The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is finally official, and quite possibly the best Android phone you can buy right now in 2024 (well, pre-order at the time of writing). It's packed with power and impressive Galaxy AI features, it comes with its own stylus, and it has a gorgeous 6.8-inch AMOLED screen you can lose yourself in.
But wait a minute – what about the iPhone 15 Pro Max that Apple unveiled in September 2023? Is it going to be overtaken in our best phones list by Samsung's latest premium-level flagship? In our iPhone 15 Pro Max review, we awarded it a full five out of five stars.
Here we're going to put the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra head-to-head against the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in all the areas that matter, from price to battery capacity. It's Samsung versus Apple in the battle to claim the honour of having the best smartphone on the planet.
Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Price
If you want to put some money down for a Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, then you're going to have to pay £1,249 / $1,299.99 / AU$2,199 for the cheapest model with 256GB of storage (matching the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, by the way). That goes up to £1,349 / $1,419.99 / AU$2,399 for 512GB of storage, and £1,549 / $1,659.99 / AU$2,799 for 1TB.
Over in the Apple camp, you can pick up an iPhone 15 Pro Max for £1,199 / $1,199 / AU$2,199 (256GB); £1,399 / $1,399 / AU$2,549 (512GB); or £1,599 / $1,599 / AU$2,899 (1TB). In the UK and the US it's a little cheaper than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, while in Australia you're going to have to pay a little more for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Design & Display
These two phones have pretty distinctive designs. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra follows the lead of previous Ultra models in terms of the raised camera bump, but this time the display is flat, and the metal frame is crafted from titanium rather than aluminium. As for the display, it's a 6.8-inch (1440 x 3088 pixel resolution) AMOLED panel, offering a maximum 120Hz refresh rate and up to 2600 nits of peak brightness, while your colour choices are Black, Grey, Violet, and Yellow.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a little more rounded at the corners, though its 6.7-inch (1290 x 2796 pixel resolution) Super Retina OLED display is also flat, with a peak brightness of 2000 nits and a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. The colours you can pick up the Apple phone in are Black, White, Blue, and Natural (deep green-ish), and like the Samsung handset, it's also made out of titanium.
Both these designs and displays will have their own sets of fans. Our take is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max just edges it in terms of overall aesthetic – it just looks a bit smoother and more fluid, and the screen's Dynamic Island helps with that – while the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra wins out in terms of the display, with its super-high brightness and resolution level.
Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Cameras
As you would expect, these phones excel in terms of their rear camera offerings. Around the back, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra boasts a quad-lens 200MP main, 50MP 5x zoom telephoto, 10MP 3x zoom telephoto, 12MP ultrawide camera setup, with a 12MP selfie camera on the front. Samsung is promising less noise and more natural colours than ever before, with enhanced AI-powered processing helping out.
As for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it has a triple-lens 48MP main, 12MP 5x zoom telephoto, 12MP ultrawide camera arrangement, and a 12MP selfie camera on the front. Just like Samsung, Apple has made some pretty impressive claims about photo quality on its flagship phone, especially in terms of detail and colour – and we were extremely happy with the quality of the images we captured as part of our iPhone 15 Pro Max review.
While Samsung's rear camera boasts more megapixels, an extra camera lens, and some clever AI tricks, we'll really need to wait to put it through its paces before making a judgement in this area. It's worth bearing in mind that the iPhones have some smart AI processing capabilities too, although Apple hasn't made quite as much noise about them – and side-by-side, there's unlikely to be too much to choose between photos taken from the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: performance & battery
Pick up either the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra or the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and you're going to end up with more mobile power than you really need: the very latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor and 12GB RAM are paired on the Samsung phone, while the Apple handset brings with it the super-speedy Apple A17 Pro chipset and 8GB of RAM. It's blazing fast performance on both phones.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is fitted with a 5,000mAh battery that Samsung says will last you for 30 hours of video streaming. As for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it has a battery capacity of 4,441mAh, and Apple says that's good for 29 hours of video streaming. We haven't tested these claims directly, but we'd say it's about honours even when it comes to time between battery charges.
A few more extras worth noting: both handsets offer IP68-level water and dust protection, so they'll survive a brief and shallow dunking. The Galaxy S24 Ultra comes with stylus support, and an S Pen that slots away in the casing – that's not something you get with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. There's also something the iPhone does have that the Galaxy doesn't, however, and that's satellite connectivity for sending emergency texts when you find yourself without mobile signal.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: verdict
As you can see from the rundown that we've just given you, these two handsets are very evenly matched. They're similarly sized and similarly priced, and both come with highly impressive camera setups and oodles of performance to spare – no matter which one of these you pick (you probably have your own preferences when it comes to aesthetics and colours), we think you're going to be very pleased with your choice.
There is of course a significant difference here that we haven't talked about: Samsung phones use Google's Android operating system, whereas iPhone uses Apple's iOS. Your preference for one mobile operating system over the other, and perhaps the extent of your investment in either the Samsung/Google/Apple ecosystems, is likely to make a difference when it comes to deciding which phone is right for you.
We should finally mention the considerable amount of AI features that Samsung has crammed into the Galaxy S24 Ultra, covering everything from live language translation on phone calls to the ability to search for something on Google just by tapping it with your finger. We're yet to see just how useful these features are in practice, but it's an area that Apple is playing catch up in for now.