iPhone 14 Pro vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: My thoughts as an ex-Android lover

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Five months ago, I went from a die-hard Samsung Galaxy fan to a sellout iPhone owner. Since then, I’ve fully adapted to Apple’s world and thrived on features like AirDrop and iMessage (mostly to the delight of my friends, who were sick of my green texts).

But I still have a soft spot for Galaxy phones, and when Samsung unveiled the S23 lineup in February, I was curious to see how the top-of-the-line S23 Ultra compared to my iPhone 14 Pro. How will he do it? So I got my hands on one and started using the phone to compare everything from the camera to the battery life to the overall design — and to see if I needed to switch to the “dark side.” Have any regrets about. Here’s what I found.

Galaxy S23 Ultra’s display vs Apple’s Super Retina screen

First things first: I have an iPhone 14 Pro, not the Pro Max, so the Ultra’s huge screen definitely pales in comparison. I’ve never felt like I needed a bigger screen than my 14 Pro, but that big display definitely hurts when I’m watching YouTube videos or streaming shows — or spending a lot of time on it. Will not reach TIC Toc.

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Trying to fit that big screen in my pocket and trying to carry something bigger. Still, it’s a pretty sleek phone for all that real estate.

Display quality is stellar on both phones, and I don’t see much difference in quality between the two. Right out of the box, the S23 Ultra has a nice bright display, which you can get on the iPhone by turning off True Tone (a feature that adjusts the color and intensity of your display based on your environment). If the brightness is too high on Ultra, you can mimic the contrast of True Tone’s effects by going into Display Settings, either toggling on Eye Comfort Shield, or going into Screen Mode and selecting Natural. You can also play with the White Balance scale. Images appear on iPhone Little Sharp, but colors pop a bit more on the S23 Ultra. Overall, though, there really isn’t much of a difference between the phones.

The keyboard on the Galaxy S23 Ultra (right) puts the numbers above the letters, so you don’t have to jump between the two.

John Kim / CNET

There’s one aspect of having an iPhone that I haven’t made peace with yet, and that’s the keyboard. I’m glad Apple added slide to type with iOS 13 a few years back, followed by haptic feedback on the keyboard with iOS 16 (finally), because those are features I’d love to have on Android. But I’m still frustrated that I have to switch between numbers and letters when I’m typing on the iPhone. Meanwhile, on the Galaxy, the numbers sit right above the letters, so you can select them more quickly, the way you would on a laptop keyboard. You can download different keyboards like Gboard on iPhone, but it is not the same. I admit it’s a minor complaint, but I think the user experience would benefit from Apple taking a page from Android’s book – you know, like they’ve done so many times before. moving on….

Galaxy S23 Ultra’s battery life is next level

I’ve had my iPhone for a few months now and thankfully haven’t noticed any noticeable drop in battery life yet. My phone still lasts a full day of heavy use, but I always need to charge it at the end of the day.

The Ultra’s battery is next level. I can use all day and still have some juice left. Not surprisingly, the S23 Ultra packs a 5,000mAh battery. Apple doesn’t share battery capacity for its phones, but says the 14 Pro has up to 23 hours of video playback. The iFixit teardown revealed that the iPhone 14 Pro packs a 3,200mAh battery.

samsung galaxy s23 ultra

Battery that keeps on going.

James Martin / CNET

Even though the Ultra has a bigger battery, Apple has actually been able to get more efficiency out of its battery thanks to iOS and its A-series chips. Meanwhile, Android has to work with different devices running different processors, so having a bigger battery becomes more important.

Specs and logistics aside, I’m amazed by the Ultra’s battery life, as was CNET’s mobile reporter Lisa Adicicco when she reviewed the Ultra.

S23 Ultra’s 200 megapixel camera

camera quality The most important aspect of any phone for me. I take a lot of photos and videos for work and social media, including for my very own Chai account on Instagram. Galaxy phone cameras kept me in the Samsung family for a decade, so I was eager to compare the S23 Ultra’s cameras to the iPhone 14 Pro.

I immediately noticed how much more saturated the pictures are on the Ultra. In most cases, that saturation gives images a nice color boost and makes them stand out more. My colorful cup shots look even more vibrant on the Ultra. At times, that saturation can be a bit overwhelming and make photos look unnatural, as if they have a filter on them. But other times, it separates colors and subjects in a good way.

A flower teacup and saucer taken with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200-megapixel sensor brings out detail and color in this decorative cup.

Abrar Al-Heiti/CNET

The 200-megapixel sensor on the Ultra captures color and detail even better. A photo I took of a decorative cup emphasizes the intricate floral design and gold trim and another image of a Klay Thompson mural shows off the bright blue and yellow hues.

Not all moments are made for the 200-megapixel sensor, though. In another image taken outdoors, the sensor removed a few too many highlights, so it was hard to see detail and understand what was going on.

Overall, I appreciate the softness and brightness of photos on the Ultra. Shadows on the iPhone are often a bit harsh and give some images a darker overtone. An image of the sky will look nice and bright on the Ultra, while on the iPhone there can be distracting shadows under the clouds. The softness and brightness of Ultra makes selfies more attractive. You can adjust the iPhone’s camera settings and play with things like contrast, tone and color temperature, and even mimic the photography styles on the Galaxy (and vice versa), but I just want the iPhone to automatically adjust for things like shadows. ,

The camera feature that surprised me the most was the portrait mode. I consider portrait mode to be the gold standard on the iPhone. The subject is usually in perfect focus, the background blurs smoothly and colors look more natural. But I noticed that the Ultra did something better than my iPhone. I took a photo of my friend while the sunglasses were on top of her head, and the iPhone struggled to keep the bridge and sides of the glasses in focus, while the Ultra didn’t. It’s the little details that show how far portrait mode has come on Galaxy phones. I still prefer the look of the iPhone portraits because of the lower saturation, and you can get a bit more detail in the background, which is nice.

Portrait Mode on iPhone 14 Pro vs Galaxy S23 Ultra

The picture on the left was taken on the iPhone 14 Pro with portrait mode on, while the picture on the right was taken with the Galaxy S23 Ultra. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the iPhone blurs the bridge and sides of the glasses, while the Ultra doesn’t.

Abrar Al-Heiti/CNET

Does the Galaxy S23 Ultra beat the iPhone in video?

Given the popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels right now, video is a big focus for both Apple and Samsung — and also important for people like me who take a lot of video. Since switching to the iPhone, I’ve noticed an increase in the quality of my videos. Colors are more natural and images are sharper. Cinematic mode makes subjects pop and gives my content a more professional look. Samsung has its own Cinematic Mode equivalent, called Portrait Video. It also does a decent job of blurring the background, but objects and people look a little less defined than on the iPhone.

One area where the Ultra is a clear winner is with video stabilization. Even walking down stairs the footage is incredibly smooth, as if you were using a gimbal. With the iPhone, you can still feel each step, and there’s a lot more speed.

S23 Ultra design vs iPhone 14 Pro

Let’s be honest: The iPhone’s camera bump is ridiculous. The Ultra is a breath of fresh air because the cameras don’t stick out as much, so it’s less wobbly when you put it down.

The S Pen on the Ultra is a fun addition, though I’ve never found myself rooting for it. I don’t want to write a lot by hand, and for almost all tasks I can just tap the screen. Still, I’m glad the legacy of the retired Galaxy Note series lives on.

samsung galaxy s23 ultra

The S Pen returns to the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

James Martin / CNET

The in-screen fingerprint reader was one of my favorite features on my Galaxy phone, and it’s nice to have that option again when using the Ultra. I missed this when I first switched to the iPhone, but Face ID was solid enough that I quickly got over it. Unlocking both the phones has been smooth.

Galaxy S23 Ultra costs the same as the iPhone

The S23 Ultra costs $1,200 for 256GB of storage, and it costs about the same as the iPhone 14 Pro Max with the same storage. The smaller iPhone 14 Pro is $1,100 for 256GB. Whether you’re a Galaxy fan or an iPhone lover, $1,200 is a lot. But in this case, you get what you pay for.

Final thoughts on Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra cameras

The camera bump seems a bit excessive on the iPhone 14 Pro.

John Kim / CNET

It’s fun to be back in the world I left behind, and I could compare it to the iPhone I’d have if I stayed in the Galaxy family. While there are aspects of the S23 Ultra that I appreciate, like brighter and more colorful pictures, better video stabilization, and incredible battery life, there are advantages to having an iPhone that go beyond specifications that will likely keep me in the Apple ecosystem for a while. Will keep in Whereas. Features like Airdrop and iMessage have made the user experience more seamless. And I don’t know if I could give up the iPhone’s video quality for anything else.

Still, I know that if I want to take a photo that will make people’s jaws drop, I’ll probably reach for the S23 Ultra. Then I’ll wait in shock as I tell them it wasn’t taken with an iPhone.

Watch the video above to see my experience trying out these two phones, as well as some side-by-side examples of photos and videos taken on each.

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