If there’s one smartphone battle that’s guaranteed to get people hot under the collar, it’s the fight between the Samsung S24 Ultra versus the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
I’m already salivating at the thought of the comments section.
Some people will, literally (I think) set their trousers on fire if you say their preferred device is worse than the other one. I don’t want anyone to set their trousers on fire, obviously, but it appears to be inevitable if the comments sections of my Samsung versus iPhone videos are anything to go by.
This particular comparison between, arguably, the two biggest flagship smartphones on the market, will not be a deep spec dive, because that isn’t what I’m about. What matters to me is which one feels better in the key areas of smartphone ownership.
You may not agree with my conclusions. You might think I should undertake more rigorous testing or research. You may even think I’m an idiot. But what you’re about to read is purely an opinion. Please keep that in mind before setting your own trousers on fire.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Price
The S24 Ultra gets off to a pretty bad start with this one because its base price is £50 more expensive than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Things improve if you decide to increase the storage (which you should for phones with such photographic capabilities) because, for the 512GB and 1TB versions, the S24 Ultra suddenly becomes £50 cheaper than the iPhone. I have no idea why, but that’s nice.
Samsung is also far more generous – usually – with its trade-in deals. Equally, while the launch offer of double storage has ended, depending on when you hit the Samsung website, you can probably find a sweetener or two during the checkout process.
You never get that with Apple.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Look and feel
The iPhone is still, arguably, the most impressive flagship smartphone on the market when it comes to sheer presence. It looks and feels like it has been honed from a single piece of titanium, carved out of the Rock of iPhone on Planet Apple. It is jewellery-like, in certain lighting conditions.
To own one, you probably also need to drive a Porsche, attend gatherings where people walk around with small, weird food on trays, and be the only person at dinner parties talking about how genre-defining 23 Billion Bicycles in Bedford (or whatever it was called) by Katie Melua was.
The switch to titanium was a brilliant one. The iPhone 15 Pro Max looks and feels expensive; you’re getting a lot for your money.
But I prefer how the S24 Ultra looks. This is no big deal; they’re both great-looking phones. I just like the S24 Ultra more, and I don’t care if you think they copied Apple because, come on, guys – what difference does that make to anything?
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Display
Hold onto those trousers.
I’m going to say it.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra has the best smartphone display on the market.
There, I said it.
Since publishing my two-week review of the S24 Ultra, I’ve been told numerous times that this is technically incorrect. That is utterly irrelevant as far as I’m concerned; no matter what the numbers, specs, and benchmarks say, the S24 Ultra simply has a much better display than any smartphone I’ve used – in my opinion.
There doesn’t need to be a reason behind this opinion. Equally, my S24 Ultra appears to be one of the ‘good ones’ – it doesn’t suffer from the washed-out display everyone keeps talking about. That sounds to me like a manufacturing batch issue, which Samsung will fix. If yours has a problem – return it and ask for a new one, and while you’re waiting, just nip into your local for a pint and wait for this all to blow over.
I prefer the S24 Ultra’s display over the iPhone’s because it feels more immersive (and proves there’s no need for a Monkey Island), has squared edges, is more vibrant, appears to be brighter, and looks sharper.
Other opinions are available.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Camera system
This is easily the most subjective point of comparison between these two devices – no arguments.
Well, actually, loads of arguments. But, hey, welcome to the world of smartphone reviews. However, to quell those arguments a little, I’m not going to show side-by-side comparisons in this review – just an equal selection of my favourite photos from both devices, because they both take really good photographs.
Straight up, the iPhone 15 Pro Max camera system is more reliable than the S24 Ultra – but the margin is far narrower than it was between the last two generations of these devices.
Gone are the days of the always-slow shutter lag on the S23 Ultra; the S24 Ultra is a serious performer when it comes to capturing fast-moving objects such as children and animals.
However, I prefer the images produced by the S24 Ultra, overall. I think it has gained a Pixel-like quality, which, if you know me, is always going to win the day.
My Eight or Sixteen podcast co-host, Rob, prefers the slightly more natural tones of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which, again, reveals how subjective this is.
The good news is they both have optical 5x focal lengths, which is the new standard in smartphone photography, as far as I’m concerned. If you ain’t got that, you ain’t coming in. Sorry.
Video-wise, they’re actually on par – which is, again, a big step up from Samsung ‘S’ devices of old.
I won’t dig any further into the photographic differences between these two phones today, but please let me know if you’d like a more in-depth comparison at some stage, and I will duly oblige.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: AI
There’s a lot of AI stuff packed into the S24 Ultra. I’ve concluded that, despite the focus placed on Galaxy AI (understandably) by Samsung’s marketing department, you’ll either find a couple of features that work for you occasionally or ignore them entirely.
That’s fine. Artificial intelligence is now a prerequisite for all tech releases, but you don’t have to use it if there’s no tangible benefit. For me, the ability to remove reflections from photos is super useful, and Circle to Search is proving handy when I want to confirm what I’m looking at.
There’s a lot of chatter about Samsung charging for its AI features from 2025 onwards. At the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed. Indeed, Samsung’s Head of Mobile, T.M. Roh stated in a recent interview that they’re still figuring out the revenue model for Galaxy AI. What might happen, he tells us, is that premium AI features come with an additional fee from that point onwards. But nothing is confirmed. So, once again, let’s tread lightly with the conjecture, shall we?
As for the iPhone 15 Pro Max and AI, well, iOS has been relying heavily on machine learning behind the scenes for many years, but we’re yet to see Apple’s take on public-facing AI-based features. All eyes are, therefore, on WWDC. It needs to be a big one, Tim.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Performance
These are both very quick, smooth, premium-feeling smartphones when it comes to performance. Trust me – you won’t feel shortchanged with either, no matter what you do with them.
Where I feel slightly shortchanged is with the battery performance on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It just isn’t as good as any of the recent Android phones I’ve tested – including the S24 Ultra.
This isn’t because I’m using the iPhone more, either. Arguably, I’m using the S24 Ultra more at the moment, yet it still sips far more gently from its battery reserves.
I think the big difference is the standby time. We don’t talk enough about how much better standby battery performance is on devices running Android 13. It makes a huge difference to the ownership experience.
S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: iOS vs Android
I can’t tell you which operating system wins in the battle of iOS versus Android, because there’s no such thing as a right answer to that question. I also can’t think of a more inane argument. You like what you like, and you should never feel bad about it because someone tells you you’re wrong.
These are mobile operating systems, not scientifically proven facts.
For me, iOS offers the best ecosystem because I don’t have to use Windows. And, yes, I know Samsung has an ecosystem for the S24 Ultra. But I’m a Mac user; I don’t want to use Windows ever again, ever.
The third-party app experience is better on iOS, too. I have no idea why, but certain developers seem to favour iOS and give it more of their time. A bunch of apps I use on my iPhone just feel more polished than they do on Android – Spark, Instagram, WhatsApp, and, weirdly, YouTube Studio are the most prominent examples. It’s such a shame.
The war that still rages between iOS and Android fans is as boring as it is hilarious, so I’ll leave this here and let you fight it out in the comments.
While you’re doing that, I’m going to move on to my big conclusion.
For some reason, I keep picking up the S24 Ultra before I do the iPhone 15 Pro Max. This might be New Gear Syndrome, but I have a feeling it’s going to last.
I won’t bore you again with why the iPhone is still my main device, but it is. Regardless, the S24 Ultra is the smartphone I’m enjoying the most at the moment. For me, it’s the best smartphone I’ve ever used and, obviously, the one to beat this year.