Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Choosing an ecosystem

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Choosing an ecosystem

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 is now official, which means it’s time to compare it to the top device from the Korean firm’s top competitor, Apple. Apple doesn’t make foldables, so our comparison remains limited to their best device right now, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Why even make the comparison in the first place? It makes sense for average users who are out in the market to spend around $1000 and are informed of their options through marketing and advertising. To them, these options make sense, and consequently, the comparison makes sense.

Obviously, it’s like these two smartphones come from two different worlds. One is foldable; one isn’t. One runs Android; one runs iOS. They live in two completely different ecosystems. In fact, when making that purchasing decision, you should probably consider what ecosystem you want to live in. Both Samsung and Apple offer a full stack including smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, Bluetooth earbuds, and more.


Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max Specs

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Specifications

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Processor 5nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor (2.84GHz + 2.4GHz + 1.8GHz) A14 Bionic (3.1GHz dual-core, 1.8GHz quad-core)
Display Main screen: 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display (22:9)
Infinity Flex Display 2,640×1,080, 425ppi, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
Cover screen: 1.9-inch Super AMOLED Display 260×512, 302ppi
6.7 inches, 1,284×2,778, Super Retina XDR OLED, 19,5:9, 458ppi
Body Folded: 72.2×86.4×17.1mm
Unfolded: 72.2x166x6.9mm
Weight: 183g
160.8×78.1×7.4mm (228g)
Cameras 12MP f/1.8 wide (OIS, Dual Pixel AF) + 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
Front: 10MP f/2.4
12MP wide f/1.6 (Dual Pixel PDAF, sensor-shift stabilization) + 12MP ultra-wide f/2.4 + 12MP 2.5x telephoto f/2.2 (PDAF, OIS)
Front: 12MP f/2.2
Battery 3,300mAh dual battery 3,687mAh
Memory 8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage 6GB RAM with 128GB/256GB/512GB storage
Water resistance IPX8 IP68
OS Android 11 iOS 14
Colors Cream, Green, Lavender, Phantom Black, Gray, White, Pink Silver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific Blue
Price Starts at $1,799 Starts at $1,099

Design and Display: The Galaxy Z Flip 3 folds, the iPhone doesn’t

Indeed, the key difference between these two devices is that one folds, and the other doesn’t. The whole idea behind the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series is that it can be folded into something more compact and pocketable, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a standard rectangular slab that makes no such attempts. In fact, for a lot of people, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a little too big, and my colleague Ben can often be heard complaining about the poor ergonomics on the Pro Max.

iPhone 12 Pro Max on top of Galaxy Z Flip 3

There are other advantages too. Both displays are OLED, of course. Samsung offers a 120Hz refresh rate though, which means you get smoother motion and animations.

On the other hand, the display on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is both larger and with a higher resolution. Both screens are 6.7 inches measured diagonally, but with the larger 19.5:9 aspect ratio, the screen on the iPhone is bigger than the 22:9 display on the Galaxy Z Flip 3. The pixel density is still higher with the iPhone at 458ppi, compared to 425ppi.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and iPhone 12 Pro Max with displays on

Since the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a foldable device, it does have an additional screen on the outside, which is good for seeing the time and notifications. It’s worth noting because while Apple does have a much larger screen that’s in plain sight all the time, it’s not always on.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 in all four colors with screens on

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 also comes in more fun colors than the iPhone 12 Pro Max does. Apple just doesn’t do fun colors with its ‘Pro’ products, so there’s only Graphite, Silver, Gold, and Pacific Blue. If you want fun colors, you have to sacrifice some quality.

Note the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a larger battery, and consequently better battery life. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is 45g lighter than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so that compromise might be worth it for those looking at the portability aspect of the device.

Camera: The iPhone 12 Pro Max beats the Galaxy Z Flip 3

The camera isn’t the priority with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. Indeed, this device is all about the form factor. If you want a regular smartphone that you can fold into something smaller, that’s exactly what the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is for. That doesn’t mean that it has a bad camera, but it’s more likely to be beaten by a more traditional smartphone.

Both of these devices have 12MP main sensors, although there’s a smaller f/1.8 aperture on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 than the f/1.6 aperture on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Both of them offer a night mode, but I’d expect better low-light performance out of the iPhone.

iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy Z Flip 3 cameras

They also both have ultra-wide sensors, f/2.4 on the iPhone and f/2.2 on the Galaxy. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the only one with a third, telephoto lens, and that comes in with 2.5x zoom. If you’re into lossless zoom, that’s a clear advantage for the iPhone.

Honestly, if you’re looking for the best camera chops from Samsung, you came to the wrong place. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the clear winner there, and even the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does a better job than the Galaxy Z Flip 3. The smaller something gets, the harder it is to pack technology into it. That doesn’t mean that the cameras are poor on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 — they’re pretty good for what they are, and most users should be content with the general package. But if you’re specifically looking to flex your camera skills, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the but-obvious winner.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max uses Apple’s custom A14 Bionic chipset. That means they also have two completely different ISPs. Indeed, it’s not just the sensor that decides how good a smartphone camera is. The image signal processor and the software also both make a big difference.

Many of the improvements in the Qualcomm Spectra 580 have to do with triple-lens cameras, such as the ability to take three pictures at the same time. Obviously, that doesn’t help the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Apple of course develops its own ISP to work directly with the sensor since it owns the whole stack. That’s how it can come up with cool features like Deep Fusion, which is meant to improve texture and detail.

Conclusion: Buying into an ecosystem

If you’re just buying a phone and that’s it, that’s fine. You might even be the type that just never buys first-party accessories in the lifetime of the device. There are lots of Bluetooth earbuds that work with any device, and the same goes for smartwatches. In fact, almost all of Samsung’s peripherals work with iPhones too, although a lot of Apple’s stuff doesn’t work with non-Apple devices.

Let’s take a look at what you’re buying into.

Samsung Apple
Phone Galaxy Z Flip 3 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Smartwatch Galaxy Watch 4 Apple Watch Series 6
Earbuds Galaxy Buds 2 AirPods
Tablet Galaxy Tab S7 iPad Pro
Laptop Galaxy Book Pro MacBook Pro

If you’re at a point right now where you’re looking at phones, you might not have even thought about this yet. It’s something to consider, so perhaps it’s worth doing some light research on options like a smartwatch and earbuds just to see what you like. No one is forcing you to pair up with a smartwatch right away, but it’s just something to think about.

iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy Z Flip 3 cameras

There’s no easy decision as to whether to go with Samsung or Apple, or to go with Android or iOS. A lot of that comes down to personal preference. As far as the hardware goes, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is objectively better, and why shouldn’t it be? The traditional form factor is always better because we already know how to make it good. It has a better camera, a larger battery, a better screen, and more.

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 folds into something more compact. It’s lighter and fits into smaller spaces, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is actually quite big. If you’re used to fitting your phone into small spaces, then a big device like the iPhone 12 Pro Max is going to stick out. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 could be just the fix for that problem that you need.

If you go for the Flip 3, make sure to check out our deals roundup. There are also lots of cases to check out.

    The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 takes the flip phone form factor and takes it to the next level.
    The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the flagship of Apple's smartphone family.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.

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