Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone X isn’t due for a replacement as the company’s flagship smartphone until September. That means iPhone sales are largely on its shoulders for most of this year. And as iPhone sales go, so to does AAPL stock.
Now Samsung has revealed the new Galaxy S9. And the battle lines for best smartphone have been drawn. So who comes out on top?
With review units making their way into testers’ hands, the inevitable head-to-head showdowns between these two flagship smartphones have begun. Not surprisingly, the Galaxy S9 — which launched with the tag line “the camera reimagined” — is wins for photos. In benchmark performance tests, however, the iPhone X trounced the Galaxy S9.
In some of the tests, even the two year-old iPhone 7 topped the Galaxy S9.
iPhone X Trounces Galaxy S9 in Performance Tests
9to5Mac reports that a Galaxy S9 and an iPhone X were put through a series of standard performance benchmark tests. The results showed the iPhone X — and the iPhone 8 — beat the Galaxy S9 on every test. Making the results even more concerning for Samsung, an iPhone 7 from 2016 also beat the new Galaxy S9 in some cases.
These results matter because the performance reflects what users will experience in things like how fast a web browser opens or lag when switching apps. Having your new flagship be noticeably slower than the competition released five months earlier isn’t great for marketing. (And the two-year-old iPhone 7 beating it is flat-out terrible for marketing.)
The Galaxy S9 used for testing was equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos chip, while versions destined for the North American market will have a Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 845. That’s where things get a little murky.
The new Exynos chip tops the Snapdragon in benchmark tests. But Samsung may have tuned it to remove that advantage so its smartphones aren’t faster in one market than another. And that raises the possibility that they may have tweaked it too far.
Comparing Apple’s custom-made mobile CPUs to everyone else is literally an apples to oranges exercise.
The ARM-based A-series CPUs Apple designs are optimized to wring every ounce of performance out of its hardware. They usually have less RAM than the competition as well, yet consistently perform at higher levels than off-the-shelf Qualcomm counterparts. (And Samsung’s Exynos chips.)
So the iPhone X beating the Galaxy S9 isn’t a huge shock. But what is surprising is how thoroughly it beats the new Samsung smartphone. And that even a two year-old iPhone 7 is able to beat Samsung’s latest phone on some of performance tests.
But the Galaxy S9 has the Best Smartphone Camera
Samsung’s revenge is that the Galaxy S9 tops the iPhone X in taking photos.
And the Galaxy S9+ is the best smartphone camera ever tested by DxOMark. It even beats Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google Pixel 2 for photo quality. That knocks the iPhone X down to third place, although the distance between first and third is not great.
Implications for iPhone Sales and AAPL Stock
In many ways, specs are most useful for marketing and bragging rights. However the two factors spiked out in these tests go beyond specs to user experience, and that’s where they can actually tip sales in one direction or another.
Users who want snappy performance may look at the Galaxy S9 in showrooms, notice that it seems sluggish compared to the iPhone X (and 8 Plus), and opt to buy the Apple smartphone instead. On the other hand, a smartphone is now the only camera many people own. If someone is very particular about photo quality and they want the best, that’s the Galaxy S9.
Apple’s iPhone X sales have been slower than expected, so we haven’t seen the big upgrade super-cycle and resulting AAPL stock boost investors were hoping for. Part of that may have been buyers waiting to see how Samsung answered with the Galaxy S9.
Being edged out by the Galaxy S9 for photography isn’t a positive, but the iPhone X still did very well. Most buyers will still be very happy with its camera.
On the other hand, if Samsung’s shipping Galaxy S9 has the same performance as the unit that was tested, that could be trouble for Samsung –test site AnandTech says it would be an “utterly massive disappointment.” That’s the kind of performance that smartphone buyers may not be willing to put up with — especially not in a new flagship smartphone.
In that case, the Android competition like Google’s Pixel 2 could gain some sales at Samsung’s expense. And if buyers were willing to switch to iOS, Apple could pick up some switchers. Keep an eye on iPhone X sales once the Galaxy S9 hits shelves on March 16 to see what happens.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.