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  • Cheryl Tan

Flagship Phone Comparisons: Which One’s For You?

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Written by Cheryl Tan

It’s a tale as old as time – every year when the new flagship phones come out from Apple, Samsung, Huawei and more, everybody wonders: Which one should I get? So here’s our take on the situation. We’ll be updating this as new flagships come out, so it’ll always be current for you guys.

iPhone 11 Pro Max

(Written by Claudio Chock, Community Creator)

Before it was officially launched, design leaks, specifically that of the redesigned camera bump, made people go “Really? Ewww…”. But now that we have one in our hands, the iPhone 11 Pro Max (in the brand-new midnight green colour especially) is a really beautiful smartphone.

The 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display renders beautiful colours. We couldn’t really tell the difference when comparing it side by side with last year’s iPhone XS Max though, as the upgrade is pretty subtle. Nonetheless, watching videos and playing games on this is really pleasing to the eyes.

Next up, the batteries have been upgraded – 5 hours more than last year’s XS Max. And you can tell by the density and weight of the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It feels like Apple has heeded the requests of customers to increase the battery life in their iPhones instead of making them slimmer.

But the star feature of this year’s model has got to be the awesome triple camera system. On top of the improved 12MP f/1.8 wide lens and 12MP f/2.0 telephoto lens, the 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide lens is a welcome addition. Finally, there isn’t a need to attach external lenses to get a wide angle shot. Photo and video quality is stellar, with all three cameras able to shoot in 4K 60fps. The addition of Night mode feels like Apple has finally caught up to the Google Pixel phones in terms of computational photography.

The front camera has also gotten an upgrade and is now able to take wider shots. Gimmicky as it sounds, “slofie”, essentially slow-motion selfies, are pretty fun to shoot with the front-facing camera.

Downsides of the iPhone 11 Pro Max? Probably the lack of design change since the iPhone X. Apple fans will definitely be looking for a design refresh (no more notch hopefully and maybe the return of Touch ID under the screen) in the 2020 model.

While the screen is great, it’s slightly disappointing that Apple hasn’t upgraded the screen from 60Hz to 90Hz like some of its Android competitors.

Prices of the flagship 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max models continue to remain at a premium. However, when you buy an iPhone, you are not just buying into the phone itself, you are buying in the entire Apple ecosystem. And that’s what Apple fans will continue to do.

Get this if: you are planning to upgrade from the iPhone 8 and below. If you are on the iPhone X or last year’s iPhone XS / XS Max models, switching to the iPhone 11 Pro / Pro Max will be solely for the triple camera system.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

Samsung has two flagship phone series, so let’s talk about the Galaxy S10+ first. Starting off with the design, we do feel that Samsung played it a little safe with quite a few similarities to previous phones that didn’t excite us as much.

But the display is a gorgeous 6.4″ dynamic AMOLED display in a 19:9 ratio which makes it longer than it is wider, with the more vibrant colours you would expect out of Samsung phones. There’s also an option for Normal mode which tones down the colours and makes it more useable if you’re looking to edit your photos directly on your phone.

There’s three cameras on the back, wide-angle, telephoto and standard, with two cameras on the front, one depth-sensing and one selfie camera, so users are pretty much covered in all situations.

Inside there’s the Exynos 9820 octa-core processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage (on our model) with expandable storage via the MicroSD card slot. If you choose the black and white colour options, you can go up to 512GB of storage with 8GB of RAM, or 1TB of storage with 12GB of RAM. We’re unlikely to ever require that much storage, so we’ll stick to the one we have on hand.

We originally felt that the under-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader wasn’t 100% there in terms of being able to accurately read and unlock yet, but Samsung has been pushing out updates since our original review earlier in 2019, so there’s that.

The battery inside is a 4,100mAh pack, with reverse wireless charging and wireless charging. It’s also the first phone that’s certified HDR10+ and it still retains the 3.5mm headphone jack for users who want to use wired earphones. OneUI has taken over TouchWiz, which we’re glad for. The icon designs still aren’t great, but the UI is definitely more usable.

Get this if: you enjoy watching content on your phone, you absolutely require expandable storage, you want reverse wireless charging

Huawei P30 Pro

This phone has been widely touted as the best smartphone you can get if you’re looking to use your phone to capture great photos, and we really do agree.

The cameras on the P30 Pro are impressive, with four rear cameras – ultra-wide, standard, telephoto and Time of Flight (ToF). Huawei also added yellow into the camera sensor, which helps with low-light photography performance and as promised, photos taken in Night Mode look amazing.

There’s also a periscope in the camera setup, which allows for up to 50x digital zoom. It works, but you’ll definitely have to have steady hands.

There’s also the beautiful Aurora and Breathing Crystal colours which look stunning and are definitely eye-catching. The curved glass front and back are still present, but the top and bottom of the phone are flat for better grip.

The display is a 6.47″ FHS display in a 19:9 aspect ratio, with the Kirin 980 chipset powering the phone, alongside the 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage that’s expandable via Huawei’s 256GB nano memory card. The phone also has 4,200mAh of battery and supports reverse wireless charging like the Galaxy S10+.

Get this if: you are an avid smartphone photographer, you want your phone to have beautiful colour options

Google Pixel 4 XL

First, design. Besides the square housing on the back for the cameras, what we really like about the new design is the matte bezel that makes the phone much easier to grip. Compared to the slippery stainless steel bezel of the iPhone 11, you’ll definitely find that it feels slightly better and more secure.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL are running on a Snapdragon 855 processor, so those waiting for a Snapdragon 855+ will be disappointed. It’s not a dealbreaker as it still performs well and is fast enough for most users out there. There’s 6GB of RAM and up to 128GB of onboard storage with no expandability. There’s always Google Drive if you really require more space for your photos and files.

There’s a 6.3″ QHD+ OLED display on the Pixel 4 XL and a 5.7″ FHD+ OLED display on the Pixel 4. Colours are bright and vibrant and the display now goes up to 90Hz. The difference really can be seen even when just scrolling and browsing webpages.

The cameras on Google phones are legendary, and with this new iteration of the Pixel 4, you get two rear cameras, a 16MP telephoto and a 12MP standard/wide-angle lens.

There’s an 8MP on the front and you still have the same great photo quality that was on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. Night Sight works great, it’s even a little better than last year’s Pixel 3 because now the ability to take astrophotography shots has been added into the Pixel 4 and 4 XL.

Image quality is still good though. Photos are contrasty and have plenty of detail, but you can tell there’s a lot of processing going on. Videos still aren’t Google’s forte, it can do video but it’s definitely not the phone for you if you’re looking to do a lot of video.

The cool new feature in this phone is the radar system. You can wave your hand over the phone to wake it before picking it up so that the facial recognition is already turned on and your phone will unlock faster than ever.

The feature is limited to waking the phone, turning off alarms and skipping music tracks for now, but Google has mentioned that they’re looking to incorporate it into more apps and add more functionality to it, like adjusting volume levels and such.

Battery life is decent, but a little disappointing that Google didn’t manage to put a bigger battery in. 3,700mAh comes in very average, and while you’ll still get a day’s usage out of a full charge, we expected to see something closer to 4,500mAh.

Get this if: you want the best low-light camera performance, you enjoy stock Android, you want to be the first few to update to the latest versions of the Android OS

Huawei Mate 30 Pro

After the whole hooha with the trade war ban, most consumers now are slightly wary of getting a Huawei phone, but nobody can dispute that the new Mate 30 Pro is a good phone.

The display is a really nice, high-resolution OLED panel that most people will be happy with. The only ‘drawback’ is that the notch is still there, though, they are packing more sensors in it for better facial recognition and overall security reasons. But the notch is still there.

The other unique feature is the extreme waterfall design, where the display drops at an 88 degree angle. It definitely makes the phone nice to hold, but whether is it actually useful, we’re not that sure. Honestly, it’ll very highly increase the chances of the display breaking when dropped on the corner.

Also because of the design, the volume buttons are now touch based. The portion above the power button is the active area, mirrored on the side below too. Double tap to activate and slide to change. Kind of neat, and the active area remains the same even in landscape mode. Game changing? Nah, but it’s cool.

Battery life is really good, fantastic even. With 4,500mAh, you can easily get through a day without issues, power users included. The casual user might even be able to extend till a day and a half or more. It also comes with the 40W Huawei Supercharge technology, so it charges up fast.

Cameras are solid, really good. You get a quad camera setup, with a 40MP Ultra-Wide, 40MP Wide, 8MP Telephoto and a 3D Depth Sensing Camera.

Unique to the Huawei phones is their use of the RYYB color filter array in their sensor. It boasts better light sensitivity and more but in reality, it performs pretty much on par with the iPhone 11 Pro, the Pixel 3, and probably even their ‘old’ P30 Pro.

It basically produces photos that are uniquely Huawei, you can sort of tell. The cool thing is that the Ultra-Wide is also 40MP now, so that’s nice, but the sensor is the standard RGGB type.

Telephoto works just as well, with 3x optical and 5x hybrid. But the max digital zoom on the Mate 30 Pro is 30x, compared to 50x on the P30 Pro. But it works fine, I do like using it. Portrait shots, haven’t tried much, but it’s pretty much the same as the P30 Pro.

But the annoying thing as before is that, if you select 40MP mode, you can’t swap between the lenses. It locks you in 40MP, until you change back to 10MP, then it allows you to freely change between the lenses.

As for video, surprisingly great, with 4K 60P and audio quality is not bad at all. There’s also the extreme super slow-mo, up to 7680fps, which is neat. Not something you’ll use everyday though. And definitely not at night.

Downsides? Right now, it doesn’t ship with Google Mobile Services (GMS). You can sideload it, and it’ll work. But for us, there’s just too much bloatware on the phone from the start, since now buyers aren’t getting a global version of it, but more like an actual Chinese model, though that may change and vary from region to region.

Another ‘downside’ we would say, is the price. It’s definitely a good all-round phone, but the price it’s asking for is definitely real high. It’s not a phone anyone can just pick up and go. You can probably justify that it’s that good, but we don’t find it more special compared to a Note 10 or say a OnePlus 7T.

As for who should upgrade, honestly, we can’t recommend it. Not because it’s not a good phone, nor because of the price, but just because of the fiasco and situation with Huawei at the moment.

Things with Google may change at a moment’s notice, and who knows what might happen tomorrow. You can sideload it now, sure, but in the future, that might change.

For most people out there, this might be their phone for the next 2 years or so, and that’s why we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. Like we said, it’s a good phone, definitely great, it’s something akin to the Note 10, but just can’t recommend who to upgrade.

Get this if: you’re a Huawei fan, you don’t need or want Google

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

The new update of the Note series, the Galaxy Note 10+ is an evolution, not a revolution. With a 6.8″ AMOLED display capable of HDR10+, users will get an almost bezel-less screen that has the typical Samsung vibrant colours.

The cameras on both phones are the same, with the exception of the DepthVision camera being only on the Note 10+. Image quality has improved slightly over the S10 and S10+, and Night Mode is better now too. However, Night Mode is a little slow, but it appears to be something that can be fixed via software.

The S Pen is improved as well; it feels even more solid in the hand and with the introduction of air gestures, you can look like a Harry Potter character waving your (tiny) wand-like pen at your phone to flip between front and rear cameras, zoom in and out and more. Frankly, the air gestures aren’t quite as polished as we hoped they would be, with the gestures not being recognised once in a while.

Of course, there’s the much-talked about AR Doodle feature, where you can use the S Pen and draw on objects in your camera’s field of vision and the drawings will stay on the object as you move the phone around. You’ll get a clearer picture of how it works in the video above. It’s a fun feature if you’re using it with kids, but we can’t really see professionals or most adults using this.

With Samsung working alongside Microsoft, now users can jot down notes and have it converted immediately to text. That’s the kind of stuff we want to see in the Note series, for productivity and work.

But we feel that the Note 10 should be the phone to get instead of the Note 10+, because of the design of the Note 10+ and how it doesn’t feel as good in the hand.

The waterfall design of the screen means that it doesn’t feel secure in the hand and the bigger screen of the Note 10+ makes it even harder to hold without a case. In our opinion, the Note series shouldn’t come with curved glass since it’s hard to write or even select text with the S Pen on the curved edges.

Get this if: you’re interested in the functionalities of the S Pen and handwriting-to-text translation, you’re a power user, you want to have fun with the AR Doodle feature

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