Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds.
Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
ExpertiseContent strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
In the case of the iPhone 11 Pro, its greatest competition are two
phones: the recently launched Galaxy Note 10 ($949) and March's Galaxy
($1,000). To staunch iPhone fans, these Samsung devices will hardly matter. Rather, their question will come down to which iPhone 11 model to buy. But if you're asking which high-end phone gives you the best value for money, the trade-offs are interesting and instructive.
Watch this: iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are packed with camera features
Keep in mind that we won't know which phone is "best" until after testing the iPhone 11 Pro and Note 10 or S10 Plus side-by-side. But we do have a pretty good idea how they'll compete.
For a long time, a bigger screen meant a better screen, but that's an unfair summation now. If you prefer a smaller display, the iPhone 11 Pro's 5.8-inch screen still gives you plenty of room to run, without the bulk of a bigger phone.
For pixel density, the Galaxy S10 Plus takes the crown, with 522 pixels per inch versus the iPhone 11 Pro's 458 ppi and the Note 10's 401 ppi. That said, these differences are usually negligible to the naked eye. What matters most is how brilliant the clarity, how crisp the detail and how legible the words are in bright light.
Color tone is also intangible -- some screens look more yellow, and others a harsher blue. We'll need to compare them side by side in a variety of lighting scenarios to know for sure. For now, let's call it a draw.
Screen size and resolution
iPhone 11 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Display size, resolution
5.8-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,436x1,125 pixels
6.3-inch AMOLED; 2,280x1,080 pixels
6.4-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440-pixels
iPhone 11 Pro's triple camera holds a lot of promise
In an Apple first both the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max get a third camera on the back, a 13-megapixel ultra-wide angle lens to go along with the main camera sensor and telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom.
Watch this: Hands-on with the iPhone 11's ultra-wide-angle camera
Both Galaxy phones have this too, plus the ability to seamlessly switch among all three lenses. It's the image quality we're unsure about. In our previous photo tests, the Galaxy S10 Plus and iPhone XS each have an advantage, depending on the scene. But the iPhone 11 Pro has new sensors that could change the way that it processes pictures.
We'll also compare the phones' dedicated night mode, which Apple glossed over without sharing much about. The S10 Plus and Note use the exact same software and camera lenses.
Yet there are ways that the iPhone 11 Pro might stand out. Deep Fusion is a new Apple camera feature we'll see in the future that promises to combine nine photos to make a single composition with greater detail and reduced image noise. Apple also will let you start recording video while you're taking stills, which is the first time we've seen this feature on any phone.
Selfies get way more attention, too, with a wide-angle view (the Galaxy phones have this, as well), slow-mo selfies and better 4K video recording. There's a jump up from 7 to 12 megapixels as well. While these "slofies" are drawing internet fire, this is a feature I could see Samsung and other rivals adding to their phone within a year.
Watch this: iPhone XS Max vs. Galaxy S10 Plus: The cameras battle it out
Processing power is up in the air
Apple's chipset is always a little inscrutable. The company compares speed and efficiency compared to the previous models, but it's tough to weigh one processor -- in this case the A13 Bionic chip -- with another completely different chipset, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 used in the Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy Note 10.
Based on the iPhone's 11's video and photography promises (e.g., 4K video at 60fps, slow-mo selfies and the kind of computational photography you need to process night mode photos) we can guess its chip will be a beast. But so is the Snapdragon 855.
Once again, we'll have to test everything from gaming silkiness and hard graphics rendering to photo processing speeds and even completing everyday tasks.
iPhone battery life could give Samsung the chase
Apple has told us just that the iPhone 11's, Pro's and Max's batteries will last up to an hour, four hours and five hours longer than last year's counterpart phones, respectively. That's... not very descriptive, considering that everyone uses their phones differently.
Apple doesn't share battery capacities the way every other manufacturer does, but CNET runs internal tests to establish a baseline we can use to compare phones. We start at 100% and loop a video in airplane mode (with volume and screen brightness at 50%) until it turns off.
Battery life projection
iPhone 11 Pro (projection based on CNET's iPhone XS battery drain test)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Battery live on video loop test
17 hours, 17 minutes
16 hours (tests continue)
We're still testing the Galaxy Note 10, but so far the phone has an average of 16 hours run time. If that average holds and the iPhone 11 Pro's battery life lives up to Apple's claim, it could surpass Samsung's $950 phone.
Apple doesn't offer expandable storage and Samsung usually does (though the Note 10 is one exception). Apple also starts off the iPhone 11 Pro at 64GB of on-board storage compared to 256GB with the Galaxy Note 10 and 128GB for the cheapest Galaxy S10 Plus configuration.
Compared to the iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung gives you double the storage to buy the base model Galaxy S10 Plus (which also supports a 512GB external storage card), and quadruple the ROM if you buy the Note 10 (again, not to be confused with the $1,099 Note 10 Plus).
You'll pay $1,149 to jump up to 256GB of storage on the iPhone 11 Pro, which is a $200 surcharge over the Note 10 for the same capacity.
Security and software updates: iPhone 11 has the edge
Meanwhile, most phone-makers take time to get the latest version of Android in line with their proprietary software skins. For example, Google's Pixel phones are the only ones to sport Android 10 right now. Samsung and others do routinely upgrade their phones with patches, but major OS updates take longer to sync up.
Extras to push you over the edge
Fast wired charging
iPhone 11 Pro has:
Face ID unlocking
Note 10 has:
Reverse wireless charging, which lets you charge wireless accessories and other phones on the back of the device
S Pen stylus, a Samsung power feature unique to the Note line
S10 Plus has:
A dedicated headphone jack
Expanded storage support
When we'll have a winner
First we'll need to review the iPhone 11 Pro, then we'll need to run some deep comparison tests with the Galaxy S10 Plus and Note 10, starting with the camera.