Comparing the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max is a no brainer. Those two phones are the best two largest smartphone manufacturers in the world have to offer. Both of them are fairly new. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is brand new, as it got announced earlier this month, while the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max landed back in October. In this article, we’ll put the two head-to-head, to see how they compare.
These two phones could not be more different. Samsung and Apple have considerably different approaches to smartphone design, and everything else, pretty much. We’ll first list their specifications, and then move to compare them in a number of categories, including design, display, performance, battery, camera, and audio. The software is something that would take weeks to compare, and you pretty much already know what you’re getting with Android and iOS. Those two offerings are vastly different.
|Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra||Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max|
|Screen size||6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (120Hz adaptive refresh rate)||6.7-inch FullHD+ Super Retina XDR OLED display (60Hz)|
|Screen resolution||3200 x 1440||2778 x 1284|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 / Samsung Exynos 2100||Apple A14 Bionic|
|RAM||12GB/16GB (LPDDR5)||6GB RAM|
|Storage||128GB/256GB, non-expandable||128GB/256GB/512GB; non-expandable|
|Rear cameras||108MP (f/1.8 aperture, OIS, 0.8um pixel size. Produces 12MP images with 2.4um pixel size)|
12MP (ultrawide, Dual Pixel AF, 120-degree FoV, f/2.2 aperture, 1.4um pixel size)
10MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/2.4 aperture, 1.22um pixel size, optical zoom 3x)
10MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/4.9 aperture, 1.22um pixel size, 10x optical zoom, 100x Space Zoom)
|12MP (f/1.6 aperture, 26mm lens, 1.7um pixel size, dual pixel PDAF, sensor shift stabilization)|
12MP (telephoto, f/2.2 aperture, 65mm lens, 1.0um pixel size, PDAF, OIS, 2.5x optical zoom)
12MP (ultrawide, f/2.4 aperture, 120-degree FoV, 13mm lens)
ToF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)
|Front cameras||40MP (f/2.2 aperture, 80-degree FoV, 0.7um pixel size, PDAF)||12MP (f/2.2 aperture, 23mm lens, SD 3D depth/biometrics sensor|
|Battery||5,000mAh, non-removable, fast battery charging (USB PD 3.0), Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare||3,687mAh, Non-Removable, 20W Fast Battery Charging, Qi charging (15W)|
|Dimensions||165 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm||160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4mm|
|Weight||229 grams||228 grams|
|Connectivity||5G, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi, USB Type-C||5G, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, USB 2.0 Lighting port|
|Security||In-display fingerprint scanner (ultrasonic)||Face ID|
One UI 3.0
|iOS 14.1 (upgradeable)|
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Design
Both of these phones are made out of metal and glass, but they feel considerably different in the hand. Apple opted to go with a boxy design this time around, while Samsung is sticking with plenty of curves. So it’s all a matter of preference, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra is more ergonomic, in a way. Both phones are quite slippery, so using a case may not be a bad idea at all. The Galaxy S21 Ultra also has a curved display, unlike the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so that’s another difference when it comes to in-hand feel.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera module is larger, and yet it fits the design better. The whole camera module is an extension of the frame, and it fits well with the design, especially in the Phantom Black color where it blends in seamlessly. Bezels on the Galaxy S21 Ultra are thinner, and the phone comes with a small display camera hole. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, on the other hand, has a rather large notch at the top. There’s a good reason for it, though, as the phone offers advanced biometrics for security purposes aka advanced facial scanning.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is taller, narrower, and thicker than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The two phones weigh about the same, though. It is worth noting that the Galaxy S21 Ultra also has a larger display, it’s slightly larger, but still, it’s worth mentioning. All in all, both of these devices offer great build quality, and the design is a matter of preference. They’re considerably different in comparison, and the only question is… what do you prefer?
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Display
Both phones have really large displays. These are the largest flagship-grade smartphones the two companies announced in the latest batch of flagship devices. The Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 6.8-inch WQHD+ (3200 x 1440) Dynamic AMOLED display with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. That display is protected by the Gorilla Glass Victus, and it supports HDR10+. It also gets quite bright at 1,500 nits peak brightness. That panel is curved, but the curve is not aggressive, it’s actually a mild curve that fits really well with the design, and is not a problem in terms of usage.
The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with a 6.7-inch 2778 x 1284 Super Retina XDR OLED display. That is a flat display, which runs at 60Hz, and supports HDR10 content. It gets quite bright as well, at 1,200 nits peak brightness. It is protected by scratch-resistant ceramic glass. Apple’s panel is inferior to the panel Samsung used here, there’s no doubt about that. The refresh rate difference is easily noticeable, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display looks better in real life. It is simply more technologically advanced.
The thing is, the iPhone 12 Pro Max display also looks great. The difference in terms of image reproduction is not as vast as you may think. Both displays are really great, and you won’t be disappointed with the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s panel, as long as you’re not used to high refresh rate displays. Also, you may prefer the fact the panel Apple used is flat. These two handsets offer vastly different displays, and it’s up to you to decide what fits you best. They both offer vivid colors, deep blacks, and excellent viewing angles.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Performance
When it comes to performance, these two phones are amongst the best out there. They can run anything you throw at them with ease. The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with the Snapdragon 888 SoC, the latest and greatest processor from Qualcomm. It is coupled with the best RAM and flash storage Samsung has. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is fueled by the Apple A14 Bionic, yet another 5nm processor that is immensely powerful. It has less RAM, and it’s both older RAM and storage, but iOS functions differently.
No matter if you’re a basic smartphone user, or you’re a gamer, these two phones are for you. They can run any intensive game you’ll find in Android and iOS app stores, with ease. The same goes for image processing, video processing, browsing, multitasking, consuming multimedia, and so on. Pretty much everything will be smooth. Scrolling will be smoother on the S21 Ultra due to its display refresh rate and whatnot, but when it comes to general performance, lag is non-existent on both phones.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Battery
The battery life section is, well, quite interesting. Both smartphones offer really good battery life, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max cannot compete with the Galaxy S21 Ultra when it comes to longevity. The Galaxy S21 Ultra can easily cross the 7-hour screen-on-time mark, and then some. Getting over 8 hours of screen-on-time with the device should be easily possible. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will be closer to around 6 hours. Do note that this will depend on usage, of course, each of us uses our devices differently. Processor-intensive tasks will impact battery life, quite a bit. Still, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is definitely better in this regard.
Now, when it comes to charging, the Galaxy S21 Ultra offers faster wired charging, 25W vs 20W. In terms of wireless charging, both phones support 15W charging. The Galaxy S21 Ultra also offers Wireless PowerShare aka reverse wireless charging. Having said that, the phone also has a larger battery. It comes with a 5,000mAh unit, compared to a 3,687mAh battery inside the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Another thing worth saying is that neither of these two phones come with a charger. You’ll get the cable, but the charging brick is something you’ll need to buy separately, if you don’t already own one.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Cameras
Alright, so, what’s the deal with the cameras? The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a major improvement over the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Last year’s ‘Ultra’ model arrived with quite a few drawbacks, slow autofocus and finicky focusing, in general, were at the center of it. That’s not an issue this time around not at all. The Galaxy S21 Ultra delivered one of the best camera setups in a smartphone. To date. It has four really capable cameras, which go head-to-head with the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s triple camera setup, well, quad camera setup if you could in the LiDAR scanner.
Both phones do an excellent job in good lighting, the images end up sharp with the main sensor, and well-balanced. The iPhone 12 Pro Max handles intense HDR shots a bit better at the moment, but everything else is more or less better on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The images are a bit sharper, a bit more vivid, and they look better overall. The same goes for low light. Both phones are really good in that regard, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra just seems to be one step ahead in that regard. It also offers better telephoto images, its great hardware in combination with the software enables that. Under good lighting, you can get solid images up to 30x, believe it or not. If you have a tripod, 100x zoom can also be quite useful.
The iPhone 12 Pro may have a slight advantage in the video department (they’re both excellent), unless you’re shooting with an ultrawide lens, in which case the Galaxy S21 Ultra beats Apple’s offering with ease. The ultra-wide low-light video looks much better on Samsung’s flagship. Both phones offer great cameras, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra is more versatile, and it does perform better in more areas compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
What about the audio? Well, both offer stereo speakers, and both sets of speakers are good. The Galaxy S21 Ultra speakers do seem to offer a bit more depth, though. Both sets of speakers do get pretty loud. The Galaxy S21 Ultra speakers are tuned by AKG, by the way, that goes for the whole audio experience. Neither of the two phones have a 3.5mm headphone jack, by the way.
If you hook up a good pair of headphones to these devices, either wired or wireless, you’ll get good audio. The difference is not that major, they simply offer slightly different sound. The output is well-balanced across the board. Lows, mids, and highs are good on each device, there are no major drawbacks here.