NXT Smartphone Super Test
2019 is a very exciting year for smartphones. This is the year that foldable smartphones are finally commercially available. It is also the year Samsung launches its 10th Galaxy S-series smartphone. If 2018 is the year of display notches, then 2019 is the year of mobile photography, all thanks to Huawei setting the bar.
In the mobile industry, the most premium smartphone brands are still Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. For this group test, we pick the best models from these three smartphone giants and make a comparison. Apple is still going strong with the iPhone Xs Max launched in September 2018, Samsung’s S10+ is the latest flagship announced in February 2019, and Huawei’s P30 Pro is launched on 26 March with a killer camera system to beat.
Apple iPhone Xs Max
Among the smartphones compared here, the iPhone Xs Max feels the most dated. It’s one thing that the Xs Max is the oldest, but more so when the design is largely unchanged since the iPhone X more than a year ago. Still, iPhone owners have every reason to choose the largest iPhone variant, as it offers the most immersive user experience and a generous screen for all the Game of Thrones binge-watching. While the 6.5-inch screen size sounds large, it is actually around the size of the iPhone 8 Plus, thanks to the stretched display all the way to the edges, achieving a bezel-free appearance.
The entire iOS experience is delivered with such silky smoothness that it feels like the UI is floating. Even as Android smartphone makers pushes the UI efficiency, they still could not achieve the same responsiveness of on-screen gesture navigation as iPhone. With the AR trend, the new A12 Bionic processor with neural engine delivers impressive AR experiences, like measuring objects in 3D plane, play games in real environments, generate 3D effects when shooting portraits.
iPhone users are not known for their fickle-mindedness, and even if they do, they could vary their ownership with after-market accessories like casings, earphones, and clip-on lens attachments. Android users, on the other hand, have a lot of choices, which could be a bad thing, as it would be tough to settle for what they already have. Hopefully, Apple is observing the mobile trend closely and is working to include some of the features in their upcoming releases.
Looking at the comparison photos taken, iPhone Xs Max delivers a more authentic-looking image character, and certainly appears more DSLR-like. The iPhones remain the standard for professional smartphone photography, but consumers are getting pampered by the likes of Huawei and Samsung. For selfie-lovers, it lacks the aggressive skin-smoothing enhancements that smartphone owners have grown to rely on.
From S$1,799 (64GB)
The iPhone Xs Max was launched 8 months back, but still remains one of the most capable smartphones in the market, and undoubtedly the best iPhone. Given past trends, we could be looking for an overhaul in the upcoming iPhone X-whatever.
Huawei P30 Pro
As a smartphone, the Huawei P30 Pro assembles many features that most other premium smartphones in the market already have, like bezel-less curved edge display, wireless charging, in-display fingerprint sensor. Not forgetting, the EMUI Desktop mode converts the phone into a desktop computer.
Overall, the P30 Pro performs similarly to the Mate 20 series, as they both share the same Kirin 980 processor. The phone just performs really smooth and flowing, plus a genuinely long battery life that outperforms most average phones. While the full-HD+ display is the lowest resolution of the three compared, it does not appear pixelated and retains colour vibrancy and visual clarity.
The extra-special feature that no other smartphones can match is the Leica Quad Camera System, with the addition of a 5x optical zoom telephoto periscopic lens to extend the visual reach of photography. The unique RYYB sensor, the outrageous ISO 409,600, the game-changing 50x zoom, these are all firsts in mobile photography. The super macro mode is also enabling true macro capabilities that reveal microscopic details without requiring add-on lens attachment. From here on, we believe other brands will be frantically launching their own multi-camera systems to replicate Huawei’s technical success.
As a camera system, the P30 Pro achieves amazing shooting flexibility, from ultra-wide angle to ultra-zoom. But among the lenses, only the standard 27mm lens has the touted versatility. The ultra-wide lens handles low light meekly, while the telephoto lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.4, making low light photography challenging to capture without blur. Fortunately, the optical image stabilizer compensates sufficiently to achieve good hit rates. The 32MP front camera shoots detailed portraits while the beautifying filters are less aggressive and looks more natural. A small con: no 60 fps when shooting 4K video resolution.
From $1398 (256GB)
The Huawei has taken another great leap in mobile photography. It is the smartphone to get for frequent low-light shooters and close-up adventurists. And it is also a capable mobile communication device with enough features to keep you gratified without settling for the rest.
Samsung Galaxy S10+
We all have to thank Samsung for Android smartphones we see today. They are all driven by the desire to overtake the electronics conglomerate. Indeed, Samsung was delivering game-changing mobile features over the years, yet with every S-series launch, there was always some missing features that would make it complete. The Galaxy S10 series marks the most complete smartphone that Samsung has launched.
The Galaxy S10+ has all the features that all other popular smartphones possess. Instead of jumping the bandwagon of the display notch, it went straight into the Infinity-O “hole punch” display. After testing the market with the Galaxy A9, the Galaxy S10+ adds the ultra-wide lens in its camera line-up. The 2x zoom may be lower than the Huawei P30 Pro, but it outperforms iPhone Xs Max in digital zoom, giving the S10+ a strong contender with similar camera versatility. In fact, the Galaxy S10+ delivers a slightly wider angle of view than the P30 Pro. So if you are more of a wide-angle shooter as opposed to telephoto, then the Galaxy S10+ is a better option.
The Galaxy S10+ also finally supports in-display fingerprint sensor, albeit slightly less responsive than P30 Pro. The tech pundits certainly anticipated this day to come when Samsung removed the hardware home button and together with it the fingerprint sensor. In fact, Samsung probably inspired smartphone makers to go bezel-less after introducing curved display edges. This is clearly evident in Huawei P30 Pro as its display is also curved.
Among the smartphones compared, the Galaxy S10+ is the most compact and the lightest. The speaker audio quality is the best among these tested thanks to stereo speakers, and the AMOLED display never disappoints. Bixby is also improved with more event-aware triggers. For instance, Bixby Routine can increase font size when user is connected to car Bluetooth. It can run specific apps, enable or turn off settings at scheduled times. The Galaxy S10+ has also made notification engagement more seamless by allowing user to open the app as a pop-up view so that user can act on the notification without leaving the current screen. These, in addition to AR Emoji that now supports mask mode and full-body motion tracking, keeps the Galaxy S10+ at the forefront of mobile technology.
From $1398 (128GB)
With the new Galaxy S10+, Samsung has made a smartphone that has finally no compromises.
Hole-punch front camera, in-display fingerprint sensor, ultra-wide lens, the Galaxy S10+ is still the premium smartphone with the best balance of features.
Group Test Winner: Huawei P30 Pro
The iPhone Xs Max is in an unfortunate position where it is the oldest model among the compared. Make no mistake, it is still a supremely capable smartphone, but only because other brands are launching models more frequently and keeping up to date to attract new buyers. The iPhone Xs Max lacks the photographic versatility and a prohibitive price for most of the consumers who do not have any emotional attachment with Apple products.
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is one of the smartphones that easily leads the pack with its triple rear camera system with dual aperture and a dual front camera system. Its image quality still reigns supreme without the excessive HDR-like effects, and is packed with features and widely-supported ecosystem like KNOX device security, Samsung Pay contactless payment, Samsung Wearables. With innovative functions like pop-up notification view, full-body AR Emoji motion tracking, and Bixby Routines, the Galaxy S10+ is more engaging than ever.
But when it comes to mobile photography, Huawei steals the limelight. The P30 Pro has single-handedly provided a photographic versatility never achieved on a smartphone: an equivalent of 16mm to 1350mm field of view. Adding to that, the super low-light shooting capabilities is astounding. While the rest of the smartphone features are not as newsworthy, they contribute to the high usability factor of the P30 Pro. Speedy performance? Check. Long battery life? Got it. Desktop mode? Bring it on. Wireless charging? Lovely. Huawei is also building its ecosystem of proprietary hardware like nano memory card, Huawei Health, and even its own HWA hi-res audio codec.
The P30 Pro is not a one-hit wonder. It is a culmination of the years of development and marketing effort by Huawei since the P9 to build its brand premium and product quality. It has succeeded in converting hordes of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy owners, and will continue to retain them through product extension. There may be pockets of software issues and fine-tuning, but the P30 Pro is a success story that many upcoming brands will try to emulate.
|Phones||Huawei P30 Pro||iPhone Xs Max||Samsung Galaxy S10+|
|Camera Features and Quality||4.5||4||4|