It’s a question we’re asked every time a new smartphone comes out – which one should I buy?
In the realm of Android, there’s really three big names you need to know about when it comes to a premium smartphone, and there’s soon to be some more on the market. For now, though, the choice comes down to Google’s Pixel 3, Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 or S10+
Having had time with all three, I’ve asked two of the Ausdroid team to join me in running down what you need to know about the three phones so you can make an informed decision in what you buy next. In this story, Scott will discuss the Pixel 3, Chris the Mate 20 Pro and Duncan the Galaxy S10+.
Google Pixel 3, by Scott
The Google Pixel 3 phones were released in 2018 at Google’s Made By Google event, although they had leaked so profusely beforehand that very little mentioned there was a surprise. Once again the hardware Google used in the Pixel 3 was far from innovative, but its software was where it came to life.
Of course, it was released running Google’s latest software and will continue to run the latest software receiving software security updates and version updates for two years minimum. The CPU powering it was a Snapdragon 845 which was not surprising but beginning to get long in the tooth, having been first released over 6 months earlier.
The storage was acceptable with 64GB and 128GB variants available, but the RAM was where it let the whole package down. For some inexplicable reason Google included just 4GB of RAM in the Pixel 3, the same as the year before in the Pixel 2. When all other phones are looking at starting at 8GB of RAM we all thought maybe Google could get 4GB to work just fine.
We were wrong.
From the outset the Pixel 3 was plagued with multitasking issues due to the lack of RAM as well as disappearing photos and other issues. 4GB of RAM was not enough to multitask the way Android should be able to multitask, and Google scrambled to change the aggressiveness of the memory management to alleviate the issue. This Google eventually did, but the phone still struggles with multiple apps and will be forever hamstrung by the decision to include just 4GB of RAM in a flagship phone.
What do I like about the phone? Surely there must be something. Yes, the phone is fast. Sure the Mate 20 Pro seems fast in isolation, but go straight from a Pixel 3 to a Mate 20 Pro and the difference is night and day. The Pixel 3 is blazingly fast with beautiful animations and transitions.
The camera on the Pixel 3 is fantastic. Google included just a single lens camera this year and once again have relied heavily on computational photography. What the Pixel 3 can accomplish is stunning, with many rating the camera one of the best smartphone cameras around. Its Night Sight feature is much better than Samsung or Huawei’s version, but I feel that in the end the Pixel 3 falls slightly short on overall general photography.
In the end the proof is in the pudding. Do I use the Pixel 3 XL as my main phone? No.
I have a McLaren OnePlus 6T for that and am glad I do. The camera is not quite as good as the Pixel 3 camera but the software and overall experience is second to none — although the two days I used the Galaxy S10+ has made me pause to consider that there may be another option worth considering.
You have to really passionately love Google, its ecosystem and the Pixel brand itself to put the Pixel 3 phone above any of the other two flagships mentioned here I’m afraid.
Google need to not be so afraid of innovating with hardware as well as software.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro, by Chris
Also released in 2018, the Mate 20 Pro debuted in October at a flashy show in London. Huawei’s current top tier smartphone is powered by the same chipset as the two upcoming phones from the company, the powerful Kirin 980 processor.
Running Android 9 Pie, the Mate 20 Pro comes with 6GB RAM on board, as well as 128GB of storage. This makes – with the Kirin 980 – the most powerful smartphone combination on the market, with the Mate 20 Pro easily topping the multi-processor score on Geekbench where it has remained since October when it launched.
This translates to the experience of using the Mate 20 Pro; there’s no appreciable lag in anything much, and though some features take a bit of getting used to – the in-screen fingerprint sensor annoyed me to begin with – all in all it’s an excellent package of a phone.
In the almost five months I’ve been using the phone, I’ve received fairly regular (if not slightly delayed) security updates, and I’ve enjoyed some new features since launch. At the time of writing, I’m at the January 2019 security patch level, and if the current trend is maintained, the March 2019 security patch will probably arrive within the next three to four weeks.
What are some of the features I love? Easily the best mobile camera I’ve had the pleasure of using, it charges quickly and the battery lasts all day (and then some) with a screen on time of well over six hours easily achieved. I love the dual-SIM allowing me to carry my personal and work phone together in one.
It’s not every phone that I use past the review period, and there’s a clear reason why I’ve kept using the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It’s brilliant, and nothing I’ve seen launched at MWC has changed my mind yet.
Samsung Galaxy S10+, by Duncan
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ in the new kid on the block, having just had it’s big unveil in February this year. The Samsung S10+ is the pinnacle of Samsung’s 10 year history of Android flagship devices.
Samsung has packed it with the best of their tech including an ultrasonic under-screen fingerprint sensor, Triple Camera Array, Wireless charging, including reverse wireless charging all backed by the latest SOC, 6 – 12 GB of RAM, 128 GB – 1TB of internal storage and the list goes on.
With Samsung packing everything they could into the devices it should be no surprise that it is a solid performer. Lag is a thing of the past with the system seamlessly handling absolutely anything you throw at it. The Samsung S10+ can hold it’s own, even apps that have traditionally run poorly for me seem faster on the S10+.
For those in the Samsung, or even another OEM skin world, the software will feel familiar and probably a little cleaner than previous generations. For those coming from a more stock software approach you’ll likely need some time to adjust, but also you may just be impressed with the little additional extras that are peppered throughout the new One UI.
I’m very much looking forward to giving the cameras a solid run through. I have to admit I’ve become a fan of the triple camera set up with a wide angle, standard and zoom settings. In my early tests with the Samsung S10+ I’ve found a reason to be optimistic about the results.
I’ve only had the S10+ for a little over a week, and due to international SMS issues I’ve only had it fully set up for a few days, so my thoughts are still developing. However, I’m confident this will be the best Samsung device I’ve ever used and more than in contention to be a great Android device as well.
Comparing the price
Google’s Pixel 3 comes in two variants, starting at $1,199 for the smaller, 64GB Pixel 3, up to $1,499 for the Pixel 3 XL with 128GB storage. It’s also available on all three major carriers at the moment on a variety of plans, but here’s the Pixel 3 XL 128GB (to compare apples with apples):
Outright, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro set you back $1,599 at launch, but you can buy it at the moment on sale for $1,399. Better yet, it comes with a bonus free Huawei Watch GT until the middle of March 2019.
There’s also carrier deals available from Optus and Vodafone:
Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ goes on sale this week, with pricing varying wildly across the range. The entry-level Galaxy S10e starts at just $1,199, and it reaches all the way up to $2,399 for the 1TB S10+ model.
However, to keep the comparison on point, we’ll look at the Galaxy S10+ 128GB variant which has an outright price of $1,499 at launch.
As is often the case with Samsung’s smartphones, it’s available on all major carriers too:
On outright price alone, Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro comes out ahead with its sale pricing a good $100 cheaper than the other two. However, it remains to be seen whether Huawei will revert that pricing to the $1,599 asking price, which puts it higher than both Google’s Pixel 3 and Samsung’s equivalent S10+.
On plan pricing, the comparison is a little harder. Google’s Pixel 3 and Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ both offer plans on all three carriers, whereas Telstra doesn’t range the Huawei. Telstra offers the most expensive plans with equivalent inclusions, but overall, there’s not much difference between the plans for these three phones.
And so, ultimately, the decision between these three phones comes down to the features themselves, rather than a decision purely on cost.
Each of these premium smartphones offers its own unique advantages. Google’s Pixel 3 features a stock Android experience that the purists will struggle to leave behind. Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro offers great performance and features across the board, but some prefer a different software experience. Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ shows Samsung still knows a thing or two about smartphone design and the important software experience.
Google’s Night Sight camera on the Pixel 3 is virtually unbeatable, but as an all round camera, it’s less capable than the other two. Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ certainly feels impressive, but without a full review, perhaps it’s a bit early to say. Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro is a proven, powerful competitor which has received positive reviews from across the tech industry.
I think it boils down like this. The best all-rounder is probably the Huawei Mate 20 Pro at the moment. Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ could knock it off the perch, but it is likely to be more expensive (depending on the model you choose). Google’s Pixel 3, as good as it is, probably can’t be considered a viable alternative given its memory issues, and despite a good night camera feature, the general photography lags a little bit behind.
What do you think? What’s your best smartphone at the moment?