Each of these phones needs to look the part in order to get our attention
The iPhone’s stainless steel and glass body feels particularly luxurious
First of all, let’s talk screens. They’re what you immediately see when you pick up a phone, and everything else seems peripheral to the bit your eyes are glued to. All three of our featured phones have screen diagonals in excess of six inches – 6.5-inches for the iPhone XS Max, and 6.4-inches for the Androids. Only the large of hand could consider these suitable for one-handed use.
All of the phones sport an OLED screen, with vibrant colours and super-rich contrast. The screen density is 458ppi on the iPhone XS Max, 538ppi for the Mate 20 Pro, and 516ppi for the Note9 – actual resolutions sit above Full HD, but anything displayed on these screens is going to look beautiful, with Dolby Vision HDR support and a wider colour range on the iPhone putting it just in the lead.
Elsewhere, each phone is nicely made, but the iPhone’s stainless steel and glass body feels particularly luxurious. Only the Samsung sports a headphone socket, but each of these phones are designed with stereo speakers, though they’re necessarily tiny.
As phone speakers go, however, those in the XS Max are excellent, with decent left/ right separation. The Android offerings pair fare a little less well, with improvements over earlier models in terms of bass and loudness, but nothing that would make us use them for anything other than phone speaker duty.
Security is catered for by Apple’s improved Face ID on the iPhone XS Max, which now enables the addition of a second face, and by fingerprint readers on the Android phones. The Mate 20 Pro has a futuristic in-screen reader, which is completely invisible, at least once you’ve got other fingermarks on the screen. There’s a form of face unlock too, which works well but doesn’t have the level of biometric accuracy as found on the XS Max.
Samsung has stuck with a rear fingerprint reader for the Note9, positioned below the camera. That’s absolutely fine, but it poses no competition to the coolness of Huawei’s approach. Again, face unlocking is provided.