Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra are the undisputed kings of the “massive smartphone” genre. These large, elite, flagship mobile phones are impressive, imposing, and constructed with the best components available. All of this together can make it challenging to tally the whole against the sum of their parts. Ultimately, it may well come down to personal preference between opposing and irreconcilable operating systems — iOS, which runs the iPhone, and Android, which runs the Samsung handset. Both phones are best-in-class examples of the genre from cameras to battery life to display size.

So, which is the better phone overall: The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max or the brand new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? We take the two head-to-head by subjecting both phones to comprehensive feature comparison. By looking at their specs, designs, displays, performance, cameras, and software, we seek to help you narrow down your choice between the best super-sized flagships on the planet.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra iPhone 13 Pro Max
Size 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9 mm (6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 in) 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.7mm (6.33 x 3.07 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 229 grams (8.07 oz) 240 grams (8.46 ounces)
Screen size 6.8 inches, 114.5 cm Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution 1440 x 3080 pixels (515 pixels per inch) 2778 x 1284 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 12, One UI 4.1 iOS 15
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB  128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Apple Pay
Processor Exynos 2200 (global) Qualcomm Snapdragon 895 (USA) Apple A15 Bionic
RAM 8GB, 12GB 6GB
Camera Quad lens, 108-megapixel, telephoto, 10MP telephoto, 10MP ultrawide, 12MP

40MP front

Triple lens, 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto rear (and LiDAR sensor)

12MP front

Video 8K at 24 fps, 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps, HDR10+ 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, Dolby Vision HDR
Bluetooth version 5.2 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display (ultrasonic) No, Face ID
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 5,000mAh

Fast charging (45W charger sold separately)

Qi wireless charging (15 W)

4,373Ah

Fast charging (20W sold separately)

MagSafe wireless charging (15W)

Qi magnetic fast wireless charging (7.5W)

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue
Price $1,200 $1,099
Review score News News

Design, display, and durability

Galaxy S22 Ultra in black and white.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 series harks back to the flat design of earlier iPhones, as well as the previous iPhone 12 series — a huge favorite among Apple fans, who find flat edges clean looking and easier to grip. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra pays homage to its powerful but discontinued Note series with a low-bezel nearly edge-to-edge sharply angled display. An added attraction is the S22’s redesigned rear camera module, with its individual lens guards, as opposed to the iPhone’s camera lens platform. It’s debatable which one is better in terms of protecting the camera, though one could argue that Samsung’s design aesthetics are better integrated.

The two devices are roughly similar in weight, though the iPhone is a tad heavier by about three grams. The S22 Ultra weighs 8 ounces and the iPhone 13 Pro Max about 8.4 ounces on similar dimensions. In terms of handling, both have about the same comfort or discomfort level, depending on the size of your paws.

The S22 Ultra’s display offers an edge over the iPhone. It’s a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen that packs in 1440 x 3080 pixels, giving you 515 pixels per inch. By contrast, the iPhone’s 6.7-inch Super Retina OLED display has 2778 x 1284 pixels or 458 pixels per inch. This makes the S21 Ultra somewhat sharper than the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and it’s also capable of a higher maximum brightness of 1,750 nits, compared to the Apple’s phone’s 1,200. Both devices support an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, but the S22 Ultra’s AMOLED 2X (as opposed to OLED) display features slightly deeper blacks and higher contrast.

Both phones have an official IP68 rating, so both can sustain immersion in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. The S22 Ultra wins this category for its higher screen resolution and brighter display.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Performance, battery life, and charging

Galaxy S22 Ultra in Phantom White from the side.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The Galaxy S22 Ultra ships with the advanced Qualcomm Snapdragon 895, which has a 4nm manufacturing process for its transistors, thus squeezing more of them into the same available space. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, with the 5nm A15 Bionic chip, runs the 13 series. While the A15 has 6GB of RAM to work with in the iPhone 13 Pro Max, this number is not necessarily analogous across platforms, as iOS uses RAM differently than Android. While the S22 Ultra rings in with up to twice as much RAM, performance for both devices is similar.

Both phones have ample internal memory and neither has a microSD card slot. Both the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max offer internal storage choices of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB.

The S22 Ultra comes with a larger 5,000mAh battery, compared to a 4,373mAh battery on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. This might seem like a big difference, but Apple says that the 13 Pro Max provides nearly 10 hours of battery life, while the S22 Ultra promises a full day of use on a single charge. We’d have to test both independently to determine the truth of either claim, but we’re calling this round a tie absent independent verification.

Winner: Tie

Cameras

iPhone 13 Pro Max back in hand.
Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is impressive. It features a triple-lens rear camera setup with a hardware overhaul for that model. It boosts the aperture to f/1.5 for the wide lens and f/1.8 for the ultrawide lens, and adds a 77mm-equivalent telephoto camera with an f/2.8 aperture, offering a 6x zoom range between the ultrawide and telephoto cameras. Its redesigned lens and autofocus system let the ultrawide camera focus at just 2 cm. while the LiDAR scanner assists with night portraits. The iPhone 13 Pro Max also adds a Cinematic Mode for capturing video, allowing you to smoothly shift focus from foreground to background.

The S22 Ultra comes with a quad-lens setup: a 108MP wide lens, a 10MP f/2.4 telephoto lens with 3X optical zoom, a 10MP f/4.9 telephoto lens with a 10X optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. Samsung has also improved general usability, with standard shots offering much greater balance and color accuracy. The S22 Ultra features a large 2.4um pixel sensor that lets the camera capture more light and data and optimize video lighting and detail. The Super Clear Glass lens facilitates flare-free nighttime videos.

Until we put these cameras to the test on the ground, we concede the benefit of the doubt to both.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

Cloudy weather showing in iOS 15's weather app.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The iPhone 13 Pro Max operates using iOS 15, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. This adds such new features like a more useful Notification Summary, the ability to share media via FaceTime and Messages, and a Focus mode for avoiding distractions. The Galaxy S22 Ultra runs on One UI 4.1, Samsung’s Android 12 variation.

While both systems have their pros and cons, iOS generally has more, speedier, and mostly universal updates for a longer period of time, when compared to Android. With iOS, older phones are supported for many years. Samsung is trying to improve on that record by guaranteeing that the S22 Ultra will be eligible for four generations of Android OS upgrades.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Special features

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's camera lenses.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Both phones support 5G. Both are backed by all major carriers, so if you’re located near a 5G tower, you’ll have no problem getting a 5G signal regardless of which phone you have.

The S22 Ultra also introduces a new special feature in the S Pen, again signaling solidarity with its previous Galaxy Note line, for drawing, doodling, and taking notes on the device. For the first time, Note users’ built-in S Pen has arrived on the S22 model — and Samsung says it’s been upgraded to be the fastest, most responsive S Pen, with 70% lower latency. The inclusion of the S Pen is meant to transform the S22 Ultra beyond a mere smartphone identity to deliver new creative and productive capabilities.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max uses Ceramic Shield glass in its display, making it more durable, and adding a Camera Mode feature.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with dog.

These are both premium phones and they are pricey. The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at from $1,099 for the 128GB model, but rises to $1,599 for the 1TB version. It is nearly universally available, supported by all major carriers, and sold widely by third-party retailers.

Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,200 and is available from February 25, 2022, through Samsung, carriers, and retailers. Pre-orders start on February 9. Through February 24, buyers who pre-order can upgrade to the next storage level when purchasing 128GB or 256GB models. This offer also includes eligibility to redeem an additional Samsung Credit of up to $200 to apply to purchasing the new Samsung Freestyle or the updated Galaxy Watch4. Those who pre-order can also receive up to 25% off any Galaxy Tab S8.

Winner: Tie

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

We consider this too close call, especially since so much will depend on your operating system preference when choosing a phone at this high level of quality. Going just by specs alone, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s superior screen and larger battery give the Samsung phone a minuscule edge over iPhone — though it does have a slightly larger screen, similar performance, and comparable cameras. Samsung’s built-in S Pen may also add to the S22 Ultra’s allure, though phone styluses are generally considered a secondary advantage, if one at all.

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