The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best phone ever. Yawn. – Macworld

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Apple’s newest iPhones go on sale this week and the reviews are already starting to roll in. The first impressions are incredibly positive and based on the preorder wait times, they’re already flying off shelves.
The star of the show by far is the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which brings several upgrades over the previous model, including a titanium design, A17 Pro processor, 5X optical zoom with a 120mm lens, a customizable Action button, and of course USB 3 speeds. Individually, they’re all nice upgrades; as a whole it’s the best iPhone ever made and one of the best smartphones ever made.
The are breakthroughs all over the place. The A17 Pro is the industry’s first 3nm processor and brings Apple’s first 6-core GPU with support for ray-tracing. The telephoto lens uses a tetraprism design that reflect light rays four times over as well as 3D sensor‑shift optical image stabilization that makes up to 10,000 microadjustments per second and a 3D sensor‑shift optical image stabilization and autofocus module that moves in all three directions. Even the USB-C port offers reverse wired charging for the AirPods Pro and an Apple Watch, or anything else that supports USB-C power delivery.
But for all that’s new, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, arguably the best smartphone ever made, is still kind of boring. At first glance, it looks exactly like an iPhone 14 Pro Max, and you need to pick it up and study it to find the subtle changes—the titanium accents, skinner bezels, contoured edges, lighter body. You’ll need to play a graphics-intensive game to push the A17 Pro. And while titanium is nice, it’s resulted in a pretty bland assortment of colors.
It’s been this way for a while, but the Wonderlust event seemed to drive home the point that the iPhone doesn’t really have any room to wow us in its current state. And unless something major changes between now and then, the iPhone 16 launch won’t be any different.
Apple’s strategy of iPhone releases has always been to hold upgrades back. Take the iPhone 6 Plus, which finally increased the screen size to over 5 inches after years of large-screen Android phones. Or the iPhone 7 Plus, which finally added a second rear camera. Or even the iPhone X, which finally ditched the home button for an “all-screen” design years after Android phones had stretched their own screens.
It’s no different with the iPhone 15. Some will complain that it still has only a 60Hz display and doesn’t have a proper telephoto camera like other similarly-priced Android phones, but it follows Apple’s playbook to a T: There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s a decent upgrade over the iPhone 14, a major upgrade over the iPhone 13, and a big leap over the iPhone 12.
And so it goes. Anyone hoping for a massive year-over-year jump of the iPhone is going to be disappointed. There have been three such changes over the course of its 16-year lifespan: the iPhone 4, iPhone 6, and iPhone X. Every other update has mostly been iterative, bring slightly larger or brighter displays, better cameras, faster processors, and design tweaks.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn’t have many visible or flashy upgrades.
Petter Ahrnstedt
It’s all boring, yes, but it’s also exactly as exciting as it needs to be. Apple understands the whole world is watching whenever it unveils anything, let alone an iPhone, so it still gives people something to want in the latest model: USB-C and 5X zoom with the iPhone 15 Pro Max; always-on display and the Dynamic Island with the iPhone 14 Pro; ProMotion and a leap for the camera for the iPhone 13 Pro; a new design with the iPhone 12. And on and on.
Apple doesn’t do big and splashy with the iPhone, so no one should have expected something like Samsung’s 100X Space Zoom. Apple’s annual updates are about making the iPhone better in a practical sense, not offering gimmicky features they’re going to try once and never use again.
If you’re looking for a major splash next year like a folding screen, you’re going to be disappointed. Even with early rumors of larger screens and in-display Face ID, the iPhone 16 will be boring. Apple knows how to play this game better than anyone, and you need only look at the November shipping estimates for the iPhone 15 Pro Max to know that it rarely loses.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He’s still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.
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