iPhone 15 Pro Max’s big rumored upgrade falls way short of Galaxy S23 Ultra

iPhone 15 Ultra render via 4RMD
(Image credit: 4RMD)

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is due for a number of upgrades in 2023, but one of its biggest changes is still going to come up short of the competition based on all of the latest rumors.

As covered by MacRumors, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is slated for a bump up to a 5-6x optical zoom according to numerous reports from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, however, that's only half of the range of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's so-called "Space Zoom."

Let's take a closer look

If the claims are true, the 5-6x periscope zoom coming to the iPhone 15 Pro Max is still a significant boost for the iPhone, which currently maxes out at a 3x optical zoom. It's a feature gap compared to the best Android phones that I feel anytime I switch between the platforms as that added reach is helpful when snapping photos or videos of my kids playing sports, or wildlife, or even a distant monument or landmark when traveling.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max will match up with competitors like the Pixel 7 Pro, which boasts a 5x optical zoom that Google manages to push to 20x with its Super Res Zoom. Optical zoom is the most critical figure, as that dictates the farthest reach at full resolution and quality, but it will be interesting to see how far Apple can push that digitally. Currently, iPhone 14 Pro photos fall apart when zooming much beyond 8x, so a little short of 3x its optical range. If that holds true on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, we would expect a usable zoom of up to about 13-15x. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Regardless, it's clear that Samsung is going to retain its crown with its 10x optical and 100x digital Space Zoom on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but that crown has been particularly heavy this year with the phone's moon shots coming under fire and many still believing them to be fake after a detailed breakdown from Samsung. The debate over when AI enhancement becomes outright fakery is already raging and it's only likely to grow over the coming years.

Apple doesn't need to give us clear images of the craters on the moon, but if it can give us sharp telephoto shots and video at 8-10x zoom it will have addressed one of its few shortcomings versus Android flagships. 

Now if only that extended zoom were coming to the iPhone 15 Pro as well. According to Kuo, fans of the smaller Apple flagship will have to wait until the iPhone 17 Pro to get the upgraded telephoto.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.