Apple’s iPhone 13 series is official, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a big, shiny flagship phone.
But to outshine the masses before the lucrative end of the year, you’ll have to wrestle with the current champion of the 2021 smartphone scene, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
It’s just getting started, but how do these two ultra-premium smartphone specs compare? let’s take a look.
iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra price and availability
The iPhone 13 Pro Max will be available for purchase from September 24, 2021. Prices start at $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,699 for the 128GB model, $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,869 for the 256GB model, and $1,399 / £4. 1,349 / AU$2,219 for the 512GB model.
This time around, there’s also a 1TB model, which costs $1,599 / £1,549 / AU $2,569.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra appeared earlier this year on January 29, 2021. Prices for the entry-level 128GB model start at $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,849, and the 256GB model costs $1,399 / £1,349 / AU$2,149. Finally, the 512GB model raised its price to $1,599 / £1,549 / AU$2,449.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the cheapest of the two, at least from an RRP perspective. Thanks to the larger Galaxy S21 Ultra, you should be able to get a decent discount.
Both these smartphone designs are quite symbolic. The iPhone 13 Pro Max was the deadlinger of the earlier iPhone 12 Pro Max, and in itself represents a bold renewal of Apple’s design language.
I’ve never seen such a flat, symmetrical surface since the rise of the iPhone 5. At least I’ve never seen the original iPhone SE. The rim is made of shiny surgical grade stainless steel. It is more expensive than the aluminum used in the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Sure, the Galaxy S21 Ultra looks like a very typical Android flagship—unless you fold it to the front. Its plunging camera unit is utterly gorgeous, and the iPhone’s confusing rear looks quite dull when compared.
In terms of colour, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is available in Graphite, Gold, Silver and Pacific Blue colours. The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a wide array of options: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown.
However, these are the two heavy phones available in the market. The iPhone 13 Pro Max weighs 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65 mm and 238 grams, and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra weighs 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm and 228 grams. So while Apple phones are smaller and thinner, Samsung phones are narrower and lighter.
Both the phones have got IP68 rating. In other words, it is equally resistant to the ingress of water and dust. However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s display is a bit tough, and Apple’s ceramic shield is four times tougher than other phones.
There is a big difference in how these two phones handle the implementation of the front camera. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is 20% smaller than before, but with a thicker notch. The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a discreet central drilling notch.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra screen is a 6.8-inch AMOLED that can run at both a refresh rate of 120Hz and a resolution of QHD (3200 x 1440) simultaneously.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a smaller, less sharp 6.7-inch 2778 x 1284 AMOLED. When it comes to raw image quality, it really isn’t that much.
However, for the first time ever, Apple can tune Samsung to its 120Hz refresh rate. Both phones implement LTPO technology to implement variable refresh rates.
This means you can save power by lowering to 120Hz when displaying still images and text. Both can drop down to 10Hz, but as far as we know, only the iPhone 13 Pro Max has optimized the UI for touch speed.
However, Samsung’s display will be slightly brighter with a peak number of 1500 nits. The iPhone 13 Pro Max can only hit 1200 nits.
Samsung hides an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor with 1.7 times the surface area inside its display. Apple has resisted reimplementing Touch ID in favor of the Face ID facial recognition system.
Apple and Samsung have come and gone in recent years when it comes to learning cameras. Both are reaching the top of the game now, but the approaches are very different.
The new iPhone 13 Pro Max offers an improved triple 12MP camera system with a wider f/1.5 aperture main sensor. It is backed by 12MP ultrawide with new macro features that allow you to get as close to 2cm of your subject.
In addition, a new telephoto lens with 3x zoom is available, and it is now possible to shoot in Night mode.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Pro camera is guided by a 1/1.33″ 108MP main wide sensor and uses 9:1 pixel binning technology to produce crisp, bright 12MP images.
There is also a unique pair of 12MP ultra wide-angle sensor and 10MP telephoto sensor. One for 3x optical zoom and the other for 10x.
Aside from the hardware differences, Apple and Samsung are notorious for their slightly different approaches to color science. Samsung usually punches the color to a more Instagram-worthy level, but Apple keeps things a little cooler and more natural.
Speaking of software, the iPhone 13 Pro Max includes new features with a variety of photo styles to choose from, allowing you to vary the tone and warmth without banging on your subject. Smart HDR4 is also available, which allows you to accommodate multiple people in your scene.
When it comes to video, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 8K can capture 24 fps, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max can only hit 4K at 60 fps. But again, Apple’s strength lies in learning its algorithms.
This includes a new Cinematic Mode that allows you to intelligently re-focus based on the subject’s vision and predict when your subject will appear. Later this year, ProRes mode will allow you to record, edit and deliver broadcast-ready content on the go at 4K/30fps.
Specifications and performance
We don’t have an iPhone 13 Pro Max to test with just yet, but we’ll make some bold predictions. It is more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Well, it was not a very bold prediction. Apple’s iPhone has always been the most powerful in its class, and the A15 Bionic chip on the iPhone 13 Pro Max seems to be headed towards continuing that trend.
Also, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is closer to the iPhone 12 Pro Max than the iPhone 13 Pro Max in terms of vintage. Probably Samsung will take the Galaxy S22 Ultra in power to compete with the iPhone 13 ProMax, and even then we’re not fantasizing about that opportunity.
Apple claims that both the 6-core CPU and 5-core GPU are probably 50% faster than major competitors on the Android side, including the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Samsung doesn’t really help in terms of performance either. Depending on where you are in the world, you can get a Galaxy S21 Ultra (US and China) or an Exynos 2100 (and everything else) with a Snapdragon 888 processor. The latter isn’t a bad chip, but it’s not quite as fast as the Snapdragon 888.
When it comes to storage, you can choose between 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of internal capacity in both the phones. However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers a 1TB option as well.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra hit back with the support of Samsung’s S Pence stylus. Whether you’re writing notes for automatic transcription or sketching a masterpiece, Samsung’s stylus is versatile and powerful. Of course, Apple has its own competing Pencil, but I still don’t think it’s a good fit to add support to the iPhone range.
As you can imagine, both phones are 5G capable.
The Samsung phone has a 5000mAh battery, but the capacity of the iPhone 13 Pro Max cell is still unknown.
Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s battery is bigger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 3,687mAh counterpart, but it’s almost certainly below 4000mAh.
However, such a capacity comparison is not very useful as iOS and Android use their allocated power very differently.
What we do know is that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is easy to use all day long, even when the QHD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate are working together.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has the best stamina in its entire range, making it easy to cope with resource-intensive throughout the day. Apple claims that the iPhone 13 Pro Max delivers a long 1.5 hours of life on a single charge, which should give you a pretty impressive battery life.
Neither the iPhone 13 Pro Max nor the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are cutting edge when it comes to charging, and both manufacturers will have to provide their own chargers. The Galaxy S21 Ultra only supports wired charging up to 25W, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max only supports up to 20W.
Both support wireless charging up to 15W, which is also less competitive with some of its Android-based rivals.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra will be one of the oldest flagships that Apple will have to face before the iPhone 13 Pro Max hits the market. Generation after generation, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is more modern.
Nevertheless, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra remains the biggest rival to the iPhone 13 Pro Max at launch. It’s still arguably the best all-round smartphone on the market, with specs like a 10x telephoto camera and QHD display outperforming Apple’s new challenger.
Of course, the iPhone 13 Pro Max brings its own camera tricks to the party, not to mention the 120Hz display that fills the gap. Android phones also have a level of power that is unlikely to be comparable in the near future.
You’ll have to wait for Apple’s latest release to make that bold claim, but make no mistake. Both these phones could also compete in two horse races over pockets later this year.
iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Which 2021 flagship phone is right for you?
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