We just couldn't miss the opportunity to pit the new iPhone 15 Pro Max against the Galaxy S23 Ultra. We doubt that many people are having such a dilemma, but out of sheer curiosity – this comparison makes a lot of sense.
The new iPhone will be remembered for the switch to USB-C port and its new periscope camera, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra is well known for its over-clocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, the most versatile camera kit, and the S-Pen, of course.
Let’s begin by comparing the complete specs sheets or directly continue with our editor's assessment in the following video or in the text further down below.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a bit shorter, narrower, thinner, and even lighter than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Of course, it has a slightly smaller display, so it makes sense for the iPhone to be the smaller smartphone.
The two devices feature completely different designs. The iPhone has a flat frame and flat glass sides with a notably huge camera housing, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra has curved frame on the right and left sides, flat panels, and a far subtle camera setup with almost flush cameras.
The iPhone is marketed for its Ceramic Glass Shield atop the display, which was developed together with Corning. The titanium frame is a key feature now, though it does not necessarily strike you as a much different material than what you are used to with other phones.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra has the latest Gorilla Glass 2 Victus panels on both sides, which is great – it is the sturdiest glass available to any mainstream Android smartphone right now. The frame is made of Samsung's Armor Aluminum alloy which should have improved drop and scratch resistance. The front panel is covered by Gorilla Glass Victus 2.
Both phones are IP68-rated for dust and water resistance, through the iPhone is rated to survive a 6m depth, while the Galaxy – only up to 1.5m.
In theory, the iPhone should be the tougher device, but in real life – it may not be the case. It will come to pure chance, probably, which one falls, well, better, on the ground.
Aesthetically, both flagships are incredibly good looking, and it will all boil down to which one you like better.
Both the iPhone 15 Pro Max have some of the largest OLEDs on the market right now, but they are quite different regarding specs and capabilities.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the brighter display – 1787nits vs. 1274nits in Auto mode and 846nits vs 831nits with manual control. But its display is of lower resolution – 460ppi vs. 500ppi. Arguably, that's a bit tough to see with the naked eye. What you can see is the much larger cutout on the iPhone compared to the tiny hole on the Galaxy.
Both the iPhone and the Galaxy displays can be very color-accurate, so these two are on par here.
Both the iPhone and the Galaxy offer rather adaptive refresh rates, and since we couldn't test Apple's implementation and rely only on its promises, we'd say these two are also equals here.
Finally, the iPhone supports both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision streaming, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra is limited to HDR10+ support.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is powered by a 4,441 mAh battery, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a larger 5,000mAh cell. Of course, it rarely comes down to the battery capacity itself, screen technologies and chipset efficiencies are some of the most important variables.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max scored a total endurance rating of 118 hours, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra - 126 hours.
The iPhone offers slightly longer on-screen times – 3 hours longer web time and 40 minutes more video playback. On the other hand, the Galaxy S23 Ultra can last 14 more hours on 3G talking.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is officially rated for 20W fast wired charging, though in some cases, it is reported to max at 27W. Wireless charging is up to 15W via MagSafe chargers.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra supports up to 45W wired charging and up to 15W wireless. It also has reversed wireless charging, something Apple failed to deliver.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra rechargers faster, obviously. It got from 0% to 40% in 15mins, to 68% in 30 mins, and a full charge took 59 mins. The iPhone 15 Pro Max reached 23% in 15 mins, 46% in 30 mins, and it took 1 hour and 49 minutes for a full charge.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Ultra both have hybrid stereo speaker setups with a dedicated bottom-firing speaker for one channel and an amplified earpiece for the other. The channels are switched on the fly to correspond to the phone's orientation, while the earpiece gets the left channel in vertical orientation.
Both phones offer equal speaker loudness – they scored Very Good on our test.
In keeping with tradition, the iPhone offers excellent sound quality with clean mids and highs and even some lows in the mix. The Galaxy is almost as good as the iPhone, with slightly weaker bass and mids, barely noticeable. And, for all intents and purposes, we'd say both phones have equally great speakers.
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max has the best chip Apple has made so far – the Apple A17 Pro, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra features the most powerful Qualcomm chipset to date – the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy (read the overclocked version). It is incredibly tough to compare the performance as the Galaxy and the iPhone run on entirely different hardware and software platforms, but it's enough to know that they both have the best hardware platforms available right now.
The two flagships feature top-notch hardware and can run smoothly pretty much everything you find on their respective app stores. And while numbers tell a story, it's going to be pretty hard to determine which one is better in standard daily usage as you will not feel any difference. Same goes for the stress tests – both devices offer about 80% CPU stability and about 70% GPU one.
Both manufacturers promise a similar number of major future software updates and have a pretty good track record of sticking to their promises in that respect.
The camera comparison is probably the trickiest part of this Versus article. The iPhone 15 Pro Max offers 2x optical-like and 5x optical magnification, while the Galaxy has 3x and 10x with dedicated telephoto cameras. Both are versatile cameraphones, just in a different way, and it all starts with your personal preferences.
Then you will find that both phones take great shots and record superb videos. Sharpness, detail, dynamic range, contrast, noise - all that seems to be in check on either one of them, which is what you'd expect. Then again, Samsung and Apple have different takes on how image processing should be done.
The photos from the ultrawide cameras are quite similar, excluding the different color rendition, but further pixel-peeing reveals the one from the Galaxy has a bit more detail in it.
The main camera on the iPhone is better for two reasons - whether it's a 24MP or a 12MP photo, it offers more detail, less sharpening and overall, less processed, and more natural look. The color rendition is also more natural, but that's not necessarily a plus.
The 2x times zoom is also better on the iPhone, but for the sole reason it is not over-sharpened. As far as detail is concerned, both photos offer pretty much the same level.
Update, Oct.14: Samsung has released an update to its Camera Assistant app, adding a 2x zoom crop on the Galaxy S23 series. The 2x zoom toggle is, of course, added to the default Camera app and Samsung says it isn't just a standard crop but optimized zoom mode. We have installed this camera update via the Camera Assistant app and done another test of the 2x zoom side by side with the iPhone.
The 2x zoomed photos do look different from the previous ones, but not in a good way. They are literally the same crop as before, but now with extreme over-sharpening, making the iPhone photos look even better. And while we can argue both sample show the same amount of resolved detail, there is no doubt which one look better.
Moving on to more zoom comparisons.
A 3X digitally zoomed photo from the iPhone is quite poor compared to the 3X photo coming from a real telephoto on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The same applies for the 5X photos, but they switch sides - the 5X digitally zoomed from the Galaxy is good, but the one from the proper 5X telephoto on the iPhone is much better.
Finally, the 10X zoomed photo from the iPhone is really good, and while inferior to the 10X shot from the Galaxy with its dedicated 10x tele camera, it's not that of a significant difference when it comes to resolved detail.
We shot all low-light photos with Auto Night Mode on both devices.
The ultrawide photos are equally great, even if with a slight difference in the processing.
The same applies to the pictures shot on the main cameras - they are quite similar, excluding the warmer colors and slightly wider dynamic range on the Galaxy S23 Ultra' samples.
The 2X zoomed photo from the iPhone is far better than the one from the Galaxy, as far as we are talking about resolved detail and sharpness.
The 3X digital zoom from the iPhone is not bad, but the proper 3X telephoto on the Galaxy does better - its photo has more detail and a wider dynamic range.
The 5X photo from the iPhone is better than the 5X photo from the Galaxy, because it's from a real telephoto, and one with quite a bright lens for such a camera.
The 5X camera and the 10X cameras on both devices rarely triggered when shooting in 10X zoom. They preferred to crop from the main cam instead. And when we managed to get them to work, the photos were rather identical in 10X magnification.
Moving on to video capturing. Both phones are excellent camcorders with a ton of shooting options and modes. A small bonus goes to the iPhone for its Dolby Vision videos and ProRes Log recording.
The daylight videos shot at 0.6x, 1x and 2x are quite lovely and similar. The Galaxy does them with higher contrast and cooler colors.
When it comes to zoom, the iPhone is expectedly great at 5x, while the Galaxy does great at 3x. The 10x videos are nothing impressive on both, but they are a bit more detailed when shot with the 10x tele on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, naturally.
The nighttime videos are on par across both smartphones, probably because they often use the main camera and digitally zoom over it. The Galaxy S23 Ultra videos have a bit higher contrast and with more saturated colors.
The iPhone has an edge at 5x magnification - its video is better, though hardly ideal.
Overall, both devices are great cameraphones. They are quite similar when it comes to main and ultrawide cameras. The iPhone shoots better at 2x zoom and 5x zoom, while the Galaxy - at 3x and 10x zoom. So, it's up to you to decide which combination works better for you.
It's quite easy with such versus articles because hardware, performance, test numbers and whatnot – they usually don't matter. It all boils down to choosing iOS vs. Android, since the dawn of the iPhones. And it's a personal choice – whether you accept Apple's way of things or Google's and Samsung's, with all pros and cons.
Still, the new iPhone 15 Pro Max is arguably a tougher smartphone with enhanced water resistance; it has a better display (notch excluded, obviously), more powerful hardware and great 2x and 5x zoom quality.
Nothing can beat the convenience of the Galaxy S23 Ultra's S-Pen and having it always with you, tucked away nicely inside the phone itself; it has more versatile zoom options, faster charging and reverse wireless charging. It also has Android OS, which is the thing that will always tip the scales one way or the other.
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Great picture and then 99% users put pictures on Instagram or similar DM. That is hilarious. Who wants pro results only pro camera with proper lens is solution.
Remember it is not an actual competition
They are both 2023 devices. What else are you going to compare 15 PM to? It’s not Apple’s fault that Samsung released their product in early 2023. S24 will be a 2024 product and should be compared to whatever releases in 2024.