It’s fair to say Apple has played it safe with the iPhone for the last few years. The last bold decision Apple made with their flagship iPhone was to remove the Touch ID button back in 2017 with the iPhone X, introducing an all-screen design and moving over to Face ID for biometric authentication. While the specs have improved, it feels like it’s getting harder to justify upgrading to the latest iPhone.
However, that seems to have changed this year with the iPhone 15 Pro Max release date. In addition to the usual spec bumps to the camera, display, and its powerful new A17 Pro chip, Apple has finally killed off its proprietary lightning port in favor of USB-C. This simple change has opened up a new world of possibilities for the iPhone, from filming ProRes footage directly to removable storage, to being able to use laptop and phone docks for the first time.
Let’s take a closer look at everything Apple’s latest and greatest has to offer in our iPhone 15 Pro Max review.
- Finally USB-C
- Lighter Titanium body
- Unrivaled performance
- Console-level GPU
- Battery life
- User reports of some devices overheating (Apple has addressed this and promises future iOS patches to fix)
Price and availability
You can purchase the iPhone 15 Pro Max directly from Apple and various service providers in a choice of four colors, which include Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium. Here are the available storage options and prices:
- 256GB – $1,199 / £1,199
- 512GB – $1,399 / £1,399
- 1TB – $1,599 / £1,599
You can also check out our guide to the best iPhone 15 deals to see if you can snap one up at a good price.
|Battery||4,441mAh battery with MagSafe and Qi wireless charging|
|Display||6.7‑inch 120Hz OLED display, (2796 x 1290 at 460 ppi)|
|Chipset||A17 Pro: 6‑core CPU, 6‑core GPU|
|Storage||256GB / 512GB / 1TB|
|Back cameras||48MP Main, 12MP Ultra Wide, 12MP 2x & 5x Telephoto|
|Weight||221 grams (7.81 ounces)|
|Dimensions||(H) 159.9 mm x (W) 76.7 mm x (D) 8.25 mm|
|Colors||Natural Titanium / Blue Titanium / White Titanium / Black Titanium|
The iPhone 15 Pro Max replaces the often forgotten silent switch for the action button, a customizable button that you can use to launch the camera, flashlight, focus, magnifier, accessibility, shortcuts, translate, voice memo, or silent mode. I’ve been using the iPhone long enough to know that the camera shortcut on the home screen can be finicky at times, so it’s great to have a dedicated button to open it up instead.
Being able to use the action button with the shortcuts app is sure to open a range of possibilities for the feature, but at its core, the customizable button is simply a better use of space compared to the one-trick silent switch. The Apple Watch already made this switch redundant, and if you’re a watchless iPhone user, we’d be willing to bet you use your phone in silent mode anyway.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s GPU upgrade has also transformed the phone from a competent mobile gaming device to a fully-fledged competitor for some of the best portable gaming consoles. Even in 2023, we continue to see developers go out of their way to make low-end versions of their ‘proper’ games. Apple’s presentation highlighted that AAA games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Resident Evil Village will be playable on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.
Now that the iPhone has the power to play AAA games, Apple has the hardware to establish itself as a new player in the console gaming space. We’ve seen AAA games come to Apple’s products in the past, like Divinity: Original Sin 2 on the iPad and Resident Evil Village on MacOS, but this is the first time that same courtesy has been extended to the iPhone. Both Microsoft and Sony have tried to bring cloud gaming to mobiles, but the iPhone has become so powerful that it doesn’t need to rely on the cloud to play current-generation games.
Prior to the Apple vs Epic lawsuit, the fact that players could party up across a range of devices in Fortnite seemed revolutionary at the time. We’ve seen other games like Genshin Impact and Minecraft achieve similar levels of cross-play compatibility, and with the power of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, this could be expanded to even more games.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max can run the RE Engine, so Street Fighter 6 could potentially come to the iPhone with crossplay compatibility. With the new USB-C port, in theory, you could dock the iPhone 15 Pro Max to give it a hardwired internet connection, display out to a monitor, and plug in an arcade stick into the hub for a fully competitive experience. Of course, this idea is entirely based on the potential of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Only time will tell how the games industry responds to the iPhone’s power, but so far the future is looking promising.
Thanks to the addition of USB-C, the iPhone 15 Pro models are the first iPhones to support USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds. This means that both the Pro and Pro Max support 10 Gbps data transfer speeds, which makes it possible for you to browse and record ProRes footage directly onto external storage devices. However, you have to buy a separate cable to achieve these speeds as Apple only supplies a standard USB 2 cable in the box.
The iPhone 12 models and beyond support MagSafe charging, and iOS 17’s StandBy feature makes MagSafe even more attractive this year. Specifically designed for iPhones with an always-on display (iPhone 14 onwards), StandBy lets you dock your device horizontally to utilize it in a variety of useful modes while it charges. If you have multiple MagSafe chargers dotted around your home, your device recognizes which room it’s in and switches to your desired mode. For example, for overnight charging in your bedroom, you can turn your iPhone into a bedside clock that displays the time and your alarms, whereas on your desk you may prefer looking at a digital photo frame instead.
In my experience coming from an iPhone 13 Pro Max, the differences in the cameras are slight but appreciated. With the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple’s priority is to give users more control. One issue with the iPhone 13 Pro Max is that the device automatically switches between the macro and main lenses while lining up a shot. Fortunately, it’s now possible to select the device’s different lenses manually, making it easy to take the photo you actually want.
Apple introduced portrait mode alongside the iPhone 7 Plus, which adds an adjustable bokeh effect behind your subject using depth maps produced by multiple camera lenses. I initially wrote this feature off as the effect looked cheap and unrealistic, but Apple has continued to improve it to the point where portrait shots can rival DSLR cameras.
The issue with portrait photos was that the user had to shoot in portrait mode, ensure enough light was on the subject, and be very close to them. When it comes to point-and-shoot photography, the last thing you want to do is mess around with settings and miss your golden opportunity. The iPhone 15 Pro Max removes all of these limitations, automatically capturing depth information when photographing a person, dog, or cat in its regular photo mode. This means you can convert a standard photo into a portrait without having to manually switch modes.
The biggest difference between the iPhone Pro and Pro Max is the telephoto lens, capping out at 3x on the Pro and increasing to 5x on the Pro Max. This gives you the ability to take clearer photos from further away without enhancing the image using digital zoom. It’s a far cry from the 100x zoom lens seen on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it’s a nice little bump from the iPhone 14.
The iPhone was already one of the best video cameras on the market, and USB-C has made the device that much better. As mentioned earlier, the transfer speeds using lightning were embarrassing for such a high-end device. While the iPhone had no issues capturing 4K60 videos, it would take hours to transfer to a computer using a wired connection. Thankfully, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s USB-C connection drastically improves the transfer rate which makes this device perfect for creating high-quality videos. You can even plug in a USB-C SSD drive to capture your footage directly, skipping the transfer process entirely.
With the amount of AI processing in use these days, you could argue the camera upgrade between the iPhone 13 Pro and 14 Pro wasn’t that significant. However, it’s clear that things have improved with the 15 Pro Max, even if the differences are slight this time around. The larger sensor on the 48-megapixel main camera adds more detail to photos, but you may need to zoom in to appreciate the enhancements. Overall, photos appear to be true to life without producing an overly saturated look, and videos look better than ever with the ability to shoot ProRes Log footage for professional use.
The iPhone hasn’t received a major redesign for years, with Apple instead focusing on tweaking specific elements on the device’s face such as shrinking the notch to create the dynamic island and minimizing its bezels. 2023 marks the end of stainless steel frames for the Pro models, replaced by a lighter Titanium body. The iPhone 15 Pro Max weighs just 221g versus its 240g predecessor and its curved edges make it a bit more comfortable to hold.
However, there’s been a notable uptick in complaints regarding Apple’s overall quality control this year. While I haven’t noticed any issues with my device, some users have reported that their iPhones have arrived with scratches on the body and camera lenses fresh out of the box.
Early durability tests conducted by large channels like JerryRigEverything have also revealed that the glass on the Pro Max model in particular is more susceptible to shattering. If you’re someone who usually uses a screen protector and case, there’s little cause for concern here. But if you prefer rocking a naked iPhone, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Pro Max is more fragile this year.
The display remains unchanged from the iPhone 14 Pro Max, sporting an OLED 120Hz panel that supports always-on functionality and the dynamic island. I’ve owned Android phones with always-on displays, but I still haven’t adjusted to it on my iPhone. It might have something to do with the Apple Watch making this feature mostly redundant, but it does come in handy with the StandBy feature we spoke about earlier.
The dynamic island was supposed to be Apple’s way of incorporating the Face ID sensor into everyday use. Instead of hiding the sensor, Apple has embraced it, using it to display alerts and track activities. Outside of the live activities that track the number of minutes left on a nearby food delivery, I find myself rarely thinking twice about it. Similar to the notch found on previous models, the dynamic island quickly blends into the background.
Overall, the display is everything you could possibly want from a mobile phone. It’s color-accurate, HDR content looks incredible on it, and it runs buttery smooth thanks to the 120Hz panel. Whether you’re browsing the web or catching up on the latest shows, you couldn’t ask for more from the 6.7” display.
In classic Apple fashion, this device goes for style over substance, focusing on the feel and weight of the iPhone rather than significantly increasing the size of the battery. The iPhone 15 Pro Max contains a slightly larger battery than last year’s model, 4,422 mAh over 4,323 mAh, but this doesn’t make a huge difference in day-to-day usage. On average, my device ends the day with around 60% battery remaining during the week, and 35% on the weekend. This is marginally lower than what I was seeing from my iPhone 13 Pro Max after almost two years of daily use.
We’ve seen Apple go out of its way to strive for the thinnest and lightest phone, but it seems like they’re happy with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The titanium frame makes the phone feel less bulky, and though it could have easily increased the size of the battery by making the device thicker, this isn’t a compromise Apple is willing to make.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a copy of Resident Evil Village to test on our device, but we do have one of the most power-hungry games on any phone: Genshin Impact. Hoyoverse’s anime game is a staple benchmark for both iOS and Android devices as it does a great job testing hardware limits.
You don’t have to worry about the game’s frame rate suddenly plummeting down to 30fps due to throttling and heating issues, as the GPU upgrade on the iPhone 15 Pro Max has done a great job of addressing these problems. It’s clear that the 15 Pro Max is undoubtedly the most powerful gaming phone on the market right now, and the future looks bright as more AAA games come to the App Store.
Apple has addressed that some third-party apps are currently causing iPhone 15 Pro models to overheat and has promised that future iOS 17 updates are in the works to solve this issue. While I haven’t encountered any issues while playing mobile games like Hearthstone, I did notice my iPhone heating up on its left side while browsing Reddit one evening.
It’s unclear how many people are experiencing these quirks, but from my experience, it shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Apple has assured users that the issue is not a hardware fault but rather a software bug, and that even in cases where your iPhone is running hotter than usual, it doesn’t pose a serious safety risk.
When you think about the word ‘Pro’, you think of industry-standard software, high-end hardware, and a premium design. While previous iPhone Pro models are able to boast some of these aspects, there’s always been a caveat that stops you from fully taking advantage of what the device has to offer.
For the first time since Apple introduced the ‘Pro’ moniker to the iPhone, the 15 Pro Max feels like the first device to truly justify its namesake. The addition of USB-C makes the iPhone feel more versatile than ever and, as a result, this year’s Pro Max model feels like it’s made a huge breakthrough with regards to ease of use and new functionality. Starting with this device, we’re also entering an exciting new phase that has the makings of redefining what mobile gaming means.
Not sure if the iPhone 15 Pro Max is for you? A GPU upgrade and fancy USB-C might not be for everyone, so here are some alternative smartphones to pick from.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
If you’ve invested in the Apple ecosystem then the only real alternative for the brand new iPhone is an older model. Depending on how you use your phone, a new charging port may not interest you in the slightest, in which case the iPhone 14 Pro Max will be more than sufficient for at least three more years – in fact, it even made it onto our list of the best gaming iPhones.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
The Android equivalent of the iPhone 15 Pro Max has to be the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, featuring a similar-sized screen, incredible cameras, and above-average performance compared to other phones on the market. Samsung even makes its own watch if you want to lock yourself into a different ecosystem. Check out our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review to find out more.
And that’s everything in our iPhone 15 Pro Max review. If you do decide to take the plunge and purchase this little beauty, be sure to check out our list of the best iPhone 15 Pro Max cases. We’ve also got a general list of the best iPhone cases, the best power banks, and the best Mint Mobile plans to help you kit out your tech.
Chances are we aren’t going to see a drastically new iPhone design until Apple decides they want to enter the folding phone market. Until then, expect to see incremental tech upgrades each year for the foreseeable future. If you’re the type of person who likes to keep their device for several years, this is the iPhone to pick up and hold onto. There will undoubtedly be more tech upgrades to come in the future, but there won’t be a leap like this for a while.