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Apple vs Samsung: which should you buy?

Apple vs Samsung; Photos of Samsung and Apple devices
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to tech, Apple vs Samsung is one of the biggest battles of the current era. The two brands, headquartered in California and South Korea respectively, are the most popular smartphone vendors in the world. Both make popular tablets and laptops too. But which should you choose?

This decision is quite an important one to make, because once you've bought one device, you'll probably want to keep buying either Apple or Samsung from then on, keeping your phone, tablet and laptop all within the same ecosystem. This is usually because both brands have strong software and operating systems (scroll down). 

If you want to get a quick overview of each brand, read our best Apple products feature and Samsung devices appear in our guide to the best tablets with a stylus pen for drawing and note-taking.

Apple vs Samsung: operating systems

Apple vs Samsung: phone and tablet OS

Samsung phones and tablets all use Android as their base operating system. Android is created and maintained by Google, who make it free for any manufacturer to use and adapt to their own devices. 

That means the Android interfaces will vary between, say, a Samsung device, a Pixel device and a Xiaomi device. However, in practice, they're pretty similar across the board. So if you've used an Android phone or tablet from one manufacturer, you'll find using another to be fairly seamless experience. It means the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 can feature a similar UI to the One Plus Pro but have subtle differences.

Apple, however, has its very own operating system, called iOS. Keeping everything within the same company gives it total control over how its devices work, and means that security is stronger on Apple devices like the iPhone 13 Pro than Android devices.

Arguably, because Apple developers its software and hardware together this also makes iPhone and iPad interfaces more consistent, reliable and easy to use than the multitude of Android equivalents; in line with the famed maxim that Apple tech 'just works'.

Apple vs Samsung; a person holds an iPhone 13 Pro

Security tends to be stronger on Apple mobile devices, such as the iPhone 13 Pro (Image credit: Future)

Also, many apps tend to launch on Apple devices first, so Android users often have to wait years to get their hands on them. For example, Instagram was launched on iPhones in 2010, but didn't arrive on Android until 2012. Procreate is iOS exclusive. But, Google has its own set of apps that are only available on Android, and for longterm Android users these are embedded into their workflows. 

Be warned, though: once you've bought into Apple (or Android), it's difficult to leave each ecosystem. Moving to Android or to iOS doesn't just mean learning a new way of doing things; it also means losing access to all the things you've paid for, such as iOS apps or Google Play Store apps as well as music, films and TV shows you bought via iTunes.

Apple does has a tendency to leave its tech behind, for example the forthcoming iOS16 may not run on some older iPhones. Android is more forgiving as it needs to run on the latest hardware and cheaper more basic devices, which does leave some to question: is Android a serious choice for creatives?

In comparison, if you get fed up with Samsung, you can always move to another brand of Android phone, tablet or laptop, with minimal friction. In reality Samsung is in greater competition with other Android manufacturers such as Huawei than Apple directly, though Samsung has positioned itself as the Apple of Android.

Apple vs Samsung: laptop OS

When it comes to Apple vs Samsung laptops, a similar dynamic operates. Again, Apple uses its own proprietary system, called macOS. And again, Samsung uses an operating system provided by a third party: Microsoft's Windows for its main range, and Google's ChromeOS for its Chromebooks. (Seek our guide to laptop vs Chromebook for more on that distinction). 

Because Apple owns both its software and hardware, viruses and other security hazards are much less of a problem on MacBooks than on Windows laptops. For the same reason, MacBooks are generally more reliable, easier to use, and less likely to crash.

Also be aware that a lot of software is only available for one platform or the other. For example, some of the best video editing software, such as Final Cut Pro is made by Apple and only available on its platform (the best alternative for Windows users is Adobe's Premiere Pro). This doesn't just apply to Apple's own software, either. Popular UI design tool Sketch, for instance, remains defiantly Mac-only.

Apple vs Samsung: how to choose

Apple vs Samsung; iPad Pro 11-inch paired with a Magic Keyboard on a cluttered desk

iPad Pro 11-inch  (Image credit: Ben Brady)

A lot of people will automatically go for Apple or Samsung based purely on these competing operating systems. For example, designers, film-makers, animators and media people will normally err on the side of Apple, because it's what most of their colleagues are already using, or because it's the only way to access a particular tool. Conversely, most corporate software is powered by Microsoft, so everyone from accountants to CEOs will often prefer a Windows-powered Samsung laptop to a MacBook. 

When it comes to phones and tablets, the choice between Android and iOS tends to be less about work and more about your personal history. For example, maybe in the past you've gone for Android because it was more affordable than an iOS device. In which case, you'll want to stick with what you know, even if the Samsung phone or tablet you now like is just as expensive. 

But what if you're not used to either iOS or Android, or you use them both equally? Well, then you're in the enviable position of just going for the best device overall. In which case, read on as we get specific, and compare three leading Samsung and Apple phones, tablets and laptops. 

Apple vs Samsung: phone comparison

As an example, I start with the iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. For a quick overview of the main specs, see the table below. Now read on, as I compare the most obvious differences between these two smartphones.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra comparison
AppleSamsung
DeviceiPhone 13 Pro Max Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
ReleasedSeptember 2021February 2022
Display6.7 inches (2778 x 1284)6.7 inches (3080 x 1440)
ProcessorA15 BionicSnapdragon 8 Gen 1 (USA); Exynos (Europe)
Operating systemiOS 15Android 12
Storage128GB-1TB 128GB-1TB
Battery4352 mAh5000 mAh
Cameras12MP main (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x optical zoom, TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)108MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 2 10MP telephoto (f/4.9) with 0x and 3x optical zoom
Weight240g228g
Dimensions160.8 x 78.1 x 7.7 mm163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9 mm

Apple vs Samsung: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple vs Samsung; a photo of the iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is one of the best smart phones on the market right now (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is expensive, but also the best iPhone to date, bar none. We have a regularly updated list of the best iPhone 13 Pro Max prices, if you're looking to buy one. 

This phone's 6.7-inch ProMotion display is gorgeous, with a 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth scrolling and brightness of up to 1,000 nits for viewing outdoors. It also has one of the best smartphone cameras we've ever used, fantastic battery life and the A15 Bionic processor makes everything run incredibly fast.  

Apple vs Samsung: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Apple vs Samsung; a photo of a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a high-end Android smart phone that can compete with Apple's iPhone (Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the best phones on the market today. Its 6.8-inch screen is amazing, boasting 2K resolution, 1,750 nits max brightness and a 120Hz refresh rate. 

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's advanced camera, with main 108MP sensor and optical and digitally-enhanced zoom capabilities, makes it the best Android phone for photography, bar none. Plus you get the lovely S-Pen stylus too. For more details, read our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

Apple vs Samsung: which phone is better?

So which should you buy: the iPhone 13 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra comparison? That's actually quite a tough call to make as both phones have excellent, leading-edge tech and design choices. 

You can read a blow-by-blow account of how they differ in our comparison article Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max. But the short version is that in most areas, including design, display, size and weight, and cameras, it's largely a draw, with each model having small advantages in certain areas.

For instance, in our tests, the iPhone 13 Pro Max just had the edge in performance and battery life… but only just. It's also slightly cheaper. Conversely, if you like the idea of using a stylus for notetaking or drawing on your phone, then the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the obvious choice. 

Honestly, though, both phones are simply excellent. So in this case, the question of whether you prefer iOS or Android really is the best way to choose one over the other.Now let's look at tablets, by comparing the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2021 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. For a look at the main specs, see the table below. Then read on, as I compare the most obvious differences between these two devices.

Apple vs Samsung: tablet comparison

Now let's look at tablets, by comparing the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2021 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. (For a more general comparison read our guide, iPads vs Samsung tablets: which should I buy?) For a look at the main specs, see the table below. Then read on, as I compare the most obvious differences between these two devices.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2021 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
AppleSamsung
DeviceApple iPad Pro 12.9 2021Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
ReleasedApril 2021February 2022
Display12.9 inches (2048 x 2732 pixels)14.6 inches (1848 x 2960 pixels)
ProcessorApple M1Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Operating systemiPadOSAndroid 12
RAM8-16GB8-16GB
Storage128GB-2TB128-512GB
Weight682g726g
Dimensions280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm326.4 x 208.6 x 5.5mm
Rear camera12 MP, f/1.8 (wide), 10 MP, f/2.4 (ultrawide); TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)13MP, f/2.0 (wide), 6 MP, f/2.2 (ultrawide)
Front camera12 MP, f/2.4 (ultrawide)12 MP, f/2.2 (wide), 12 MP, f/2.4 (ultrawide)

Apple vs Samsung: iPad Pro 12.9 inch (M1, 2021)

Apple vs Samsung; a photo of the iPad Pro M1 2021

The iPad Pro 12.9 inch (M1, 2021) has one of the sharpest, most vibrant screens we've seen on a tablet (Image credit: Apple)

The iPad Pro 12.9 inch (M1, 2021) has one of the best screens we've ever experienced on a tablet, with up to 1,600 nits of maximum brightness and a 120Hz refresh rate. Also, because it runs Apple's M1 processor, this tablet is super-speedy and capable. It can team up with the Magic Keyboard to create a laptop-like experience. And the 12MP camera is pretty nifty, too. For more details, see our iPad Pro 12.9 inch (M1, 2021) review

Apple vs Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple vs Samsung; a photo of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra product photo

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has an excellent screen and it comes at a large 14.6 inches (Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

If you're looking for a larger screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra offers a whopping 14.6 inch display, with deep, vibrant and rich colours; perfect for sketching with the included S-Pen, enjoying entertainment and opening multiple web tabs. You'll also enjoy great audio from the four speakers, fast performance from the Snapdragon 8 processor, and a truly excellent front- and rear-camera setup. For full details, see our Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra review. 

Apple vs Samsung: which tablet is better?

So which is the better buy: the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2021 or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra? Well, that kind of depends what your priorities are, so let me break down some of the specs.

If you prefer a larger screen, then the S8 Ultra is the obvious choice. It boasts an incredible 14.6-inch AMOLED display, which is significantly larger than the 12.9-inch screen on the iPad Pro. Samsung's tablet also wins if you need a lot of storage, because unlike the iPad Pro, it comes with a microSD card slot. 

You'll love that the Samsung comes with the brilliant S-Pen; in comparison, the equally brilliant Apple Pencil needs to be bought separately (read our guide to the Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 for more details). Back in Samsung's court, our feature on the best stylus for Android reveals there's more high-spec choice for the S8 Ultra. (Apple's argument would be, it's Pencil is as good as you can get on either device.)

If you're not bothered about the size of the screen, though, I'd say the iPad just edges it in terms of display quality. For example, both tablets boast a 120Hz refresh rate, but the iPad Pro seems better optimised for it, making the user interface feel more natural and organic. And yet, the S8 Ultra is more competitively priced than the iPad Pro (although that's relative, because both are very expensive).

Apple's M1 chip means that the iPad Pro is overall a speedier and more powerful computer than the S8 Ultra

Perhaps more importantly, Apple's M1 chip means that the iPad Pro is overall a speedier and more powerful computer than the S8 Ultra. Everything runs unbelievably fast, and so if you're the sort of person who can't bear waiting a fraction of a second for something to load, Apple's tablet is the obvious buy. 

For this reason, we'd say the iPad Pro the best of the two for creative professionals such as illustrators, animators and film-makers, whereas the S8 Ultra is probably a better bet if you mainly want a tablet for day-to-day tasks such as surfing the web, making video calls and streaming music and movies.

Apple vs Samsung: laptop comparison

Finally, let's look at laptops, by comparing the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) vs Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro. For the main specs, see the table below. After this, scroll down, and I compare the most obvious differences between them.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) vs Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro comparison
AppleSamsung
DeviceMacBook Air (M2, 2022)Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro
ReleasedJuly 2022April 2022
Operating systemmacOSWindows 11 Home
Display13.6-inches (2,560 x 1,664 pixels)13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080 pixels)
ProcessorApple M2Intel Core i5-1240P
RAM8-16GB8-16GB
Storage256GB-2TB256GB-1TB
Weight1.24kg868g
Dimensions304.1 x 215 x 11.3mm304.4 x 199.8 x 11.2 mm
Connections2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 3.5mm headphone jack, MagSafe 3 charging port1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1x Thunderbolt 4, 1x HDMI, MicroSD card reader, combi audio jack

 Apple vs Samsung: MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Apple vs Samsung; a photo of the MacBook Air laptop in an office on a black desk

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is Apple's latest slim laptop and features its newest, fastest chip (Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is thin, light and looks fantastic. It's a great performer too, thanks to the inclusion of Apple's very latest M2 processor, making it incredibly fast and powerful. This is the current go-to Apple laptop if you want the fastest machine (though older models are good too).

The 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display offers excellent brightness and fantastic colours, so it's a great choice for both creative work and enjoying visual entertainment. And you also get MagSafe charging, a 1080p webcam, and a battery that will last all day long. For more details, see our MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review.

Apple vs Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 13.3

Apple vs Samsung; a product shot of Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 13.3

The Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro released April 2022 and is the newest ultra-thin Windows laptop from this brand (Image credit: Samsung)

Released this April, the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro is an ultrathin laptop that's available in WiFi and 5G variants. Its bright, Full HD display provides vivid, rich colours and deep dark blacks.

Running Windows 11 Home, the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro's 12th-gen Intel chip provides plenty of speed and power, and battery life is superb. The backlit keyboard is nice and comfortable, and perhaps best of all, there are a multitude of ports for connecting all of your peripherals.

Apple vs Samsung: which tablet is better?

We'll be frank: in most respects, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) outshines its Samsung rival. Most obviously, although both laptops contain excellent processors, Apple's M2 chip makes it more the powerful and capable of the two. The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is also lighter, thinner and more compact, and has a slightly larger, higher resolution display (2,560 x 1,664 pixels compared with 'just' 1,920 x 1,080 on the Samsung).

There are some areas, though, where the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro beats the Air. For a start, unlike the MacBook Air there are ports for connecting a USB-A device, an HDMI slot, and a MicroSD card reader. 

It's lighter, at 868g to the MacBook Air's 1.24kg, and very slightly smaller. It's also cheaper: at time of writing the standard price of the base model costs $1,050 / £999, while the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) starts at $1,199 / £1,249. 

If you're looking for a super-light device, then, or the extra ports will really make a difference, then the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro is worth considering. If not, though, we'd say the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is worth the slightly higher price, as it's broadly the better of the two laptops.

Apple vs Samsung: which is best?

Having read this far I think you'll understand the debate is actually quite nuanced and closer than you may have thought. Both Apple and Samsung lead the way in terms of hardware, and in different ways. Often Samsung is more prone to experiment, such as with its folding screen and edge-to-edge screen technology, while Apple tends to prioritise software as much as hardware, and develops both together.

If you're looking for a laptop Apple tends to come out on top, its M2 chip is fantastic but older MacBook and MacBook Air models hold their value – read our guide to the best MacBook you can buy for more details.

When it comes to phones and tablets the competition is far closer. If you're a digital artist then the iPad Pro edges it for me, as Procreate is currently iOS exclusive and it's the best mobile art app around. Smartphones, however, can come down to personal choice – Apple's OS is excellent but Android is just as good now; if you're not invested in Apple's ecosystem then Samsung is a good choice as you can move to other Android devices, and Samsung's tech is exceptional.

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity (opens in new tab), published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.