Shootout: Flagship smartphones compared

By Marcus Wong - 18 Jan 2020

Introduction, Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

Note: A version of this article first appeared in our HWM November 2019 edition and is now re-published on HardwareZone. All of the phones have been detailed in far greater detail in their respective online reviews and this article serves as a quick compilation.

Note: This article was first published on 4 January 2020.

Dial me a winner

Flagship smartphone makers have it tough. Having to always squeeze out more performance, eke out more display space, and still come up with exciting new features year-on-year is difficult, to say the least. And then there’s the competition. While there are several, flagship-tier phones in the market, the following five smartphones represent the best the mobile world has to offer in 2019.

We find out which one is best in this shootout, but first, here's a specs table to line-up how they all compare.

Flagship smartphones 2019


Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is one of two iPhones to be the first to be assigned a “Pro” moniker. The phone follows the same overall aesthetic as the iPhone XR, with a stainless steel body and a glass back. This has an IP68 water and dust resistant rating, and Apple says the phone can stay submerged in up to 4 metres of water for up to 30 minutes.

While the design language is the same, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is noticeably thicker and heavier than its predecessor. Thickness is up by 0.4mm from 7.7mm to 8.1mm, and weight is up 18g for the iPhone 11 Pro Max from 208g to 226g. Not a deal-breaker by any means but it’s something worth taking note of since the iPhone 11 Pro Max is noticeably heftier in the hands. The iPhone 11 Pro comes in four colours. Space grey, silver, and gold returns, with a new midnight green option.

In terms of display, The iPhone 11 Pro Max gains a 6.5-inch, 2,688 x 1,242 pixels, Super Retina XDR (458 PPI) display. This can now go up to 1,200 nits when viewing HDR10 movies or photos. Clarity, sharpness, and colour accuracy are all excellent with this phone.

The audio side has also improved because the iPhone 11 Pro Max comes with stereo speakers that support spatial audio. Compared to the iPhone XS Max, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro sound just about as loud, but distortion is less pronounced and the sound is more controlled at extreme volumes. Also, the stereo separation and effects are more distinct and there's even the slightest palpable sense of bass.

Now on to the camera system. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a triple camera system for the very first time:-

  • Wide 12-megapixel f1.8 (26mm) 
  • Ultra-wide 12-megapixel f2.4 (13mm)
  • Telephoto 12-megapixel f2.0 (52mm)

Apple’s made it easy to jump from stills capture to video – just hold down the shutter and flick to the right to change modes.

Stills and videos are sharp with good colours, and the iPhone finally gets Night Mode, which activates automatically when lighting is poor. A good thing about this is that you can adjust exposure time manually in case you have a tripod handy, to a maximum of three seconds. But it must be noted that Apple has tuned Night Mode so it doesn’t turn day into night, but rather just gives you as much detail and dynamic range as possible while preserving the intent of the image.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max easily bests the competition in terms of performance benchmark tests as can be seen on page six. The A13 bionic chip packs 23% more transistors than the previous A12 chip, and this goes a long way to aid it in speedier processing while using less power through a better silicon process technology.

For a more detailed assessment, features, and capabilities, check out our full review of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.