Reviewing Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra phone, to see which has the best camera tech, battery life, gaming performance and more. That iPhone 15 Pro Max costs as much as an S23 Ultra, but which is worth that sky high price – if either?
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Design and Build Quality
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra stands a wee bit taller than the iPhone 15 Pro Max — it’s 6.8 inches versus 6.7. They’re actually roughly the same thickness despite the fact that the iPhone feels thicker purely because it’s got flat edges.
That’s compared with rounded design on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, It’s only a subtle curvature on that screen now, but something feels more comfortable to clutch compared with the iPhone. But they’re proper full-on rectangular design for the S23 Ultra, whereas the iPhone goes for the sloppy corners instead.
The screen on both the Samsung and the Apple blows pretty much fills the front end – very skinny bezels indeed, And the materials are very different here as well. You’ve got an aluminum frame on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Apple has actually upgraded the frame on the iPhone 15 Pro Max to Titanium, so the iPhone 15 Pro Max is actually lighter than the S23 Ultra, helped along by the fact it’s a wee bit more compact. But both of these phones weigh over 200 grams, so if you stash them in your jeans, you’re going to want to be wearing a belt.
Around back, camera lenses do jut quite far from the arse end of both of these phones. Excessively so on the case of the iPhone — you’ve got Gorilla Glass Victus 2 front and back here on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, nice and durable, no signs of nick or scratches or anything despite the fact I’ve been using this thing for a few months now.
As for the iPhone, well, it’s got Apple’s ceramic shield glass up front, and then it’s just a textured matte glass around back, which has proved less than hardy in several durability tests that have emerged on YouTube so far. Thankfully, I’ve got no complaints on that side, no nicks or scuffs or scratches anywhere on that rear end, and I haven’t exactly been treating the iPhone 15 Pro Max with utmost respect.
Both of these phones come with the added reassurance of being IP68 water and dust-resistant as well. So they can be fully submerged if you drop them in the bath or sink — whatever, it ain’t gonna completely mess them up.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs galaxy S23 Ultra Software and features
So now the really fun part of any iPhone and Android device comparison: the software. Comparing the two is basically a thankless task because whichever one you personally prefer will probably be the one you’ve been using.
I’ve got to say, iOS is getting better all of the time, and I do like some aspects of it, like the way you can quickly and easily switch up the lock screen, which also changes the focus mode. I really like that new action button, which, as you can see there, I’ve set as a shortcut to the camera app.
But anyhow, if you would like a closer look at that software and the best features of both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and that iPhone 15 Pro Max, And the really good news is that both of these blowers are well-supported by their manufacturers as well. Samsung has offered four years of OS updates for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and guaranteed you’ll get at least that with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. So you won’t have to hurl your expensive new brick in the bin after just a couple of years.
Of course, it isn’t just the software that’s radically different here. The Galaxy S23 Ultra also has a hidden surprise down below. I am, of course, banging on about that S Pen stylus, which is secreted in this wee orifice here. Now, this is undeniably handy for scribbling on documents like PDFs before sharing them around, and it’s especially good for signing stuff. It’s also good for getting all sketchy if you’ve got any creative talent.
And you’ve also got Samsung’s nifty DeX feature as well, which basically allows you to turn this almighty blower into a makeshift computer — quite handy if you can’t be bothered to schlep your laptop to work.
And as for security, you’ve got face unlock on both of these blowers. You can have this unlock straight to your home screen here on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, as you still have to swipe on the iPhone for some reason. It is more secure on the iPhone, however, because you’ve got the actual time-of-flight sensor on it. But an alternative and a more secure option here on the S23 Ultra is that ultrasonic sensor, which is built into that almighty bloody screen. You just tap your digits to that, and you’re straight in.
And plenty of great security and privacy tools built into both of these blowers as well. You’ve also got full eSIM support on the pair of them, as well as physical SIM support — at least if you live here in Blighty. If you live Stateside, then you’ll be out of luck on that front on the Apple. And with both of these phones, you’ve got the option of chucking even more cash at Apple and Samsung to upgrade the storage up to one terabyte in total. Very handy if you’re shooting a lot of video, for instance. But neither of these phones offers a bit of microSD memory card support to expand that storage.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs galaxy S23 Ultra Display, Picture Quality
As I mentioned before, the Apple’s screen is slightly smaller than the Samsung’s at 6.7 inches versus 6.8. They are both OLED Tech, just by a different name — it’s Dynamic AMOLED 2x here on the Galaxy S23 Ultra versus Super Retina XDR on the Apple. The iPhone 15 Pro Max sports a 2796 by 1290 pixel resolution versus the Samsung’s 3088 by 1440, so it’s a similar pixel density, and basically, you can expect supremely sharp visuals. Both phones boast HDR 10+ support, but Apple has also chucked in Dolby Vision, something that Samsung has shown for quite some time.
Now, let’s stick them side by side, and you will notice on the default display settings that Samsung clearly produces bolder tones. Those colors are already boosted by the S23 Ultra, so they really pop off the display, while the iPhone offers more sedate aesthetics. As for the technology, in both cases, the refresh rate ranges from almost static all the way up to 120 hertz on the S23 Ultra and the iPhone. You’ve also got the option of setting the S23 Ultra to 60 hertz if you wanted to remain there to preserve a bit of battery life, whereas you don’t have that option on the iPhone.
As for the brightness, well, no worries. The iPhone 15 Pro Max peaks at 21000-ish nits versus around 1750 on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. There’s no real difference to the naked eye under bright sunlight; both are clearly visible. And, oh yes, of course, if you do go full screen when kicking back with a movie or a game on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, that’s Dynamic Island or floating turd, as I like to call it, does slightly intrude on the action there compared with the dinky wee selfie orifice on the S23 Ultra.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra Speakers Audio
And naturally, as these are really expensive premium smartphones, you’ve got a stereo speaker setup. First, the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Just max out that volume. Pro Max, let’s check your bank balance — it’ll just depress the living out of you. And now, let’s repeat that with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Do, after buying yourself a fresh new iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max, let’s check your bank balance and just depress the living out of you.
I gotta say, I prefer the oral output here on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. They’re both really loud on that maximum volume, but I think the iPhone holds it together a bit better. The clarity is stronger. That said, they’ll both happily do the job if you want to stream a bit of YouTube or Netflix in a really noisy environment — even if your kid’s doing a bit of recorder practice right next to your fish, you should still hear what’s going on.
And there’s no headphone jack action here on either the Galaxy S23 Ultra or that iPhone 15 Pro Max — shock surprise. But the Bluetooth wireless streaming is absolutely flawless.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra Performance and Gaming
Now on the performance side of things, well, it’s Qualcomm’s Snapdragon HN2 stuffed inside of the S23 Ultra versus the Apple A17 Pro here on the iPhone. Personally, I’m not a massive fan of benchmarking, especially as Geekbench is essentially a different app on iOS and Android.
So I prefer a bit of real-life testing, and certainly, the everyday experience is super smooth on both of these blowers. Gamers should be more than happy with the performance they get out of a highly demanded title like Genshin Impact. This beast ran beautifully on both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the iPhone, maintaining a smooth frame rate even when things got completely mental. I did, of course, run it on the highest possible graphic settings on both phones.
You’ve got the added bonus on iOS that you can also boost that refresh rate up to 120 frames per second, whereas it is capped at 60 FPS on Android. As far as game and tools go, though, they’re pretty basic on the S23 Ultra — just some do not disturb shenanigans, etc. And they’re pretty much non-existent on the iPhone, beyond some multiplayer matchmaking and leaderboard shenanigans.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra Battery life and charging
As for battery life, the S23 Ultra has the larger capacity cell — 5000 milliamp-hours versus 4400. And I’ve got to say, I have found that the Ultra is superior for everyday mixed use. Even a full week on the iPhone still drains far too quickly, especially when you’re streaming music in the background. That really seems to kill it. Normally, by now, you’d expect to see some sort of improvement, but seriously, four to five hours of screen-on time between charges is all I’m getting.
So, I’m going to continue to use the iPhone 15 Pro Max for another few weeks to see if the situation does improve, but it’s not looking great. With the basic YouTube-style battery test, things are a bit more even. I tried playing a downloaded video with the Wi-Fi knocked off on both of these handsets side by side. You’ll get several hours of action from a full charge, so you can watch that Avatar film about three times right through if you are a bit of a mentalist.
And when it comes to powering back up again, well again, the Samsung is superior to that iPhone with its 45-watt wired charging. So even though it’s got a bigger battery, it does fill up much quicker. The iPhone, you’re going to be charging it overnight as well as probably once or twice during the day. And both the S23 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max support wireless charging, as you’d expect when you splurge out over a grand on a smartphone. Again, the Samsung is faster using that Qi wireless charging, but the iPhone also supports MagSafe charging at 15 watts.
So let’s finish this side-by-side S23 Ultra versus iPhone 15 Pro Max comparison with a squint to the cameras. And it’s very different tech here because you’ve got a 200-megapixel ISO cell HP2, a Samsung’s own creation here on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and that’s versus a 48-meg sensor here on the iPhone, both of them with optical image stabilization. And that camera app is pretty dense with features on both of these blowers.
Now, I shot these side-by-side test photos using the default camera settings on full auto mode, the way that most people will inevitably use these blowers. And in daytime with decent light, the S23 Ultra generally produced brighter pics thanks to its larger sensor and pixel binning. Although, crop into a photo, and that sharper resolution on the iPhone means you get slightly finer detail.
Colors tend to look more natural on Apple sample shots too, with a bit more saturation on the Samsung. Although the iPhone does occasionally produce overly warm results, while Samsung once again brightens those tones so they really pop in HDR-style situations. Both of these phones tend to artificially boost darker regions, so they are clear and bright, which isn’t ideal if you’re after a moody, shadowy shot. But for everyday snaps, most people should appreciate this bit of post-processing.
And if, rather than relying on that auto mode, you’d rather shoot a raw image to tweak yourself after the fact, well, no worries. You can shoot ProRaw here on the iPhone, and you can shoot a good bit of raw here on the S23 Ultra too. You’ve got all the bonus modes that you would expect, including, of course, good old portrait mode, which pumps out some really nice-looking bokeh-style action on both of these phones.
As for the night mode, well, Samsung performs better here, especially as any light sources tend to flare up on my iPhone samples, although Apple’s lab once again serves up slightly more detail compared with that S23 Ultra. And neither are particularly grainy; colors are again brighter and bolder with the Samsung, making it a more attractive snapper overall.
You get all those classics like panorama mode, slow motion, etc., etc., on both of these blowers. The Samsung, you’ve also got classics like single take. And you’ve got to love the iPhone sticker tool, which is fully automatic and works well on people, cats, inanimate objects — all kinds of stuff.
As for the ultra-wide-angle shooters, we’ve got a pair of 12-megapixel sensors here for a more dramatic angle. And it is a very similar story to the primary sensors as far as that picture quality goes. And, of course, it’s the zoom action that Apple has been making a big whoop about. What you’ve got here on the Pro Max is a 12-meg telephoto lens with five times optical zoom, 120 mm focal length. Meanwhile, Samsung has a pair of 10-megapixel telephoto shooters — one working at three times optical zoom, the other offering 10 times zoom, that’s the 69 mm and a 230 mm focal length.
You’ve got optical image stabilization both, and while Samsung can zoom in up to 100 times in total, Apple hits the ceiling at just 25 times. Although if you max out that zoom, you will get a crappy pic with either of these blowers. At every stage past the 10 times zoom level, the S23 Ultra, unsurprisingly, serves up finer detail and copes with stronger light and more capably. However, in low light, the Samsung is so much better; it’s almost funny. I mean, I don’t even know what this is supposed to be; it looks like something I shot on a Game Boy camera.
As for the video side of things, well, very happy with both of these handsets. The Galaxy S23 Ultra can shoot up to 8K resolution video, but I tested both phones at the more sensible 4K res, which comes with a choice of 30 or 60 FPS. Honestly, these two manufacturers have absolutely nailed it on this front. Visuals are bright, crisp, and fluid with impressive stabilization even when you aren’t using the built-in motion modes, so everything looks smooth even if you’re walking at a pretty decent pace.
Audio capture is clean and clear as long as you’re not shooting video in any gusty conditions. And even at night, you should be reasonably happy with the results. As for the selfie cams, where it’s a 12-meg shooter on both of these blowers, and a similar sort of story to the rear cams, to be honest. The color reproduction is completely different on both of them, but you should be happy enough if you just want to share a simple Instagrammable shot. Got a bit of portrait mode action, and no reason for shooting against strong backlighting or in fairly low-light conditions.
They’ll do fine. So that right there in a toasty wee nutshell is how the fresh new iPhone 15 Pro Max stacks up against that Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. And I gotta say it, personally, of the two, I would certainly choose the Sami smartphone, even though I don’t really make much use of that S Pen stylus. Personally, I get on better with Android, but also, the cameras just offer that wee bit more flexibility, and the battery life is certainly a big step up.