Samsung Galaxy S9 vs OnePlus 6: which flagship comes out on top?

Two of 2018's best, head to head

Samsung Galaxy S9 and OnePlus 6

This week the impressive OnePlus 6 was finally made official, which means we can all start deciding if we want to go out and buy it – and to do that, we need to weigh it up against some of the best phones we've already seen this year... such as the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Here we've got a detailed comparison of these two 2018 flagships in all the key areas that matter – the external looks, the internal components, and even whether they have a headphone jack or not. Read on to find out which phone ends up coming out on top.

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs OnePlus 6: design

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

You'll struggle to spot the bezels on the front of either of these phones, though the OnePlus 6 does have a distinctive notch up at the top of the display – something Samsung has avoided doing so far with its Galaxy series.

The phones are similar in size physically, but the OnePlus 6 edges it in terms of screen size, cramming in a huge 6.28-inch screen compared with the Samsung Galaxy S9's 5.8-inch one. It's worth noting that the resolution is higher on Samsung's phone though, so you're going to get sharper graphics and text.

Both phones have gone for glass on the back, which is going to pick up a lot of fingerprints but probably make for a more resilient landing if they get dropped on the floor. You can get the Galaxy S9 in six different colours however, while the OnePlus 6 sticks with two varieties of black and a limited edition white.

Unless you're a huge fan of the notch (or really dislike it) there's not a major amount of difference here in terms of phone design – both handsets are sleek and compact slabs of glass. You do get slightly more screen real estate with the OnePlus 6, however, and it's thinner too – 7.8mm compared with 8.5mm.

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs OnePlus 6: specs

OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6

These two powerhouse phones both feature Qualcomm's newest and best Snapdragon 845 processor, though in some regions Samsung offers the broadly comparable Exynos 9810 that it makes itself. You can only get 4GB of RAM with the Samsung Galaxy S9 though, whereas the OnePlus 6 ups that to 6GB or 8GB.

The same internal storage options are available – 64GB, 128GB or 256GB – but on the Samsung phone you can expand that via microSD card. There's no such option on the OnePlus 6, so you're stuck with the amount of storage you buy to begin with.

As for the camera, the Galaxy S9 goes with a single-lens 12MP snapper, whereas the OnePlus 6 has a dual-lens 16MP + 20MP camera on the rear. On paper you might think OnePlus would win by default, but the Samsung phone takes some excellent snaps as well, so it's about honours even.

One final spec you might want to know about is battery size: 3,000mAh for the Samsung Galaxy S9 and 3,300mAh for the OnePlus 6. With so many other factors affecting battery life though, not least screen size, there's not much between these phones here either.

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs OnePlus 6: features

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Traditionalists will love the fact that both the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the OnePlus 6 have kept the 3.5mm headphone jack, so you don't have to buy a new pair of wireless earbuds to listen to your music or your favourite podcasts.

Elsewhere Samsung has given an IP68 rating to its Galaxy S9 – pretty much the highest rating you can get for waterproofing and dustproofing – but OnePlus will only say its phone is "water resistant", so we suspect a dunk in the bath might cause it problems.

Samsung's Galaxy S9 also has the advantage of wireless charging, something you don't get with the OnePlus 6. Both phones have their proprietary fast charging systems installed, so users don't have to wait around as long to get your handset juiced up.

Both phones come with Android 8.x Oreo on board, though the OnePlus 6 has also been invited to the Android P beta by Google – for the time being, that invitation hasn't been extended to Samsung (or maybe Samsung refused it).

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs OnePlus 6: price and verdict

OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6

It's no surprise to say that neither of these phones will let you down, and both are likely to feature on the "best of 2018" lists at the end of the year. However, on paper at least, the OnePlus 6 seems to edge out the Galaxy S9 in a number of areas (though to be fair it did launch three months later).

You can get more RAM with the OnePlus 6, for example, and a dual-lens rather than a single-lens camera. You get a bigger screen in a similar-sized chassis (albeit stuck at a Full HD resolution), and you have the option of keeping the distinctive notch or hiding in with a software tweak. Most impressively of all, the OnePlus 6 costs just £469 or $529.

Compare that with the £739 or $729 you have to pay for a new Samsung Galaxy S9, and that's quite a difference. Samsung would argue that the Galaxy S9 camera is still an excellent snapper, and it has extras like an IP68 rating and wireless charging that aren't available on the OnePlus 6.

Both these phones have their advantages and disadvantages, as we've listed above, and it ultimately comes down to what you value on a phone (and maybe how much you like or dislike what OnePlus and Samsung do with Android). In the end though we think the OnePlus 6 just edges the battle, especially considering that significantly lower price.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.