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iPhone 15 Pro Max beats Galaxy S23 Ultra in a surprisingly close speed test

Published Oct 4th, 2023 12:48PM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro on a shelf.
Image: Jonathan Geller, BGR

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The iPhone 15 series brought us the A17 Pro chip that powers the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. It’s an A-series chip unlike the ones that preceded it, allowing Apple to bring console-grade gaming to the iPhone. The chip is faster than anything available from Android vendors, and it can even outperform the latest M2 chip that powers iPads and MacBooks.

But we always want to assess the real-life performance of a new phone, which might tell a slightly different story than benchmarks. That’s where manual speed tests come in, comparing the latest iPhone to its direct competitor. The iPhone 15 Pro Max unsurprisingly won one such test, outperforming the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which is currently one of the best iPhone 15 alternatives you can get. But the results were much closer than you might expect.

Technically, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung’s answer to last year’s iPhone 14 series. The Galaxy S24 Ultra will be the real iPhone 15 Pro Max rival. That said, the Galaxy S23 Ultra managed to do something that rarely happens in these tests. It almost beat the iPhone 14 Pro Max earlier this year in a similar version of the trial, though the iPhone eventually won the race by a hair.

I’m saying it’s a similar test because we’re looking at another edition of PhoneBuff’s speed tests. The process is identical. A robot opens the same set of apps on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S24 Ultra. The total time is measured for this first lap. Then a second lap consists of the same robot reopening the apps to see which ones stay loaded in memory.

The purpose of this speed test is to (sort of) replicate real-life use. First, we want apps to open as fast as possible. That’s the first lap. Second, we want apps to stay open in memory for when we have to multitask. That’s your second lap.

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra speed test results.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra speed test results. Image source: YouTube

Usually, the iPhone wins the first lap without question. The Android phone competing against it can make up some time in the second time, as Android flagships typically have much more RAM. But Apple optimized iOS better than rival vendors can optimize Android.

With the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the Galaxy S23 Ultra won the first round by more than a second in early 2023. Fast-forward to early October and the Galaxy S23 Ultra is no match for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

As you’ll see in the test below, the iPhone wins both laps by about 2 seconds per lap. That’s quite an impressive performance, proving how fast the A17 Pro can be. Then again, the real speed test we want to see will come only next year, once the Galaxy S24 comes out.

I will point out that the A17 Pro is the only 3nm chip in the industry, and Samsung might not get access to a 3nm chip anytime soon. Also, the iPhone 15 Pro models come with 8GB of RAM, 2GB more than their predecessors.

With that in mind, the results of this test are closer than some might expect them to be.

The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max have an issue that Apple hopes to fix. The phones can overheat during intensive tasks. PhoneBuff addressed the issue during the clip, saying they did not notice thermal throttling.

But they said that the iPhone ran a bit warmer between trials. We’re looking at a temperature increase of about 2ºF higher than usual. But by the end of the trials, the temperature was only about 1ºF hotter. This allowed the iPhone to consistently finish the test first, the YouTuber notes.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.