Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
How does Samsung's new high-priced flagship compare against the equally expensive Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max?
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max : What to look for
There's no rivalry as fierce as that of Samsung and Apple in the smartphone space. Combined, the two firms absolutely dominate the mobile phone space in terms of handset sales and market share across the planet, and there are plenty of die-hard Samsung and Apple fans who would never even consider "switching camps" from Android to iOS or vice versa.
If you're more flexible in your thinking and looking for a flagship device, the current contenders in the top end flagship space for each manufacturer are the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Both are high-end, high-cost devices, which means careful comparison is a must.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: Power
Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra runs – as per Samsung's own specification sheet for the new flagship – on either a 7nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor at up to 2.7Ghz or a 7nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor at up to 2.8Ghz, depending on the market it's being shipped to. As the high-end model in the S20 range, it also benefits from either 12GB or 16GB of RAM depending on the model you buy.
By way of comparison, the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max runs on Apple's own Apple A13 Bionic chip with just 4GB of RAM, which would seem to give the battle to the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Not so fast, though! Apple's heavy optimisation of its operating system and control over the design of the A12 Bionic left it significantly ahead of the pack of 2019 smartphones in sheer performance terms even if Apple didn't bless it with all that much RAM.
It just didn't matter – the iPhone 11 Pro Max frankly smoked every smartphone we sent at it through 2019. Now, we've yet to put the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra through its benchmark and performance paces, but if it wants to take on Apple, it will need some serious ammunition to do so.
So you should buy the iPhone, right?
Well… maybe not. The reality here is that either phone should very nimbly handle anything you're going to throw at it anyway, and Samsung does have some advantages up its sleeve that Apple has yet to match.
5G is the obvious one; while the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra supports 5G networks, there's no 5G built into the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max at all. Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra even has support for future mmWave 5G networks built-in, so it's well ahead of the score here. Side by side, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is likely to beat the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max in a straight line download test, even over 4G networks alone and absolutely if 5G was all you had within reach.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: Camera
If you just look at the numbers, this again seems to be a case of Samsung wiping Apple away, thanks especially to the 108MP main wide sensor, 48MP telephoto and 12MP ultra-wide lenses on the back, plus a time-of-flight sensor.
On paper, the iPhone 11 Pro Max's triple 12MP lenses might seem to be lagging badly behind the pace, but again Apple's software engineering comes into play. The iPhone 11 Pro Max isn't the best stills camera to come out of 2019 (that's still arguably the Huawei P30 Pro if you want full Android or Huawei Mate 30 Pro if you don't) but it's a great all-round performer and exceptional video shooting phone to boot. Low light performance was only improved by Apple's "Deep Fusion" update to its camera capabilities, further upping its overall camera quality.
Samsung is doing some clever optimisation with the camera on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, including the ability to manage up to 8K video shooting, multiple captures and what Samsung calls "Space Zoom". This isn't an astrophotography mode to speak of, but instead the combination of a periscope style folded lens and hybrid zoom to offer up to 100x zoom. It's an impressive feat for a smartphone, although we suspect you'll need a serious tripod to get anything that isn't too blurred for it to be really useful.
Samsung is also putting that 108MP sensor to use with pixel binning that combines 9 adjacent pixels to create a much larger sensor site for low light photography. It's an area where Apple has overtaken Samsung of late, but we'll have to wait and see if the pendulum has swung the other way now that the Galaxy S20 Ultra is available.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: Battery
For the longest time, the easy "worst" battery competitor in the smartphone space was an iPhone, as Apple sought to produce ever-thinner phones at the cost of battery life. During the same period, Samsung phones were notable as solid, and sometimes industry-leading devices in battery stamina terms.
In 2019, that equation flipped its head. Most of Samsung's 2019 smartphones were on the disappointing side. Though the Apple iPhone 11 Max and its 3,969mAh battery weren't the biggest in a phone, they gave great battery life, while Samsung's 2019 crop of phones tended to deliver actual lower performance.
That's likely to flip back again in 2020, however. While we've still got to test out the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra's battery stamina to be sure, the fact that Samsung is dropping a whopping 5,000mAh battery into its new flagship gives it a lot of fuel to burn. It supports up to 45W charging via direct cable, although the in-box charger is only a 25W model.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: Pricing
Samsung's announced Australian pricing for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra isn't on the low side. It will cost you $1,999 for a phone with 128GB of onboard storage and 12GB of RAM, or $2,249 for a 16GB/512GB model. You will be able to get it on a plan through local carriers, of course, if you want to split that price out somewhat.
Not that the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max is exactly a low-cost device. The cheapest model with just 64GB of storage will cost you $1,899 outright, but you can pump that all the way up to $2,499 for a model with 512GB of onboard storage.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: Plans
We're still waiting on full announced plan details for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, but you can expect it to be available from the big carriers as soon as it's available to buy.
Apple's iPhone lines remain popular with Australian carriers – essentially because they're still very popular with Australian phone users – and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is available from a wide variety of carriers. Here's what you'll pay for one: