I think the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra could finally beat the iPhone — here's why

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra back showing cameras
(Image credit: Future)

When you look at our best phone list based on our reviews, the latest iPhone Pro Max has had the top spot for the past few years. And that's because Samsung just hasn't been able to overtake Apple's combination of performance, camera quality and battery life. 

But 2023 could be different, thanks to the Galaxy S23 Ultra

It's not like the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a bad phone by any stretch. It tops our best Android phone list with its stellar 6.8-inch display, built-in S Pen (something Apple doesn't offer), improved camera performance and zippy 45W charging. 

But the S22 Ultra fell a bit short in our Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max face-off. Samsung won in the design and display categories but lost in cameras, video, performance and battery life.

Based on the rumors and leaks so far about Samsung's upcoming phone, here's why I think the S23 Ultra can beat the iPhone. 

Galaxy S23 Ultra: A killer camera system

There's one main reason why Samsung lost our iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Galaxy S22 Ultra comparison. It really came down to image quality. The iPhone delivered better looking colors and more details in nearly every situation. 

However, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a real shot at overtaking Apple on our best camera phone list. For starters, it's tipped to feature a new 200MP sensor to replace the 108MP sensor on the S22 Ultra. We all know at this point that megapixels alone don't cut it, but Samsung is also rumored to be turning to a bigger 1/1.3 sensor with a larger f/1.7 aperture, so you should get a lot more details along with brighter images in all conditions.

A render of the Samsung ISOCELL HP2 CMOS (camera sensor)

(Image credit: Samsung)

Just this week Samsung unveiled its Isocell HP2 camera chip, and some believe this is exactly what will be inside the S23 Ultra. 

On top of this, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is rumored to feature an improved night mode, which could be very impressive considering that the S22 Ultra was already quite good in low light. In addition, the Samsung S23 Ultra is tipped to offer 8K video recording at 30 fps, while the iPhone remains stuck on 4K. But, again, I think Samsung is going to have to step up its game when it comes to video quality. 

Closing the performance (and battery life) gap

Stop me if you've heard this before but Samsung's phones (and all Android phones) have trailed Apple's Bionic chips for years. But the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip shows a lot of promise. 

Photo of Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip

(Image credit: Future)

The new chip is built on the same 4-nanometer process as the A16 Bionic powering the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, with Qualcomm promising a 35% CPU performance boost over last year's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. We ran some Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 benchmarks on a reference device, and it beat the A15 Bionic-powered iPhone 14 in a lot of our tests, while nearly matching the iPhone 14 Pro Max on multi-core performance in Geekbench 5. 

Even better, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 device beat the iPhone 14 Pro Max in the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited graphics benchmark. We're talking about the difference between 84 fps and 74 fps. 

I'm more concerned with battery life, though. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip promises 40% better power efficiency. And the Galaxy S23 Ultra will need it if it's going to catch Apple. The Galaxy S22 Ultra lasted for just 10 hours and 18 minutes on the Tom's Guide web surfing battery test, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max endured for 13:39.

We're hopeful that the new chip paired with the rumored 5,000 mAh battery will enable the S23 Ultra to make our best phone battery life list. 

Built-in advantages

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra render

(Image credit: Ice Universe via Nieuwe Mobiel/Twitter))

As I mentioned above, the Galaxy S23 Ultra should have the iPhone beat in a few areas just by continuing with existing S22 Ultra features.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra should continue to have faster 45W charging, so you 'll be able get your phone to 50% and 100% charges faster than with the iPhone. 

And the iPhone Pro Max's zoom capabilities pale in comparison to the S22 Ultra, which offers dual telephoto lenses of 3x and 10x. As you'll see in our zoom camera shootout, it's not even close, as the top-end iPhone musters only 3x optical zoom, and it's digital zoom maxes at 15x, compared to 100x for the S22 Ultra.

As for the S Pen, I'm not a fan, but I can see why it adds value for those who want to take notes and draw on their smartphone screen. And it can come in handy when you need more precision for tasks like editing photos. 

Bottom line

As much as I like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, it can be beaten. And the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a real shot at taking down the champ.

Am I worried about the rumored Galaxy S23 Ultra price hike? Absolutely, but if Samsung can deliver on the camera front while offering stronger performance and especially longer battery life it become the best phone in the land. 

Read next: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200MP camera could see me ditch my iPhone.

Mark Spoonauer

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.