iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: What to expect

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S24 Ultra renders
(Image credit: 4RMD / Technizo Concept)

An iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showdown looms over the current smartphone landscape, even though neither device has been officially announced. Nevertheless, these two phones figure to be the next big releases from Apple and Samsung, and how they measure up will say a lot about the smartphone market into next year and beyond.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max will be the first phone to arrive, most likely in the fall, and it's already shaping up to be one of the most anticipated devices of 2023. Apple seems to be pouring a lot of resources into its Pro models as of late, and the the iPhone 15 Pro Max figures to be a big beneficiary of that, boasting features not even available to the iPhone 15 Pro.

We likely won't see the Galaxy S24 Ultra until early 2024. Nevertheless, rumors have already started circulating about this Galaxy S23 Ultra successor and what Samsung can offer next to keep its spot among the best Android phones, if not the best phone overall.

Even at this early stage, we've heard enough rumors for a preliminary iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra comparison. Here's how these two phones are shaping up, as we wait for their respective releases.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra price and availabiity

We've got a pretty good idea about the iPhone 15 release date, even if Apple is mum about its plans. New iPhones typically come out in the fall — September, specifically — and that's when we'd anticipating finding out about the iPhone 15 Pro Max along with the rest of the iPhone 15 lineup.

iPhone 15 Pro renders by Technizo

(Image credit: Technizo)

As for the Galaxy S24 Ultra release date, Samsung tends to roll out the latest Galaxy S devices during the first three months of the year. We'd expect a Galaxy S24 launch around then, too, with February the likely month for any S24 Ultra introduction.

Rumors already point to a price hike for the iPhone 15 Pro, with Apple bumping up the price by $100 over what it charged for the iPhone 14 Pro Max to reflect rising component costs and new features. That would put the iPhone 15 Pro Max at $1,199 — the same price Samsung has charged for its Ultra models in recent years.

We haven't heard any rumors yet about Galaxy S24 Ultra pricing, though it's still pretty early in the development cycle.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra design and display

Expect the basic look of the iPhone 15 Pro Max to stay the same, with some potential refinements to the design. The biggest difference could be curved sides instead of the straight edges found on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. A new action button could find its way onto the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but initial rumors about solid-state buttons on the phone may not pan out, according to some analysts.

Apple is also said to be turning to a new material for the frame of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with titanium replacing stainless steel. The former material is not only lighter, but more durable. 

The Galaxy S24 Ultra could feature even fewer design tweaks, which makes sense given that Samsung likes the style of the current Ultra so much, it's adapted the look for other phones include the midrange Galaxy A series. Reportedly, the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus are going to have the same design as their predecessors, so you'd expect the Galaxy S24 Ultra to also resist any changes.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra colors

(Image credit: Future)

Similarly, we're not expecting any major display overhauls to the iPhone's 6.7-inch panel or the 6.8-inch screen on on the Ultra. Both phones feature 120Hz refresh rates, and there is one rumor that Samsung might bump that speed up to 144Hz as a way of setting apart the phone and cementing its reputation as one of the best gaming phones.

We might also see the phone makers try to ramp up the brightness of their respective panels, as that's been one way that phone makers can point to big year-over-year changes to their devices. In our iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra face-off, the two phones looked equally as bright, with the iPhone 14 Pro Max registering 1,275 nits on a light reader to the Galaxy S23 Ultra's 1,225-nit reading. With the S23 Ultra promising 1,750 nits of peak brightness, there's room here for Samsung to grow.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras

The iPhone 14 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Ultra already battle it out for the title of best camera phone — Samsung's phone currently holds the crown — so it's hard to imagine how either phone might improve upon what's already there. But that's apparently what Samsung and Apple aim to do.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It wouldn't seem like Samsung has much room for improvement after adding a 200MP sensor to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but one rumor suggests a larger sensor size for the S24 Ultra's main camera, allowing the lens to capture more light.

The telephoto lens on the Galaxy S24 Ultra could see the bigger improvements. A rumor tips the phone to feature a 3-10x variable folded telephoto lens, which would do way with the need for two telephoto cameras on the back of the S24 Ultra. Instead, the new lens would use a periscope design and be able to change the focal length while connecting to a single sensor.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max could switch to a periscope lens for its telephoto camera, too. The change would mean that the iPhone's zooming capability would improve dramatically, supporting up to a 6x optical zoom. That feature may be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max among Apple's iPhone 15 family.

Like the S24 Ultra, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is tipped to get a 1-inch sensor for its main camera, so that it can keep up with samsung when it comes to letting in light and color. We've also heard talk of an improve LiDAR sensor leading to better portrait shots.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra performance

Here's where things get interesting and a little complicated. Typically, the chipset powering Apple's iPhones sets the performance standard, and that's true of the A16 Bionic chipset inside the iPhone 14 Pro Max — to a point. While the A16 posts superior benchmarking numbers in many tests, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy silicon that powers the Galaxy S23 Ultra beat Apple's chip in some graphics tests.

A17 Bionic chip

(Image credit: Notebookcheck)

The iPhone 15 Pro Max's likely A17 Bionic chip figures to rectify that. It's going to be built on a 3nm process, compared to the 4nm A16 Bionic. The smaller the process, the denser the transistors, which means greater improvements in power and efficiency. In other words, advantage iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Or perhaps not — the Galaxy S24 Ultra is likely to feature the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. And early benchmarks of that Qualcomm silicon have it beating the A16 Bionic by 11% on Geekbench 6. The A16 isn't the A17, of course, but it's clear that the competition between the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S24 Ultra will be the closest in years.

There's a potential wrinkle, though. After using nothing but Qualcomm silicon for the S23 series, Samsung may go back to using its own Exynos chipsets on some Galaxy S24 models. That's worrisome as the top-of-the-line Exynos hasn't always been able to match the performance of a Snapdragon 8 series system-on-chip. The good news, though, is that early Exynos 2400 benchmarks also hint at numbers that can top the A16 Bionic.

Samsung Exynos

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy S24 Ultra might hold another edge over the iPhone 15 Pro Max unless Apple makes a major change with this year's phones. The Galaxy S23 Ultra shipped with 256GB as its base-level storage — something that's apparently continuing with the S24 Ultra. That's double the capacity of the iPhone 14 Pro Max base model, though perhaps Apple might increase capacity for its upcoming phones.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra battery life and charging

Assuming we're right about the iPhone 15 Pro Max running on an A17 Bionic, that could mean promising things for the new phone's battery life. The promised power efficiency of the new chipset should help the iPhone last longer on a charge. And considering that the iPhone 14 Pro Max already ranks highly on our best phone battery life list, we're excited to see how long the iPhone 15 Pro Max can hold out.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra was no slouch either when it came to battery life, also ranking among the longest-lasting phones. It will be interesting to see if the Galaxy S24 Ultra can improve upon that performance, particularly if it has to support an even faster refresh rate.

The leaked iPhone 15 Pro Max dimensions

(Image credit: Ice Universe)

iPhone charging isn't particularly fast, capped at 20W via Apple's Lightning connector, but that could change with every iPhone 15 model reportedly switching to USB-C. That opens up the possibility of faster charging speeds, something Apple might reportedly reserve for its iPhone 15 Pro models. At any rate, we could see the upcoming iPhone challenge the 45W charging speed of Samsung's Ultra model.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra software and special features

The iPhone 15 Pro Max will debut about the same time as iOS 17, Appls' next-generation mobile software. While we won't get an iOS 17 preview until WWDC 2023 in June, some early details have laked out. Apple's new iOS could add active widgets, which let you control things directly from a widget instead of launching an app. The Control Center and the Health and Wallet aops could also see an overall in iOS 17. There's also talk that iOS 17 will let you side-load apps from places other than Apple's App Store, though that feature could be limited to certain regions like Europe.

By the time the Galaxy S24 Ultra arrives, Android 14 will be out, bringing a number of new customization and privacy features. The most significant edge Samsung's Ultra phone enjoys over the iPhone is likely to remain — a built-in S Pen you can use to jot down notes on your phone. We're hoping that this year's version of the stylus brings with it new features.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra outlook

As you can see, it's still early days in the iPhone 15 vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra competition, with plenty of time for new rumors about both phones to take root. That said, given what we already potentially know about these handsets — from the improved processors to the potential camera enhancements — you can imagine why we're already anticipating this clash of big-screen phones.

More from Tom's Guide

Philip Michaels

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.