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The Galaxy S24 Ultra beats the iPhone in the worst way possible

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The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in its launch colors.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in its launch colors.

Everything seems to be more expensive these days, but it has always been a fairly solid and accepted rule that the biggest, most powerful Apple iPhone model — currently the iPhone 15 Pro Max — would be the most expensive non-folding smartphone you could buy, even in its most basic configuration.

However, in a continued effort to steal Apple’s thunder — not being content with the 5x optical zoom camera and titanium frame — Samsung has priced the Galaxy S24 Ultra higher than its prequel, giving it the dubious honor of being even more expensive than an iPhone.

All the big numbers

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's rear panels.
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's rear panels.

If you buy the base specification iPhone 15 Pro Max, which comes with 256GB of internal storage space, you’ll be asked to part with $1,199 before it’s handed over. In the U.K., it’s 1,199 British pounds. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s direct competitor, and the base model also has 256GB of internal storage space, but it costs $1,299. In the U.K., it’s 1,249 pounds.

Not only is the Galaxy S24 Ultra more expensive than the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but it’s also more expensive than the Galaxy S23 Ultra was when it launched in March 2023 for $1,199. At $1,299, the biggest, most powerful Galaxy S24 model is more expensive than the Google Pixel 8 Pro by $300, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 folding smartphone by $300, and the new Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro gaming phone by $100.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 held in both hands.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 held in both hands.

It’s only beaten by the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and other big-screen folding phones like the Google Pixel Fold and the OnePlus Open, which cost in excess of $1,600. But in those cases, you are getting a mobile device that could be considered right on the cutting edge of technology at the moment.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is shaping up to be excellent, just like its predecessor, but it’s rather difficult to spot exactly where the alterations that justify the price increase are.

Why is the S24 Ultra more expensive?

The Samsung Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 Ultra's frames.
The Samsung Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 Ultra's frames.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is different from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, with three primary aspects potentially responsible for the cost increase. Samsung has put a lot of effort into AI in the new phone, and the research and development costs will probably be high. It also has the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor inside, which is another high cost on the final bill.

However, in the U.S., the Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Plus cost the same as the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus and use the same processor as the S24 Ultra. It doesn’t seem to be an increase in the cost of the processor, memory, or storage, as these are shared across all three phones. Samsung hasn’t radically changed the design of the phone this year, so that kind of expense isn’t being passed over to the customer either.

The Samsung Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 Ultra seen from the back.
The Samsung Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 Ultra seen from the back.

The third change is the use of titanium over aluminum, which is a more expensive material and one that’s fraught with geopolitical problems at the moment. Apple managed to swap from stainless steel to titanium without increasing the cost of the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max over that of the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. However, it could be the demand for the material, the continued complexity of mining it, and the increase in the cost of titanium that may be to blame.

If so, it raises the question of why Samsung decided to “compete” with Apple when, by doing so, it was going to have a seriously detrimental effect on the phone’s price. Samsung has also snagged an exclusive with Corning to feature its Gorilla Glass Armor over the screen on the S24 Ultra, which is another potentially big expense.

Is the higher price worth it?

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.

The price increase puts the Galaxy S24 Ultra on another level. When the S23 Ultra cost $1,199, it was still a very expensive phone. Even though it would last you for years, it required some pretty strong justification. Add another $100 to that price for its replacement, and it needs even more thinking about, especially when there are many other excellent smartphones available for less.

Before you dismiss the Galaxy S24 Ultra for being too expensive to consider, our initial impressions are very good, and it’s likely going to be worth the money if you’ve got it to spare. You can also help justify the cost by reminding yourself that the S24 Ultra is not the most expensive Ultra phone Samsung has ever made. That prize goes to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the first of the line, which cost a massive $1,399 at launch in 2020. Since then and until now, each Ultra phone has been $1,199.

The next time you see an iPhone 15 Pro Max out in the wild, remember that it is no longer the de facto “most expensive phone” and that Samsung has jumped in front with the Galaxy S24 Ultra — one of the priciest non-folding phones we’ve seen in a bit. Whether it has the ability to back up the price tag remains to be seen, and we’ll know more when we complete our final review.

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