Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Which flagship could win?

A split image of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and an unofficial render of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
(Image credit: Tom's Guide/SmartPrix)

A Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max match-up should be one of the highest-stakes smartphone duels early next year. The decade-and-a-half-long rivalry between Apple and Samsung is renewed with every new generation of phones, and it's looking to be no less fierce once the next round of Galaxy S devices appears in early 2023.

Apple jumped out of the gate with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which has quickly become one of the best phones overall. The iPhone's new cameras, Dynamic Island display and super-powered but efficient chipset make it one of the top phones we've ever tried.

We won't know what the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, or the Samsung Galaxy S23 series in general will bring for a while, as we're still some months away from their expected launch. However the rumor mill has been churning away, and we're hearing the S23 Ultra will bring a new chipset of its own as well as camera improvements to take the fight directly to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. 

If you're trying to work out which phone you'll want to buy or just want to figure out which phone will be left standing at the end of the fight, read on for a detailed Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max comparison based on our time with Apple's phone and the rumors we've heard so far about the upcoming Samsung device.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Price and availability

You can buy an iPhone 14 Pro Max from $1,099 right now, though you may have to wait to get your hands on the phone. Based on the iPhone 14 order dates as of this writing, there's a month lag between when you order your iPhone 14 Pro Max and when it actually arrives.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra's price will remain a mystery until its launch date, but if we had to guess, we'd assume it would cost around the same $1,199 that Samsung charges for the current Galaxy S22 Ultra. It's possible Samsung could raise the price, but we'll be hoping that this doesn't happen, since the Ultra is expensive enough as it is, and already $100 more than the iPhone it's going up against.

As for the S23 release date, we are expecting to get see Samsung's new phones around January or February. One big rumor claims mid-January could be when Samsung makes its move, as it won't want to hang about to let rivals, like the iPhone, remain the newest, most fully featured phone on the block.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Design

It's difficult seeing the differences between the iPhone 14 Pro Max and last year's iPhone 13 Pro Max, but they are there. The camera bump on the back of the iPhone is now slightly larger to make room for the upgraded optics, and there's also now a new Dynamic Island housing for the front cameras instead of the iPhone's familiar notch.

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 14 Pro Max also comes in a refreshed set of colors, consisting of Space Black, Deep Purple, Silver and Gold. But generally, Apple's new handset features the flat-sided, matte glass-backed iPhone Pro design you're probably already familiar with.

According to the latest leaked Galaxy S23 Ultra renders, Samsung's upcoming phone looks like it'll be all but identical to the Galaxy S22 Ultra it's replacing. The individual rear cameras, squared-off profile, curved sides and punch-hole selfie camera look to be still there, as is the built-in S Pen slot, so you'll still have a handy way to draw and take proper handwritten notes all on a pocket-sized device.

Image of leaked renders of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: OnLeaks/SmartPrix)

The only potential changes to the Galaxy S23 Ultra are thicker bezels, according to one source, with others refuting this claim and stating it with have more Galaxy S22 Ultra similarities. We might also see a slight increase in the phone's height and width, but we can't imagine we'll notice these fractions-of-an-inch differences once the S23 Ultra arrives.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Display

As with the iPhone 13 Pro Max before it, the iPhone 14 Pro Max uses a 6.7-inch AMOLED display, with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and a Super Retina XDR resolution (between FHD and QHD). It's an impressive display, with high brightness and vivid, accurate colors. The display also improves with the addition of an always-on display, bringing the iPhone 14 Pro Max up to speed with the best Android phones.

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We should see the Galaxy S23 Ultra arrive with a 6.8-inch, adaptive 120Hz that provides the same QHD resolution as the S22 Ultra. One rumor suggested that Samsung will update the display in some way, though there are few specifics on how. We'll be looking out for more rumors on this topic, to see what kind of advantage Samsung might be able to pull out over the iPhone.

Image of a leaked render of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: OnLeaks/SmartPrix)

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Cameras

Apple gave the iPhone 14 Pro Max a camera boost in the form of a new 48MP main camera capable of shooting in both 12MP and 48MP RAW formats for more brightness or detail depending on what the user prefers. The new device also gained the same auto-focusing 12MP selfie camera as the other iPhone 14 models, while its ultrawide sensor is twice as big as before. The 12MP 3x telephoto and depth-sensing LiDAR scanner remain the same.

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is likely to get a main camera update, too. It's apparently getting a new 200MP camera to replace the S22 Ultra's 108MP sensor, allowing users the highest-possible resolution on a smartphone. Apart from that, the rumors say to expect no change to either of the two 10MP telephoto lenses, and while the rumors haven't covered them yet, we'd imagine no changes to the 12MP ultrawide or 40MP selfie cameras either.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. (Image credit: Future)

While it can't match up to the Samsung's powerful telephoto zoom range, the iPhone 14 Pro Max currently heads up our best camera phones guide, beating the Galaxy S22 Ultra by four whole places. Samsung will need to improve its photo processing algorithms as well as its hardware to beat Apple, as its over-saturated, over-smoothed images have prevented it from keeping pace with Apple's phones.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Performance 

The A16 Bionic chip within the iPhone 14 Pro Max provides amazing performance that's way ahead of any current Android phone, Samsung's included. The Galaxy S23 Ultra will struggle to top it, whichever chip it ends up with.

Currently, that's looking like either the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which is rumored to be headed for every Galaxy S23 model sold around the globe. It's also possible that Samsung could turn to its own Exynos 2300 chips in some countries, as it has with past Galaxy S releases.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Battery and charging

We know that the iPhone 14 Pro Max contains a 4,323 mAh capacity, with 20W wired charging and 15W MagSafe wireless charging. Looking to the rumors, we should again see a 5,000 mAh battery in the S23 Ultra. At the very least, you'd expect 25W charging, though the S23 Ultra seems more likely to retain the 45W charging capabilities Samsung introduced to the S22 Ultra.

Looking at our current best phone battery life page, we see that the iPhone 14 Pro Max holds down second place, with the Galaxy S22 Ultra nowhere to be seen. In fact, Samsung's current flagship trailed the iPhone by nearly 5 hours on our custom battery test with the phones' adaptive refresh rates enabled. Samsung could really do with improving battery life if it wants to beat the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Outlook

There's little doubt that we're looking at the top two phones for 2023 in a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max comparison. The only difference is we know that the iPhone is awesome already, while there are a few months to wait until we see how good the new Ultra Galaxy is.

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We expect the iPhone will retain its advantage in terms of performance and battery efficiency — it could continue to lead in camera quality, depending on the changes Samsung introduces. But the Galaxy S23 Ultra looks set to continue beating the iPhone on charging speed, display size and resolution, not to mention the productivity potential opened up by its included S Pen stylus.

Image of a leaked render of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: OnLeaks/SmartPrix)

The truth will only be discovered early next year when Samsung unveils its new Galaxy S models. Until then, we'll be tracking the rumors for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and continuing to put the iPhone 14 Pro Max through its paces to get the best idea of which phone wins this face-off and how.

Richard Priday
Staff Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.