Mobile World Congress smartphone showdown: LG vs Samsung vs Sony vs Nokia vs Xiaomi
The biggest mobile show of the year offered plenty to see in 2019, from foldable phones fiercely protected by their glass boxes, to 5G-ready devices and prototypes. A number of companies used the show to present their latest and greatest smartphone too.
We’ve compared the biggest smartphones to come out of MWC 2019: the LG G8 ThinQ Q, Nokia 9 PureView, Samsung Galaxy S10, Sony Xperia 1 and Xiaomi Mi 9. Which is the one to watch?
- LG G8 ThinQ: 151.1 x 71.8 x 8.4mm, 167g
- Nokia 9 PureView: 155 x 75 x 8mm, 172g
- Samsung Galaxy S10: 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm, 157g
- Sony Xperia 1: 167 x 72 x 8.2mm, TBC
- Xiaomi Mi 9: 157.5 x 74.7 x 7.6mm, 173g
All the devices being compared in this feature have a metal core with a glass front and rear, resulting in premium finishes across the board. Only the Xiaomi Mi 9 misses out on waterproofing, while the LG G8 ThinQ offers the advantage of drop protection.
Designs vary across the five devices, as you would expect. The Sony Xperia 1 and Nokia 9 PureView both opt for a top bezel above the display (and below in the case of Nokia), while the Xiaomi and LG have notched displays. The Mi 9’s notch is a smaller waterdrop notch compared to LGs but the Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has no notch, with a punch hole camera instead.
All models have USB Type-C for charging, but only the LG and Samsung have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Triple rear cameras are present on the Galaxy S10, Xperia 1 and Mi 9, as well as one model of the LG G8 ThinQ (it comes in dual and triple variants). The Nokia has a penta-camera on the rear.
The Nokia, Samsung and Xiaomi all have in-display fingerprint sensors. The LG G8 has a rear fingerprint sensor and the Sony Xperia 1 has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor.
Which device stands out for its design?
All the devices have stand out design features that we like, but the Samsung Galaxy S10’s curved edges and full screen looks amazing.
- LG G8 ThinQ: 6.1-inch, OLED, 19.5:9, Quad HD+
- Nokia 9 PureView: 5.99-inch, OLED, 18:9, Quad HD+
- Samsung Galaxy S10: 6.1-inch, OLED, 19.5:9, Quad HD+
- Sony Xperia 1: 6.5-inch, OLED, 21:9, 4K
- Xiaomi Mi 9: 6.4-inch, OLED, 19.5:9, Full HD+
All the devices being compared here have OLED display and they all support mobile HDR in some form or another, though specific standards vary depending on device.
The highest resolution is found in the Sony Xperia 1, which has a 4K display, while the lowest resolution is on the Xiaomi Mi 9, which opts for Full HD+. Nokia, LG and Samsung all stick with the now pretty standard Quad HD+ resolution.
The Xperia 1 has the tallest aspect ratio at 21:9, while the others opt for around 19.5:9, apart from the Nokia 9 which has a more dated 18:9 screen.
Which device stands out for its display?
On paper, Sony’s Xperia 1 stands out in this section. It’s super tall 21:9 aspect ratio means films can be watched in their native format without any black bars. The 4K HDR OLED display is also the first of its kind on a smartphone.
- LG G8 ThinQ: Triple rear (16MP+12MP+12MP), 8MP front and ToF
- Nokia 9 PureView: Penta rear (2x12MP RGB + 3x12MP monochrome), 20MP+5MP
- Samsung Galaxy S10: Triple rear (16MP+12MP+12MP), 10MP front
- Sony Xperia 1: Triple rear (12MP+12MP+12MP), 8MP front
- Xiaomi Mi 9: Triple rear (48MP+16MP+12MP), 20MP front
The LG, Samsung, Sony and Xiaomi devices all have triple rear cameras and while their sensor resolutions differ, their camera systems are all made up of an ultra-wide lens, a standard lens and a telephoto lens.
The Nokia 9 PureView takes a different approach with its penta rear camera. It has three monochrome sensors and two RGB sensors, as well as a Time of Flight sensor for depth.
On the front, all have a single sensor, except the Nokia 9 PureView that has a dual camera. Samsung offers the Galaxy S10+ model though, which has a dual front camera too. LG has a ToF sensor on the front of its device.
All devices being compared here have various software features. LG’s ToF front sensor means users can unlock their device with their palm. Nokia creates a 12-megapixel final image from at least 60-megapixels of information. Samsung has a Shot Suggestion feature to help you get the best composition. Sony has eye tracking auto-focus and Xiaomi uses a pixel combining method to offer the equivalent of 1.6µm pixels at 12-megapixels.
Which device stands out for its camera?
All the devices have interesting camera features, but the Nokia 9 PureView’s penta-camera is certainly one to watch. You can read more about the camera in our separate feature.
- LG G8 ThinQ: SD855, 6GB RAM, 128GB, 3500mAh
- Nokia 9 PureView 9: SD845, 6GB RAM, 128GB, 3320mAh
- Samsung Galaxy S10: SD855/Exynos 9820, 8GB RAM, 128/512GB, 3400mAh
- Sony Xperia 1: SD855, 6GB RAM, 128GB, 3330mAh
- Xiaomi Mi 9: SD855, 6/8GB RAM, 64/128GB, 3300mAh
Samsung and Xiaomi both offer 8GB of RAM models, but Samsung has a 512GB storage option, while the other devices top out at 128GB. Only the Samsung, Sony and LG have microSD support for storage expansion.
Battery capacity is around the same on all the handsets, though the LG G8 ThinQ offers the largest. Fast charging is supported on all devices being compared here but wireless charging is only available on the Samsung, Nokia and Xiaomi handsets. It’s also worth mentioning Samsung supports reverse charging in a feature called PowerShare too.
Which device stands out for its hardware?
All five devices offer flagship hardware, but the Xiaomi Mi 9 stands out for it’s ability to offer the same hardware as the competition, at around half the price.
We do really like Samsung’s PowerShare feature however.
- LG G8 ThinQ: Android 9 with LG’s UX
- Nokia 9 PureView: Android One
- Samsung Galaxy S10: Android 9 with Samsung’s One UI
- Sony Xperia 1: Android 9 with Sony skin
- Xiaomi Mi 9: Android 9 with MIUI
All the devices in this feature run on Android but it is only the Nokia that offers pure Android with no bloatware for a guaranteed Android experience thanks to Android One.
The other devices feature each respective company’s skin over the top. In some cases, this means some quite interesting software features. LG offers in the air gesture control for example, while Sony offers split screen functionality that is very easy to access.
Samsung meanwhile, has a huge reworking of Android but it’s a great experience too, whereas Xiaomi’s software is perhaps its downfall with the MIUI not adding much.
Which device stands out for its software?
LG’s G8 ThinQ stands out for its software. The company focused on software functionality over hardware for 2019 and the G8 ThinQ not only offers the ability to unlock it with your palm, but air motion gestures too for things like music playback control and timers. They could turn out to be a gimmick but it’s something different for sure.
The five main smartphones announced at Mobile World Congress have plenty in common. They pretty much all offer flagship hardware, coupled with fabulous, premium designs and great features.
Each device has its strengths and weaknesses on paper but we will be reviewing all the handsets in full over the coming weeks to let you know which is the device to buy overall.
For now you can read all of our initial reviews for our first impressions:
- LG G8 ThinQ initial review
- Nokia 9 PureView initial review
- Samsung Galaxy S10 initial review
- Sony Xperia 1 initial review
- Xiaomi Mi 9 initial review