Did you buy an iPhone 15 series phone this year? Then this one isn’t for you. This one is for the Samsung Galaxy fans. I’m confident there isn’t much overlap this year between Galaxy fans and iPhone 15 buyers, because this year’s iPhone won’t convince Galaxy fans to switch, but Apple has a plan to switch everyone, eventually.
Don’t get me wrong, the new iPhone 15 Pro Max is really impressive. I got mine today from AT&T, and our Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff got one from Apple, and he said it “raises the bar” for all smartphones in his Pro Max review.
Is it the absolute best phone you can buy? That’s like asking what is the best meal I can eat. Apple cooked up an amazing dish, and it’s satisfying today’s hunger. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other chefs worth sampling. We’ll be hungry again, tomorrow.
The iPhone 15 is faster but so what?
In practical terms, what can the best iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max do that the Galaxy S23 Ultra cannot? I have both phones, and I’ve racked my brain and dug into every feature and setting. I can’t find anything significant that sets the iPhone apart, let alone pushes it ahead. There are advantages, but Apple isn’t using its advantages the way you’d expect.
The iPhone 15 Pro is a faster phone than any Android on the market. Apple’s A17 Pro chipset is a blazing beast of performance, and it beats Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy CPU on every benchmark test we use. But where do those superlative results appear in real life? If the iPhone 15 Pro is so much faster than any Android, how do users actually benefit? It’s unclear.
The iPhone is simply reliable. It works. Apple seems to be using its power to keep the iPhone running, but running in a smooth and uncomplicated fashion. The iPhone doesn’t mess around with floating windows, with side panels that swipe in from the edge, or live wallpapers beyond some simple depth effects. The iPhone is what car enthusiasts call a “sleeper.” It’s a Toyota Camry with a Lamborghini engine under the hood.
You can see that performance if you play the latest games, but the best gaming phones are still Android phones because phones like the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate and Nubia’s Red Magic 8S Pro offer more than just performance: they give you cooling, a huge battery, and software to play and share your gaming highlights.
In other words, the iPhone 15 Pro’s biggest advantage over Android is being squandered. Why does Apple even bother making faster and faster chips for its iPhone, if the phone is already so far ahead, and there isn’t much use for all that power, anyway?
The iPhone 15 is prettier, I will not be taking comments
Besides features and performance, I’d argue that the iPhone 15 has a better design than the Galaxy S23, or even Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 5 foldable phone. It’s very close, and you’d literally need a magnifying glass to spot differences worth caring about, but those differences are there, nonetheless.
The iPhone simply has a smoothness and attention to detail that Samsung is unwilling to match. There is a level of precision and perfection in the iPhone that seems imitated in the best Samsung phones, but not duplicated.
Still, we’re talking about minute differences, and most people rightly don’t care. These differences don’t affect performance, or features, or anything tangible. They are aesthetic differences, and Apple fans may feel all the feels about Apple’s level of design polish, but it doesn’t necessarily make the iPhone better.
Could Apple do anything to make Galaxy fans switch?!
What could Apple do to make Galaxy fans switch? What would Apple do, if it really felt the need to win buyers away from Samsung? It’s hard to imagine what Apple could add to an iPhone 16 that would make me drop my eventual Galaxy S24 Ultra to buy an iPhone instead next year.
Would Apple add a 10X telephoto zoom lens? It seems like even Samsung is backing away from the superzoom capability, so it probably wouldn’t bother, unless it could do something really impressive. Could Apple make its camera so much better than Samsung's camera that Galaxy fans would have no choice but to switch? That’s incredibly unlikely.
Could Apple give the iPhone a better display? No chance; that’s always been the Galaxy phone’s best feature. Would Apple add a pen to the iPhone? Again, that would be laughable, given Apple’s history with styli.
There could be some major advance in features that Apple develops first and uses on its phones, but if so, we haven’t heard about it yet. That’s the thing with phones. The new features aren’t a surprise anymore, because the companies that actually make those components brag about them months before any phone gets launched.
We heard about the 200MP camera in the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra when it was originally produced by Samsung Semiconductor, a separate division of the Samsung group. We learned about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor from Qualcomm, long before there was ever a phone announced that would be powered by it. The sensors that Apple uses in its cameras are regularly used in Sony phones first, because Sony makes many iPhone camera sensors.
Corning shows off its Gorilla Glass; Sony talks up its new image sensors; Qualcomm demonstrates advanced 5G modems. All of these parts eventually make it into a new iPhone, a new Galaxy, a new Pixel. There aren’t any surprises.
In fact, Samsung’s other divisions are at the cutting edge of most of those component parts. Samsung foundries make some of the best processing chips and RAM memory. Samsung Display makes the best displays. Apple uses most of these parts in its iPhone, and though it frequently shifts suppliers and tries to make its own pieces, that hasn’t always been successful.
You'll switch after Apple switches everyone else
Someday you may feel compelled to switch. You may have no other choice
Apple won’t compete with Samsung and Android on features. It needn't bother. It can slowly add features to the iPhone, and Apple fans will applaud when iOS 17 gets to download maps for offline navigation, a feature that Google Maps has had for years. It doesn’t matter, the iPhone is slowly getting better, and its fans aren’t leaving it behind.
Apple doesn’t need to compete with Samsung directly, because it can simply drain off its user base slowly, drip by drip. As it locks in iPhone owners with new features that only work on iPhone, or only work between iPhone owners, it makes the web stronger.
Most of the people I know who switch today from Galaxy to iPhone do so begrudgingly, not because Apple has enticed them. They give up. They can’t stand being left out of the group chat.
I know Grandparents who want to be up to date on everything about their grandchildren, but their own children use iPhones. They can’t tell the rest of the family to switch to WhatsApp. They can’t insist on Zoom when everybody else uses FaceTime. So they switch.
I have friends who don’t want to be left out of the group chat where every evening and weekend is planned. They want to be social, but the iPhone keeps them locked out. Is it more antisocial to use a platform that only works with one company’s phone, or is it more antisocial to tell all of your friends to switch so that you can play, too.
There’s no good answer, because it’s a competition among phone companies for your business, and there will be a winner and a loser. Right now, Apple is winning in the US, and it’s going to be asserting its dominance more than ever to keep its fans locked in with exclusive features that work not only on an iPhone, but between iPhones as well.
Hang onto your Galaxy, for now. It’s an amazing phone, and Samsung phones keep getting better. Someday you may feel compelled to switch. You may have no other choice if you want to keep your family together and your social life alive. It won’t be your fault, and it won’t be an improved iPhone that tempts you. Apple built its web around you, and it is intricate and gorgeous and nearly complete.