Taken To The Test: The BEST Smartphone Snappers For Social Media

Two platforms are battling it out for dominance in the smartphone space; it’s come down to the iPhone devotees vs. the Android admirers. And so we looked at the top performing pieces of hardware in both categories—the iPhone X, the Google Pixel 2, the Essential PH1, and the Samsung Galaxy 9—to determine which would be the best at capturing your day-to-day life to share on social media. We focused on a very specific list of assessments, testing the ergonomics, camera quality, text editing, and overall value—and more—in order to understand which device can serve us best.

Although the results were all over the map, we at KHACHILIFE were undivided on the winner. Curious? Read on to see how each device measured up.

Initial Setup 

Remember the days of elaborate, time-consuming setups any time you bought a new device? No more. While the four phones were neck-and-neck in this area, the Essential is the quickest and easiest setup of all. Perhaps the fact that this phone runs on a stock Android system has a lot to do with that as there is no third-party clutter to complicate things.

Unlock method

The Galaxy S9 has the most biometric access options, with facial recognition software that works in conjunction with an iris scanner to unlock the phone, and is somewhat reliable. The fingerprint scanner is also quite quick and reliable. The iPhone X has a state of the art facial recognition system only, which is slightly more effective than that of the S9. That being said, we found the absence of a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone X to be a huge negative. The Essential relies on a very consistent and quick fingerprint scanner, though it’s not the quickest of the four. The Google Pixel 2 also relies on a fingerprint scanner, and proved to be the quickest and most reliable of all.

Screen

All four phones have fantastic screens. You can get pretty picky here with the bezel details and the notches that house additional hardware; however, as far as quality goes, they all measure up. The iPhone X has the brightest screen with the Pixel 2 in a close second, the Galaxy S9 in third, and the Essential PHI bringing up the rear. The iPhone X exhibits the best colour accuracy, whereas images on the Galaxy 9 tend to be heavily saturated. The winner in the screen category clearly goes to the iPhone X.

Build Quality & Ergonomics 

This was an important category in our team’s considerations. These are pieces of hardware that get used and handled daily, and must feel natural in their operation. The build quality of the Essential PHI wins top honours. With a precise titanium frame, ceramic back, and Gorilla Glass 5 face, it has the most high quality feel — and it simply looks superior. The Galaxy S9 and iPhone X share second place, and the Pixel 2 is third in feel.

As for ergonomics, this area is a little subjective. All phones are of similar size; however, the iPhone X, Pixel 2, and Galaxy S9 have a solid yet slightly curved exterior. The Google Pixel 2, although slightly rounded, feels the lightest and least natural to hold. The winner for quality and ergonomics is the Essential PH1. Aside from its sturdy and solid feel, it is designed with square edges, making it much easier to hold and operate.

Cameras

These phones are all worthy leaders in the smartphone arena, with respectable front-facing cameras. All rear-facing cameras are fundamentally sound and do well in daylight conditions. However, when tested in different conditions, some excelled slightly more than others.

The overall win goes to the Google Pixel 2 — with the laser focus, dual LED flash, and f/1.8 aperture, it produces some spectacular photography. Although the images are generally not as bright as they are with the other phones, the shots have deeper colours and a better range of contrast, giving a wider range to the image as you would see in real life.

Second place goes to the Galaxy S9. This phone has a fast autofocus and a variable aperture, allowing for quick, accurate images, even in low light. It tends to take a brighter image, making it initially seem like a superior shot. However, this is achieved at the cost of contrast and results in a lower dynamic range. But when it comes to low light photography, the Galaxy S9 simply outperforms its competitors.

The iPhone X, with its quad-LED, dual-tone flash and a two-camera system (a main lens and a second telephoto lens — a great feature for portraits and a quick 2x optical zoom), takes spectacular pictures with a wide dynamic range, but falls a little short of the Galaxy S9 in low light photography.

The Essential’s performance, coming in last place, has significantly improved due to the latest software update. Although the results are considerably better, it still falls a touch shy in quality and dynamic range of the other three. One added feature is the availability of the 360 Degree 4K camera with built-in 3D special audio microphones. The camera has a magnetic mount and is very easy to use to capture the full perspective.

All four phones excel in capturing video, and all produce respectable, quality footage for social media. The Samsung Galaxy S9 produces the best slow-motion shots at 960 frames per second, whereas the Pixel 2 has the best stabilization and fastest autofocus.

Launching your camera app from a locked screen is an important feature when it comes to capturing the moment. All four phones have a quick-launch feature and are equally fast and effective.

Another important factor when it comes to images is storage. The iPhone X has limited photo storage on iCloud, whereas the others have free unlimited storage on Google Drive. The Galaxy S9, having an expandable memory slot, allows much more flexibility in this area.

Text input and Editing

Being able to input quick and accurate text is critical. The Galaxy S9, Pixel 2, and Essential PHI all have moderate text input and editing features, yet if you can become efficient on the swipe type input, you’ll love it. In our opinion, the iPhone X excels in this category, with features such as ‘hold and zoom’ and ‘shake to undo.’ The keyboard is accurate and very easy to type on.

Performance, Battery Life, and Other Features

As expected from leaders in the smartphone category, the performance of each is more than acceptable for day-to-day use and social media uploads. The battery life of each phone becomes a more important feature. The Samsung S9, Google Pixel 2, and the iPhone X all have wireless charging capabilities. The Essential PH1 does not. This should really be standard and not a luxury feature in a smartphone. All phones have quick charging capabilities and the adapters are included with the phone, except for the iPhone X; you must purchase an adapter at an additional cost. The battery life on all phones is obviously dependent on use. Although there is a distinct difference between them, we don’t feel it impacts the phones’ performance abilities for social posting.

Value

One must take the cost of the hardware into consideration when comparing these phones. The Essential costs less than half of the other three; this was an important feature that we found very difficult to ignore.

The Verdict

Each of these flagship phones would be an honourable performer for everyday use, let alone for social posting. They all produce best-in-class photography and video, and excel in overall performance. However, the purpose of our testing is to declare a winner, and so our vote goes to the Essential PH1 due to its superb value, excellent camera performance, software functionality, and admirable screen, as well as its respectable design, build, and ergonomics.

Ramsin Khachi
Ramsin Khachi is a designer, writer, and media personality.

In the media, Ramsin shares his wisdom on various platforms such as the Marilyn Denis Show on CTV, the Toronto Star, the National Post, and various lifestyle magazines as well as his own online luxury magazine. Known for his vivacious personality and distinctive style, he educates on topics such as design trends, innovative products, and the latest in techie gadgets.

From real estate sales, commercial design, and construction to building custom homes, Ramsin’s experience has turned his once small, one-man construction company into a full service Design/Build firm. A leader in his field, Ramsin’s unparalleled integrity for quality and his knowledge of construction and innovation integration has made him a prominent member of the design community and a trusted influencer in design and lifestyle trends. In addition to his media appearances, Ramsin frequently lectures at public forums and to professional organizations and is a brand advocate to select partners.