So for the longest time it's been Samsung versus Apple, Galaxy versus iPhone, up to the point where even names became a competition. First they were both regulars and then they went Plus, and then one switched to Pro, so the other couldn't go out like that, it had to switch to Ultra, all as a way to call out that their product was better than the other.
Over that time we've done our thing with comparisons, but calling out a winner was always complicated because, as it turns out, each approach is different. For Samsung it's always been this battle of numbers and capabilities while for Apple, being late has allowed for better implementation, or at least most of the time.
In one corner we have the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung's cream of the crop when it comes to its conventional and photography-focused flagship, and in the other we have the iPhone 13 Pro Max, where for Apple, Pro has become a designator for its camera capabilities. The question is, though, which phone does it better? And I'm not just talking about the cameras.
Yes, you can accuse me right now of making an unfair comparison. Seriously, if we were to look into price tags and features alone, this should be a battle between the S22+ and the 13 Pro Max, but since Apple decided to jump labels and actually cram some Pro features into this lineup, it's fair to wonder just how Ultra is the Galaxy.
To start, it's interesting to see how each company has such a different approach to a large phone. While Apple seems to value uniformity in its design language over ergonomics, Samsung is the complete opposite. It's as if Sammy knows that handling a large phone is better when its curved, while Apple seems to think that blowing up a small design is a smart move. I wish I could even say the curved borders of the Pro help in your palm more than the sharper corners on the Ultra, but even that digs less over Apple's sharp edges. As a result, even if I prefer flat phones, this is one of the rare cases where I'm gonna give my points to the Galaxy. Surely the iPhone is elegant and made of a stronger stainless steel, but this also makes it heavier at 240 grams vs 228, and this is all while being 3 mm shorter and 1mm thinner, albeit 1mm wider. That said the Galaxy is no slouch with its Armor Aluminum and Gorilla Glass Victus+, which we honestly don't know if we can consider stronger than Ceramic Shield… I'm not the drop test guy. Yes, both camera humps look just as awesome as how each wobbles on a table, so you will need a case on each if that bothers you. Overall, I like both designs, but I feel Samsung understands that large phones need a bit more creativity.
A clear example of that is once you flip them around to their displays. Sure, Apple reduced the Notch on the Max, but it's still there. On the Ultra the punch hole is barely noticeable, and the Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is only there when you need it. That said, once we consider display quality, it's come to the point where metrics are negligible. They're both gorgeous AMOLED panels with comparable pixel density, best-in-class color reproduction, and smooth 120hz variable refresh rate. The differences do tip in favor of the Galaxy, though, with a bit more contrast ratio, far more peak brightness for the extremes, plus an Always-On mode. I won't call a winner for the speakers though, as each device handles that pretty well.
But you know what, I think it's fair to call a winner, and that's the S22 Ultra. See, since day one, Samsung's first large phone came with a purpose, and that was to give you a larger canvas for its S Pen. And sure, Apple followed with a large phone nearly five years later, but I think they keep missing the point. Like previous Galaxy Notes, the S Pen is now tucked at the bottom, and it remains as useful as it's always been, with notes even while your screen is off, or a call to shortcuts while it's on. The added variability also means less latency, and given the design of the tip, this almost feels like if you're writing with a sharpy on paper. Some use it for art, others weirdos like me prefer to highlight these scripts, and others even as a virtual mouse. Point is, sadly the iPhone keeps missing out on giving you more for your canvas.
And I think the biggest problem is that this experience actually extends to the rest of the software experience. I'm not gonna say that One UI 4.1 is better than iOS 15, but from a mere ergonomics standpoint, Samsung wins again. Having this larger display on the Ultra allows you to cram more information at once, or even multi-task with various apps at once, while on the iPhone, well.. Let's just say there's a lot of wasted space. One app at a time, and even UI elements that force you to use two hands all the time because this phone is no different than even the 13 mini in that regard. The side menu shortcuts on the Galaxy also help you reach contacts and favorite app combos with ease. Heck you can even turn this phone into a computer with DeX if you wanted this to be your only device for everything. Now in Apple's defense, I do prefer its taste for aesthetics. Stacking widgets together is pretty awesome, and their smarter approach to an App Tray is also something I find superior. Little things like its more granular focus modes, along with how social media apps interact better with an iPhone is also a major reason iOS remains preferred by certain demographics. Keep in mind though that when it comes to ecosystems, that's a close tie now a days.
In other essentials, I'm gonna call this a pretty close tie. Surely the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 on the Galaxy is made on a newer architecture, but the A15 Bionic continues to be a more powerful chip whether we wanna admit it or not. The RAM conversation is pretty irrelevant, but just keep in mind that both devices start at the same storage, offer the same water resistance, same 5G antennas, and where the Galaxy wins again, but by a hair, is in its more advanced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, faster charging capabilities, along with a larger battery, which in the real world you won't be able to notice. I'd call both as devices that can last all day and then some. I can't even tell you that I find any differences in phone calls either as each device handles those just as well as they remain connected to data.Cameras
So fine, let's talk cameras. If you were to measure the spec sheet, Samsung would win by a long shot given more lens options, more megapixels, larger sensor sizes, you name it. Thing is, you and I know that in the end, results matter more, and this is where things get interesting.
Off the bat, I'm gonna say I think the Galaxy wins in most things, and this time it's not just about physics. During the day you won't be able to tell much of a difference, except for the fact that the Galaxy will beat the pants out of the iPhone in almost every zoom shot above 3x, while the iPhone will swing back with its better macros, which you have to fumble with on the Galaxy. Colors are fairly similar, but I'm liking Samsung's more subtle color science. I do notice the iPhone is a tad brighter in some cases, but where I see more detail from the Galaxy, for obvious reasons, there are just more pixels.
Now at night is where I'm in shock. Even with the iPhone's in-body stabilization, the Galaxy doesn't just take faster photos, but these are brighter, and far more detailed. I find usable shots from absolutely any focal length on the Galaxy while on the iPhone, I'll mostly stick to primary shots. I even see Samsung handling lens flares far better, and yes, only the Galaxy can take photos of the moon, or serve as the perfect stalker phone to your next door neighbor.
Once you switch to selfies I usually drift to Apple due to its deep fusion, and that's gonna be the case mostly with photos in lower light, but during the day, I notice Samsung giving us comparable skin tones, even if a bit sharper than I'd like, and this extends to portraits, though kudos to Samsung for handling those with a better crop.
And sure, each phone has its own set of tricks, but which I don't really care much about as I do video, and this sadly, is where the iPhone continues to win. I mean sure, the Galaxy has all these epic zoom capabilities which are quite useful, but the iPhone handles detail far better, provides nearly zero rolling shutter, and is comparable in stabilization, which are all the result of larger pixels since there's no binning in video. You'll notice it more during selfie video where Apple even provides a better crop, and where you'll see almost none of the jell-o effect you can see from the Galaxy in most cases as there's a faster sensor readout. So yes, for photos, the Galaxy wins, but for video, the iPhone is still unmatched, and this is not even comparing ProRes, cause if I'm honest, I also find it as gimmicky as 8K on the Galaxy given the implementation.
To conclude, I agree, this was an unfair comparison, but I think it serves as a pretty good way to get my point across. On one hand we have the best of Apple, and on the other, we have just one of many different alternatives that I'd call the best of Samsung. At this point Sammy is already owning folding phones, which Apple is still not adopting, and to see Cupertino continue to bank only on its cameras as a differentiating factor is kind of baffling when this Ultra beats it in so many ways.
Obviously there are things Samsung still hasn't figured out, which is the reason I enjoy doing these comparisons. Sometimes brute horse power is not as good a solution as a well-tuned machine, and this is something Apple has proven to do better than any other company in the industry.
So, if it were up to me to pick just one phone as my daily driver, I'd go for the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Sure it's a tad more expensive, but you know you can find tons of deals on it everywhere, while in the case of iPhones, those don't really drop in price at all. With the Ultra you're getting a more capable phone, and that's kind of what you want for this price range. If I'm gonna pay SUV money, I want all-wheel drive, and not just a large vehicle that does nothing better than a sedan, which I think is the best analogy I can give you to sum up this comparison.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
The Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with a larger 6.8" QHD+ 120Hz AMOLED display, a versatile camera setup, and a large battery that will keep you going through a whole day! Pre-order your Galaxy S22 Ultra from Samsung's website and receive $200 in Samsung Credit.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Pro Max packs Apple's best processor, camera hardware, large screen, and a gigantic battery within its Stainless Steel chassis to provide buyers with an unmatched iPhone experience.