There’s a battle raging out there between the Apple iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, with strong opinions on both sides. As a proud owner of both phones, I want to share my experience and declare a definitive winner.
By way of background, here are key points about this review. First, this commentary focuses on productivity features that matter to business people. If you care mostly about games or other specialized uses, this review will not match your needs. Second, over the years, I have owned many models of both iPhone and Android mobile devices, from phones to tablets, with no allegiance to either platform. Third, I bought the iPhone X while Samsung sent me the Note 8 for free to keep, so bear that in mind as you try to infer bias in either direction.
To figure out which phone is better for business people, I created a scoring framework based on the attributes below. You can see a summary table at the bottom of this article.
A word about scores – READ THIS. I assigned each feature or attribute a score ranging from 0 to 15. Higher score features mean that item is more important, useful, or innovative. For example, Samsung gets a + 1 for the headphone jack, because it’s nice but not that important. Apple gets a + 15 because the Face ID system is both great and important.
To calculate the result, I added up individual scores to create a single summary for each device. That summary reflects both specific features and their practical value to business people.
I ignored future promises, such as augmented reality, because they serve little practical function today. Most business people will not find much use for an animated poop animoji, such as Apple includes with iPhone X, for example.
From a hardware perspective, both phones are beautiful, truly worthy of modern flagship devices. Still, we need to make a choice so let’s compare.
Speed and performance. In practical use, both phones are “fast enough.” The iPhone X has a specialized processor for AI and augmented reality while the Note 8 has more RAM. But, honestly, does it matter? Talk to me about AI processors in the future when AI dominates our lives and AR is useful on a practical level. If you are playing games and trying to coax higher frame rates, then perhaps the differences are important, otherwise no.
Typical business users will find that both phones are great. Scores: Apple +10 and Samsung +10
Physical size. The iPhone X is smaller and fits more easily in a pocket, It’s also easier to use one-handed. With phones, smaller is better, but Samsung makes excellent use of that larger size to include a higher resolution screen. Physical reality means you must trade off overall phone size against screen resolution and screen size. Scores: Apple + 10 and Samsung + 10
Storage expansion. Unlike the iPhone X, the Note 8 offers the ability to use a second SIM card or add storage with a MicroSD card. Strike a blow in favor of Samsung. Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung +3
Power connector. The Note 8 uses an industry standard USB-C power connector, while the iPhone has a Lightning connector. Apple has already made the switch to USB-C in its laptops but keeps the proprietary and expensive Lightning cable for the iPhone. If you have a new MacBook laptop and an iPhone, you must deal with two different power cables, and that just sucks when you travel. Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung +2
Fast charging. Both support fast charging, which allows the phone to gain a fifty percent charge after being connected to the power supply for only thirty minutes. However, Samsung includes everything you need for a fast charge in the box, while Apple forces you to buy a special charger and cable as optional items. Seriously, Apple, did you have to cheap out on a $1,000 phone?? Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung +2
Stylus. The Note 8 has one while the iPhone X does not. If you want to use handwriting, the Note 8 is your choice. Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung + 3
Camera. According to the definitive source for mobile camera testing, DXO Optics, both phones offer best in class cameras. Dig into the details, and you will find each phone has specific strengths and weaknesses, relative to the other, for still photography, telephoto use, and video. Scores: Apple + 10 and Samsung + 10
Headphone jack. The Note 8 has a headphone jack while the iPhone X doesn’t, giving Samsung users more flexibility and choice. Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung + 1
Hardware mute button. The Apple phone has a little switch on the left side that turns off audio; on the Samsung, muting audio requires you to turn on the phone, swipe down from the top, and press the software mute switch. Not a big deal, but the iPhone wins this one. Scores: Apple + 1 and Samsung + 0
Security often requires trade-offs between convenience and protection. Both phones are secure, but Face ID on the iPhone X is a big winner and one of its most compelling features.
Access method – Apple Face ID vs. Samsung fingerprint sensor. To avoid the hassle of entering a password every time you use the phone, the Note 8 has a fingerprint sensor while the iPhone X uses its front-facing camera to recognize your face; Apple calls this Face ID.
Before the iPhone X arrived, I was skeptical that Face ID would work fearing it would be inaccurate and error-prone. I was wrong. In fact, Face ID offers a stunning level of convenience. Face ID is a convenient time-saver and is great. Although not perfect, for example, it can only store one person’s face, Face ID is one of the best features of the iPhone X.
The fingerprint sensor on the Note 8 works extremely well and is fast. Some people have complained about its location, but frankly, that’s just whining so ignore the complainers. Although the Samsung fingerprint sensor does the job, Face ID is better. Scores: Apple + 15 and Samsung + 0
Trust and safety. Both Samsung and Apple are large reputable companies offering sophisticated security to their customers, so this is not an issue on either side. Scores: Apple + 10 and Samsung + 10
The screen matters and both phones offer the business person a great display, although there are differences.
Screen resolution and size. While both screens are outstanding, Samsung offers significantly higher resolution than does the iPhone X. When combined with the larger screen size, the Note 8 offers more territory for reading, checking out maps, and so on. However, the tradeoff, as mentioned earlier, is the larger overall phone size. Whether that makes a difference is purely a personal choice.
Although most reviewers would give higher screen resolution a higher score, in this case I have balanced resolution against larger phone size. In summary, both screens are excellent, so you need to decide based on personal preference. Scores: Apple + 10 and Samsung + 10
Screen quality. Both phones display bright, rich, colors that are fabulous. Scores: Apple + 10 and Samsung + 10
Display calibration and accuracy. The Note 8 has several display modes, with techy names like adaptive, AMOLED cinema, and Basic. I assume those modes do something useful, but I just set the phone to adaptive, which seems the simplest, general-purpose choice. Set to adaptive, the display is beautiful, but whites seem slightly off, and colors pop unnaturally. I’m sure there are settings to address these issues, but stuff like this should work correctly out of the box.
For color accuracy, the iPhone X display is superior to the Note 8. Respected video diagnostics company, DisplayMate, tested the iPhone X, calling the screen:
… superbly accurate, high performance, and gorgeous display, with close to Text Book Perfect Calibration and Performance!!
The iPhone X is the most innovative and high-performance Smartphone display that we have ever tested.
Although the iPhone X has greater color accuracy, the average business person will not find that precision to be especially meaningful. However, if you are a professional photographer or fashion designer using the phone to show your work, then color accuracy is essential and this could be reason enough to choose the iPhone X. But, for us business people, it’s a minor benefit. Scores: Apple + 3 and Samsung + 0
Always-on display. The Note 8 lets you keep a portion of the screen always powered on to show the weather, notifications and other information. It’s a small, but nice, touch. Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung + 1
Software and Ecosystem
Choosing the Apple or Android (Google) ecosystems is a core decision when selecting a phone.
iOS vs. Android. Five years ago, iOS would have easily won this contest. Today, Android is a mature operating system that many people prefer over iOS. I have experienced very few problems finding comparable apps on both platforms. At the same time, iOS still offers a smoother and more consistent experience than Android. Scores: Apple + 10 and Samsung + 8
Keyboard. This one is a very big deal. For those of us cursed with stubby fingers, the extra real estate of the Note 8 means larger keys that are far easier to use than those on the iPhone X. Whether this matters to you is another matter of personal preference (and finger size), but I find the Note 8 to be vastly superior when typing. Scores: Apple + 0 and Samsung + 10
To determine scores, I created the list of business features and then evaluated each phone based on the priority of those features. To my astonishment, the numbers came out almost identical in both cases.
What should you buy? The Note 8 score beats the iPhone X by one point, which means parity between the devices.
For most people, the decision comes down to three factors:
1. Size. Do you want a smaller phone or a larger screen?
2. Ecosystem. Do you prefer Android or iOS?
3. Access method. Face ID offers great convenience over a fingerprint sensor. How important is that to you?
Beyond these points, look at specific features to see what matters most to you. For example, if you are a professional photographer, the better screen calibration on the iPhone X could be your defining feature. On the other hand, if you have fat fingers or bad eyes, the Note 8 will be easier to use.
Personally, I keep going back and forth because both phones are great but different.
(Cross-posted @ ZDNet | Beyond IT Failure Blog)