Apple’s 2021 flagship devices have landed and are arriving in the hands of the masses. And despite being released all the way back in February, the Galaxy S21 Ultra remains at the top when looking at the different Android smartphones that have been released this year. So how does Apple’s best match up against the best Android phone?
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: finally living up to its name
- 3 reasons the S21 Ultra didn’t cut it for me, and one reason why I’ll miss it
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Spec Comparison
|iPhone 13 Pro Max||Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Price||From $1099||From $1199|
|Resolution||1284 x 2778||1440 x 3200|
|Density||458 ppi||515 ppi|
|Processor||Apple A15 Bionic||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|RAM||6 GB||12 /16 GB|
|Storage||128 / 256 / 512GB / 1TB||128 / 256 / 512 GB|
|Battery||4373 mAh||5000 mAh|
|OS||iOS 15||Android 11|
12MP, Sensor Shift OIS, f/1.5, 1.9 μm, (main)
12MP, f/1.8, 120-degree FoV (ulra-wide)
12MP, f/2.8, 77mm, PDAF, OIS, 3x Optical Zoom
108MP Phase Detection AF, OIS, F1.8, 0.8µm
12MP Dual Pixel AF, FOV 120°, F2.2, 1.4µm (ultrawide),
10MP Dual Pixel AF, Optical 3x, OIS, F2.4, 1.22µm (telephoto),: 10MP Dual Pixel AF, Optical 10x, OIS, F4.9, 1.22µm (telephoto)
|Front camera||12MP, f/2.2, 23mm (wide)||40MP Phase Detection AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 0.7 µm|
|Dimensions||160.8 x 78.1 x 7.7 mm||165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm|
|Special features||20W fast charging, 15W MagSafe wireless charging, Face ID, WiFi 6, sub-6 and mid-band 5G, Ultra Wide Band, TOF LiDAR scanner, 120Hz ProMotion Refresh Rate, 10-bit HDR video, ProRes, Cinematic Mode||25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, 120Hz dynamic refresh display, mmWave & Sub6 5G, Wi-fi 6E, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, Ultra Wide Band, S Pen support, 8K video capture|
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Design
Looking at the design, you won’t have any problems telling these two devices apart. The Galaxy S21 Ultra features rounded corners and edges around the entire device, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max is essentially a rectangular block. Color options for both models are limited to just three choices, and the only way you can get the Navy S21 Ultra is through Best Buy. Meanwhile, Apple doesn’t have any “store-exclusive colors”, so you can get all three colors from wherever you purchase the phone.
Both devices offer a matte finish on the back, making it easier to hold without having to worry about a bunch of fingerprint smudges getting dirtying things up. However, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, you definitely might want to keep a microfiber cloth nearby as the stainless steel frame definitely attracts plenty of fingerprints.
Aside from the camera upgrades, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s biggest update came courtesy of the new ProMotion display. Originally introduced with the iPad Pro series back in 2017, ProMotion is essentially “Apple speak” for a display with an adaptive refresh rate. With ProMotion, the iPhone 13 Pro Max and its 6.7-inch XDR OLED display automatically adjusts between 10Hz and 120Hz, based on what you’re doing on your phone. This matches up with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which also sports an adaptive refresh rate that ranges between 10Hz and 120Hz for its 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Performance
Under the hood, Apple’s A15 Bionic packs a powerful punch compared to the Snapdragon 888 in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Part of this has to do with Apple’s optimization of iOS, considering that the 13 Pro Max only ships with 6GB of RAM. Meanwhile, you can get up to 16GB of RAM in the S21 Ultra. Here are how the two flagship devices stack up in Geekbench:
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Single-Core: 1,720
- Multi-Core: 4,549
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Single-Core: 1,134
- Multi-Core: 3,322
But of course, these are just numbers generated by a benchmarking app. It’s also a little bit of an unfair comparison, as the Snapdragon 888 is not even the latest chip from Qualcomm, as the Snapdragon 888+ is now available and shipping in some phones. Plus, the SD888 has been available for almost a year at this point, and is due for a refresh in the next couple of months. If numbers matter to you, the Pro Max handles the S21 Ultra with ease, but you’re truly unlikely to notice any differences in day-to-day usage.
Both the iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra are equipped with 5G connectivity, including support for all of the major bands across the U.S. Apple even upped the ante during its announcement of the iPhone 13, as the line will now support 200 carriers in 60 different countries.
With Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e becoming more common, it’s important to make sure that your smartphone is capable of supporting the faster speeds. The Galaxy S21 Ultra supports Wi-Fi 6e, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max only supports Wi-Fi 6, which may end u p being a rather frustrating disappointment for potential iPhone owners.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Battery Life
The iPhone 12 Pro Max was arguably the battery champ of 2020, and it looks as though the trend will continue with Apple’s latest Max phone. Apple slightly adjusted the design of the 13 Pro Max (and all of the iPhone 13 models) to allow for a larger battery. With that, the 13 Pro Max is now equipped with a 4,373mAh cell which may seem like child’s play compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 5,000mAh cell.
But recent testing has shown that the iPhone 13 Pro Max was capable of lasting for almost 10 hours on a single charge. Meanwhile, in our testing, the Galaxy S21 Ultra lasted for a little over 11 hours. That may seem like an easy win for the S21 Ultra, but with almost an extra 700mAh of capacity, it’s clear that Apple’s iOS optimization continues to reign supreme.
In terms of charging capabilities, we have a mixed bag of slowness. The S21 Ultra is limited to a maximum of 25W courtesy of USB Power Delivery with PPS. Wireless charging comes in at 15W, provided that you use a PMA wireless charging pad, otherwise, you’ll have to rely on 7.5W speeds with standard Qi charging. But The S21 Ultra does have an ace up its sleeve thanks to the 4.5W reverse wireless charging. This makes it so you can top off your earbuds or smartwatch if you need a little bit of extra juice.
Moving to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple also offers slow charging speeds compared to what we’re seeing from the likes of Xiaomi And OnePlus. The 13 Pro Max is limited to 20W wired charging, provided that you use a supported wall charger. Wireless charging comes in at 15W, but that is only if you are using a MagSafe-compatible charger. Just like the S21 Ultra, the iPhone 13 Pro Max can use standard Qi wireless charging at 7.5W speeds.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Cameras
Aside from power and battery life, the biggest comparison that we’ll see until the Galaxy S22 arrives comes down to the cameras. After Apple offered two different camera experiences between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max last year, Apple changed course in 2021. This time, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max both offer the same camera hardware and software features.
All three cameras on the back of the iPhone 13 Pro Max feature a 12MP resolution, while being equipped with a wide-angle, ultra wide, and telephoto camera lens. The Ultra wide sensor offers a 120-degree field of view, while all three cameras combine to offer a 6x optical zoom. The telephoto lens is capable of handling 3x optical zoom on its own, along with a digital zoom of up to 15x.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, is equipped with a quad-camera setup headlined by a 108MP wide-angle sensor. There’s also a 12MP ultra wide lens providing a 120-degree FoV, and supporting Samsung’s “Super Steady Video”. Then, we have a duo of 10MP telephoto lenses, with the first being a periscope telephoto sensor offering 10x optical zoom. With the second telephoto lens, this is a traditional telephoto sensor offering 3x optical zoom.
Both of these cameras are capable of recording in 4K at up to 60fps, but each phone has some special features that you won’t find anywhere else. For the iPhone, Apple has added a Cinematic Mode, which allows you to create movie-like videos that can change up the focus on the fly, or in post editing. The Galaxy S21 Ultra gets the upper hand in video recording quality, as you can record 8K video at up to 24fps.
Honestly, you won’t be disappointed with the end results for either of these phones, as they remain two of the best camera experiences available on mobile phones today.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Price & Availability
Apple surprised everyone when it comes to pricing on the iPhone 13 lineup, as it remains the same across the board compared to last year. The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at $1,099 for the 128GB model, but gains an edge over the S21 Ultra with its 1TB storage option. But this will definitely set you back a few pennies, as the 13 Pro Max with 1TB of storage comes in at $1,599.
As for Samsung, the starting retail price of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is $1,199 for 128GB of storage, but you can get double the storage for just $50 more. The other thing to consider is that because the Galaxy S21 Ultra has been available for most of the year, you can find some pretty great discounts and deals. We’ve seen the S21 Ultra for as low as $899, but it regularly hovers around the $1,000 mark.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Making a choice
It’s almost impossible to say that one of these is better than the other. Comparing the iPhone to the best Samsung Galaxy phone is like comparing apples to apples. Both options offer something different and unique, and we’re not just talking about the operating system. Apple’s approach to software is unmatched, as you can expect the iPhone 13 Pro Max to be supported for at least the next 5-7 years, if not longer.
Samsung on the end, is leading the charge as Android smartphone makers are finally beginning to get away from the “two years” of software update support. Just earlier this year, Samsung announced that it plans to support select devices in its Galaxy lineup for up to four years. Those four years means that you’ll see security updates until 2025, but the major Android releases will only come until we get to Android 14, as Samsung is limiting major releases to just three updates. It pales in comparison to Apple, but it’s still great to see Samsung work with Qualcomm to push for longer support.