Apple’s still riding high on the success of its iPhone 15 Pro Max after it supplanted the Galaxy S23 Ultra on our best phones list last year. But now that the Galaxy S24 Ultra has landed, it gives Apple’s flagship some heated competition, which we pointed out in our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max face-off.
Indeed, there are several areas where the Galaxy S24 Ultra is clearly superior, including its longer lasting battery life. But the iPhone 15 Pro Max continues its reign in other areas, reminding us that you simply can’t take away what Apple has done, especially when it’s a such a noticeabl upgrade over the iPhone 14 Pro Max before it.
We’re still a couple days away before Samsung’s newest flagship is commercially released, so if you’re still on the fence and perhaps swayed by the iPhone 15 Pro Max, we break down what Apple’s doing to make it the better phone of the two.
Right off the bat, you’ll save more money going with the iPhone 15 Pro Max — and that’s despite Apple imposing a price increase over last year’s model. With a starting cost of $1,199, you’re saving $100 more by choosing the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which can then be used on other things like a handy MagSafe wireless charger or snatching any one of the best iPhone 15 Pro Max cases around.
Meanwhile, Samsung also bumped up the cost of the Galaxy S24 Ultra to $1,299, making it the most expensive flagship phone to buy right now — at least outside of any of the folding phones that are out there.
Sharper, more detailed telephoto camera
This one’s a surprise, mainly because Samsung has continually pushed the envelope further with the cameras in its flagships. Yet, the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t get the usual hardware upgrades with its cameras — focusing its efforts instead on its various Galaxy AI powered photo and video editing features.
Oddly enough, Samsung also scaled back the range of its telephoto camera to 5x optical zoom instead of the 10x lens found in the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Now, the S24 Ultra matches the 5x zoom range of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and as a result, we notice better clarity and detail out of Apple’s flagship. You can see it in the photos above how the iPhone 15 Pro Max draws out more detail.
Phone makers are constantly figuring out ways to improve their phone with each iterative device, and having brighter screens is one way to do that. Fortunately, both the iPhone 15 Pro and Galaxy S24 Ultra offer better brightness than their respective predecessors.
But when these two phones go head to head, our own display benchmarking test reveals a brighter screen with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It pulls off a blinding 1,550 nits, versus the still respectable, but obviously not as bright 1,363 nits of peak brightness we measured on Samsung's flagships.
ProRes lets you record directly to SSD
While it’s not for everyone, the ability to instantly record and save videos to an external hard drive is helpful for serious creators that want to streamline their workflow. Now that it's ditched the Lightning port in favor of USB-C, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s support of USB 3.0 lets users shoot in ProRes and save the footage directly to an SSD. Paired with its 10Gbit per second maximum transfer speed, it doesn’t take long to save those clips — which is something you can’t o do with the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Programmable Action button
Whether you think it’s novel or not, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s new Action button adds a certain level of access to the phone’s various apps and controls. This dedicated button is fundamentally a shortcut button that can be programmed to do an assortment of things, like opening up a specific app, acting as a mute switch, or something more complex. Bring the Shortcut app into the mix, and you can use the Action button to trigger a handful of automations, such as choosing a specific person to send a message, or setting up multiple alarms.
Shoot video in LOG
Another appeal of the iPhone 15 Pro Max for content creators is the phone's ability to record ProRes videos with a Log profile. This results in a flatter-looking recording, which can subsequently be tweaked with video editing software to reveal more detail in the highlights and shadows.
Additionally, a Log profile allows users to apply a LUT (Look Up Table) for even greater color grading options in post. Again, this isn’t a feature that’s widely used by everyone, but it’s definitely handy for those who crave more control in how their footage looks.
Faster software update releases
We’ll admit that Samsung’s promise of 7 years of software and security updates for the Galaxy S24 Ultra is more than generous, but those updates often don’t come quickly. In fact, their rollouts tend to be longer because of the stacking approach Samsung often takes. Take for example Samsung's One UI 6, which rolled out to an initial batch of phones before completing the update on other eligible devices a month later. In contrast, Apple’s updates come to its iPhone much faster and on all models, usually on the same day.
Intuitive Dynamic Island
While it’s technically not new to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the iPhone's Dynamic Island is a much more suitable notification system for apps than anything you’ll find with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. That’s because the Dynamic Island displays them in a more discreet manner, while also acting as a mini player for several apps. For example, if you’re playing a song and switch over to another app, that music player will transform into a widget that’s accessible through the Dynamic Island — saving you from having to exit your current app just to change the song.
Brighter looking photos under low light
And finally, we also notice that the iPhone 15 Pro Max often delivers the brighter looking photos under low light conditions. It’s a small detail given how the iPhone's main cameras perform almost identically under good lighting, but it’s worth mentioning because we can visibly see how the shadows have more exposure with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, resulting in its photos coming out brighter as a whole.
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John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.