My Verbose iPhone 11 Pro versus Samsung S10+ Review
I’m a longtime iPhone user that switched to a Samsung S10+ in March this year. After using the Samsung for 6 months I couldn’t wait to come back to the iPhone and iOS. Back in March, I was considering the latest iPhone X or Samsung. It came down to price as Samsung gave me way more trade-in money for my iPhone than Apple would (Apple could seriously be a little more generous with their trade-in values). Samsung threw in free Galaxy Buds and a huge discount on the Galaxy Watch, so I switched.
It was a big mistake for me. I have an iPad and several Apple TVs. The rest of my immediate family are all on Apple devices and we use family sharing through iCloud where we share a family Calendar, iCloud storage, and Apple Music. I also manage my children’s Apple devices through my iTunes account, which includes app approval and screen time. Trying to disconnect me from the Apple ecosystem added an extra difficulty that lead to several frustrations with the Samsung.
I’ve purchased the latest iPhone 11 Pro, and after using it for a few weeks, here is my review between the two devices, software, and ecosystems:
The iPhone 11 Pro screen is much more vibrant and sharper. Colors are gorgeous and blacks are super deep. The Samsung curved edge screen made it a little more difficult to read edge-to-edge. The Samsung edges were so sensitive that I constantly had false palm touches that would move the page. Even after turning the sensitivity down and turning off the edge screen options, I still had to purchase a phone case to help keep my hand off the edge of the display. I much prefer the iPhone screen.
Both phones have a fantastic front and rear cameras, and I really can’t pick a favorite over either one. The camera apps are both pretty on par.
**Front Facing Camera Notch vs Pill**
The front-facing camera pill on the Samsung practically evaporates from your vision. I hardly ever noticed it was there in day to day use. The only time it ever stood out to me was when an app developer decided to place the bottom border of an app header directly on the bottom border of the pill. If they would have added a few more pixels to the header, the pill would be vertically centered in the header and forgettable. But my eyes were drawn to the lack of occasional symmetry.
The iPhone notch is always there. It’s such an unusual and distracting shape. I can live with it, but I would rather have a pill or bezel like the new Google Pixel 4.
Why is Apple still using lightning cables? Seriously, ugh.
Both the iPhone and Samsung S10+ have facial recognition, and Samsung has the in-screen fingerprint reader. Samsung’s facial recognition is not secure enough to be used for two-factor authentication in apps, so it can only be used to unlock the phone. The Samsung fingerprint reader is nearly garbage compared to the Apple fingerprint sensor in my previous iPhone 8+. Samsung’s reader requires a long firm press, and the finger needs to be positioned much more precisely. After 6 months of use, my first try successes to authenticating to an app are probably around 30%. Samsung doesn’t allow you an unlimited number of fingers to register, and some people register the same finger for both finger profiles in order to make the reader more accurate.
I use LastPass for my password manager, and it was very slow and prone to failure on Samsung. I have a banking app that is practically bi-polar on Samsung. Sometimes it would know to invoke two-factor authentication and other times it wouldn’t. When Lastpass would launch it would need my fingerprint, which failed 2 out 3 times, and then return to the log-in screen for the app without always populating the password on success, so I had to start the whole process over.
iOS and iPhone facial recognition has been flawless for me. Lastpass integration is buttery smooth. I have yet to have it fail to for any of my apps, including the same apps that habitually failed on Samsung.
The Cross-platform apps I use are always a little higher quality and include better functionality on iOS. I have several financial apps and they display flawlessly in iOS. Table data is always neat with correct padding, and fonts are consistent throughout the application. In Android, those same apps tend to lose padding in tables, so the text has no separation to table borders. Some text breaks out of frames, overlap images, and fonts can tend to fall back to Times New Roman in the strangest places. I find that the Android app functionality is typically a few iterations behind the Apple version. For example, the Duo Lingo App for iOS has more rewards and functionality than Androids. A lot of my financial apps have more polished interfaces and other options. I have not found a single cross-platform app that works better on Android.
**Samsung apps and ecosystem**
In hindsight, I should have purchased a Google Pixel over the Samsung, since I prefer the vanilla Google experience. I disliked the requirement for registering for a Samsung account that has access to all my data and image backups. Trying to switch out of the Samsung Mail, Phone, SMS, Image Gallery, etc. apps to the Google equivalents was a pain. The image gallery app was especially annoying as the Samsung Camera app would always save images to both Google Photos and the Samsung Gallery app. And then the phone would display different photos to attach to apps depending on where the source app decided to pull the photos from. There was an option to choose which default photo app should be used, but the phone never remembered my response (even when I selected ‘Always use this app’) and would ask every time.
Samsung and Google both have their own App stores and services, which is necessary to get Samsung Watch faces and other watch apps. Because of the two competing ecosystems on a single device, it felt like the phone was always in competition with itself. It was tricky to get the Samsung Watch to use Google apps by default. Device notification and handoff were not as seamless between the two devices as Apple’s iOS is with WatchOS. Bixby is first and foremost an advertising platform, and many of Bixby’s features can’t be disabled. The Bixby widget tray always had an advertisement that took up the top 1/3 of the display. Google Assistant is far superior and was my preferred choice for the voice assistant, but I would still accidentally invoke Bixby from time to time.
On my iPhone, I use a mix of Apple and Google apps, but those apps coexist much more seamlessly on iPhone than Samsung and Google.
I very much prefer Samsung’s Control Center over iOS. Each function is laid out nicely on a grid and properly labeled. The buttons are either a toggle press or will open another set of options with the same push. In IOS, I don’t like the random jumbled layout of icons that have no labels. All the buttons are toggles, and you must guess which one has a long press for more options.
Android Auto with Google Maps is still superior to Apple CarPlay. In the latest Apple release, CarPlay doesn’t use my vehicle’s full screen to display the application. Instead of using all my 7” widescreen, I get a 5” square in the middle with black bars on the left and right. This is the same for my wife’s vehicle by a completely different manufacturer. I feel like I got a 4:3 display downgrade. The new CarPlay interface is a little more confusing to switch between the views, but it seemed ok once I got used to it. But I really want to see an update that will return to a full-screen display.
Messaging is nearly the same on each device, but I really like the Android’s ability to in-line reply to a chat notification without leaving the application I am on. That’s a nice utility that I already miss.
iOS 13 and shortcuts are opening up some amazing things with HomeKit, and Siri is becoming a much better voice assistant. In fact, I haven’t yet come across any issue that made we want to switch back to Google assistant. I do wish I could add an “ok, shush” phrase to Siri when I ask a question and the answer is painfully long. HomeKit/Siri would also be a little more natural if I could assign devices to myself, so I could say phrases like “turn on my reading light” and Siri will know which light I’m referring to. As of right now I have to refer to myself in the third person, “turn on the PM_me_your_Lego reading light.’
I never found a good Samsung equivalent to Apple Wallet. Especially for virtual tickets. Instead, I just took screenshots of tickets and pulled them out Google photos when I needed them. Apple Wallet is very convenient and useful.
**Calendar & Mail**
I have four email addresses. I want to keep contacts, emails, and calendar items separated and choose which features I’ll sync from each account to the phone. Apple provides the simplest way to do this to my liking. Google took a few tries to get just right, but I still couldn’t prevent Google from sometimes sending multiple notifications for the same event.
Even though everyone in my family has a Gmail account, I couldn’t get everyone to consistently use the correct shared calendar. When you have a busy household with two teens, its really easy to let an event or meeting get away from you. When we were all on iPhone we never lost track of the shared calendar. But we couldn’t seem to always be on the same page when we tried to sync a google calendar cross-platform. I know its possible, but it does take some effort. Whereas our Apple Family Calendar just works.
Apple doesn’t provide anywhere near the customization like Android. If the vanilla interface isn’t your liking, Android has you covered all day long. This includes easy side loading of apps on Android if you really want to tinker. I’ve played around with Adobe’s Phone Gap software to create simple XHTML based apps, and they always worked flawlessly sideloaded on Android. I have never been able to successfully launch the iOS equivalent. Apple really needs to extend its walled garden to provide some kind of sandbox for amateur app developers to quickly piece together a native app without having to schlep through Apple’s developer app certification hell.
So this is going to be a mini-rant about Apple and Bluetooth quality in relation to hearing aids and accessibility. Apple does a terrible quality control job for ensuring fast Bluetooth connectivity to hearing aids in their software releases. Most of you don’t rely on hearing aids and don’t fully appreciate how amazing Bluetooth calls over hearing devices are for people who need them. And while a hiccup in Bluetooth device pairing might seem trivial to you, it makes a huge difference to the hearing impaired.
My wife is one of those people who has monumentally benefited from Bluetooth connectivity to her hearing aids (I’ll simply refer to them as her ‘ears’ going forward). Just imagine trying to be in an upper management position working with executives where clear communication is critical, and then Apple releases a software update that craps all over your ability to hear. And once again, Apple released iOS 13 with Bluetooth bugs specifically with hearing devices. My wife must start each phone call with “Hello, can you hold a moment, you might hear me, but I can’t hear you.” She pauses for a few seconds hoping the call gets transferred to her ears, and then says – “ok – go ahead.” If the call doesn’t auto transfer, she has to fiddle with the iPhone to manually force the call to her ears.
Apple’s fixed the latest bug in yesterday’s patch, but not after leaving my wife frustrated for a few weeks. There isn’t a big enough public group of release/beta testers that use hearing aids for her to determine when an update is safe for her or not. She just rolls the dice each time. It seems as though Apple has struggled with hearing-impaired Bluetooth support with every iteration of the iPhone since the iPhone 6. What happened?
If you are a long time iPhone user thinking about a switching to a new ecosystem, I’ll tell you that it is a frustrating upheaval to your daily habits. Not everything works as well out of the box as Apple devices. If you are moving to Samsung, you will immediately face important choices for which basic apps you’ll want to use right away. It has quite the learning curve, and even then, the in-app experiences won’t be as error free or as high quality as you are used to.
If you are dead-set on moving to Android, you will much more prefer a Google Pixel device with vanilla Google apps and no in-device competition for redundant stores, services, and apps.
In either case, you’ll certainly find lots of little features in Android/Samsung that make for nice shortcuts or functionality, and the phones are quite useful and fun. But in an overall package, the iPhone is more friendly and consistent with far less distractions.
Hope this was useful to someone!