance speed and stability over the Samsung Note 9 that is operating with the Snapdragon 845 processor. From transitioning between apps to loading games, the iPhone XS Max outperforms the Note 9 and the difference is quite apparent.

Verdict: If Usain Bolt were to be a smartphone, it would undoubtedly be the iPhone XS.


The iPhone XS Max runs on the iOS 12, which is the latest version of Apple’s legendary smartphone operating system. The new interface comes with new and updated features including group messaging, personalized animated avatars – Memoji, and Siri Shortcuts. On the other hand, the Note 9 is still operating on the Android 8.1 Oreo.

Verdict: Another win for Apple. Can Samsung achieve a last-minute comeback?


Both phones are neck-and-neck in the camera department as well. Both phones feature top-of-the-line cameras; the similarities between the two models include:

  • Dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lenses setup
  • 2X optical zoom and 10X digital zoom capability
  • Customizable AR emoji

However, the iPhone XS Max is equipped with a new sensor with larger pixels which translates to greater colour depth and enhanced light-gathering capability. In real-life tests, the iPhone XS Max delivered photos with more and sharper detail, even during the day. However, in low-light conditions, the camera on the Samsung Note 9 was able to deliver brighter photos due to its wider aperture (f/1.5 compared to the f/1.8 aperture on the iPhone XS Max).

Verdict: The iPhone X takes this one as well, as it provides more detailed photos regardless of the lighting conditions.

Battery Life and Charging

The Note 9 houses a massive 4,000mAh battery which is one of the biggest you will find in a smartphone today. This enables the Note 9 to last through a hectic day filled with replying emails, browsing the Web, updating social media, and the occasional game or two. On the other hand, the 3,170mAh battery pack on the XS Max also performs admirably but it still falls behind the Note 9. While the Note 9 comes with a USB-C charger in the box, you’ll need to fork out extra to enjoy the same perk on the XS Max.

Verdict: The Note 9 has just enough horsepower to emerge the victor in this department.

Price and Value

The Note 9 seems to offer better value for your money, and there is a reason why. Its starting price is lower than the iPhone X Max by around SGD$500 which is a considerable amount of money. To put things into perspective, the price you pay for the 128GB variant of the XS Max will enable you to purchase the Note 9 with 512GB storage. Moreover, the Note 9 provides expandable storage while the XS Max doesn’t.

Verdict: Unless you are a crazy rich Asian and money is not really an issue for you, then the Note 9 is a better option for you. But it’s your money, not mine…

To conclude, both phones are excellent flagships with their respective pros and cons. Although the iPhone XS Max fares better in terms of design, performance, OS, and cameras, the Samsung Note 9 put up a good fight and is still a good alternative option.

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