iPhone 11 vs Android’s best: An underdog does just enough to take down the champ

The iPhone 11 is an incredible phone, but there's one I like a little better.

Credit: Christopher Hebert/IDG

Performance

All of the phones include very fast and very efficient processors. Obviously the iPhone uses Apple’s silicon, while the Android phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset.

Both the Galaxy S10+ and the Pixel 4XL use the Snapdragon 855 processor, while the OnePlus 7T sports the newer Snapdragon 855+. It would take a serious user with equally serious benchmarks to discern any difference, but OnePlus buyers can boast that they have the technically faster Android phone.

Something’s not quite right with the Pixel 4. It should be the fastest of the bunch, with the purest Android skin and Google’s hardware-software integration, but in test after test it performed slower than the others. It’s gotten worse since I wrote my review. Apps hang (including Google’s own utilities), system features lag, and even scrolling feels sluggish at times with Smooth Display turned on. It’s the only phone where I need regular restarts to keep things humming. I can only hope the performance issues will be fixed with an update. Just check out these BrowserBench Speedometer scores, which measure the responsiveness of web apps:

  • iPhone 11: 153
  • OnePlus 7T: 69.1
  • Galaxy S10+: 53.8
  • Pixel 4 XL: 34

I ran this test several times on the Pixel 4 using Google’s own Chrome browser, and it never topped 35. Meanwhile, the A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone 11 is on another level—faster than its predecessor and the fastest of the bunch here, including in real-world results. Even the fastest Android UI here feels sticky when compared to the iPhone 11, and that’s without a 120Hz ProMotion display.

android iphone browserbench IDG

The iPhone 11 performs more than twice as many browser tasks as the closest top-of-the-line Android phone.

The harmony Apple creates between the silicon and software is second to none, as evidenced by these Geekbench benchmark score (where once again the Pixel 4 seriously lags):

CPU (Single-Core/Multi-Core)

  • iPhone 11: 1,330/3,531
  • OnePlus 7T: 791/2,789
  • Galaxy S10+: 710/2,639
  • Pixel 4 XL: 635/2,529

Compute

  • iPhone 11: 6,402
  • OnePlus 7T: 2,693
  • Galaxy S10+: 2,397
  • Pixel 4 XL: 2,105
android iphone browserbench IDG

The A13 Bionic processor in the iPhone 11 simply smokes the competition.

One area where Apple can improve, however, is startup time from a full shutdown. The Pixel 4 XL obliterated the other phones, and the iPhone consistently came in last place, even if only by a second or two:

  • Pixel 4 XL: 11 seconds
  • Galaxy S10+: 19 seconds
  • OnePlus 7T: 20 seconds
  • iPhone 11: 21 seconds

Granted, we rarely restart our phones—and the iPhone needs it even less often than the Android phones here—but I’d still like to see Apple get closer to the Pixel with the iPhone 12.

The results here underscore my frustrations with the Pixel 4 XL: If Google can optimize startup time, why can’t it do the same with the rest of Android? The Galaxy S10+ and OnePlus 7T basically run circles around the Pixel 4, but neither can touch the iPhone’s crazy speeds, even if you won’t notice them much.
Winner: iPhone 11

Sound

After Apple famously dumped the headphone jack with the iPhone 7, the rest of the industry has slowly followed suit. First Google took it away from the Pixel 2, then OnePlus removed it with last year’s 6T. And once it’s gone, it’s not coming back.

android vs iphone ports Christopher Hebert/IDG

The headphone jack is going away, but the Galaxy S10+ still has one.

The Galaxy S10+ is the sole phone in the bunch that retains a 3.5mm headphone jack. You even get a very decent pair of AKG-tuned earbuds in the box. But Samsung axed the headphone jack from the Note 10 and Galaxy Fold, so you can see the writing on the wall. You’ll get a pair of Lightning EarPods with the iPhone 11, but neither the OnePlus 7T nor the Google Pixel 4 XL includes a pair of buds, nor a USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle. The phones' own speakers also deliver solid volume (the Pixel 4 loses its front-firing speakers, which gave it a serious sound boost last year).

Max decibels

  • Galaxy S10+: 100
  • Pixel 4 XL: 98
  • OnePlus 7T: 97
  • iPhone 11: 94

Along with their loudness, every handset but the Pixel 4 boasts Dolby Atmos spatial sound. While it’s debatable that you actually need Dolby Atmos support on a phone, it’s nice to have. Supported music and movies definitely feel slightly fuller (though you’re not going to forget you’re listening on a pair of smartphone speakers).
Winner: Galaxy S10+

Biometrics

We’re at something of a transitional period when it comes to biometrics. OnePlus and Samsung replaced the physical fingerprint sensor with an in-display scanner, while the iPhone 11 and Pixel 4 both use 3D facial recognition. The Galaxy S10+ has a better scanner than the OnePlus 7T, and the iPhone tops the Pixel 4 XL with facial recognition, but there's more to the story than that.

The Galaxy phones used to have an iris scanner in addition to a fingerprint reader, so the in-display sensor feels like a step backward, especially because it's neither as fast nor as reliable as the physical scanner. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 7T’s scanner is faster than Samsung’s when it works—especially when paired with the 2D face unlock. But on the whole I struggled with it more than I did with the S10+. Both phones have continuously improved their sensors through software updates.

Apple's had two years to refine Face ID. It’s speedy, secure, and simple, with smart features that help keep your data locked down.

That’s not the case with Google’s face unlock. It’s very fast and will even work if you’re holding your phone upside down, but it’s missing a key feature: attention, both in the literal and figurative sense. Google has opted against including eye tracking in the initial version, so if your eyes are closed, someone could still hold your phone up to your face to unlock it. 
Winner: iPhone 11

Storage

We’ve kind of reached the point where no one should ever run out of space on their phones, but just for the fun of it, let’s break down the dollar-to-gigabyte ratio:

  • OnePlus 7T (128GB): $4.68
  • Galaxy S10+ (128GB): $7.81
  • iPhone 11 (64GB): $10.92
  • Pixel 4 XL (64GB): $14.05

That’s a pretty big disparity, and you don’t need to be a math whiz to figure out that more gigabytes for less money equals better value. The same goes for the step-up models:

  • iPhone 11 (64GB upgrade, $50): $0.78
  • Galaxy S10+ (384GB upgrade, $250): $0.65
  • Pixel 4 XL (64GB upgrade, $100): $1.56
  • OnePlus 7T: N/A

It’s a bummer that OnePlus isn’t offering a storage upgrade option for the 7T in the U.S., but even so, it delivers the best internal storage value. It’s also a bummer that Google continues to sell 64GB of extra storage for $100, and no other Android phone here other than the S10+ offers an expandable memory card slot. But dollars-to-gigabytes, the OnePlus 7T takes this category.
Winner: OnePlus 7T

Let's talk about smartphone brains: iOS and Android, are they really much better or worse? Keep reading to find out.

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Michael Simon

Michael Simon

PC World (US online)
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