iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: is Android or iPhone champion?

The iPhone 14 Pro takes Apple's camera tech to the next level. But can it match Samsung's S22 Ultra flagship?

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Apple)

There’s no doubt that the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the most advanced iPhone ever and wants to be the best iPhone for pro users – but is it as good as the best of the best Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? There’s only one way to find out.

Right here we pit both 2022 flagship phones against each other in a rumble of specs, features, price points and more to try and decide which has bragging rights.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22: price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has been with us since February 2022, when it launched for $1,199 in the US, £1,149 in the UK and AU$1,849 for 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. You can also buy a version with 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage for $1300 / £1,329 / AU$2,000 or with 12GB RAM and 1TB of storage for $1,600 / £1,499 / AU$2,500.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max has gone up in price outside the US, rising from £1,099 for the 13 Pro Max to £1,199 now. In the US it remains at $1,099 for the 128GB model. The most expensive option, 1TB, is £1,749 in the UK and $1,599 in the US.

Pre-orders for the new iPhone begin on 9 September with availability from 16 September.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: design

The S22 Ultra continues Samsung’s evolution of its very recognisable Galaxy design, with some nice colours and a nice addition in the form of a slot for the S Pen stylus. It looks very much like the Samsung Galaxy Note it replaced, and that’s no bad thing.

The iPhone 14 Pro is available in Space Black, Silver, Gold and a new Deep Purple. The external design hasn’t changed much – the camera bump on the back is very slightly larger – but the notch is gone from the Pro models, replaced by what Apple calls Dynamic Island. This is where the TrueDepth camera and privacy indicators live, and it can expand to become a notification area for things like connecting your AirPods, seeing what music’s playing, knowing when your taxi is going to arrive and so on.

The other dramatic difference from previous iPhones is that the iPhone 14 Pro Max display is always on. It dims without losing skin tones if you’ve used photos of people as your wallpaper, and it enables you to see your Lock Screen widgets as well as any active alerts for travel, sports scores and so on.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: cameras

Cameras are a key selling point for both of these phones. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra keeps the same lenses as its predecessors with a 12MP ultra-wide camera, a 108MP wide camera and two 10MP telephoto cameras, one with 3x optical and the other with 10x optical zoom. There’s also a 40MP front-facing camera for selfies. But while the hardware isn’t different the software is, with vastly improved Night Mode shooting, a superb new Portrait mode and excellent AI-powered optimisation. The software also delivers up to 100x Super Zoom that’s very impressive for a non-optical zoom.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max main camera now has a 48MP quad-pixel sensor that uses pixel binning to create “superpixels”, clusters of four pixels that act as one and as a result capture more light. This feature is adaptive, delivering the full 48MP whenever possible but in very low light you’ll get 12MP - albeit 12MP that’s much clearer than any previous iPhone. 48MP is also available for ProRAW shooting and there is a redesigned flash that’s up to two times bright and that adjusts itself according to the camera’s focal length. The camera apertures are improved for low-light with f/1.78 on the main camera, f/2.2 on the ultrawide and f/1.78 and f/2.8 on the 12MP 2x and 3x telephoto respectively. Maximum optical zoom remains at 3x but there's a new 2x zoom option too.

Cinematic Mode now enables you to use 4K at 30fps, and there’s also 24fps to match moviemaking standards. And the new Action Mode promises gimbal-style tracking of action shots without an actual gimbal; if it’s as good as it looks in the demo it could be very useful.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: performance and battery

The Samsung is powered either by the Exynos 2200 or the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 depending on where you live. There’s a choice of 8GB or 12GB RAM paired with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or a huge 1TB of built-in memory. Unlike previous Samsungs there’s no microSD expansion slot. The Ultra has a  5,000mAh battery with up to 45W wired charging and 15W wireless charging, and it runs Android 12 with Samsung’s One UI.

The iPhone 14 Pro gets the A16 Bionic, which is 6-core and claims to be 40% faster than the closest competition. The 5 GPU cores have 50% more memory bandwidth than before, and the high performance cores use 20% less power than in the A15. Apple hasn't released details of the installed RAM yet but you can choose between 128, 256, 512GB and 1TB of storage and the operating system is the new iOS 16. Apple, as ever, promises "all day battery life" and charges via Lightning or MagSafe.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22: display

The iPhone 14 Pro Max's 6.7-inch display is brighter than before – up to 2,000 nits outdoors and 1600 nits peak HDR – and this time around the refresh rates are adaptive from 1HZ to 120Hz, enabling that impressive always-on display. It has thinner borders than before and the aforementioned Dynamic Island.

The Samsung Galaxy Ultra S22 has a gorgeous 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Edge QHD+ screen with a peak brightness of 1,750 nits and adaptive refresh rates running from as low as 1Hz to a silky 120Hz. Like other Samsungs over the last several years it’s an always-on display.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22: early verdict

This is more about ecosystems than the phones: if you're an Android fan then the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is likely to be the best flagship for you, and if you like Apple's approach then the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the best iPhone yet. Both models are similarly priced, similarly powerful and similarly clever, and while the Samsung has the more powerful cameras on paper at least Apple's computational photography is exceptional.

We're going to call this one a draw with one caveat: we haven't had the chance to put the iPhone 14 Pro Max through a long term test yet because the review units are only just going out. So we'll reserve final judgement until we can put both phones – and in particular their cameras – head to head.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).