- Slight redesign
- Titanium frame
- Mute switch is upgraded to Action Switch
- New A17 Pro processor with ray tracing, USB 3 data speeds
- No more 128 GB entry option
- New camera algorithms to improve image quality
- New 5x zoom lens
- USB Type C instead of Lightning
Table of Contents:
Design and Size
This one won’t be a Spider-Man meme
That’s not to say that the brushed titanium stays perfectly clean, but you can at least mask the smudging if you pick a lighter-colored model.
As for buttons — you will find the power and volume buttons to be on the same spots on both phones. But the iPhone 15 Pro Max has an extra one — the Action Button now replaces the good old mute toggle. By default, the Action Button will cycle through mute and ringer. But you will also be able to customize it to open apps, Siri shortcuts, flashlight, camera, Focus modes, et cetera.
Action Button vs Mute switch (Image credit – PhoneArena)
Yes, it puts the “fun” in “functional”, but we can’t say we won’t miss fidgeting with the good ol’ mute toggle on a classic iPhone (or a non-Pro).
We have mostly the same screens on both devices — Samsung-made OLED panels that have the Dynamic Island cutout on top, 120 Hz refresh rates, and 2,000 nit max (peak) brightness.
Do you ever need that much brightness? Possibly not, but Apple is using it for headroom so it can display HDR videos and photos comfortably, no matter your ambient lighting conditions.
The other numbers haven’t changed — same 6.7-inch size, with the same 1290×2796 resolution, and a 120 Hz ProMotion refresh rate. Apple has found what it’s comfortable with and, in fairness, it works.
iPhones have had a bit of a yellowish tint ever since they switched to OLED. That has gotten better over the years, but it’s still present on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Other colors, however, are excellent — that’s on both models.
And, of course, they both have the Night Shift and True Tone toggles to make viewing mode comfortable as your ambient conditions change,
Performance and Software
It is also a bit of a celebrity — the A17 Pro is the world’s first smartphone SoC built on a 3 nm process, which is ridiculously small. It fits 19 billion (with a b) transistors in it, and performs 18% more operations per second than the A16 Bionic inside the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
For real life use? The iPhone 14 Pro Max is still ridiculously powerful, so the iPhone 15 Pro Max will simply be “more headroom” for 90% of users out there.
What is cool is that the chip has actually convinced some game developers to actually bring their console-grade games to the iPhone 15 Pro. No, that’s not a metaphor like “Raid: Shadowlegends is console-level” — we are talking about heavy-hitting titles like Resident Evil: Village and even the hotly-anticipated Assassin’s Creed: Mirage!
Apple’s wording made it sound like these games are only coming to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, but we’ll see… It doesn’t sound like a great investment for a game studio to only develop for two devices.
What we do know is that the iPhone 14 Pro Max is is still very snappy, fast, smooth, and basically among the best-performing smartphones on the market. Its A16 chip will likely live on inside the non-Pro iPhone 15, so it’s obviously not going to be considered obsolete just yet.
We get it — most people just use AirDrop anyway. But if you are using an iPhone Pro Max… as a pro tool, you will be happy to know that those 4K 60 FPS video files will now transfer much faster. In fact, you will be able to record 4K 60 FPS ProRes videos straight onto an external drive if you hook it up to the iPhone 15 Pro Max via a USB 3 cable.
Tetra-mega-… look, it’s 5x zoom!
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 14 Pro Max (Image credit – PhoneArena)
The main camera sensor of the iPhone 15 Pro Max hasn’t changed — it’s still the big 48 MP one that was introduced with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. What’s new with the 15 is the image processing.
And, as you can see from the photos above — these cameras do perform very, very similar. Specifically night-time shots look identical. However, when the lighting is good, we can spot that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has slightly more realistic details, where the iPhone 14 Pro Max oversharpens. Also, the way the 15 Pro Max treats high dynamics is slightly more realistic, with a softer look and more details pulled from shadows, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro Max can have a bit of a sharp, contrasting difference in areas where bright objects and dark shadows intersect.
By all means, both cameras are excellent, and thus far, we can see small improvements in the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but nothing to stop the bus for just yet.
In any case, we can definitely see the improvement when comparing to the iPhone 14 Pro Max — at 5x, the new model is basically using the entire sensor and the details are crisp and clear. The iPhone 14 Pro Max sample at 5x is ok… but fine details are getting jagged and garbled.
Then, at 10x zoom, the iPhone 15 Pro Max preserves not only better details but more vivid colors, where the iPhone 14 Pro Max image is starting to look washed-out and unappealing.
The ultra-wide camera does seem to be the same hardware-wise, but we can see some processing differences. Apple did promise better night-time performance and we can see it, as the iPhone 15 Pro Max gave us better details and dynamics at night. The daytime ultra-wide shots look very similar, with a slight difference in color temperature between the two images — the iPhone 14 Pro Max appearing slightly warmer.
Not much was promised about a selfie camera upgrade, and we can’t really see much difference in their real-life performance. Apple did state that it has worked hard to improve skintones with the new iPhone 15 cameras, so maybe further testing is needed with different complexions and lighting conditions.
Audio Quality and Haptics
Apple’s haptics have been industry-leading for years (though, Android manufacturers did catch up about 3 years ago). At this point, we don’t know how the haptics can be made better — the Taptic engine in the iPhone 14 Pro Max clicks and clacks super-accurately with pleasing feedback, as it has for years now. That’s not changing with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Battery Life and Charging
All day battery? You betcha
The Apple A-series chips are pretty powerful, but if you don’t put some reigns on them, they can melt through a battery, too. On the other end of the spectrum, the efficiency cores are truly that — efficient — and iPhones do great at regular day-to-day operations.
Also, iOS is exceptionally good at preserving charge while in standby, somehow magically keeping the battery from dropping while your screen is asleep.
So, Pro Max iPhones have been pretty dependable to deliver up to 2 days of use on a single charge. Does the iPhone 15 Pro Max squeeze more out of the battery with the A17 Pro’s energy-efficiency?
PhoneArena Battery Test Results:
Interesting results — it seems the iPhone 15 Pro Max can get more out of its battery when gaming, but drains faster when video-streaming. While it’s not a gargantuan difference, 1 hour either way is not something to completely ignore. And, as you can see, for regular web tasks, both phones perform identically.
So, in real life, it’s kind of hard to measure that difference in exact tasks. But we can say that, in our day-to-day lives, the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivers enough juice to give us at least a day-and-a-half of use. Same as the 14 Pro Max.
What about charging? Same 20 W draw on the wire, 15 W with MagSafe chargers. The iPhone 15 Pro Max will also work with the upcoming Qi2 chargers, but we see no reason that the iPhone 14 Pro Max wouldn’t — Qi2 was basically designed with Apple’s help (Cupertino gave away the ring of magnets so now everyone can have sticky chargers).
Looking at the table here, we can definitely say that whatever notable improvements the iPhone 15 Pro Max has, they are either in the software or stem from the field of “Apple Magic”. Though, the faster USB C port is definitely a long overdue and much needed upgrade.
Summary and Final Verdict
By all means, if you currently have an iPhone 14 Pro Max, you should feel pretty set — we don’t think an upgrade to iPhone 15 Pro Max is mandatory or that much of an improvement. Unless you really, really want that optical zoom and the USB 3 speeds (we get it, especially if you actually use that Pro iPhone as a video camera. A novel concept in a product with a Pro moniker).
In fact, we do think we will be recommending the iPhone 14 Pro Max as a “cheaper super-premium phone” as long as it’s available (shops and carriers will be clearing stock!).