Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: which is best for you?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future / Apple / Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max is a battle between the two best – and largest – phones in each brand's respective ranges. Samsung produces three versions of its flagship Galaxy S range, the latest being the S22, S22+ and S22 Ultra. Apple, on the other hand, produces four iPhones, the standard iPhone, the iPhone mini, the iPhone Pro and the Pro Max.

In this comparison we'll be comparing the biggest member of each family: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max. In the case of the Samsung, the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers more than just size to distinguish it from its nearest sibling, the S22+. It's very much a different phone, with some extra features and a completely different camera. In Apple's case, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is more simply a larger version of the 13 Pro. It's almost identical to its smaller counterpart, although a larger battery does offer slightly better battery life.

But which wins in a battle of Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max? Samsung has been closing the gap on Apple and this time it's become perhaps the closest we've ever seen it. We'll compare the two giants below on design, performance, display, cameras and price to help you decide which one is best for you.

One area you're probably most interested in comparing these two big phones is their cameras, and we'll cover that below, but make sure you also see our guide to the best camera phones. You can also find more details on both of these phones in our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review and our iPhone 13 Pro review. For now, let's dive into Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max to see how they compare.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max 

Design

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra in reviewer's hand

Our reviewer with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

Since Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max top each brand's line it should be no surprise that they're both just superb in terms of design. They're almost identical in size, the S22 Ultra very slightly taller but 10g lighter than the Pro Max.  However, their shapes are quite different. The Pro Max goes for curved corners but flat display, while the S22 Ultra has slightly rounded edges, which make for a more striking and elegant look and feel. The camera array is also more flush with the design while the iPhone's lenses make for a rather chunky block on the back.

But the big design win for Samsung is the lack of a notch on the display – an iPhone feature that causes some controversy among Apple fans. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a smaller notch than previous generations, but it's still a definite notch, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra's punch hole is less distracting. 

The S22 Ultra's curves do have a minor downside, however, making typing and moving the cursor a little more difficult at times. The iPhone 13 Pro Max's flat edges make it easy to hold. 

The verdict: this might be a controversial decision, but we're giving the first round in this battle between Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max to the Samsung.

Display

As we've seen these are very similarly sized phones, the S22 Ultra has a 6.7in (3080 x 1440) display and the iPhone 13 Pro Max 6.1in (2778 x 1284). in both cases they're superb AMOLED displays that are hard to fault. The S22 Ultra's display is just a little bit brighter and covers more of both the sRGB color gamut and the DCI-P3 color space. Apple's panel does appear to offer more accurate colours however, with a   Delta-E score closer to 0.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra, however, does offer the option to choose between a Natural or Vivid profile. If you're watching videos you might prefer the later, while it will probably be better to go for Natural if you're editing photos or other visuals.

The verdict: we're calling this one a draw. The S22 Ultra is slightly brighter but it's really too close to call.

Performance

iPhone 13 Pro Max product shot

The iPhone 13 Pro Max (Image credit: Apple)

So what's inside and how does that affect Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max? The former carries the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, offering a notable improvement in performance over its predecessor. However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max's A15 Bionic chip beats it in tests on benchmarking tools including Geekbench 5 single- and multi-core tests and 3DMark Wild Life. That said, in actual usage, we're hard-pressed to find a clear, consistent difference and at times the Galaxy S22 Ultra actually feels faster.

The verdict: it goes to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but by a whisker.

Cameras

iPhone 13 Pro Max product shot

The iPhone Pro Max has a three-camera array on the back (Image credit: Apple)

Cameras is probably the biggest reason you're here! The S22 Ultra on the back has a whopping 108MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide and two 10MP telephoto (f/4.9) with 10x and 3x optical zoom respectively. On the front, there's a 40MP (f/2.2) for selfies. Yep, that's a lot of camera. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has on the back a 12MP main (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4), and a 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x optical zoom. On the front it opts for a 12MP (f/2.2).

With the S22 Ultra, you're getting a more megapixels, a larger sensor which should capture more light and an additional 10x zoom. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has stepped up its portraits features with an AI Stereo Depth Map feature to separates subjects from the background, but we'd say Apple's cameras still get brighter and crisper results in portraits. They also still achieve more natural-looking colours, with the Samsung's still looking a little over saturated at times. Some people prefer the warmer, more vivid Samsung colours, but if you want the clearest and most natural colours, which you probably do if you're going to do post-production, then the Pro Max wins here.

As for dealing with low light, the S22 does seem to deliver a brighter image, but the Pro Max seems to get better clarity and a warmer tone. And for video, Galaxy S22 Ultra outdoes the Pro Max offering up to 8K at 24fps against 4K at 60 fps. That said the iPhone's Cinematic mode is very clever tool for shifting focus in videos (see our iPhone 13 Pro camera tips for more on that). Another area where the iPhone 13 Pro Max camera wins is when it comes to getting close. It's ultrawide camera's new macro capability is something of a gamechanger for shooting small subjects. 

Note that the iPhone 13 Pro Max's smaller sibling, the iPhone 13 Pro, has the same cameras as its big brother, which wasn't the case with the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, so you don't necessarily need to buy the biggest phone for the best camera in the range. However, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has an entirely different camera setup from to its midrange relative, the S22+.

The verdict: both have their strengths, but  overall the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers more here.

Battery life

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh battery and the iPhone 13 Pro Max a smaller 4,352mAh, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max does seem to last longer in most tests. Both should get you well into a second day of average use but if battery life is a major issue for you the Pro Max seems to come out better. That said, the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers does offer faster charging, though we're talking a difference of about 20 minutes to charge the phone. 

The verdict: The iPhone 13 Pro Max just steals this one.

Other features

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Our reviewer tests the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen stylus  (Image credit: Future)

While the iPhone 13 Pro Max is in the lead so far, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has an ace up its sleeve. The S Pen stylus, which comes with the phone, can easily be integrated for note-taking and drawing. The Ultra's use of the S Pen has been much improved since the S21 Ultra, with 70% less latency making it super responsive. You can control the phone with Bluetooth-enabled Air Actions and insert the stylus on your phone to charge. See our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review for more on how we found using the pen.

The verdict: A big plus for the S 22 Ultra if you want to take advantage of that big screen and use a stylus for notetaking or drawing.

Price

When it comes to price in Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max, the S22 Ultra is the more expensive of the two at its lowest specs. It starts at $1,199 / £1,149.00 – $100 / £100 more than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. That gets you 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. You'll have to pay another $100 / £100 to take that up to 12GB of memory and 256GB storage, while the top specs of 12GB / 1TB costs a hefy $1,599 / £1,499. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts lower $1,099 / £1,049 for 128GB of storage (RAM isn't specified but people reckong its 6GB.) For 256GB of storage, the price is $1,199 / £1,149 and the 1TB model is $1,599 / £1,549.

The verdict: the iPhone 13 Pro Max is very slightly more affordable.

Deals

We've mentioned Samsung and Apple's list prices above, but it's always worth looking out for savings. See the best current prices at a range of retailers in your region below. You can also see our dedicated page on the best iPhone 13 Pro Max prices.

Our verdict

So at the end several bouts which comes out on top in Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max? It's perhaps one of the toughest calls we've seen with both superb phones, and your choice will probably comes down to whether you want to use Android or iOS. In terms of design, performance, display and cameras, it's really a dead heat which each having some advantages. We like the S22 Ultra's sleek design and notchless display, but these are small preferences.

The Pro Max just has the edge in performance and battery life and starts slightly cheaper. It also has some camera features that may just make it the better option of the two phones. That said, if you're interested in using a stylus for notetaking or drawing and don't want to have to by a separate device, i.e., an iPad, then the decision's already made and you'll go for the Samsung S22 Ultra.

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.