A Week With iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra definitely wins in the hardware department.

I own an iPhone Pro. I’ve been interested in the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G ever since spending time with and reviewing it in early February. Now, I have another S21 Ultra 5G in my hands, and I’m going to be upset — not devastated — about giving it back in a week. As a piece of hardware, it’s better than the iPhone Pro. But I’m still most comfortable with iOS rather than Android.

Note that this article talks about the iPhone Pro, not the Pro Max, the Apple phone usually compared directly to the 5G Ultra. Besides the size and camera (to a certain extent), the Pro isn’t much different than the Max.

Size and Display

The Ultra 5G has a 6.8-inch screen, and just like the 6.7-inch iPhone Pro Max, it feels too big to be used as a phone. Of course, others disagree. The extra-large devices are good for people whose eyes aren’t all quite there. However, I think the 6.1-inch iPhone Pro is the perfect size — not too big or not too small. It fits in your pocket without someone saying, “Is that a smartphone in your pocket, or are you just happy……”

The iPhone 12 Pro is more compact than the S21 Ultra.

Both have ultra high-res screens. The 12 Pro has a 460 ppi OLED screen, and the S21 Ultra’s screen displays 515 ppi. The human eye can’t really tell the difference with the resolution, but it can easily see that at the default level, Samsung’s screen is more vivid. You can mess with the Accessibility settings in iOS to make the iPhone’s colors more vivid, but they end up feeling less natural than Samsung’s.


On paper, the Ultra 5G’s camera looks much better with a 108MP wide-lens camera. The Ultra 5G also has a 12MP ultra-wide lens and a 10MP telephoto lens. The 12 Pro has 12MP ultra-wide, telephoto, and wide lenses. Both take excellent pictures. 

The Ultra 5G, however, offers 10x optical zoom (with up to 100x “space zoom”), while the iPhone 12 Pro only has 2x optical zoom. For some, that makes the Ultra 5G an automatic win, but it’s not that simple. In non-zoomed shots, the iPhone 12 Pro takes clearer pics that have more details and better focus.

Operating System

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Samsung Galaxy devices ran iOS? They don’t. And this is what makes the iPhone 12 Pro a better overall phone than the Galaxy S21 Plus. The iPhone 12 Pro is just a lot smoother: The apps launch faster; there is better collaboration with your Apple devices; and no matter how much you play with equalizers, the iPhone 12 Pro sounds better with a variety of different Bluetooth headsets.

If you are a photographer who lives and breathes in the Samsung ecosystem, the S21 Ultra should be your pick. For the rest of us, the iPhone 12 Pro will provide an overall more robust experience.

About Daryl

Daryl Deino has been a technology enthusiast since 1995 and has written for several newspapers and technology sites. Please reach him at [email protected].
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