iPhone 12 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Which phone wins?

iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20
(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 12 is the shiny new phone on the block, but the Samsung Galaxy S20 is still very much a formidable rival, especially since a price drop has brought both of these phones under $800.

Apple's iPhone 12 brings a host of upgrades to the table, including a blazing A14 Bionic chip, 5G connectivity, improved cameras and a sleeker design with a tougher Ceramic Shield display. But don't count out the Galaxy S20. 

The Galaxy S20 has a lot of things going for it, including a more versatile camera system, a larger battery and a smooth 120Hz display. So which of these phones wins? Our iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S20 face-off will help you decide which device is the best phone for you.

iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S20: Specs compared

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 12 iGalaxy S20
Display6.1 inches OLED (2532 x 1170)6.2 inches OLED (3200 x 1440) 120Hz
ColorsBlack, White, Red, Green and BlueGray, Blue, Pink and White
CPUA14Snapdragon 865
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB
Rear camera12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide f/2.4)12MP wide (f1.8), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 64MP telephoto (f/2.0)
Zoom5x digital3x optical/30x digital
Front camera12MP TrueDepth (f/2.2)10MP (f/2.2)
Video4K up to 60 fps (Dolby Vision)8K up to 24 fps
5Gsub-6Ghz, mmWavesub-6Ghz or mmWave (Verizon)
5G Battery life (Hrs:Mins)8:259:31 (8:04 @ 120Hz)
Size5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 inches5.9 x 3 x 0.31 inches
Weight5.78 ounces5.7 ounces

iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S20: Price and value

The iPhone 12 starts at $799 through carriers and $829 unlocked with 64GB of storage. You can upgrade to 128GB for $849 and 256GB for $949.

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 has a list price of $999, but you’ll often find it on sale at $799 through such retailers as Best Buy and Amazon. There’s only one storage option of 128GB; all S20 models offer a microSD card slot except for Verizon

Overall, the S20 has the edge on value provided you can find it on sale because you get double the storage for the same price. Check out our iPhone 12 deals and Galaxy S20 deals pages for the latest discounts.

Winner: Galaxy S20

iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S20: Design

iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 12 brings a whole new look to this fight with its flat-edge design. The display is perfectly flat, too, unlike the Galaxy S20. Samsung's curved display can lead to accidental touches. 

Another advantage for the iPhone 12 is its Ceramic Shield display, which promises 4x the drop performance compared to iPhone 11. Apple's handset has performed very well in iPhone 12 drop tests, so it seems to be living up to the hype.

The Galaxy S20 is a bit taller than the iPhone 12 and a bit lighter at 5.7 ounces vs 5.76 ounces for Apple's device.

The iPhone 12 has more color options. You can take your pick from black, white, red, green and blue, whereas the S20 is limited to gray, blue, pink and white. The only strike against the iPhone 12 is the prominent notch, which looks pretty big compared to the S20's front camera punch hole. 

Winner: iPhone 12

iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S20: Display

iPhone 12 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S20 6.2-inch OLED display is more advanced than the iPhone 12's 6.1-inch panel, and that's because only Samsung's phone supports a 120Hz refresh rate. This enables smoother scrolling and animations, as well as more fluid gameplay in titles that support 120Hz.

The S20's screen has a resolution of 3200 x 1440, which is sharper than the 2532 x 1170 display on the iPhone 12. Samsung's panel also wins on brightness, as it was able to reach 857 nits in our testing, compared to 569 nits for the iPhone 12.

Samsung Galaxy S20 display

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung's display is also capable of producing more colors, as it registered 163% of the DCI-P3 color space, compared to 81% for the iPhone 12. However, the iPhone 12's colors proved more accurate, as it turned in a Delta-E score of 0.29 vs 0.37 for the Galaxy S20. In this case, a perfect score is zero. 

Winner: Galaxy S20

iPhone 12 vs. Galaxy S20: Cameras

iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of sheer versatility, the Galaxy S20 has the edge over the iPhone 12, as only Samsung's handset offers a telephoto zoom in addition to a wide and ultra-wide lens. However, the iPhone 12 simply took better looking photos overall in our side-by-side shots, making it one of the best camera phones overall. 

In this photo of pumpkins, the iPhone 12 is able to capture more of them in the shadows, revealing more detail. The pumpkins are also sharper in the iPhone 12 shot, especially the white ones in the foreground. However, the straw looks a little more washed out on the iPhone than it does on the Galaxy S20. 

I also snapped a close up of raspberries and blackberries, and the iPhone 12 delivered a lot more detail, right down to the nooks and crannies on each berry. The S20's shot looks out of focus by comparison. 

While both the the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 offer a Night mode, I found the iPhone 12's Night mode to be faster in every instance. I also like that it turns on automatically; you don't have to hunt for the setting. 

I took this shot between two trees with a street light in the background, and the Galaxy S20's coloring is too yellow, while the iPhone 12's looks more realistic. Both phones do a good job illuminating the scene, though.

The results in this portrait from the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 couldn't look more different, even though they were captured just seconds apart. I prefer the iPhone 12 shot in this case because it's brighter, which may be due to the cameras faster f/1.6 aperture. The S20's shot looks dreary by comparison. 

In this case I slightly prefer the ultra-wide photo from the Galaxy S20 because the sky looks more blue. The iPhone 12 deserves credit for more accurately rendering the clouds in the sky but there's more of a yellow tinge to the image I find less pleasant. 

This fountain photo is a good test of auto-focus, and the iPhone 12 is able to deliver more detail in the water as a result. You can also make out more gradations in the rock, while the S20 blurs things together.

Lastly, we compare the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 at 5x digital zoom, Unfortunately, this is the max zoom for the iPhone 12, while the S20 can go up to 30x. For this particular shot of mums and pumpkins, the iPhone 12 produces a brighter image, and I appreciate the shine on the pumpkins. But the S20's image is sharper, especially in the flowers.

Winner: iPhone 12

iPhone 12 vs. Galaxy S20: Performance

iPhone 12 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This round is no contest, and that's because the iPhone 12's A14 Bionic chip is the fastest in any phone. The iPhone 12 benchmarks we've run tell the story, but here's the gist.

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance,  the iPhone 12 hit 3,859 on the single-core test and 1,593 on the multi-core test. The Galaxy S20 mustered only  3,147 and 867, respectively.

We also ran a real-world video editing test, which involves transcoding a 4K video to 1080p. The iPhone 12 took just 26 seconds to complete the task, compared with 1 minute and 15 seconds for the S20. 

The iPhone 12 also dominated on graphics performance, reaching 51 fps on the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test. The Galaxy S20 reached only 22 fps. 

Winner: iPhone 12

iPhone 12 vs. Galaxy S20: Battery life and charging

iphone 12

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This is one round Samsung has locked down, as the Galaxy S20 offers longer battery life over 5G and faster charging out of the box. On our web surfing battery test, the Galaxy S20 lasted 9 hours and 31 minutes, compared to 8:25 for the iPhone 12. However, the S20 lasted a shorter 8:04 with the 120Hz display mode enabled.

Neither phone is good enough to make our best phone battery life list, as the longest-lasting handsets can go for 11 hours or more.

Samsung Galaxy S20 charging

(Image credit: Future)

For environmental reasons, Apple doesn't include an iPhone 12 in the box. So if you want fast charging you'll have to spring for a $19 20W USB-C power adapter. If you want to go the MagSafe wireless charging route (which is 15W), that costs $39. The 20W charger brought the iPhone 12 to 57% in 30 minutes, while the MagSafe charger got to only 32%.

The 25W charger that comes with the Galaxy S20 got that phone to 53% in 30 minutes.

Winner: Galaxy S20

iPhone 12 vs. Galaxy S20: Overall winner

This iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S20 face-off is super close, and the iPhone 12 wins by just a single point. It really comes down to what you value most. The iPhone 12 offers a tougher display, faster performance and considerably better cameras. 

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 12Galaxy S20
Value (20)1618
Design (10)98
Display (15)1214
Cameras (20)1814
Performance (15)1512
Battery life and charging (20)1417
Overall score8483

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is a fantastic phone, however, especially now that you can get it for the same price or less than the iPhone 12 with double the storage of Apple's phone. The Galaxy S20 also wins on battery life and charging and its smoother 120Hz display. 

I like the fact that the S20 offers a telephoto lens and better zoom, but the cameras on the iPhone 12 put Apple over the top here, as you simply get better image quality.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.