The two heavyweights of flagship smartphones – Samsung and Apple – are in for another blockbuster bout as the Korean smartphone maker just announced the S21 series at the Galaxy Unpacked event. This comes after the release of the Apple iPhone 12 series a couple of months ago. While the iPhone’s latest and greatest iPhone 12 Pro Max has already proved its substance, Samsung is here to spoil the party and take the laurels away.
It’s still too early to make an in-depth analysis of the Galaxy S21 Ultra – the shining new star from the house of Samsung – yet things are now clear as to what the smartphone is capable of delivering. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into comparing some prominent features of the two premium flagship phones that money can buy. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 ultra gets a bit of a bump (from the S20 Ultra) in the way it looks – draped in new colors with matte finish for a classy look. The revamped camera module topped with a metal frame surely looks minimalistic and flows down into the aluminum body on the side. iPhone 12 Pro Max on the other hand adapts the sharper old-school aesthetics of the iPhone 5. The phone has a glass sandwich design housed in stainless steel frame with a frosted glass finish that makes it so desirable. The clear winner for pure design aesthetics is the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Being the best flagships that you can buy, both the phones have a large display. The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a curved 6.8-inch Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED display (3200×1440 resolution @ 515 ppi) with a center-aligned hole-punch camera. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2778×1284 resolution @ 458 ppi) with the notch housing the front-facing shooter.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate that can go as low as 10Hz for battery efficiency depending on the content being viewed. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max sticks to the contemporary 60Hz refresh rate that’s nothing much to talk of. Samsung’s flagship also takes the upper hand in peak brightness viewing with 1,500 nits while Apple’s phone has 1,200 nits value. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra takes the edge here promising to offer a wholesome viewing experience.
Both the devices will come in 128GB/256GB/512GB internal storage configuration as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra ditches the microSD card slot for good. The Galaxy S21 Ultra will offer a massive 12GB and 16GB RAM for the buyers while iPhone 12 Pro Max has 6GB RAM on-board.
To rival the Apple A14 Bionic chip on the latest iPhone series, the Samsung series (for the US) gets the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor that’s more than just a powerhouse, it’s AI-capable for taking things to the new level. While preliminary benchmarking tests show a comparable result for both the chipsets, Galaxy S21 Ultra could have a slight edge. The real-world processing capabilities will make things clearer, so we’ll reserve a verdict for now.
Rear camera capability
The camera setup on the two devices is pretty interesting. The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a 108MP (24mm f/1.8) main sensor with OIS, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max gets the 12MP (26mm f/1.7) primary sensor with shift stabilization. Interestingly the Samsung phone has two 10MP telephoto zoom lenses with OIS – one having 3X zoom level lens (72mm, f/2.4) and the other with 10X zoom periscope lens (240mm, f/4.9).
The flagship iPhone however gets a 12MP 2.5X zoom telephoto shooter (65mm, f/2.2) with OIS. The ultra-wide shooter is where both of them coincide with a 12MP ultra-wide 13mm lenses with the Samsung device having f/2.2 value while the Apple monster dishing out f/2.4.
For capturing videos, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with 8K video recording capability at 30fps, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max can manage 4K videos with support for Dolby HDR standard for richer colors. So, Galaxy S21 Ultra can shoot much cleaner looking videos while the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a higher dynamic range.
iPhone 12 Pro Max with the LiDAR sensor (for supreme focusing in low-light conditions) has been touted as being one of the best camera setups out there but with the Galaxy S21 Ultra having an upper hand as far as specs go, things could get interesting if the camera software can leverage full potential. This could be possible with the advanced capabilities of the Snapdragon Camera AI.
Battery and charging speed
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a solid 5,000mAh battery compared to the 3,687mAh battery on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. On paper that might sound like a huge difference but Apple’s battery management is no joke, it has proven to be the best hardware-software ecosystem for years now.
Galaxy S21 Ultra with its massive battery already looks good. Additionally, with the Android 11 powering its guts and the power-efficient Snapdragon 888 promising huge leaps in battery management; things look promising for Samsung. Again Galaxy S21 Ultra gets our vote here and we are confident its battery will last longer than that of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, even if it is by a little.
The charging speed is another advantage here as Galaxy S21 Ultra gets the 25W charging speed support and the iPhone 12 Pro Max has 20W support. Both can however charge at 15W wirelessly. They ship without the charger, so that’s something you’ll have to sort for yourself, if you’re not a previous user of any of these ecosystems, or are making a shift to the other.
Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with support for the S Pen, including for the old generation S Pen and the new Wacom-powered S Pen. It can also reverse wireless charge, so you can juice up your Galaxy Buds Pro on the go from your phone. On the other hand, Apple iPhone 12 series comes with the MagSafe to enjoy the perks of the unique compatible accessories that add another dimension to the use-case scenario. More innovative ways to leverage MagSafe’s capability is a surety, so depending on your priorities both have their advantages, and it’s going to be a subjective decision.
This is where the buying decision can go one way or the other. Samsung has lowered the prices of its Galaxy S21 series lines-up to get more traction. The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes at a $1,200 for the 128GB model, $1,250 for the 256GB, and $1,380 for the 512GB variant.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max surprisingly is a good bargain here if you are looking at the price alone. The 128GB model comes at $1,100, 256GB model demands $1,200, and the top 512GB model can be yours for $1,400. As for the pricing, even though Galaxy S21 Ultra is cheaper than its predecessor, iPhone 12 Pro Max will make things difficult for Samsung.