iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which phone is right for you?

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Apple)

Two of the largest smartphone companies in the world enter the ring, but only one can leave. With Samsung in one corner, boasting its acclaimed Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, and in the other corner, Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max. Both phones are the highest-end models for their respective flagship series and are undeniable beasts.

We’re exclusively comparing specs in this competition, as we don’t have the iPhone 15 Pro Max in our hands just yet. We’ll update with our final decision once we complete our review, but based simply on what each phone is packing under the hood, let us see which one comes out on top.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Specs

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SpeciPhone 15 Pro MaxSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Display6.7 inches, 2,796 x 1,290 resolution, 460 ppi, Super Retina XDR OLED6.8 inches, 3,088 x 1,440 resolution, AMOLED
ProcessorA17 ProSnapdragon 8 Gen 2
Refresh Rate1-120Hz1-120Hz
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Camera48MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 5x telephoto200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 10MP 10x telephoto
Weight7.81 ounces8.3 ounces
Measurements6.3 x 3 x 0.32 inches6.4 x 3.1 x 0.35 inches

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Price

iPhone’s Pro Max series would have had the advantage over Samsung most years, as iPhone 15 Pro Max has solidified itself as the most expensive iPhone in this latest series, bumping up the price by $100

This means both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra are $1,199, making the two companies evenly matched in cost for their most premium smartphone model

Winner: Draw 

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Design

Tons of little upgrades are coming to the iPhone 15 series, but it’s hard to count something like USB-C ports as an “upgrade” when everyone else is already doing that (and that Apple was forced to do it). At the very least, the inclusion of the Action Button (a feature from Apple Watch Ultra) is massive, which provides a haptic response that can be modified to perform unique tasks.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

But beyond functionality, iPhone 15 Pro Max has finally made its upgrade from stainless steel to titanium. This should make the phone lighter but also sturdier than ever. However, Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra wasn’t using stainless steel to begin with, as that was something Apple has always been a bit behind on.

Instead, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is made with “armored” aluminum. The question here comes down to a battle between aluminum and titanium, but the results online about which one is stronger are rather mixed. This isn’t just because the internet cannot come to an exact agreement, but because its use case, grade, and concentration can all make a massive difference. 

It would be rare if both Apple and Samsung used the exact same density and grade quality for their metals, so we won’t know which one is stronger until experts properly test the phones themselves. And while aluminum is way lighter than titanium on average, Samsung does not have the lighter phone. iPhone 15 Pro Max is 7.8 ounces, while the Samsung Galaxy S23 is 8.3 ounces. This could be due to many other factors, but at the end of the day, lighter is better.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max 

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Display

The iPhone 15 Pro Max features a 6.7-inch, 2,796 x 1,290 resolution OLED display with adaptive refresh rate from 1-120Hz. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra features the same refresh rate, but also boasts a 6.8-inch, 3,088 x 1,440 AMOLED screen.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

We can’t compare testing numbers between these two phones, as we’ve tested only the Samsung, but based on some previous numbers from iPhone 14 tests, we can make some assumptions. The iPhone 14 Pro Max was already brighter than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, with the former achieving 1,565 nits at its peak, while the latter was a bit behind at 1,444 nits. 

During Apple’s September event, the company claimed that the 15 series displays would go as high as 2,000 nits of brightness. Whether or not this statement is entirely true will be determined when we can actually test the phone, but we can say with some confidence that it’s unlikely it will be worse than the previous generation, considering Apple is claiming it’ll be way better.

We can also make an educated guess based on the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s color performance that Samsung will have its next model beat once again. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra achieved 136.7% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max was at only 83.2%. We’re not expecting this new phone to jump 50% higher, especially since a majority of Apple products normally hover around this 80% range.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Processor

Spoiler alert: The iPhone has this in the bag. Apple is making some massive moves with its processor development by introducing the world’s first commercially available smartphone with a 3nm chipset in the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

iPhone 14 Pro Max was already ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in our Geekbench 5.4 tests, with the former hitting a score of 5,333 and the latter a tad behind at 5,081. By no means is this a massive gap, but it’s clear that Apple was in the lead and considering the company is continuing to innovate in processing power, we’re expecting that to remain the case.

Beyond just the potential for this to provide excellent performance boosts, it could also mean a huge change in battery life efficiency. We won’t know for sure until we get our hands on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and can test it ourselves, but there’s reason to believe that it could result in hours extra of battery life.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max 

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Cameras

iPhone 15 Pro Max has finally unveiled its periscope camera or, as Apple likes to call it, the “Tetraprism.” Beyond this just sounding like the latest McGuffin in a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick, it’s hilariously on point for Apple to be so extra in the design of something that already exists. I had previously written an explainer on the ins and outs of periscope cameras, which involves reflecting light at a 90-degree angle after lining multiple lenses to perform a greater optical zoom. But instead of just having light reflect through a 90-degree angle, the “Tetraprism” has it bounce off of multiple lens in a zig-zag to reach a 5x optical zoom.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

But Samsung’s greatest assets are its incredible cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra features a 200 megapixel sensor as the primary, while it also has a 10MP camera with 10x optical zoom, which doubles what Apple is promising. iPhone 15’s primary camera is unfortunately still only 48MP.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 


Determining a winner solely based on specifications isn’t completely fair, as we still have to test the iPhone 15 Pro Max and see how it does in application. Beyond that, whether or not you should buy an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy depends on more than just specs, as each phone’s application suite might be most important to you.

But if we’re analyzing solely based on the numbers we see thus far, Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra overpowers the iPhone 15 Pro Max with better optical zoom, high megapixel sensor and potentially more vivid display. iPhone 15 Pro Max will almost certainly have superior nits of brightness, while its performance could blow us away alongside a lighter build. We have one draw, two wins for Apple and two wins for Samsung. At this point, the winner entirely depends on if the battery life rumors are true, but assuming they are, Apple takes this victory home.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max 

Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.