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iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung S21 Ultra: What’s the difference?

Phone advice | by Denise Timmis | Jun 15, 2022

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung S21 Ultra: What’s the difference?

Unsure whether to pick Apple or Android? We’re here to help. We’ll give you our two pennies’ worth on the iPhone 12 Pro Max v Samsung S21 Ultra debate—discussing everything from displays and cameras to processing power and water protection. If you’re clear on which handset to buy by the end of the article, check out our refurbished phones page for some money-saving offers. Let’s get to it.

Related blog: Why Is My Smartphone So Slow?

Size and design

Both the S21 Ultra and the 12 Pro Max are chunky handsets. They weigh 227g and 228g, respectively. The S21 Ultra is marginally taller, thicker, and narrower—but not by much. It also feels slightly easier to hold because of its slimmer profile and curved edges.

Both phones are wrapped in premium glass. The S21 Ultra’s all-screen display features a single-lens punch-hole selfie snapper, while the 12 Pro Max has slightly less space due to a sizeable notch. Around the back, the S21 Ultra has a set of five lenses to the top left, whereas the 12 Pro Max features a neater set of three.

Protection-wise, both phones are IP68 certified, which means they’re dust and water-resistant. However, the 12 Pro Max extends to depths of 6 metres, while its competitor only manages depths of 1.5 metres for 30 minutes.

Regarding colours, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is offered in Phantom Black and Phantom Silver. The iPhone 12 Pro is available in Graphite, Silver, Gold, and Pacific Blue.


iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung S21 Ultra dimensions: 


iPhone 12 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra








7.4 mm

8.9 mm


228 g (8.04 oz)

227 g  (8.01 oz)









Verdict: We’re edging towards the S21 Ultra.



Both screens pack a serious punch. The S21 Ultra has a gigantic 6.8inch curved OLED screen with a 1440x3200 resolution and an impressive 120Hz refresh rate. Likewise, the 12 Pro Max boasts a humongous flat 6.7inch OLED display, but its refresh rate is 60Hz lower. This means scrolling is a tad quicker and more intuitive on the S21 Ultra. What you will get across both handsets is vivid colours, clarity, and exceptional brightness.


S21 vs iPhone 12 display comparison:

iPhone 12 Pro Max Display: 

  • Type: Super Retina XDR OLED, HDR10, Dolby Vision, 800 nits (HBM), 1200 nits (peak)
  • Size: 6.7 inches, 109.8 cm2 (~87.4% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Resolution: 1284 x 2778 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio (~458 ppi density)
  • Protection: Scratch-resistant ceramic glass, oleophobic coating, Wide colour gamut, True-tone

Samsung S21 Display:

  • Type: Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits (peak)
  • Size: 6.8 inches, 112.1 cm2 (~89.8% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Resolution: 1440 x 3200 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~515 ppi density)
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, Always-on display

Verdict: Bigger display. Higher refresh rate. It’s a win for the Samsung S21 Ultra.



Okay, let’s chat cameras. The S21 Ultra has four rear lenses and a super sharp 40MP selfie snapper. The rear shooters feature a giant 108MP Wide-Angle Camera, one 12MP Ultra-Wide lens, and two 10MP Telephone snappers. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an f/4.9 aperture and 10x optical zoom.

The 12 Pro Max is no slouch either. It has a four-camera set-up, but the specs are slightly different. It has a 12MP f/1.6 primary camera, a 12MP f/2.4 Ultra-Wide lens, and a 12MP f/2.2 Telephoto snapper with a 2.5x optical zoom. There’s also a LiDAR scanner, which essentially creates a depth map of your surroundings. Look to the front, and you’ll see a 12MP selfie lens.

The S21 Ultra’s superior zoom function is one of, if not the best, delivering vivid clarity at long distances. Overall, though, the 12 Pro Max performs slightly better in low light conditions.

On the video side, we’re big fans of the S21 Ultra Director’s View. This function lets you simultaneously record from the front and back camera— perfect if you’re a vlogger. Its 10x periscope camera zoom also provides mind-blowing detail when shooting subjects from a distance. But there’s a plot twist: despite the S21 Ultra’s higher 8K video resolution, the 12 Pro Max non-zoomed videos generally have more visible clarity.


iPhone 12 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S21


12 MP, f/1.6, 26mm (wide), 1.7µm, dual pixel PDAF, sensor-shift OIS
12 MP, f/2.2, 65mm (telephoto), 1/3.4", 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2.5x optical zoom
12 MP, f/2.4, 13mm, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/3.6"
TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)

108 MP, f/1.8, 24mm (wide), 1/1.33", 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.24", 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
10 MP, f/2.4, 72mm (telephoto), 1/3.24", 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/2.55”, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video


Dual-LED dual-tone flash, HDR (photo/panorama)

LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama


4K@24/30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, 10‑bit HDR, Dolby Vision HDR (up to 60fps), stereo sound rec.

8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS

Verdict: We can’t call this one—draw.


Specs, performance, and battery life

Under the Samsung Galaxy S21’s bonnet is a respectable Exynos 2100 chipset that offers up bags of processing power. However, Apple’s 12-generation handset comes packed with an A14 bionic processor that arguably makes gaming, streaming, and multitasking a little smoother. 6GB RAM isn’t bad either, but Samsung’s S21 Ultra boasts a whopping 16GB on the 512GB model.

A significant point of difference is software. The S21 Ultra runs on Android, whereas the 12 features Apple’s iOS operating software. Android arguably affords more customisation with fewer restrictive features, such as allowing you to import phones from your laptop. However, iOS has many redeeming features. Firstly, Apple’s privacy is more advanced, and its AirDrop will enable you to transfer files between other iOS devices in a flash. It also has Face ID recognition, which we’d argue offers a better user experience than the S21 Ultra’s fingerprint scanner.

Our final talking point is battery life. The Samsung S21 Ultra boasts a massive 5,000mAh battery, bettering the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 3,687mAh unit. So, you’ll get more life out of the Samsung S21 Ultra—even when using its 120HZ display refresh rate. Both handsets also support fast charging, wireless charging, and 5G capabilities.


iPhone 12 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra


Exynos 2100 (5 nm) - International

Apple A14 Bionic (5 nm)


Octa-core (1x2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3x2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4x2.2 GHz Cortex-A55) - International

Hexa-core (2x3.1 GHz Firestorm + 4x1.8 GHz Icestorm)


Mali-G78 MP14 - International

Apple GPU (4-core graphics)

Battery type 

Li-Ion 5000 mAh, non-removable

Li-Ion 3687 mAh, non-removable (14.13 Wh)


Fast charging 25W
USB Power Delivery 3.0
Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W
Reverse wireless charging 4.5W

Fast charging 22W, 50% in 30 min (advertised)
USB Power Delivery 2.0
MagSafe wireless charging 15W
Qi magnetic fast wireless charging 7.5W

Verdict: The S21 Ultra powers to victory.



If you’re still undecided, we’ll offer some final thoughts. For us, the Samsung S21 Ultra slightly edges it. The handset has outstanding processing performance, display functionality, and a raft of top-of-the-range cameras. But if you’re reluctant to swap Apple for Android, the iPhone 12 Pro Max gives the S21 Ultra a decent run.

Whatever you decide, refurbished iPhone and second hand Samsung handsets are available from Envirofone for a fraction of retail prices. Better yet, you can save more money by selling your iPhone or Samsung to us and putting the cash towards your next gadget!

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