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iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Galaxy S22 Ultra: Which phone will be the best?

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra
(Image credit: Volodymyr Lenard/Tom's Guide)

An iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra showdown figures to be the battle of the year, once Apple's latest phones arrive to challenge Samsung. After all, both top phone makers usually pack their top features into their biggest phones in a battle to see which one can claim the title of best phone overall.

That's a title currently held by the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which sets a high bar for other phones — the iPhone 14 Pro Max included. Doubtlessly, Apple hopes to pick up where it left off with the phones coming out this fall, with rumors suggesting that the Pro models are in line to get a beefier processor, improved main camera and perhaps even a long-requested change to their design. Given Apple's track record, you'd have to expect the iPhone 14 Pro Max to be a formidable challenger to any phone.

And that's good news, since no one would characterize the Galaxy S22 Ultra as a push-over. Currently the best Android phone you can get, the S22 offers incredible cameras in its own right — particularly when it comes to zooming — along with a built-in S Pen and extended software support that nearly rivals Apple's.

We won't know how the iPhone 14 Pro Max measures up to Samsung's current flagship king until the phone's actually announced. But iPhone rumors give us a pretty good idea of how an iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra face-off is shaping up. Here's how the phones compare thus far, based on what we've heard about Apple's device and what we know about the king-sized S22 model.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra specs

iPhone 14 Pro Max (rumored specs)Galaxy S22 Ultra
Screen size6.7 inches6.8 inches
Refresh rate1-120Hz (adaptive)1-120Hz (adaptive)
CPUA16 BionicSnapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM6GB8GB, 12GB
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear cameras48MP main; 12MP ultrawide; 12MP telephoto108MP main; 12MP ultrawide; dual 10MP telephoto
Front cameras12MP40MP
Battery sizeUnknown5,000 mAh
Charging speed30W45W

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Price and availability

The Galaxy S22 Ultra hit the market with Samsung's other Galaxy S22 models in the spring. At $1,199, it boasts the highest price tag of any S22, and apart from the $1,799 Galaxy Z Fold 3, it's one of Samsung's most expensive phones, though the best Samsung Galaxy S22 deals can help reduce that cost.

And yet, the iPhone 14 Pro Max could match that price. iPhone 14 pricing rumors hint that the cost of the Pro models could go up by $100 over their iPhone 13 Pro equivalents. Given the iPhone 13 Pro Max's $1,099 starting price, that would put the iPhone 14 Pro Max on par with the S22 Ultra. And that would erase one of the edges Apple has been able to claim over Samsung's pricier high-end phone.

As for availability, we're not expecting to see the iPhone 14 Pro Max — or any iPhone 14 model — until the fall. iPhone 14 release date rumors suggest an early September release date, which means three more months for the Galaxy S22 Ultra to win over more customers before the new iPhones arrive.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Design

Both Apple and Samsung seem to have found designs they like for their smartphones. The Galaxy S22 Ultra largely looks like the phone that preceded it, with one significant change — instead of a rear camera array that juts out from the phone, the lenses on the S22 Ultra sit more flush against the back of the device. Samsung also found a way to house the S Pen in the Galaxy S22 Ultra so the newer phone is a little bit wider than the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

hamds-on photos of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Galaxy s22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

We're not expecting a huge departure from the iPhone 13 Pro Max look when Apple releases the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But the new phone could be different in on significant way – the notch that's housed the iPhone's front camera and Face ID sensors since 2017 is tipped to be gone. Instead, Apple is likely to turn to cutouts — a circular one for the camera plus a pill-shaped one for the sensors on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

An unofficial render of the iPhone 14 Pro, focussing on the Face ID and camera cutouts

iPhone 14 Pro Max renders (Image credit: Souta)

In doing so, Apple will adopt a cutout design that's been part of the Galaxy lineup since the Galaxy S10. Some will take this to be a tacit omission on Apple's part that it was wrong to wait so long to give users a more bezel-free display. Expect Apple to simply say that it's been giving its customers what they want all along and change the subject.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Display

Speaking of displays, the Galaxy S22 Ultra figures to be offer more screen real estate, thanks to its 6.8-inch screen. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to feature the same 6.7-inch panel as before, though the lack of a notch may free up some extra space.

Apple added fast-refreshing displays with the iPhone 13 Pro models last fall, matching a feature Samsung had offered on its flagships for a while. When the S22 lineup came out earlier this year, the S22 Ultra featured a new version of the adaptive refresh rate technology that allowed its screen to scale down to 1Hz during more static activities. It's rumored the iPhone 14 Pro models will follow suit in the fall, with displays that can range between 120Hz and 1Hz depending on what's happening on screen.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Asphalt 9

Galaxy S22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

That feature could have a ripple effect for the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which is tipped to adapt a long-time Android feature and add support for an always-on display. Support for onscreen widgets in the upcoming iOS 16 release — more on that update in a moment — has further fueled speculation that the iPhone 14 Pro models will offer what's been available on Android devices like the Galaxy S flagships for years.

One other display feature figures to be an area of interest when the iPhone 14 Pro Max arrives to take on the Galaxy S22 Ultra — screen brightness. The Galaxy S22 Ultra claims a peak brightness of 1,750 nits — we measured it at 1,359 nits, which is still ahead of the iPhone 13 Pro Max's 1,038-nit result. Clearly, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has room to make up here.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Cameras

Usually, Apple and Samsung flagships battle it out to see who can make the best camera phone, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra battle figures to do the same. Based on rumors, it sounds like Apple is going to take on the S22 Ultra's 108MP main camera by boosting the main shooter on the iPhone 14 Pro models after years of turning to a 12MP sensor. Instead, both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are rumored to be getting a 48MP main camera, which would give Apple's computational photography more light and details to process.

iphone 14 pro render

iPhone 14 Pro Max render (Image credit: Front Page Tech / Ian Zelbo)

Samsung enjoys an edge with its dual telephoto lenses, which provide digital zooms of 3x and 10x; those cameras also team up to support a 100x space zoom. Currently, the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers a 3x optical zoom, topping out at 15x digital. It's unclear if that's changing with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, as Apple isn't tipped to turn to a periscope-style lens that would support more impressive zooming capabilities until its 2023 phones.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera close up

Galaxy S22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

There's one other camera rumor worth keeping an eye on with the iPhone 14 Pro Max — all of Apple's new phones are expected to feature an improved front camera with a wider aperture and built-in autofocus. Those changes would likely mean brighter images from the front camera and sharper video calls.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Performance

Not every iPhone coming this fall is likely to see a big processor upgrade. In fact, some rumors predict that the standard iPhone 14 models will use a variant of the A15 Bionic chip that powers Apple's current phones. On the one hand, that's not a huge deal, as the A15 handily outperforms the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset found inside most Galaxy S22 Ultra models. But it's mildly disappointing that some iPhone 14 models aren't expected to see a substantial upgrade over the current lineup.

iPhone 14 Pro concept render

iPhone 14 Pro renders (Image credit: Technizo Concept/Let's Go Digital)

Then again, that's not a concern if you're planning for an iPhone 14 Pro Max purchase. The Pro lineup of Apple's upcoming phones will likely feature new silicon in the form of the A16 chipset. We don't have specifics on what that will bring to the table, but you can count on boosts to the processor, graphics and neural processing performance over the current A15 silicon. That should widen the performance gap with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which already trails the iPhone 13 Pro Max in benchmark testing.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Battery and charging

Speaking of advantages the iPhone already holds over the Galaxy S22 Ultra, let's look at battery life. Apple boosted battery size on each iPhone 13 model, and it paid off big time. On our battery test, in which phones surf the web continuously over 5G until they run out of power, the iPhone 13 Pro Mac lasted 12 hours and 16 minutes, landing on our best phone battery life list.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra didn't fare as well, despite having a larger 5,000 mAh battery. With its adaptive display feature enabled, the Galaxy S22 Ultra ran out of power after 8 hours and 50 minutes — roughly 1 hour shy of the average smartphone's performance. Turning off that feature improved battery life by nearly 1.5 hours, but that still wasn't enough to challenge the iPhone 13 Pro Max's time.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Galaxy S22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

What does Apple do for an encore with the iPhone 14 Pro Max? There's no rumors on changes to battery capacity at this time. But improved power efficiency by the A16 chipset and a smaller 5G modem could mean that the iPhone 14 Pro Max consumes less power than its predecessor, leading to an even bigger gap between its longevity and what we saw with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

One area where Apple could certainly stand to improve its phones is charging speed. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is stuck at 20W (some say it's 27W unofficially), compared to 45W for the Galaxy S22 Ultra. There are reports Apple is working on a faster 30W charger, though it's unclear that it would be ready for the iPhone 14 Pro Max (and other iPhones coming out this fall). We do know that any switch to a USB-C charging port from Apple's preferred Lightning standard isn't going to happen this year.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Software and special features

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's special features are highlighted by the inclusion of an S Pen, a feature the iPhone 14 Pro Max is unlikely to match, given Apple's "only for iPads" stylus stance. It's a shame, because the S Pen really extends the S22 Ultra's functionality, by letting you jot down notes whenever the mood strikes. Bluetooth connectivity in the built-in stylus extends its functionality over the optional model Samsung released for the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

We know about some software features destined for the iPhone 14 Pro Max, thanks to Apple's iOS 16 preview. Top iOS 16 features include the ability to edit messages, a better of sharing photo albums with friends and family through iCloud and numerous improvements to Wallet, Maps, Notes and other existing apps. 

iOS 16

iOS 16 (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 14 Pro Max will ship with iOS 16 preinstalled and will likely retain software support for the next five iterations of Apple's iPhone software. The Galaxy S22 Ultra, meanwhile, is running Android 12 currently. It will get Android 13 eventually, most likely around the end of the year if Samsung's upgrade history is any indication. At least, Samsung has extended software support for four years, so S22 Ultra owners can expect to stay current through 2026. That's not iPhone levels of support, but it's the best we've seen from an Android phone — even more extensive than Google's support.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Outlook

Any verdict on this iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra clash will have to wait until Apple's fall phone release. But the rumors surrounding the iPhone 14 paint a pretty compelling picture for the Pro models. And it sounds as if Samsung and the Galaxy S22 Ultra are going to have all they can handle once the iPhone 14 Pro Max arrives.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • Matty7899
    Don't really think that this is a fair assessment. Proper comparison would be the iPhone 14 vs S23 ultra. Anything after September is considered new gen.
    Reply
  • UrfWzrd
    Not every S22 comes with Snapdragon. I live in Netherlands and Samsung decided their inferior CPU to use in EU. So, the first Samsung I decided to buy failed and I will wait for iPhone 14. Though I am a Huawei fan, pity that it is out of the game.
    Reply