Samsung Galaxy S25 Ultra vs. iPhone 16 Pro Max - Key disparities to anticipate

A Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max showdown figures to be the first real smartphone battle of 2024, as we see how Samsung’s upcoming phone measures up to best that Apple has to offer.

Rumors suggest that Samsung is moving up the launch date for its Galaxy S24 models, motivated in part by the prospect of stealing some of Apple’s smartphone thunder. In recent years, Samsung has shown off its Galaxy S phones in February, but we could see the Galaxy S24 Ultra as soon as January 2024 if Galaxy S24 release date rumors are correct.

Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max is ready and waiting for whatever Samsung has to offer. Our current pick for the best phone overall, the iPhone 15 Pro Max features the fastest mobile silicon that we’ve tested, a much improved telephoto lens and a lighter design than before. It’s clearly the best iPhone in Apple’s lineup, and it’s held off all of its Android rivals as well.

A full Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max will take place once Samsung releases its new phone, whether that’s in January or a little bit later in 2024. But we know enough about Samsung’s plans for this device thanks to rumors to make some early guesses as to how the Galaxy S24 Ultra might compare to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Specs Display Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): 6.8-inch AMOLED (3088 x 1440, 144Hz) Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: 6.7-inch OLED (2796 x 1290; 120Hz)

CPU Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: A17 Pro

RAM Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): 8/12GB Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: 8GB

Storage Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: 256GB/512GB/1TB

Rear Camera Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 50MP 5x telephoto, 10MP 3x telephoto Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: 48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 5x telephoto

Front Camera Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): 12MP selfie Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: 12MP

Battery Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored): 5,000mAh Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: 4,422 mAh

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Price When the iPhone 15 Pro Max arrived in September, it came with a $100 markup over the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s starting price. That means you’ve now got to pay $1,199 for a base model Pro Max, which you may recognize as the starting price for the Ultra models in Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup.

Regardless of whether you think the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s feature set justifies the higher price, the fact that both phones now cost the same means that Apple has surrendered a long-time advantage over Samsung.

That said, the best iPhone 15 Pro Max deals can lower the cost of your purchase to something more reasonable. And we’re also assuming that the Galaxy S24 Ultra will come in at the same $1,199 price as the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Design The iPhone 15 Pro Max benefits from some significant design changes, with the most visible new feature being Apple’s switch from its proprietary Lightning port to USB-C. However, the new materials used by Apple for its Pro phones have the more immediate impact.

Instead of the stainless steel used for the frame of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Pro Max features titanium, which is both lighter and more durable. The 7.8-ounce iPhone 15 Pro Max weighs more than half an ounce less than its predecessor — and 0.4 ounces less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

One other change to the iPhone 15 Pro Max design saw the mute switch replaced by an Action button. You can program that button to launch apps or trigger other shortcuts — though you’re limited to one action at a time.

Samsung’s phones have long featured USB-C and the Action button is very similar to the Bixby button found on Galaxy flagships. But Samsung may adopt that other iPhone 15 Pro Max change for its upcoming phones. There’s a rumor Samsung plans to use titanium for the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s case — and possibly for other S24 models, though that’s less certain. One leaker claims that the S24 Ultra will weigh in at 8.2 ounces, which is lighter than the S23 Ultra, though not as big a drop in weight as the iPhone 15 Pro Max saw.

Otherwise, the Galaxy S24 Ultra should look a lot like its predecessor. Leaked dummy units for the new phone show the same design Samsung featured in the S23 lineup.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Display The current Ultra already enjoys a slight edge over the iPhone 15 Pro Max in terms of screen size, with a 6.8-inch display compared to 6.7 inches for Apple’s phone. That’s unlikely to change, as the Galaxy S24 Ultra is tipped to feature a 6.8-inch panel once again, but Samsung could up its display game in other ways.

For starters, it’s expected that the Galaxy S24 Ultra could bump its refresh rate from 120Hz to 144Hz. That would give Samsung’s phone an edge over the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which tops out at 120Hz, when there’s lots of on-screen action to be seen.

Samsung could also be looking to bump up the brightness of the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s display, with rumors pointing to a peak brightness of 2,500 nits. That would be a jump from the 1,750-nit peak supported by the Galaxy S23 Ultra and surpass the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 2,000-nit maximum.

When we tested the iPhone 15 Pro Max, we recorded a screen brightness of 1,550 nits with a light meter. That beat the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 1,444-nit result, so you can understand why Samsung might be interested in brightening things up with its new phone.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Cameras The iPhone 15 Pro Max made big strides on the camera front, in terms of software improvements and new hardware both. Software improvements included boosts to the Night mode for capturing sharper details and brighter colors, while SmartHDR was able to showcase brighter highlights and deeper shadows. The 48MP main camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max also lets you choose between different focal lengths, with images captured at 24MP by default.

But the most significant change came to the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s telephoto lens. It’s the only iPhone to use a tetraprism design to offer the longest zoom available on an iPhone — 5x compared to a 3x zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro.

Still, that trails the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which can go up to a 10x zoom, thanks to its twin telephoto lenses. The Galaxy S24 Ultra also figures to be a strong contender in this area, as rumors suggest Samsung is going to swap out one of the 10MP zoom lenses with a 50MP sensor. That should translate to sharper zooms, even if Samsung reportedly scales back the optical zoom on one of its lenses.

Additionally, we hear that the Galaxy S24 Ultra could get a larger 1-inch sensor for its main camera. That move would let in more light, improving performance in darker settings. Right now, the iPhone 15 Pro Max handily outperforms the Galaxy S23 Ultra when the lights are low, so we’re eager to see how the S24 Ultra changes things.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Performance There’s some good news if you’re considering the Galaxy S24 Ultra. While rumors have suggested that Samsung may go back to using a mix of Qualcomm and Exynos chipsets for the Galaxy S24 lineup after using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 exclusively for the S23 phones, the Galaxy S24 Ultra should only feature Qualcomm chipsets, according to reports. As Snapdragon chipsets typically outperform their Exynos equivalents, that’s a positive sign.

Even more encouraging is the likelihood that the silicon in question is Qualcomm’s newly unveiled Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 system-on-chip. This chipset promises a 30% improvement in CPU performance and 25% faster graphics over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. That could mean the performance gap between Samsung’s phone and the latest iPhone will be more narrow than usual. Indeed, leaked Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 benchmarks show a phone thought to be the Galaxy S24 Ultra posting scores that are pretty close to what we tallied when we tested the iPhone 15 Pro Max and its A17 Pro chipset.

We would still expect the iPhone 15 Pro Max to produce better results than the Galaxy S24 Ultra in our testing, though we’re eager to see if the new phone from Samsung handles graphics as well as the S23 Ultra did. But it’s pretty clear the iPhone’s edge on the performance front is getting smaller with each new generation.

Last year, Samsung boosted storage on the base model of the Galaxy S23 Ultra to 256GB, and Apple followed suit with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. We think it’s very likely the S24 Ultra will continue to offer 256GB as a baseline amount of storage.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Battery life and charging The Galaxy S24 Ultra has its work cut out for it if it’s going to outlast the iPhone 15 Pro Max on a charge. Apple’s phone held out for a little more than 14 hours on our battery test, in which phones are forced to surf the web over cellular until they run out of power. That landed the iPhone 15 Pro Max a high place on our best phone battery life list; more significantly, it also meant the iPhone beat the S23 Ultra’s also impressive result on that same test by more than 1.5 hours.

There’s talk of Samsung adding a stacked battery to the Galaxy S24 Ultra. The move would mean a much denser battery taking up the same amount of space as the power pack in previous Ultra models. (It would also require a revamped cooling system to keep the phone from overheating.) The thought is that a stacked battery plus the power management features on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset will help the Galaxy S24 Ultra to last longer than before.

The changes to Samsung’s battery setup might lead to a boost in wired charging speeds, from the current 45W to 65W. However, more recent rumors have panned that suggestion, saying the S24 Ultra will likely stick with that 45W speed. Even so, that’s faster than the 20W the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers, as Apple’s adoption of USB-C has only meant faster data transfer speeds for its Pro phones.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Software The iPhone 15 Pro Max debuted with iOS 17 pre-installed, so it could take advantage of new features like StandBy Mode and Visual voicemail right off the bat. Apple typically provides five years of software and security updates for its phones, beating out the four years of software updates that Samsung promises for devices like the Galaxy S handsets.

Despite that, the Galaxy S24 Ultra could arrive with a big advantage over the iPhone 15 Pro Max, as Samsung is rumored to be incorporating AI features into the S24 lineup. A feature called Samsung Gauss figures to deliver generative AI to the S24 Ultra, supporting features like on-device translation, email composition and AI-generated image creation.

Reportedly, iOS 18 will bring an AI chatbot to Apple’s phones, significantly expanding the powers of the built-in Siri assistant. But that update won’t arrive until the fall, about the same time the iPhone 16 Pro Max is landing on the scene.

As with previous Galaxy S models, we’re expecting the Galaxy S24 Ultra to come with a built-in S Pen. There’s no such stylus included with Apple’s premium phone.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Outlook Even with the iPhone 15 Pro Max now available, we’ve got a little bit of a wait ahead of us before we can see how the Galaxy S24 Ultra compares to Apple’s phone. Yet, the rumors about this upcoming handset are very intriguing, which should lead to a quite dramatic Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max face-off at the start of the new year.