Saturday, June 22, 2024

Why you should buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max instead of the iPhone 15 Pro

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An iPhone 15 Pro Max laying face-down outside, showing the Natural Titanium color.Joe Maring / Digital Trends

If you want the best iPhone money can buy in 2024, you have two options: the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. They have the same chipset, similar display technology, nearly identical cameras, etc. It’s a really close battle, save for the fact that the iPhone 15 Pro is $200 cheaper.

Contents

  • It’s a big iPhone you won’t hate using
  • The 5x telephoto camera
  • So much room for activities
  • More battery is always a good thing
  • Is it worth an extra $200?

It might be tempting to save some cash and choose the iPhone 15 Pro, but I recommend you splurge for the larger (and more expensive) iPhone 15 Pro Max. Why? Let me explain.

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It’s a big iPhone you won’t hate using

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The iPhone 14 Pro Max was my iPhone of choice for a good portion of 2022 and 2023. However, I eventually downgraded to the smaller iPhone 14 Pro. Why? The Pro Max model was too damn big and heavy. Thankfully, this has not been an issue with the iPhone 15 Pro Max — and it all has to do with Apple’s titanium design.

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The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a whopping 20 grams lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and you really feel that difference. The iPhone 15 Pro Max isn’t a small phone by any means, but it doesn’t feel like an unwieldy brick like its predecessor did. The lighter body is also joined by smoother edges around the display, giving the iPhone 15 Pro Max a softer, more welcoming in-hand feel.

I’ve been daily-driving the iPhone 15 Pro Max since September, and not once has the phone felt too cumbersome — something I can’t say about any previous Pro Max iPhone models. I agree that Apple overdid it with its titanium advertising, but it really does make a big difference. If you’ve always wanted a larger iPhone but have been put off by the size and weight, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the first without those problems — and it’s fantastic.

The 5x telephoto camera

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Although Apple usually limits differences between the Pro and Pro Max iPhones to display and battery size, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has another big advantage over the iPhone 15 Pro: its telephoto camera.

If you get the smaller iPhone 15 Pro, you get a 12MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom. It’s fine, but it’s virtually identical to the telephoto camera on the iPhone 14 Pro. The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s telephoto camera is still 12MP, but it ups the optical zoom to 5x.


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A photo of a Fall Out Boy concert, taken with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

A photo of a squirrel sitting outside in the snow, taken with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Photo from the iPhone 15 Pro Max telephoto camera of a bee on flowers.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Photo from the iPhone 15 Pro Max telephoto camera of a sculpture of a dog.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Photo from the iPhone 15 Pro Max telephoto camera of a colorful metal fish.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Photo from the iPhone 15 Pro Max telephoto camera of a military airplane.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Photo from the iPhone 15 Pro Max telephoto camera of a building in Grand Rapids.

iPhone 15 Pro Max 5x telephoto camera Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Although the upgrade from 3x to 5x isn’t a game-changer, there is a noticeable jump in quality. Our iPhone 15 Pro Max camera test confirms this, with the 5x telephoto camera capturing much sharper, more detailed photos than Apple’s older 3x camera. It’s not a night-and-day difference, but there is a clear advantage to the iPhone 15 Pro Max if you take a lot of zoomed-in photos.

As someone who’s been using the phone for over six months, I’ve loved having the extra zoom at my disposal. Whether I’m snapping photos of concerts, squirrels trying to steal food from my birdfeeders, etc., the added flexibility the 5x zoom lends to my photography can be really special at times.

So much room for activities

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s a perk worth highlighting. If you get a bigger iPhone, you get a bigger display. Who would have imagined?

Joking aside, the upgrade from a 6.1-inch screen on the iPhone 15 Pro to a 6.7-inch screen on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a substantial one. You have more room to watch movies, play games, browse the web, and so on. Even as someone who has a soft place in his heart for small phones, there’s no denying the convenience that comes with a bigger display.

When I watch YouTube videos, I get a bigger canvas to really enjoy what I’m watching. When playing Marvel Snap or Call of Duty Mobile, the extra room for controls and other gameplay elements is hard to live without when returning to a smaller phone. Even things like framing a picture in the Camera app, browsing sites on Safari, or scrolling through TikTok look better on the bigger screen. This used to come with the trade-off of having to put up with an uncomfortable phone, but as I mentioned above, the titanium design means that’s no longer an issue.

More battery is always a good thing

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The bigger size of the iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn’t just mean you get a bigger display; the other benefit is a larger battery. Apple doesn’t officially disclose battery size, but in our testing, there’s a pretty clear battery advantage if you splurge for the Pro Max instead of the Pro.

The iPhone 15 Pro can easily get through a normal day on a single charge. In our iPhone 15 Pro review, Christine found she was getting from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. with anywhere from 30 to 20% battery remaining. On more intense days, the iPhone 15 Pro can dip to 50% battery by noon.

After over six months with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, I tend to hit 50% battery remaining around 5 p.m. most days — often with a couple of hours of screen time thanks to YouTube, Marvel Snap, Safari, TikTok, Instagram, and other apps. This is also with an Apple Watch Ultra 2 and an Oura Ring connected to the phone, plus the always-on display enabled.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max isn’t the most impressive smartphone in 2024 if battery life is your number-one priority (you should look at the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra or OnePlus 12 instead), but it will always last longer than the iPhone 15 Pro.

Is it worth an extra $200?

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Now we get to the million-dollar question — or, more specifically, the $1,199 question. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has some clear advantages over the iPhone 15 Pro, but is it really worth $200 more? I’d argue that it is.

The larger screen, bigger battery, and more advanced telephoto camera are all fantastic — and the fact that you can get those perks in a smartphone you can comfortably use is incredible. But that’s not all. While the iPhone 15 Pro does have a cheaper starting price of $999, that only gets you 128GB of storage — a tiny number by 2024 standards. Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199 and gives you 256GB as the default storage amount.

If you already know you can’t live with 128GB of storage, you’ll realistically be looking at the 256GB configuration for the iPhone 15 Pro, which increases the price to $1,099. At that point, it really just makes sense to spend another $100 on the Pro Max.

Does all of this mean the iPhone 15 Pro is a bad choice? Not at all. It’s still one of the best iPhones you can buy, and if you personally prefer smaller phones, you may be fine with its lesser battery life and worse telephoto camera in exchange for its more compact size. But if you’re open to a bigger phone and have a little bit more cash to spend, it’s hard not to recommend going all out with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

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