Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Best in class!

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iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra

Intro


Apple's brand-new iPhone 15 Pro Max is certainly its most advanced iPhone of 2023, greatly differentiating itself from the iPhone class of 2023. With a periscope camera, a refreshed new titanium design, a USB Type-C port, and multiple other improvements, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is already shaping up to be one of the best phones of the year

Meanwhile, there is Samsung with its top-tier Galaxy S23 Ultra, which is among the best Android phones money can buy. It packs a high-end chipset, a huge 200 MP main camera, a gorgeous display, and a Samsung-tailored user interface that fully benefits from the deep integration with the S Pen stylus. With such incredible specs, it's no wonder that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is one of the most.

Sure, there are always some major differences between Samsung's and Apple's top phones. However, ignoring the essential operating system and ecosystem differences between the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S23 Ultra, we might find out that these two phones aren't that much different from one another, as they decidedly offer the best of their respective manufacturers. 

Each has its strengths and slight weaknesses, and while the iPhone 15 Pro Max is an excellent device, you will find that it's neck and neck with the Galaxy S23 Ultra once you look past the FOMO on the latest iPhone.

iPhone 15 Pro: save $50-$630 with a trade-in at Apple.com

Apple offers its impressive iPhone 15 Pro at deeply discounted prices with the right trade-in. Right now, you can get this top-class smartphone at up to $630 off with a trade-in.
$369
$999
Buy at Apple

iPhone 15 Pro Max: up to $630 off with a trade-in at Apple

With its groundbreaking chipset and high-class titanium frame, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a real mobile gem. It's now available on Apple at an impressive trade-in discount of up to $630.
$569
$1199
Buy at Apple

Galaxy S23 Ultra (512GB) is available at Amazon

The Galaxy S23 Ultra with 512GB of storage is available on Amazon in limited quantities. The smartphone arrives at its standard price. Only the models in Green and Lavender are currently available.

Save up to $535 on the S23 Ultra (512GB) at Samsung

The Galaxy S23 Ultra with 512GB of storage is available at the official store as well. Here, you need a suitable trade-in if you want to score some money off the former flagship phone. The device retails at up to $535 off with a suitable trade-in.
$844 99
$1379 99
Buy at Samsung

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra essential differences:
  • 6.7-inch (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs 6.8-inch (Galaxy S23 Ultra) display
  • 3nm Apple A17 Pro (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy (Galaxy S23 Ultra)
  • 48MP (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs 200MP (Galaxy S23 Ultra) main camera sensors
  • 5.0X optical (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs 3.0X, 10.0X optical zoom (Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • S Pen stylus support (Galaxy S23 Ultra)
  • 4,422mAh (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs 5,000mAh (Galaxy S23 Ultra)
  • 25W (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs 45W (Galaxy S23 Ultra) charging speeds
  • Face ID (iPhone 15 Pro Max) vs Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint scanner (Galaxy S23 Ultra)
  • iOS 17 vs One UI (based on Android 13/14)

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

Samsung has found its comfort zone; big changes for the iPhone


First up, Apple is shaking things up quite a lot with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, introducing a new contoured titanium design which not only enhances the rigidity but also keeps the weight down.

Another major change that's coming to the iPhone lineup extends to the mute switch, which is substituted for a customizable Action Button, similar to the one on the Apple Watch Ultra. This one will allow iPhone 15 Pro Max users to customize the button and enable different functions with it. 

Oh, and Apple is finally joining the USB Type-C club with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Nice! You can use the universal connector to charge up the phone and transfer files, though you might need to upgrade your cable to make full use of the potential data throughput speeds of the phone. 


What about the Galaxy S23 Ultra? This one relies on the same ol' glass-sandwich design that has mostly remained unchanged in comparison with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. With a very premium design that pairs a flat bottom and top frames with a slightly curved display and a built-in S Pen stylus, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is one of the best-designed phones of early 2023. 

Thanks to the titanium design, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a lighter phone than the Galaxy S23 Ultra: 221gr vs 234gr. While the difference might not sound like much, it's rare for big phones to score such a drastic weight reduction between generations (the iPhone 14 Pro Max weighed 240gr). It's easy to notice a difference in real life, which 


The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in four new colors: Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium and Black Titanium. The Galaxy S23 Ultra can be yours in Cream, Lavender, Green, Phantom Black, and a few other exclusive colors over at Samsung.com

Don't expect to find a wall adapter in the box of either phone, though. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also comes with a USB 2.0 cable in the box, but you will need to get a USB 3.0 cable if yo uwish to make use of faster data speeds. 

Display Differences



The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with a very smooth 1-120Hz ProMotion display that will allow for a pretty rewarding scrolling experience throughout the interface.

However, aside from the thinner bezels and the return of the Dynamic Island punch-hole, there aren't any major improvements to the iPhone 15 Pro Max's display, which reuses the excellent screen of the iPhone 14 Pro Max. That one was great, with very high maximum brightness and excellent color rendition, so you'll hear no criticism on our part. 


Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 Ultra's 6.8-inch display is interrupted by a single much smaller punch-hole, which definitely helps the Android trooper achieve a cleaner look. The Samsung phone also offers dynamic refresh rate up to 120Hz, a very sharp QHD+ display, and can also achieve very high brightness in certain lighting conditions, albeit not as much as the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and in extension, the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Display Measurements:



In real life, both displays look stunning, and it's only specifications nitpicking that can declare a clear winner, if any. Surely, the iPhone 15 Pro Max seemingly fares worse than the Galaxy S23 Ultra in terms of minimum brightness and color temperature: the Samsung phone can get dimmer and is also much closer to the coveted 6500K color temperature goal, which means that its display is not as "cold" as the one on the iPhone. 

From a color accuracy standpoint, both are excellent. The viewing angles are great on both phones, too. 

The Galaxy S23 Ultra also hides an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner, which allows you to quickly and effortlessly unlock your phone and authorize online payments. The iPhone 15 Pro Max does not have such an offering and relies on the good ol' Face ID facial biometric. This one is more secure than regular face unlock. 

Performance and Software

The best of Qualcomm versus the best of Apple Silicon


You'll find the 3nm Apple A17 Pro chipset inside the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Utilizing a 3nm manufacturing process allows for billions of additional transistors to be fitted inside the new Apple chip, which also has much better graphics-processing capabilities than before. This is kind of a big deal, as it will improve both performance and energy efficiency across the board, potentially making the iPhone 15 Pro Max a chart-topping performance powerhouse.

Meanwhile, Samsung uses the 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy in all its Galaxy S23 phones across the globe. That's a major change for Samsung which has previously used both Snapdragon and Exynos chips on its phones depending on the region. The chipset inside the Galaxy S23 Ultra is not the garden-variety one, mind you: Samsung has scored a custom, slightly overclocked version of the regular Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, which delivers better performance. 

Performance Benchmarks:


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2958
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra1971
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max7288
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra5115
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max4236
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra3828
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2632
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra1951

The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with 8GB of RAM, which is the same amount of memory that the base Galaxy S23 ultra comes with. The difference shouldn't be palpable, though, mostly due to the way iOS uses memory and its more frugal management of system resources. So, even though the two devices might come with the same amount of RAM, the iPhone 15 Pro Max might be able to keep more apps in the memory. The 12GB version of the Galaxy should be the best in terms of multi-tasking.

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However, the Galaxy S23 Ultra will most likely be the more productive phone as far as the user experience is considered. With true multitasking, split-screen view, as well as fully-fledged DeX desktop-like solution, not to mention the usability boon of the S Pen stylus, you will most certainly be able to do much more simultaneously on the Galaxy S23 Ultra

When it comes to storage, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is available in 256, 512GB, and the ultra-spacious 1TB version. Prices are unchanged from the previous iPhone 14 Pro Max generation. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 Ultra also comes with 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage. This means that both devices arrive with the ultra-spacious amount of 256GB of storage in their base versions, which is something we very much like to see in late 2023!

The iPhone 15 Pro Max will come with iOS 17 out of the box and receive at least five years of major software and security updates, at least until 2028. The Galaxy S23 Ultra will receive software support for four more years, until 2027, and security updates till 2028. 

iOS 17 features massive overhauls to Phone, Messages, and FaceTime, as well as improvements to Maps, Siri, Visual Look Up, and introduces interactive widgets. A brand new Journal app will let you organize your life, while a new StandBy feature will provide you with useful information while your iPhone charges, either wirelessly or wired. You are also able to share AirTags to other iOS users as part of iOS 17. There is also improved customization for the iOS lock screen, which scored personalized lock screens with iOS 16.

Near the end of October 2023, Apple revealed the major iOS 17.1 software update, which introduces many improvements. There are some essential changes to StandBy, the new feature that displays information while you're charging the phone. There are also some enhancements to the Apple Music user experience. iOS 17.1 also allows AirDrop to continue working over cellular data, so that you can continue sending large files when two iPhones are out of range. Additionally, a ton of bug fixes and improvements are also included with the iOS 17.1 software update. However, some issues like keyboard lag and Wi-Fi bug exclusive to the iPhone 15 series reportedly still remain unfixed for many users

Camera

Apple joins the periscope game


The iPhone 15 Pro Max retains the high-res 48MP main camera that debuted with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but adds some neat features like customizable default focal lengths for the main camera, new 24MP default photo size, as well as new Photonic Engine and Smart HDR, but chief among the changes is the new 5.0X periscope camera that provides a 120mm equivalent. 

A new version of Apple's Photonic Engine, as well as improved HDR would help the next iPhone deliver even better photos than its predecessors. Improved portrait photography allows the phone to capture depth data even when you're taking regular photos, allowing you to transform these into portraits later on.

This is the first time Apple has ventured into the proper zooming game, though it still loses to the Galaxy S23 Ultra in terms of overall throw. The regular camera has also gained three distinct shooting modes: the default 24mm is joined by a 28mm one and a 35mm one that's perfect for street photography. Moreover, the default resolution of the iPhone has jumped from 12 all the way to 24MP.  

The Galaxy S23 Ultra, however, totally wins in the pure specs game, as it comes with a 200MP camera with a large 1/1.3" ISOCELL HP2 sensor. In good lighting, the Galaxy S23 Ultra uses quad-pixel binning to produce very detailed 50MP photos, but when the light goes down, Samsung's best phone will combine 16 pixels into one to produce 12.5MP photos with excellent dynamics.

Main Camera



In broad daylight, the difference in image processing between the iPhone and the Galaxy S23 Ultra is staggering, at least to our eyes. With the Samsung, you get quite the oversharpened photo, with an overly dramatic and too "processed" look. At the same time, the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivers a much more natural image, albeit one that might appear less detailed in direct comparison with the more extreme Galaxy S23 Ultra


In the next pair of photos, the same thing can be observed. The Galaxy S23 Ultra once again employs the full strength of its image-processing algorithms so that it can eke out every bit of extra detail; however, this makes for an overly processed photo that doesn't really look good. In the meantime, while it may appear that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is less detailed than the Samsung phone, the photo it snapped is much more natural.


In the lower-light scene above, both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S23 Ultra captured my colleague Victor in a lovely way, with superb dynamics, lots of detail, and beautiful color rendition. In this particular scene, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has the slight upper hand with better dynamics and more detail captured in the shadows, especially in the background. 


However, the roles are somewhat reversed in the next scene. The iPhone seems to have captured the better dynamics in this image, with more details in the darker areas of the image, more specifically in the left portion of the photo. However, the iPhone is seemingly struggling with exposing bright LED lights properly, leading to burnt out highlights. For example, check out most of the lights around the bar. The Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn't struggle with those as much. 

Zoom Quality


The big change with Cupertino's latest pride and glory, however, is the new 5.0X periscope camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which certainly boosts the zooming capabilities of the phone. However, the iPhone's new periscope camera wouldn't be able to match the 10X periscope camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which allows for up to 100X digital zoom, which is as long as they come, at least in the U.S.


At 5X magnification, which is native for the iPhone but upscaled from the 3X telephoto camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, detail is cleaner on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The tree leaves in particular look "cleaner" in the iPhone sample. 

Of course, at 10X, the Samsung pride and glory pulls out a Uno reverse card and delivers better detail. The iPhone starts to struggle at such a magnification, and some noise and grain from the digital zoom start to creep in. Still, it's worth noting that the iPhone photo is extremely usable even at such magnification. 

Ultra-wide



The Galaxy S23 Ultra's ultra-wide delivers a slightly moodier image. The iPhone delivers livelier dynamics. 


Selfies



The front-facing camera on the Galaxy S23 Ultra has actually been demoted to 12MP all the way from 40MP on the S22 Ultra, but that hasn't deteriorated the image quality; in fact, it has improved in some situations. The iPhone 15 Pro Max inherits the same 12MP FaceTime camera from the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Image quality is superb with both phones, you can't go wrong with either. 

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

When it comes to video, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has scored improved image stabilization as well as Staggered HDR that delivers excellent dynamic range. 8K video at 24 and 30fps is supported. Apple's latest support 4K60 ProRES, Log, and video recording to external drives in some video-recording modes.

In terms of quality, the iPhone 15 Pro Max carries on the long tradition of excellent video recording and is actually extremely adept in this regard. You get better dynamics, better colors and better detail with the iPhone, though the Galaxy has the upper hand once you go to 10X zoom. Interestingly, sound recorded with the Galaxy also sounds cleaner, especially in windy conditions. 

Audio Quality and Haptics


The iPhone 15 Pro Max will come with stereo speakers: bottom-firing loudspeaker and another one in the earpiece. With the iPhone 14 Pro Max, we got one of the best-sounding phones, so the expectations are already quite high for its successors. The same applies to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which also comes with superb audio reproduction. 

When it comes to haptics, iPhones have set the bar for years now with their super-accurate and exact vibrations, delivered by the Taptic Engine. The Galaxy S23 Ultra's haptic feedback wouldn't disappoint you, either: it's superb as well. 

Battery Life and Charging


The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a larger 4,422mAh battery than the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but despite all that jazz, the iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn't have significantly better battery life. Certainly, the latest big iPhone will easily last you at least a day of regular-to-heavy use, but possibly slightly less during truly intensive tasks and gaming.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, has a 5,000mAh battery, which helps it endure quite a lot, too. However, at least in our custom battery benchmark tests, the Galaxy S23 Ultra lasts less than the iPhone 14 Pro Max on a full charge. This could mean that the iPhone 15 Pro Max could do the same. 

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 45 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra8h 54 min
Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max19h 20 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra18h 57 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 36 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra7h 13 min

In the PhoneArena web browsing battery test, which has the two devices run through a bunch of websites simulating a regular browsing experience with the brightness manually set at 200 nits, the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S23 Ultra are practically neck and neck. However, in both our custom 3D gaming and video streaming tests, the iPhone 15 Pro Max inches forward to achieve two important victories that put it ahead of Samsung's best phone so far.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max supports 25W wired charging, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra beats it with a much faster 45W wired charging. However, neither phone has a wall adapter in the box, so you'll have to supply your own if necessary. There is also 15W MagSafe wireless charging on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, as well as 15W Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The Samsung phone also has reverse wireless charging, whereas the iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn't have anything of the type.

In terms of charging, the picture is crystal-clear, leaving nothing to the imagination: the Galaxy S23 Ultra charges up twice as fast as the iPhone. No matter if you top up for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or wait for that coveted battery percentage to hit 100%, the Samsung phone decidedly beats the iPhone 15 Pro Max

PhoneArena Battery Charging Results:



Specs Comparison


Wondering about those iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra specs? Here are the major specification differences at a glance:


Summary and Final Verdict


The iPhone 15 Pro Max is shaping up to be a major evolutionary step for Apple, introducing lots of changes to an already established and quite successful lineup. Still, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is likely perfecting all the essential aspects of a regular user's phone experience: camera, performance, battery life, and design are all likely getting improved. 

Luckily, despite the rumors for the price hike, the new iPhone is just as expensive as its predecessors. Starting at $1,199 for the entry-level version, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is shaping up to be one of the best value large iPhones ever released, and is surely the prime candidate for the best pro iPhone released so far. Definitely a prime candidate for the best iPhone so far as well. 

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is very probably the best Android phone available right now. It strikes an awesome balance between available features, hardware, camera versatility, and overall value, even though it also has an official $1,199 starting price. With numerous trade-in offers and deals available almost all the time, you might usually find Samsung's best phone available for less.

Which one should you get? It's all up to you. Both of these champs are the best money can buy in the iOS and Android space, respectively, so it will all probably boil down to your ecosystem preferences. 

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