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There are some of us who only want the newest, fastest, most loaded smartphone out there. While the Apple versus Android debate rages on, Samsung has just dropped its brand new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, alongside a Galaxy S22 and S22+. So how does Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra compare to its biggest competitor’s biggest handset, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max?
To help you better figure out which flagship smartphone will work the best for your personal needs, we’ve pitted these two mobile devices against one another in a head-to-head battle royale.
Which one is on the ropes and which phone is standing triumphant? Let’s find out.
The most visible difference between these phones (again, aside from your basic Apple vs. Android choice) might be the shape. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has squared corners, with ever-so-subtle rounded edges, while the iPhone has rounded corners with flat side edges. The camera array on the back of the Samsung phone is also a polka dot speckle of different lenses, while the iPhone keeps its three lenses contained in a small square housing.
Where the rubber meets the road for these phones might be less about how they look and more in how they perform and compare on their specs. Already, we know the S22 Ultra far outpaces the iPhone 13 Pro Max when it comes to peak brightness.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
- Dimensions: 77.9 x 163.3 x 8.9 mm
- Weight: 229g
- Screen size: 6.8” Edge display
- Resolution: 1440 x 3088 (QHD+)
- Battery: 5,000mAh (typical) battery
- Ultra Wide Camera: 12MP, 1.4μm, 120⁰, 13mm, F2.2
- Wide Camera: 108MP, 0.8μm, 85⁰, 23mm, F2.2
- Telephoto Camera: 10MP, 1.12μm, 11⁰, 230mm, F4.9 + 10x Optical Zoom
- Telephoto Camera: 10MP, 3x Optical Zoom, F2.4, FOV 36 ̊
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max:
- Dimensions: 78.1 x 160.8 x 7.65 mm
- Weight: 240g
- Screen size: 6.7-inch display Super Retina XDR
- Resolution: 2778 x 1284
- Battery: 4352 mAh battery
- Ultra Wide Camera: ƒ/1.8 aperture and 120° field of view
- Wide Camera: ƒ/1.5 aperture
- Telephoto Camera: ƒ/2.8 aperture
If you think about it, smartphones are mostly similar when it comes to design: glass screen, solid back, a couple of mandatory buttons. Exact size dimensions vary by model. Some years there’s a new color trend (we think gold, nebulous mystic bronze!, and soothing sierra blue), but we saw Samsung’s Infinity display a few years ago. It’s something that Apple never bought into, perhaps wisely, edge displays take getting used to.
Here, the new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra also introduces a new color (burgundy) and goes with the now expected flat bottom and top with slightly rounded edges. The ubiquitous Samsung stylus (aka, the S Pen) continues to be secretly held inside the body of the phone and can quickly be ejected with a pop-out button.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review
Apple has opted for flat edges all the way around but has rounded the corners of its flagship phone. There’s no onboard stylus option with the iPhone, so that’s worth thinking about if you prefer jotting down notes the old fashioned way.
The Bottom Line: You could judge win/lose by millimeters and grams and in some cases, smartphone shoppers do. If minutiae is your game, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra is your winner here. With a slightly bigger screen and lighter weight, it might be more desirable.
Display: OLED vs AMOLED
We all expect magic when it comes to our screens. Gone are the days of squinting at tiny smudgy text. Instead, those days have been replaced with proprietary terminology that aims to dazzle you with amorphous terms most shoppers don’t understand.
Samsung’s display is a 6.8-inch edge-to-edge screen with a dynamic AMOLED Display and up to a 240Hz refresh rate. On paper, it’s slightly more superior in terms of pixel density with its, but for the average person, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish unless you put a magnifying glass on the display.
Here’s one differentiator anyone can understand: The iPhone 13 Pro Max tops out at 1,200 nits of peak brightness, while the new S22 Ultra leaps forward with a 1,700-nit display.
Meanwhile, Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max uses a 6.7-inch OLED display, powered by Apple’s Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion and a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s worth noting the notch on the iPhone’s display versus the more discreet pinhole camera with the Galaxy S22 ultra.
The Bottom Line: We could spend time dissecting AMOLED versus OLED but it’s generally accepted that AMOLED screens are superior to OLED, so Samsung comes out on top here by default until we properly test it out.
Everyone claims their phone is the fastest, and if you’re using an atomic clock to measure things, maybe there is a true winner. For most of us, the speed improvements are so minute they’re imperceptible to the human brain. Plus, speed varies by your precise location, and your specific cell carrier, or Wi-Fi signal.
What matters is that you’re not waiting for videos to load, not checking your watch while a website refreshes and not frantically tapping the camera button and waiting to capture that fleeting moment. Again, with some manufacturers, trying to do your own comparisons means weeding through marketing messages and trying to figure it out as best you can.
The new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has either 8 or 12 GB of RAM paird with a 4nm processor, and runs Samsung’s One UI on top of Android 12 . The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max has 6GB of RAM and uses its A15 Bionic chip and the iOS operating system.
The Bottom Line: By the numbers, specs hounds will argue that the Galaxy S22 Ultra has the edge, but again, is this something you’ll actually notice? It’s hard to say, and we haven’t gotten hands-on yet to do speed testing.
A camera face-off on these two handsets could be an article all on its own (we know, we’re working on it). Comparing smartphone cameras today is all about labels and marketing: night mode, astral photography, space zoom, and magic eraser. For the most part, high-end smartphone cameras are all on an even playing field with what they can do, and this Samsung versus Apple comparison is no exception.
Both phones have wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses, plus optical and digital zooms to get you closer to your subjects than ever before. Does it really make a difference if an iPhone has 3x optical zoom to another phone’s 2x or 4x? Not really.
While even about five years ago we’d say Android phones (and Google’s Pixel phones in particular) were handing Apple its ass on the regular, the playing field has leveled a lot. Now, where you see there being some differences is in the photo-taking toys. Google Pixel phones, for example now come with Magic Eraser photo editing built-in, but a couple of years ago, bokeh or portrait settings were all the rage.
For the most part, cameras offer extremely similar results, and only in the hands of skilled professionals are the differences truly noticeable. Night and low light shooting can also be a make or break factor in your decision if photography is important to you, and while Apple has vastly improved its night shooting abilities, Samsung has added its largest-ever pixel sensor in the S22 Ultra, which it says will bring in even more light and clarity.
The Bottom Line: Without being able to put these two phones head to head and do side by side photos for comparison, we’ll reserve judgment for now.
Talking about battery life can be complicated. Depending on how often you’re using your phone, and what you’re doing with it, battery life can vary wildly. It’s also different when you’re doing things like live streaming videos, versus watching downloaded content. For this reason, sometimes it can be helpful to focus on the raw specs.
Samsung is upfront with its battery life here; the new Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh battery. Kind of comically, Apple goes out of its way not to specify the milliamp hours of its iPhone 13 Pro Max battery on its website. Instead, you’ll read things like how many hours you can get at various tasks: “Streamed Video playback: Up to 22 hours, Audio playback: Up to 75 hours,” etc.
Helpful, we guess, and more tangible to the average human, but it makes it tougher to compare when we’re talking about both apples and oranges. So here’s the deal: You’ll have to go hunting, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max unofficially packs a 4,352 mAh battery.
The Bottom Line: If you’re putting these two smartphones head to head, Samsung wins the battery war, but as they say size may not be everything; you also may want to consider how well the phone manages it’s non-essential tasks and how it can adapt when the battery gets critically low… which is a topic for another article.
We tell everyone that asks us for smartphone recommendations that you have to first decide if you’re an Apple person, or an Android person — or if you’re currently one type, but open to new opportunities. For Apple devotees, they’re probably content with the iPhone because they just freakin’ work. Meaning, there are rarely issues with them and the entire iOS ecosystem is seamless, responsive, and easy for anyone to navigate.
We’ve reviewed many Android phones, including Samsung’s most recent one in the Galaxy S21 FE. Unless you’re running vanilla Android, the experience can be a bit buggier and not quite as intuitive, and while you can customize them a lot more than an iPhone, some folks may be less interested in that than having a perfectly functional phone.
All that is to say if someone is a die-hard Android devotee, and they don’t want to change, then even wowing them with a winner in the spec war won’t budge their opinion. There are amazing, beautiful, functional and fast phones from every manufacturer, and while the new Samsung S22 Ultra may come out ahead here on a head to head spec wrestling match, that doesn’t mean much if you’re an Apple devotee who would never in a million years make the switch to a Samsung Android phone.
So we’ll call this head-to-head comparison a slight win for Samsung until we’re able to give it a proper review. The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at about $1,099 while the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra rings in at $1,199.