Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: Battle of the behemoths

Unless you find yourself looking at one of the fancy new foldable phones, all the options are essentially still the same. This means slabs of glass with a metal frame, and plenty of cameras to go around, at least for the flagship phones. This trend continues with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max, as these are likely going to be the two most popular flagship devices for most of 2023, at least until the iPhone 15 Pro Max arrives. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: Design and display 

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iPhone 14 Pro Max review hero 16x9

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is using a 6.8-inch AMOLED (3088 x 1440) display, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max comes with an everso-slightly smaller 6.7-inch OLED panel. It also should come as no surprise that both of these devices are equipped with adaptive refresh rates between 1-120Hz, which also plays into the incredible battery life.

On the surface, both the Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max look identical to their predecessors, but there have been a couple of major changes. Samsung is still using the same trypophobia-inducing camera array on the back, along with a pinhole cutout for the selfie camera. 

Holding the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and looking at the home screen

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich)

But where Samsung made one of its biggest changes was in the severity of the curves found across the device. Starting with the screen, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is 30% flatter than its predecessor, as Samsung aims to answer concerns about its premium flagship being too cumbersome to hold. This is great news, especially for those who regularly take notes using the built-in S Pen, as you’ll have more surface area to work with, and don’t have to worry about accounting for the edges of the screen as much. 

Samsung also flattened out the sides of the Galaxy S23 Ultra a bit, which may not seem like much of a change until you actually hold one. Even with an almost-7-inch display, the phone is now more comfortable to hold and while you’ll still likely want to grab one of the best Galaxy S23 Ultra cases, those who prefer to go case-less will have a better time.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra flatter sides

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Apple, on the other hand, has been sticking with the same design that was introduced back with the iPhone 12, invoking a bit of nostalgia harkening back to the ultra-popular iPhone 4. This means flat edges and corners that dig themselves into your palms. And while rumors for the iPhone 15 lineup suggest Apple will be taking a similar approach to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the fact remains that using an iPhone 14 Pro Max isn’t all that comfortable. 

One area where Apple did make a change is with the all-new Dynamic Island, taking a different approach to the selfie camera altogether. Because the iPhone still relies on Face ID for biometrics, Apple couldn’t just switch over to a pinhole camera as we’ve seen from pretty much all of the best Android phones.

Siri Dynamic Island animation on iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Instead, it opted to leave the notch for the non-pro iPhone 14 models, integrating an interesting design choice. Thankfully, Apple didn’t just ditch the notch and slap an oblong cutout at the top of the screen. The Dynamic Island is actually interactive, expanding to show things like the timer that you just set or the album artwork after closing Spotify.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: Performance and battery 

Playing Fortnite on a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra using a Razer Kishi V2 controller

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Where the S23 Ultra is finally able to match up is in the efficiency gains provided by the all-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy. Clock speeds have been improved across all of the cores, making it even faster than the “regular” Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 found in the OnePlus 11 and other recently-released flagship devices. There’s also a new cooling system that Samsung has implemented, which greatly reduces the amount of heat emitted, in turn, providing more stable performance and battery life gains.

Apple’s A16 Bionic chip is still at the top of its class, in terms of both smoothness and performance. The iPhone 14 Pro Max handily outperforms the Galaxy S23 Ultra in single-core Geekbench performance metrics, but the gap has definitely been narrowed and it’s not quite as large in terms of multi-core performance.

(Image credit: Android Central)

Along with the improved performance gains, the Galaxy S23 Ultra seems to handle mobile gaming quite a bit better than its predecessor, also matching up with what the iPhone 14 Pro Max can offer. In our comparison of the Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Pixel 7 Pro, Nick Sutrich found that the S23 Ultra “pushes a full 50 FPS with nary a dip in performance” while playing Fortnite.

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Spec Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Chipset Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy Devices Apple A16 Bionic
Display 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 3088×1440, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate (1-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling, 1,750 nits peak brightness 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED (2796 x 1290), 120Hz adaptive refresh rate (1-120Hz), HDR10, 2000 nits peak brightness
Memory 8 or 12GB 6GB
Storage 256GB/512GB/1TB 128GB/256GB/512GB/1tb
Main rear camera 200MP, ƒ/1.7 48MP ƒ/1.8
Telephoto camera 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 3x optical zoom 12MP, ƒ/2.8, 3x optical zoom
Telephoto camera 2 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 10x optical zoom
Ultra-wide angle camera 12MP, ƒ/2.2 12MP, ƒ/2.2
Front Camera 12MP, ƒ/2.2 12MP, ƒ/1.9
Battery 5,000mAh, 45W Fast Charging, 15W Wireless Charging, 5W reverse wireless charging 4,323mAh, 20W wired charging, 15W wireless charging (MagSafe), 7.5W Qi wireless charging
Security Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor Face ID w/ SL 3D depth/biometrics sensor
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6E, sub-6 and mmWave 5G, UWB, NFC Wi-Fi 6, sub-6 and mmWave 5G, UWB, NFC
S Pen ✔️
microSD card slot 🚫 🚫
3.5mm headphone jack 🚫 🚫
Dimensions 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.9mm
Weight 234 g 240 g
Colors Phantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender Space Black, Silver, Gold, Deep Purple
Protection IP68, Gorilla Glass Victus 2 IP68, Ceramic Shield glass

For the first time in arguably forever, Samsung’s latest Galaxy S23 Ultra could actually go toe-to-toe with the iPhone in one of the biggest metrics – battery life. We’re not going to get into the whole Android vs. iOS debate, as that’s been constantly played out, but Apple’s biggest iPhone regularly takes home the crown for the longest-lasting smartphone. 

AirPods Pro 2 settings on iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Samsung decided to stick with a 5,000mAh battery in the Galaxy S23 Ultra while Apple uses a respectable 4,323mAh cell. But in battery tests, the 14 Pro Max has been capable of reaching two days of use on a single charge, and you could push it even further if you enable Low Power Mode.

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