Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: five ways it could beat the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max full back
An iPhone 14 Pro Max (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is arguably the best phone on the planet right now, but it might not be for long, as there’s a very good chance the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will have it beat when this upcoming phone lands on February 1.

In fact, even if the Galaxy S23 Ultra isn’t a better phone overall, it’s sure to have the iPhone 14 Pro Max beaten in some ways.

Based on leaks and rumors, we have a good idea of what some of those ways will be, so below you’ll find five things that the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will probably do better than the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

1. Creativity and productivity

Samsung Galaxy S22 S Pen

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen makes it great for art and note-taking (Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 14 Pro arguably has access to a better suite of apps for productivity and creativity, as there are a large number of high-quality options on the App Store – just take a look at our best iPhone apps guide for evidence of that.

But the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra might offer better hardware for creative and productive tasks, as the phone will almost certainly come with an S Pen stylus (and a slot to house it).

Yes, Apple offers the Apple Pencil for iPads, but this doesn’t work with iPhones, so if you want to sketch, make precise edits to images, or take hand-written notes, you’re likely to be much better off with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Especially as this upcoming phone will probably have a marginally larger 6.8-inch screen (so there’s more space to work across), and will have software designed around making the most of its stylus.

2. A stronger main camera

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max top two thirds

The iPhone 14 Pro Max doesn't have as many megapixels to play with (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

One of the biggest upgrades on the iPhone 14 Pro Max is its main camera; moving from a 12MP primary sensor on the iPhone 13 Pro Max to a 48MP sensor. We’re expecting a similar upgrade on the Galaxy S23 Ultra – from the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra – except here it would be from 108MP to an expected 200MP.

As such, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will almost certainly have a lot more pixels to play with than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee it will be a better camera, of course, but it might well be.

Reports suggest the Galaxy S23 Ultra might be able to take exceptional low light photos, so it could have the edge there for one thing, but with all those pixels there’s a high chance its shots will be more detailed in any light.

3. A better telephoto camera

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera array

The S22 Ultra has 10x optical zoom and the S23 Ultra likely will too (Image credit: Future)

As well as potentially a better main camera, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will also almost certainly have a better telephoto camera than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. In fact, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is already better for telephoto shots, so all Samsung needs to do is not make things worse here.

Reports suggest there won’t be a whole lot of change to the telephoto offering this year – meaning a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and another with 10x optical zoom.

But the iPhone 14 Pro Max only has a 12MP 3x optical zoom – along with the ability to achieve a 2x zoom by cropping into the main sensor. So it can compete for short distance zoom, but it’s unlikely to come close to the S23 Ultra for long distance zoom.

Plus, while the telephoto hardware on the S23 Ultra might not be getting an upgrade, signs suggest the software will, with early camera samples pointing to improvements to the digital zoom – meaning photos remain crisp and detailed at even 20x and 30x.

4. A smaller camera cut-out

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max Dynamic Island

The iPhone 14 Pro Max's Dynamic Island is far from small (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The biggest visual change we saw with the iPhone 14 Pro Max was the removal of the notch in place of camera cut-outs for the selfie camera and Face ID.

This is probably an improvement – especially when coupled with the new Dynamic Island distinct functionality – but these cut-outs still take up a lot of space across the top of the screen. For the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, we’re expecting just a single small punch-hole cut-out. That means there will be less interruption in the display, which can only be a good thing.

Of course, we don’t expect Samsung to cleverly tie the cut-out into the interface like Apple has done, and the reason the Galaxy S23 Ultra can have just one small cut-out here is that it doesn’t include Apple’s capable Face ID system – instead relying on an under-display fingerprint sensor. So there are downsides to Samsung’s approach too.

5. Faster charging

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max bottom edge

The iPhone 14 Pro Max doesn't charge quickly (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Even though the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will probably have a bigger battery than the iPhone 14 Pro Max, there’s a high chance its longevity will be worse, since Apple has done a lot with relatively little, where the iPhone's capacity is concerned.

But one thing the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra probably will have is faster charging. In fact, it would be very surprising if it doesn’t charge faster than the Pro Max, since the Galaxy S22 Ultra already does.

That phones charges at up to 45W, and leaks suggest the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will match that, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max tops out at just 27W. However, the two phones might offer the same 15W wireless charging speeds.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.