A Galaxy of AI
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the obvious choice for a lot of enthusiasts looking to switch to a new phone in 2024. The fact that Samsung sells the phone in all major global markets gives it a distinct advantage over its Android rivals, and while there are minimal upgrades this time around, you still get the latest hardware, a terrific AMOLED panel, great cameras, and a battery that lasts all day. Samsung doesn’t have the best camera package or the best charging tech, but it manages to deliver the most number of features, and the interface is mostly unchanged, so it is instantly familiar. If you’re using an older Galaxy phone and need to upgrade, this is the one to get.
- Fabulous AMOLED panel
- No shortage of power
- Cameras take stellar photos
- Comes with all the extras you need
- Seven years of Android OS updates
- Some useful AI additions
- Heavy and unwieldy to use
- Archaic charging tech
- Lots of bloatware
- No charger in the box
A viable alternative
There’s never been a better time to switch to iOS, and a big part of that has to do with the iPhone 15 Pro Max switching to USB-C charging. This makes it significantly easier to use the phone on a daily basis as you don’t need to carry another cable around, and there’s a lot to like with the phone itself. The OLED screen is terrific, A17 Pro is the most powerful mobile platform you can get at the moment, the cameras take outstanding photos and the best videos of any phone, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max is noticeably thinner and lighter than its predecessor. If you’re interested in seeing what iOS has to offer, you need to get your hands on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
- USB-C charging
- Outstanding OLED panel
- Sizeable camera upgrades
- Thinner and lighter than S24 Ultra
- Long-term software updates
- Charging limited to 20W
- No charger in the box
- Costly in most global markets
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Design
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Both Apple and Samsung have a clearly defined design aesthetic, and their latest flagships don’t deviate from the path. In fact, you can hardly tell either device apart from its predecessor. The biggest difference is the choice of materials; Apple switched to a titanium chassis with the iPhone 15 Pro series, and Samsung (obviously) followed suit. Now, other brands had titanium phones in the past — the Essential Phone comes to mind — but no brand did it at the scale of Apple (and now Samsung).
This move means both phones have a texture that’s totally different to the steel-backed designs of years past. The Natural Titanium variant of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is wonderful to hold and use, and it has a dull luster that looks very understated and elegant at the same time. You can get the phone in blue and white options, but I think the Natural Titanium model is the way to go.
Another big change this year is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is significantly thinner and lighter — a side effect of going with titanium. It is a full 19g lighter than the 14 Pro Max, and that difference is immediately noticeable when you start using the device.
Samsung, meanwhile, hasn’t done anything meaningful in this area, and even though it also uses a titanium chassis on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, the device is just 1g lighter than its predecessor.
Of the two devices, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has the better in-hand feel. Even though I don’t like devices with flat sides, the device has slight beveled edges this time that makes a difference in daily use. The S24 Ultra is different in this area as well, with Samsung using a flatter panel than previous years. That said, there’s still a little bit of a curve to the device, and considering the size and weight, it is unwieldy to hold and use.
Weirdly enough, I prefer the iPhone 15 Pro Max in this particular area; Samsung needs to do better with regards to weight distribution and the sheer size of the S24 Ultra, and when you throw in a case, it easily crosses 260g — I used foldables that don’t weigh anywhere as much.
Both phones also come with IP68 dust and water resistance as standard, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a distinct advantage in that it can be submerged in up to six meters of water, with the S24 Ultra only going up to 1.5 meters.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Screen
The Galaxy S24 Ultra has a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel that goes up to 120Hz, and you get Dolby Vision along with HDR10+. The panel itself is new, and it goes up to 2,600 nits in HDR content and 1,200 nits in HBM mode, considerable upgrades over last year. However, it isn’t anywhere as bright as the likes of the OnePlus 12, which goes up to an insane 4,500 nits.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a slightly smaller 6.7-inch XDR OLED panel, and it also offers dynamic 120Hz refresh, Dolby Vision, and HDR10+. The screen doesn’t get quite as bright in HDR content — maxing out at 2,000 nits — but that’s still more than adequate. I didn’t see any issues with brightness under harsh sunlight either; if anything, the Pro Max is one of the brightest devices in real-world usage scenarios.
Obviously, these are two of the best screens currently available, and there are no issues with color vibrancy, contrast levels, or viewing angles. There’s plenty of customizability as well, and you get an always-on mode on either device. Samsung lets you tweak the always-on screen to a greater degree, but other than that, there are no issues.
Gaming is a big use case with these devices, and they both hold up incredibly well. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is particularly great in this regard, and it is able to deliver outstanding visuals and go up to 120fps in a lot of titles. Samsung isn’t far behind, and while the S24 Ultra throttles easily when playing demanding games, it isn’t limited to 60fps — thankfully.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Hardware
These are two of the most powerful phones you can get at the moment. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is powered by Qualcomm’s latest 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, with the iPhone 15 Pro Max using the A17 Pro. Considering the A17 Pro is built on the 3nm node, it has a distinct advantage over Qualcomm, but this doesn’t mean you get much better efficiency.
Both phones are fast and fluid in daily use, and they have enough power to last several years without any slowdowns whatsoever. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the edge in gaming thanks to its ability to play demanding titles without any lag, and there’s also the fact that iOS just has a better caliber of games than Android.
Outside of that, there really isn’t anything to fault with either device. You’re basically getting the best hardware currently available, along with all the extras you could ever want. On that note, Samsung has a distinct advantage as it bundles a stylus with the S24 Ultra, and that makes the device much more versatile.
Switching over to the battery side of things, the S24 Ultra has a larger 5000mAh battery, and it manages to last longer — you’ll easily get over a day and a half worth of use consistently with the device. The iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn’t last quite as long, but you still get a day’s use between charges, even if you push the phone hard.
Charging is another area where you won’t notice too much of a deviance between the two; the Galaxy S24 Ultra goes up to 45W — like the best Samsung phones — but it still takes well over an hour to charge the battery, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 20W charging tech is among the slowest in the industry. You don’t get a charger with either device, so you’ll need to buy a USB PD charger if you don’t have one.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Cameras
Cameras are a big part of what makes a high-end phone stand out, and the S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max have plenty to offer in this area. Samsung is reusing most of the same camera sensors as last year, and you get the same 200MP camera at the back, same 12MP wide-angle, and same 10MP zoom lens with 3x optical zoom. What’s new is a 50MP telephoto that goes up to 5x optical zoom that takes the place of the 10MP 10x zoom lens of previous years.
Samsung’s justification is that the higher-resolution 5x lens delivers better-quality photos at 10x and even 30x, and this is indeed the case — the phone takes stellar photos at up to 10x, easily besting every other device. Coming to the iPhone, you get the same 48MP camera at the back, as well as the same 12MP wide-angle lens. There’s a new 12MP zoom lens with 3x optical zoom, and much like the s24 Ultra, you get much better shots at 3x, 5x, and 10x than previous years.
I’ll share photos taken with both devices shortly, but what you need to know right now is that the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a distinct edge over the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The S24 Ultra delivers better tonal balance, and does a great job managing highlights and shadows in low-light scenarios, leading to photos that don’t look blown out and with all details intact. The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes close, but the camera tuning still isn’t quite as good as what you get on Samsung. That said, there is a noticeable difference between the device and the iPhone 14 Pro.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Software
Just like with the design, both brands have mature software ecosystems that don’t change too much year-on-year. The Galaxy S24 Ultra runs One UI 6.1 out of the box, and it has a slate of new AI-focused features dubbed Galaxy AI. Some of it is legitimately useful — Circle to Search makes it easy to look up something on Google — but with most of the features, you’ll need to use Samsung’s own utilities. That said, Samsung did a good job integrating these features into the S24 Ultra, and they will be coming to older models shortly.
The only downside with the AI features is that most of them will be locked behind a paywall at the end of 2025, so you’ll need to pay a fee to use them after two years. That’s annoying considering how much you’re paying for the phone, and we’ll have to wait and see how much Samsung charges for Galaxy AI.
Other than that, One UI is identical to last year, and you get the same features and interface. It looks modern and has a lot of customizability, but you also get a lot of bloatware out of the box, and Samsung continues to roll out ads for its devices — that hasn’t changed in 2024.
You get iOS 17 on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and it similarly has the same interface as previous versions, with a few interesting additions. There’s the new StandBy mode, interactive widgets, tweaks to iMessage, FaceTime, contact pages, and a new journal that is great to use. I had issues with notification management in earlier versions of iOS, but that’s largely solved with the introduction of the Action Button and customizable actions. The Action Button lets you switch Focus modes or undertake any action on the device, and it is incredibly useful.
As for software updates, the Galaxy S24 Ultra will pick up seven years of Android OS updates, edging out the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which is likely to get up to five years of platform updates. It’s great to see Samsung meeting Google’s long-term software update guarantee, and this basically ensures the Galaxy S24 Ultra can be used for the better part of a decade.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Which should you buy?
Honestly, choosing between these two devices is a matter of preference. If you’re using a Samsung phone and are considering an upgrade, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a lot to offer. It has the same great design as last year, and the titanium chassis gives it added elegance. You get a terrific AMOLED screen, incredible hardware, and a large battery that easily lasts over a day.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is all about excess — it has more features than just about any other phone today. While the cameras are unchanged, Samsung made a few modifications to its tuning algorithms, and the result is that they take stellar photos in just about any scenario. And of course, one of the biggest reasons for getting the S24 Ultra is the software, and One UI 6.1 has a slate of new features while still retaining a familiar interface.
In a similar vein, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the obvious recommendation if you’re already on iOS, or are considering a switch. There’s significantly less friction in switching between platforms these days; I use Google services predominantly, and they’re just as great on iOS. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has its own set of advantages; the phone is lighter and thinner to use, the screen is outstanding, you get incredible performance, console-quality games, the ability to charge over USB-C, and the battery lasts a day even with heavy use.
The cameras are also better than previous years, but of the two, the S24 Ultra still has a slender edge, particularly in low-light. That said, the iPhone 15 Pro Max continues to be unmatched when it comes to video recording, so if that’s a consideration, you’ll want to switch over. Thanks to the move to USB-C and decent camera upgrades, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a viable choice if you’re interested in trying something new.
A Galaxy of AI
The Galaxy S24 Ultra has modest upgrades over its predecessor, but if you need a new phone and want one with all the features you could ask for, this is the obvious choice.
A viable alternative
I like the iPhone 15 Pro Max quite a bit, and it is a fantastic phone in daily use. If you’re considering a switch to iOS, it is an easy recommendation.