The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is easily the most anticipated Android phone of 2024, and it could arrive as soon as January 17 if the rumors prove true about the date of the next Samsung Unpacked event. Will Samsung's next flagship phone be worth the hype?
Based on the early rumors, I'd say yes. In fact, the Galaxy S24 Ultra could be in a prime position to knock the iPhone 15 Pro Max out of the top spot on our best phones list. Yes, Samsung is expected to borrow some of the latest iPhone features like a titanium design for the Ultra, but it could also push the smartphone category forward with its camera advancements and especially AI.
Here's how the Galaxy S24 Ultra could beat the iPhone 15 Pro Max based on all the leaks and reports so far.
Going all-in on AI
You know Samsung is serious about AI when it applies for the trademark AI phone, which it has done ahead of the Galaxy S24 Ultra launch. Samsung has already teased one AI feature for the flagship, while others have been leaked.
For starters, the Galaxy S24 Ultra will offer a AI Live Translate Call feature, where "audio and text translations will appear in real-time as you speak" with someone in another language.
There's also been a big leak around Samsung's OneUI 6.1 software, which reveals that the Galaxy S24 Ultra should be able to let you easily move subjects around photos within the photo editor. And you'll also be able to expand pictures beyond their original borders and fill in the background.
Samsung's AI model, which could be called Gauss, may also auto summarize your notes into bullet points, help you compose emails and more.
A super bright 144Hz display
Yes, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a very bright display at 2,000 nits, but the Galaxy S24 Ultra is poised to leap past it with a rumored OLED panel coming in at a searing 2,500 nits. That's a big jump from the Galaxy S23 Ultra's 1,750 max nits.
It gets better. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is also tipped to feature a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz, which would beat the 120Hz ProMotion display on the latest Pro iPhones. This could make the S24 Ultra a better choice for gamers, so long as there's enough titles that support that refresh rate.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 could smoke A17 Pro on performance and graphics
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is expected to be powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip from Qualcomm, and early Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 benchmark numbers look promising, although we'll have to see how well the device performs when we get it in our labs.
On Geekbench 6.1, which measures overall performance, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 reference design device reached 2,329 on single core and 7,501 on multicore. The iPhone 15 Pro Max's A17 Pro chip hit a higher 2,783 in the single core test, but produced a lower 6,945 multicore result.
It may not even be close in the graphics department. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 scored 19,114 on 3DMark Wild Life and 5,338 on Wild Life Extreme, compared to 15,339 and 3,481 respectively for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
A better telephoto camera
One of the controversies surrounding the Galaxy S24 Ultra is that Samsung is rumored to ditch the 10x optical zoom camera for a 5x telephoto lens. But the good news is that this sensor is tipped to jump from 10MP all the way up to 50MP. This should result in sharper pics that what the iPhone 15 Pro Max provides with its 12MP 5x tetraprism lens.
Plus, I suspect that the main camera will remain 200MP, which gives Samsung a resolution advantage over the 48MP main sensor on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Of course, megapixels aren't everything, which is why we'll perform our own side-by-side shootout to determine the best camera phone overall.
It's a bummer than the iPhone 15 Pro Max keeps Apple's charging speed at just 20W, but Samsung should keep its charging at a faster 45W speed for the Galaxy S24 Ultra. We've heard rumors earlier than it could go as high as 65W, but certification documents seem to show that we're not getting a major upgrade this coming year.
Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Outlook
Note that I didn't include the S Pen as one of the S24 Ultra features that beats the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It's been around for a while, and either you like idea of having a stylus on board or you don't. And while Samsung is also rumored to upgrade to a titanium design that's stronger and lighter than aluminum, Apple got there first.
So to me Samsung's best chance at beating the iPhone 15 Pro Max comes down to how well all of its AI tricks work, the upgraded zoom camera and the potentially superior display. Stay tuned to our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra hub for all the latest rumors and leaks heading up to the launch.
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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.