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Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Which phone should you buy?

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11
(Image credit: Future)

Apple and Samsung have very different definitions of entry-level flagship phones. The iPhone 11 starts at $699, while the Galaxy S20 starts at $999, but there will be plenty of shoppers who will want help deciding which is the best phone for them.

The iPhone 11 enters this contest with a less robust display than the Galaxy S20 (LCD vs OLED). Plus, the Galaxy S20 has 5G connectivity while the iPhone 11 makes due with 4G. However, the iPhone 11 is no slouch, as it offers a powerful A13 Bionic processor, long battery life and great cameras of its own.

Our Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11 face-off will help you make sense of all the differences between these two premium smartphones.

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Specs

iPhone 11Galaxy S20
Starting Price$699$999
Display (resolution)6.1-inch LCD (1792 x 828)6.2-inch OLED (3200 x 1440)
CPUA13 BionicSnapdragon 865
RAM4GB12GB
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB
MicroSD?NoYes, up to 1TB
Rear cameras12-MP wide and 12-MP ultra wide12MP main, 64MP 3x optical telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide
Front camera12MP10MP
Battery3,110 mAh4,000 mAh
Dimensions5.94 x 2.98 x 0.34 inches5.9 x 3 x 0.31 inches
Weight6.8 ounces5.7 ounces

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Price and availability

The Apple iPhone 11 is currently on sale at all your favorite stores and cell carriers, while the Samsung Galaxy S20 will be available to preorder on February 21, and will then ship to customers and hit store shelves on March 6.

The price of an iPhone 11 starts at $699/£699 for 64GB storage, and maxes out at $849/£849 for 256GB storage, with the 128GB coming in the middle at $749/£749.

The Galaxy S20 comes in a single storage variant (128GB) which costs $999, a $350 difference compared to the equivalent iPhone 11. That’s a big price gap that may put a lot of people off the Samsung phone instantly, but there are some good reasons why spending the extra money could be worth it, as you'll see below.

It's worth adding that there are two other, larger versions of the Galaxy S20 available for sale: the 6.7-inch, $1,199 Galaxy S20 Plus and 6.9-inch, $1,399 Galaxy S20 Ultra. Likewise, Apple also offers the 5.8-inch, $999 iPhone 11 Pro and 6.5-inch, $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro Max.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Design

Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, but there are some objective things we can point out about the designs of these two phones.

Both phones are of a similar size, with the Galaxy S20 featuring a 6.2-inch screen and the iPhone 11 a 6.1-inch display. However, the punch-hole of the Galaxy S20 means the screen feels a lot larger than the notched one on the iPhone 11; the camera is less obtrusive if you’re trying to watch a video or play a game.

On the back, both phones have a large camera bump in the top left corner, but are made with different design philosophies. Apple’s tried to make the bump blend in by making it the same color as the body of the phone, while Samsung has colored the inside of the bump in black, meaning you can’t miss the presence of the rear sensors no matter which color option you choose.

Speaking of color choice, there’s six different options for the iPhone 11, including white and black for the traditionalists, and green, yellow, purple and Product Red for those looking for something more striking. The S20 has three colors — Cloud Pink, Cloud Blue and Cosmic Gray. It’s a smaller selection, but at least it still covers the two basic categories of subtler and louder hues. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Display

As mentioned before, the two phones have roughly equivalent screen sizes; 6.1 inches for the iPhone, 6.2 inches for the S20. However, the S20 has an OLED display, while the iPhone 11 makes do with LCD. That will in theory make the S20's panel far more visually striking, though the iPhone may still have the upper hand in terms of brightness.

Also giving the S20 an advantage is its 120Hz refresh rate, making videos look smoother and scrolling feel completely different to how it is on the 60Hz iPhone screen. This 120Hz mode will unfortunately come with the downside of a lower resolution to conserve battery life, but just having the option is still a mark in favor of the S20 in this category.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Cameras

This is an area where the S20 really starts to justify its extra cost. On the back of the S20, you’ll find a 12MP main sensor, a 64MP 3x telephoto zoom sensor and a 12MP ultra-wide sensor. The iPhone 11 sports a 12MP main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide camera — meaning that while it matches the quality of the S20’s normal and wide photos on paper, it can’t compete at all for zoom pictures, because Apple restricts its 12MP 2x optical telephoto lens for iPhone 11 Pro models only.

There’s a small discrepancy in the other direction on the front of these devices. The iPhone 11 uses a single 12MP selfie camera, while the S20’s sensor is 10MP. That’s not a huge difference, but it could matter if you want the highest quality selfies possible.

We’ll have to wait and see which of the S20 or iPhone 11’s photo software and processing capabilities turn out best, but the S20 has an intimidating task ahead. The iPhone’s portrait and night modes are outstanding, while handy and fun features like instant video or Slo-fies help you capture everyday moments in new ways. On the other hand, the S20 offers features like Single Take, which captures media from each lens individually as well as short videos, allowing you to decide which looks the best after the fact.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Performance

We’ve yet to test the S20 with our array of benchmarks, but the specs point to a close competition.

In terms of speed, Apple’s processors have long beaten the competing chips produced by Qualcomm that Samsung uses in its phones sold in North America. But now, the gap looks to be closing. While the A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone is a powerhouse, the S20 still has a mighty Snapdragon 865 processor, plus a lot more RAM to play with (see below). In a comparison between the iPhone 11 Pro Max running the A13 and Qualcomm’s reference device using a Snapdragon 865, there wasn’t much of a difference. This could be the first time in a while that Apple’s performance crown is stolen away.

The 6.2-inch Galaxy S20 (left) next to the 6.7-inch Galaxy S20 Plus.

The 6.2-inch Galaxy S20 (left) next to the 6.7-inch Galaxy S20 Plus. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: RAM and storage

Neither phone gives you a choice of RAM capacities. You get 12GB of RAM with the S20, which is far more than the iPhone’s 4GB. More RAM is obviously better, but since the two phones run different operating systems and use different kinds of CPUs, the performance difference isn’t as easy to calculate from these figures as you’d think. We’ll let you know when we’ve completed our own tests whether the 8GB difference is a big deal.

There’s only one storage option for the S20: 128GB. You can get the iPhone with that much storage, but also with 64GB and 256GB, which is a nice range of choices to have. The S20 does support microSD cards though, letting you add up to 1TB more storage space if you want it later on, after you've bought the device. The extra flexibility of the S20’s microSD slot is very useful, but the ease of being able to spec a new iPhone with more storage by default (albeit for a steep fee) means there’s a case to be made for Apple's approach as well.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: Battery

While Apple never announced the battery capacity of the iPhone 11, unofficial teardowns have shown it has a 3,110 mAh cell. The S20 has much more room at 4,000 mAh, meaning it’ll likely last a lot longer even under heavy use. 

When it comes to charging, the iPhone 11 comes with a 5W charger, but can be used with a 18W fast charger that Apple sells separately. The S20 comes with a 25W charger. Samsung also sells a 45W charger if you want it, but even buying Apple’s best charging option is still slower than what Samsung gives you by default. There’s not really much contest in this category at all.

Both phones are also capable of wireless charging, but Samsung goes one better and offers reverse wireless charging on the S20 too. If you have accessories like earbuds that can charge wirelessly too, then you can place them on the back of the S20 and let it charge from the internal battery. This could prove exceptionally handy if you own the right kind of tech to use with it, and Apple can’t compete here.

Galaxy S20 vs iPhone 11: 5G

This is another easy win for the Galaxy S20. The iPhone 11 doesn't have a 5G version, while the S20 gets sub-6GHz 5G as standard. This means it'll work on the small 5G network areas you can find in cities both in the U.S. and the U.K., although it won't be compatible with the mmWave networks that carriers are expected to roll out in the coming years.

We're expecting the iPhone 12 to be Apple's first 5G handset, but for the time being, if you're lucky enough to live in one of the 5G coverage areas, the S20 is the only one of these two phones that will give you all the data speed and reliability advantages that the new networking standard offers.

Outlook

If you’re not already loyal to Android or iOS phones, then these two phones present an interesting comparison. The iPhone 11 appeals instantly because of its lower price, but it loses out on display, camera and battery capabilities to the S20. The two phones have such different internal components it will be hard to work out which is the better performer without doing more testing, and it’s up to you whether you prefer the iPhone's more colorful, simplistic design or the more technical-looking Samsung.

The Galaxy S20 certainly looks good, and the iPhone 11 definitely is good, so either choice will get you a competent device. But the choice is essentially between extra features or a saving on the price. Look forward to our full review of Samsung's latest flagships and an update to this comparison with testing results for our final verdict.