The iPhone 15 Pro Max offers a powerful chip, an excellent camera, and the best battery life yet - rightly making USB-C the least exciting thing about it.
Light thanks to a Titanium body
Expensive now there’s no 128GB version
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The iPhone 15 lineup is here, and while the entire range is refreshed, the iPhone 15 Pro Max may just take the crown as the best iPhone ever.
Price - $1199.00
Screen size - 6.7-inch
Weight - 7.81 ounces (221g)
Memory - 8GB
Battery life - up to 29 hours of video playback (25 when streaming)
Storage - 256GB, 512GB or 1TB versions
Warranty - 1 year, extendable with AppleCare.
Operating system - iOS 17
Display - Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion and 2796x1290 resolution.
CPU - Apple A17 Pro chip (6-core CPU, 6-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine)
Ports - USB-C
That may feel like an accolade that's meant less in recent years because of Apple's iterative improvements, but this time around there's enough to easily warrant an upgrade from the 13 Pro Max, and maybe even the 14 Pro Max.
New this year is the USB-C connection (finally), but it's what's under the hood that draws the plaudits — the iPhone 15 Pro Max's A17 chip is a beast, capable of running games at staggering frame rates, while the battery life remains impressive.
Add to that a fantastic evolution of the iPhone camera, complemented by smart new software tricks (particularly for Portrait snaps) and a new Titanium construction that makes it a little lighter in the hand and there's a lot to like — even if the removal of the 128GB storage option means it's more expensive than ever to pick up the Pro Max.
Curious about how this stacks up to other smartphones? Read our guide to the Best camera phone. But if you need something to image the night sky with, try our Best telescopes and Best binoculars guides too.
iPhone 15 Pro Max review: Design
- Titanium frame
- 6.7-inch OLED display
- Finally switched to USB-C
We'll be honest, we were hoping for a slightly fresher design but as with any iPhone since the iPhone X, you'll be hard-pressed to spot differences here.
There's the Action Button, which replaces the Mute switch that's been in action since 2007 (more on that later), and the outer shell of the phone is now made of Titanium. That offers a lighter feel in the hand or in your pocket, and while it's not drastic, it's welcome - especially for a large phone.
Still, if it wasn't for the more pronounced 'lip' around the camera setup, the iPhone 15 Pro Max would've fit into our 13 Pro Max case.
The biggest change this year, however, is Apple playing catch-up with USB-C. That's right, the iPhone 15 lineup finally ditches Lightning, which feels strange to say after Apple wholeheartedly embraced USB-C with its older MacBook models - arguably to its detriment.
Still, it's here, and while much has been made of the need to buy a compatible cable for high-speed data transfer, it's nothing we haven't seen from Android flagships for years. Would it be nice to have a USB 3.0 cable included? Sure, especially at this price, but it's nothing new and, truthfully, we're just happy to be able to charge the iPhone with just about any other cable lying around the house.
iPhone 15 Pro Max review: Camera and Photography
- 48MP rear camera, 12MP Ultra Wide, 12MP Telephoto
- New software feature lets you adjust portraits after taking them
- 12MP front camera
The iPhone 15 Pro Max represents a sizeable step up in cameras - and this year, the biggest Pro phone gets a bonus that makes it Apple's best camera yet.
That addition is 5x optical zoom instead of the 3x optical zoom for the smaller Pro on the telephoto lens, and while the 25x digital zoom has mixed results, it's pretty capable up to 15x and below.
Other than that, much of the same excellent camera tech from last year has carried over - there's a 48MP rear camera, and a 12MP Ultra Wide alongside the aforementioned Telephoto which offers 12MP.
Perhaps the best new addition, though, is the ability to adjust a Portrait photo's focal point after taking it. The iPhone will now capture depth data when it detects a human or animal subject, letting you adjust the bokeh effect around multiple subjects, or blur someone in the foreground.
For someone constantly trying to take pictures of a fast-moving 4-year-old or my elusive cat, I found it to be handy since it allows me to skip the step of switching to Portrait mode, although it's worth noting it'll still work on the iPhone 13 and 14 series according to Apple.
As you can see from our camera samples, the detail is clear, even in bright daylight. Check out the details on the boats, for example, or the ripples on the water.
Color is captured pretty true-to-life, but that accuracy can once again be augmented with the Photography Styles filters which can be set before or after taking a photo.
You can still capture images in ProRAW, with the caveat that the file sizes will be huge — but the removal of the 128GB option means you're at least starting with 256GB of storage.
I've not found a huge that's fresh from last year when it comes to video, other than the option to record directly to external storage thanks to the USB-C connection. That means if you have a drive handy, you can record 4K video at 24, 25, 30 or 60p direct to the storage itself.
iPhone 15 Pro Max review: Specs and performance
- Unbelievable performance from the A17 chip
- Easily capable of multi-tasking
- Great battery life
The iPhone 14 Pro felt like a step up from the 13 Pro, but the A17 in the 15 Pro lineup feels like a genuine leap for performance.
While Apple spent much of its Wanderlust event touting ray-tracing capabilities for more realistic lighting in games, you don't have to be playing big-budget, console-quality titles to feel the increased performance throughout iOS.
Throughout our testing, we opened dozens of apps at once, flicking between them, and running edits in Lightroom just to try and stress the processor out - and we failed. Switching between apps is lightning fast, and while last year's phone wasn't a slouch in any regard, this year's model really does sing when playing games.
Our usual test case, League of Legends Wild Rift, is more responsive than ever, even as ten players converge on each other, flinging spells and swords. The frame rate remains solid throughout, something that also applies to the always visually impressive Genshin Impact.
Apple has promised the likes of Assassin's Creed: Mirage will launch on iPhone with full-fat conversions of their console and PC counterparts, and while we're hopeful no compromises will be made, we weren't able to test it, or the Resident Evil games showcased at the event, at the time of writing.
Last year's iPhone 14 Plus was the king of iPhones when it came to battery life, but this year, the iPhone 15 Pro Max conquers all. Expect a huge 29 hours of battery life off of a single charge, notably when watching video - expect less with talk time or gaming.
Fast charging requires a 20W adapter and will get you 50% in 35 minutes, and there's no charger in the box again - just a USB-C to USB-C cable.
Finally, a word on the Action Button. While the new physical input is set up as a mute switch by default, there are plenty of options including translation and the flashlight. Using Shortcuts (Apple's automation offering) helps users trigger just about anything with it, though - including opening apps, changing Focus modes, and much, much more.
iPhone 15 Pro Max review - User reviews
You'll find plenty of happy customers at Best Buy, with the retailer's average rating for the iPhone 15 Pro Max sitting at 4.5 stars out of 5.
Many are impressed by the phone, with some noting it was time for them to switch from Android — and they've not regretted it.
Should you buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max?
While some while balk at the asking price, the iPhone 15 Pro Max represents the pinnacle of Apple's phone engineering. After a couple of years of evolutionary steps, it does feel like Apple is taking a more confident stride again, but it's still not quite a revolution.
Instead, it's the most powerful, longest-lasting iPhone to date, with a stunning camera that makes everyday photos a little more special.
If the iPhone 13 Pro Max isn't for you
If the sizeable footprint of the 15 Pro Max is too much for you, the iPhone 15 Pro offers much of the same in a smaller chassis — but does drop the 5x optical zoom which is a Pro Max exclusive feature this year.
Lloyd is a long-time freelancer specializing in computer and gaming tech, with a particular focus on all thing Apple. You'll find him regularly testing the latest iPhone or iPad, and you can also find him writing about video games all over the internet. He also has an interest in virtual reality, which he has written about extensively. He's currently the Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com.