Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra could beat iPhone 14 Pro Max — here's how

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

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is easily the most anticipated phone of 2023, and if the rumors prove true it could launch as soon as January. Could it be the best phone overall when it arrives? Maybe, but it will have to go through other flagships like the Pixel 7 Pro and especially Apple's iPhone 14 Pro Max

Apple's big-screen powerhouse has a lot to recommend it, including its new 48MP main camera, its blazing fast A16 Bionic processor and handy new features like Dynamic Island. Plus, Apple has finally caught up to Samsung with an always-on display, even though the iPhone 14 Pro Max's implementation is different.

But don't count out Samsung, because the Galaxy S23 Ultra is rumored to be a beast of a phone. It could pack a 200MP camera, and it should deliver the fastest performance ever from an Android device thanks to the rumored Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. And don't forget that Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra already had some advantages over Apple that should cary over to the new phone. (Our iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra face-off goes into more detail.)

Here's how the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra could beat the iPhone 14 Pro Max when Samsung's phone arrives next year.

A 200MP camera

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

Let me start by saying that resolution isn't everything. Otherwise, Samsung's 108MP Galaxy S22 Ultra would top our best camera phone list. But it's still exciting to think what Samsung could do with this sort of resolution on the S23 Ultra. The main sensor will reportedly be capable of 200MP or 12.5MP photos, and the latter would be accomplished via Pixel binning.

The leaker Ice Universe has said that this new 200MP camera would would be better at taking low-light photos, which could really help Samsung overtake the iPhone's excellent Night mode. 

Better zoom (again)

While this isn't rumored to change between the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra, Samsung's new big-screen beast should have the iPhone 14 Pro Max beat on optical zoom. And that's because Apple's handset delivers just a 3x optical zoom and 15x max digital zoom.

Meanwhile, the S23 Ultra is once again tipped for dual telephoto lenses of 3x and 10x magnification. The iPhone 15 could answer with a more powerful periscope-style zoom, but its release is a long ways away. 

Sleeker design

Image of leaked renders of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: OnLeaks/SmartPrix)

As much as we like the design of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, it got even bulkier this time around compared to its predecessor with an even larger camera bump — due to a larger sensor. The current Galaxy S22 Ultra is lighter than the iPhone despite having a slightly larger 6.8-inch display, and that's not expected to change much for the S23 Ultra.

We're hearing that the S23 Ultra will be just 0.2 ounces or 6g heavier than the previous model. This will be due to a wider metal frame.

We could also get raised bezels around the cameras to protect the lenses from scratches without the huge overall patch the iPhone 14 Pro Max uses to surround all of its cameras. 

Faster charging, larger battery

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is tipped once again to offer 45W charging, which should be markedly better than the 20W to 30W charging Apple has with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. 

With the S22 Ultra, we saw a drained phone reach a 67% charge in 30 minutes, compared to just 42% for the iPhone 14 Pro Max in the same amount of time. So Samsung should be able to maintain if not extend its lead here.

More of a wild card is the.battery life. The iPhone 14 Pro Max delivered more battery life than the S22 Ultra despite having a smaller battery: 4,323 mAh vs 5,000 mAh. So Samsung is going to have squeeze out more efficiency if it's going to surpass the top iPhone in endurance. Perhaps the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip can help with that.

S Pen

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

This should be the second generation in a row where Samsung is offering an S Pen in the Galaxy S Ultra phone now that the Galaxy Note is gone. But we haven't seen major upgrades for this stylus other than reducing latency and improved handwriting recognition.

Samsung needs to show why the iPhone 14 Pro Max is at a disadvantage because it doesn't support an S Pen equivalent like the Apple Pencil. We need killer new use cases and third-party apps.

Bottom line

At least based on the rumors so far, the Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn't sound like a huge departure from the S22 Ultra. But it doesn't need to be in order to potentially beat Apple.

The one area Samsung needs to truly win is the camera, as it's fallen behind the iPhone in various face-offs we've conducted. But there's no reason the S23 Ultra can't surprise us with its new 200MP sensor and especially new computational photography upgrades. 

Stay tuned to our Galaxy S23 Ultra hub for all the latest rumors and leaks as we get closer to launch. 

Next: Also check out our Google Pixel 7 Pro vs. iPhone 14 Pro vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: ultimate zoom shootout.

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.