iPhone 15 Pro Max review: yes, it really is worth $1,200 – Digital Trends

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The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a showcase of “the very best of Apple innovations.” That’s how Apple describes the 15 Pro Max in its official press release for the phone, and it’s similar marketing speak that we hear every single year: Last year’s iPhone was great. But this new one? It’s the best Apple has ever made.
It’s easy to roll your eyes when Apple uses language like that, and I often do. But for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it actually feels warranted. The big changes this year compared to the previous Pro Max are few in number, but the impact they have on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is incredible.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn’t reinvent the iPhone formula, but it absolutely is the most capable and polished iPhone you can buy today.
I loved last year’s iPhone 14 Pro Max. It was one of the best phones you could buy in 2022 and throughout a good chunk of this year too. But there was one thing that really irked me about it: its stainless steel design. It didn’t take long for the 14 Pro Max’s huge size and weight to become so overbearing that I had to switch to the smaller iPhone 14 Pro. This has been a problem since the iPhone 12 Pro Max launched in 2020, and it only got worse with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro Max.
But that’s no longer the case with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Apple ditched its stainless steel frame and replaced it with a brushed titanium one — and it makes a big difference. You can see this right on the spec sheet. The iPhone 15 Pro Max weighs just 221 grams, which is a substantial decrease from the 240-gram iPhone 14 Pro Max and 13 Pro Max.
When you actually use the iPhone 15 Pro Max, you really do feel that difference. The lighter construction was immediately noticeable when I took the 15 Pro Max out of its box and held it side by side with the 14 Pro Max; it’s a night and day difference.
And it’s not just the lighter weight that makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max more enjoyable to hold. In addition to being a millimeter thinner, Apple also slightly rounded the front and back glass to meet the titanium frame more smoothly. That basically means the sharp, often painful edges of the iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro are finally gone.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the most comfortable Pro Max iPhone I’ve ever held.
When you add all of that together, the iPhone 15 Pro Max ends up being the most comfortable Pro Max iPhone I’ve ever held. The flat sides of the frame still give you a secure grip on the phone, but it’s no longer unbearably heavy and doesn’t dig into your palms.
If this is the future of iPhone design for the foreseeable future, I couldn’t be more excited. I treasured almost every single aspect of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, with its in-hand feel being the one glaring omission. Apple totally fixed that with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and I really hope it continues on this path for the next few years. Some reports of weakened durability are worth keeping an eye on, but I’ve not had any such issues with my unit. It should also be mentioned that I haven’t tried to purposefully break it in half, so take that for what it’s worth.
Finally, Natural Titanium (the color photographed throughout this review) is 100% the color to get this year. It’s just stunning.
If the titanium design is my No. 1 favorite change with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, not far behind it is the new Action button. Ever since the original iPhone in 2007, Apple has included a ring/silent switch above the volume buttons to quickly turn on or silence your ringtones and notifications. On the iPhone 15 Pro Max, however, that’s been replaced with a customizable button — dubbed the Action button.
By default, pressing and holding the Action button enables and disables silent mode (just like the old switch). It works really well for this, displaying a pop-up in the Dynamic Island and playing the same haptics you’re used to when flicking the old switch.
But the real magic lies with everything else you can do with it.
Go to the Settings app, tap on the Action Button icon, and you can completely change what the button does. Besides enabling silent mode, you can also use the button to:
Some of these actions can be further customized too. For example, you can choose exactly which Focus mode you want to launch if you choose that option. If you’ve selected the camera option, you can have the button launch the main camera, selfie mode, video recording, Portrait mode, or Portrait selfie. I’ve had the Action button set to open the main camera since I began my review, and it’s been infinitely easier to open the camera compared to the (often unreliable) lock screen shortcut.
While all of this is great, things get even more exciting with the Shortcuts option. There are a few recommended shortcuts by default, such as opening any app you want, starting a new note in the Notes app, and launching Spotify to recognize a song. All of these are fantastic, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible. For example, we’ve already seen one Shortcut that can perform multiple actions based on the orientation in which you’re holding your iPhone. It’s ingenious.
For as much as I love using the Action button, my biggest complaint is that I can’t do more with it. As it stands, the only way to use the Action button is with a press-and-hold, which means it’s always limited to doing just one thing at a time. I see no reason why there couldn’t also be double- and triple-press options, and I really hope Apple considers adding them in a software update down the road.
I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. It’s time to talk about the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s cameras.
At first glance, it doesn’t look like anything has changed. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 48-megapixel (MP) main camera, 12MP ultrawide camera, and 12MP telephoto camera with apertures of f/1.78, f/2.2, and f/2.8, respectively. For those keeping track at home, those are the exact same specs as the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But there are differences beyond those numbers, and they’re rather impactful.
For one thing, the main camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max now defaults to 24MP shots instead of 12MP like last year — giving you more detail in each image. Taking pictures of people, dogs, or cats now automatically captures depth information so you can turn them into Portrait mode shots in the Photos app after the fact. You also get Apple’s new Smart HDR 5 image processing for improved colors. And the telephoto camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max now supports 5x optical zoom instead of the old 3x maximum.
Some of those upgrades sound bigger than others, but all you really need to know is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max takes outstanding photographs.
The 48MP main camera has been a joy to shoot with. Colors look incredible to my eye, finding a nice balance of realism and character. Photos don’t look quite as “clinical” as they sometimes did on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, bright skies don’t get blown out nearly as often, and lowlight performance has been really impressive.
Similarly impressive has been the 5x telephoto camera. No, it doesn’t reach the same optical heights as phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with 10x optical zoom. If you want a smartphone to zoom in at outrageous 30x, 50x, or 100x distances, the iPhone 15 Pro Max isn’t the phone for you. But if you want a telephoto camera that delivers among the best 5x images you’ve seen, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is it.
Although the jump from 3x to 5x isn’t groundbreaking, it does get you meaningfully closer to your subjects. And when you’re all the way at 5x, Apple’s tetraprism lens does a fantastic job of retaining lots of detail and lovely colors — making it difficult to notice any stark difference in quality between it and the main camera.
I often found myself in situations with the iPhone 14 Pro Max where I felt I missed out on unique photo opportunities because of this 3x zoom. Over the past week with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, I’m not feeling that nearly as often.
I haven’t been using the new telephoto camera to try and zoom into things as closely as possible (you can go all the way up to 25x), but it has been really fantastic for finding new perspectives on things I’m taking pictures of. And whether I want a closer look at some cool lights in a restaurant or a really up-close shot of some artwork in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, the extra optical length makes a pretty big difference in my book.
Lastly, all of the other cameras hold their end of the bargain with solid results too. The 12MP ultrawide camera is unchanged from last year, and it’s a great performer, delivering accurate colors and a wide field of view with minimal edge distortion. It also still doubles as a macro camera, and the results from it continue to be some of my favorite from a macro mode on a phone. And should you need to take a selfie, the same excellent 12MP sensor (with autofocus) from the iPhone 14 series makes a return here.
In short, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s cameras have been a joy to use. The detail in images is great, the colors look noticeably better than last year, and the new telephoto camera is, in my opinion, excellent. There really is a lot to like here.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s display is outstanding. However, there’s not too much more to say about it, considering it’s virtually identical to the one on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
You still get a 6.7-inch OLED display with a 2796 x 1290 resolution and a 120Hz variable refresh rate. Brightness levels are also the same, delivering 1,000 nits for typical max brightness, 1,600 nits for viewing HDR content, and up to 2,000 nits for peak outdoor brightness.
Simply put, it’s one of the best-looking screens you’ll find on a smartphone today. Colors are lovely and full of color, but not oversaturated in the way some Samsung phones can be. The 120Hz refresh rate also allows everything to look buttery smooth.
Similar to last year, this display is also capable of an always-on mode and still has the Dynamic Island at the top. Apple’s always-on display continues to be one of the best in the business. Although I was apprehensive about it when I first got my iPhone 14 Pro Max last year, it’s quickly become one of my favorite things about recent Pro iPhones. And while the Dynamic Island still doesn’t do quite as much as I wish it did, I still vastly prefer it to the notch.
Performance hasn’t been an issue for the iPhone in years, but just like always, Apple’s decided to take things up a notch yet again with its new A17 Pro chip. This is the chipset powering the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, and it shares some similarities with last year’s A16 Bionic chip. It still has six CPU cores, and the 16-core Neural Engine is the same count as last year too, but that’s where the similarities end.
You now have a six-core GPU instead of five cores, the Neural Engine can perform over twice as many operations per second (17 trillion up to 35 trillion), RAM has been increased to 8GB from 6GB, and the A17 Pro is the first chip to be built on a 3nm design (compared to the 4nm design of the A16).
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is wickedly fast.
OK, but what does that mean in English? The iPhone 15 Pro Max is wickedly fast — just like the iPhone 14 Pro Max was. Apps open with no hesitation, scrolling and swiping feel as smooth as can be, and I’ve yet to come across any signs of slowdowns or stuttering. Whether I’m scrolling through Threads, browsing websites on Safari, or taking too many photos of my pets, the iPhone 15 Pro Max never acts like you’re asking too much of it.
But Apple’s big claims for the A17 Pro don’t revolve around day-to-day performance. For Apple, the A17 Pro is all about gaming.
During its iPhone 15 event, Apple showcased the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max running actual console games such as Resident Evil Village, Death Stranding, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage. I also got to see a demo of Resident Evil Village during a briefing for the iPhone 15 Pro lineup, and it did look truly impressive. The only problem is that I’ve yet to play any of these titles for myself (none of them will be released until later this year), so it’s difficult to judge the full potential of the A17 Pro this early on.
What I can say right now, however, is that the A17 Pro is still a performance beast even without those console games available quite yet. My go-to mobile game at the moment, Call of Duty: Mobile, plays without a hitch on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It easily runs at max settings for graphics and frame rate, and the game looks incredible because of it. I’m not sure if I notice much of a difference between playing it on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but with optimized titles, the potential is clearly there.
It’ll take some time before we can push the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s performance chops to the limit, but Resident Evil or not, this is one of the fastest, most dependable smartphones you can buy today.
That fast performance also carries over to all of your interactions with iOS 17, which is available out of the box with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. And although it doesn’t overhaul Apple’s iPhone software, there are a handful of really solid updates to find.
My personal favorite has been StandBy mode. When your iPhone is charging and positioned horizontally, it automatically switches to the new StandBy interface. Here, you can see a large clock for the time, incoming notifications, and a series of widgets for things like your calendar, the weather, etc.
StandBy works especially well if you have a MagSafe charging stand. When I put my iPhone 15 Pro Max on the one by my bed at night, it effectively turns into a mini smart display for the evening. I can glance over and see the time, check that my alarm is enabled, and ask Siri to turn off the lights when it’s time to sleep. And if you take a look at some of the third-party apps available, you can make StandBy even better.
I’ve also been really happy about having interactive widgets in iOS 17. Now, app developers can design their widgets to have interactive elements, so you can tap on a widget and have it do something right from your home screen.
For example, I can now check off items from my shopping list via the Reminders widget without ever leaving the home screen. I also love being able to control smart lights directly from the Home widgets. And similar to StandBy, there are already plenty of third-party apps using iOS 17’s interactive widgets — and using them in some pretty creative ways.
And then there are all of the smaller things. NameDrop is one of iOS 17’s most visually pleasing features, and it should also prove to be legitimately useful. Spotlight search is more powerful, there are some excellent new wallpapers, and I simply adore Live Voicemail — which is basically a modern twist on the answering machines of yesteryear.
Of course, none of these things are exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max — it just has all of the iOS 17 goodness out of the box. In fact, iOS 17 is available for all iPhones from the iPhone XR and iPhone SE (2nd Gen) and newer, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max will likely keep getting updates for the next six to eight years.
OK— let’s talk battery life. Apple makes the same battery life claim for the iPhone 15 Pro Max that it did for the iPhone 14 Pro Max last year: up to 29 hours of video playback or up to 25 hours of streamed video playback. The more power-efficient 3nm design of the A17 Pro chip should, in theory, deliver better endurance — and it does! But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Compared to my iPhone 14 Pro Max running iOS 17, the iPhone 15 Pro Max does get me through more of the day than its predecessor. On average, I’ve been ending most days with around 10% battery life by the time I go to bed around 11 p.m. (after starting my day anywhere between 5:45 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.). Throughout my six days of tracking battery life, I’ve averaged around 4.7 hours of screen-on time.
Most days were primarily spent connected to a Wi-Fi network, with pockets of time throughout each day away from Wi-Fi and relying on T-Mobile’s 5G network. And none of the days consisted of particularly heavy use. We’re talking about web browsing on Safari, scrolling through TikTok, listening to podcasts, some Duolingo sessions, and very light gaming on a couple of days. All of these days also consisted of Bluetooth connections to an Apple Watch Ultra 2 and an Oura Ring.
While this is better endurance than I’ve been experiencing with iOS 17 on my iPhone 14 Pro Max, it is a pretty notable step backward compared to what I was experiencing on the 14 Pro Max when it had iOS 16. I’m more comfortably getting through a full day with the iPhone 15 Pro Max than I have been with its predecessor over the last couple of months, but it’s nowhere near the two days of endurance I’ve gotten with some Android phones this year — like the OnePlus 11 and Motorola Edge Plus (2023).
I suppose this is the part where I should talk about USB-C. Yes, the iPhone 15 Pro Max now has a USB-C port instead of a Lightning one. Although it doesn’t really impact me as someone who primarily relies on MagSafe chargers, it is a welcome change in my book. Out of the dozens of gadgets I own, the only ones that have required a Lightning cable for the past few years are previous iPhones and my AirPods Max. Having an iPhone that now uses the same cable as my Android phones, mouse, keyboard, Kindle, etc., is a great feeling.
What’s not so great, however, is what Apple didn’t do with this change to USB-C. Yes, you now have much faster data transfer speeds if you’re using a cable to transfer files from your iPhone to another device, but Apple made zero improvement to charging speeds. The company still promises the same 50% charge in 35 minutes using a 20-watt adapter.
Although not a deal breaker, it is disappointing that Apple didn’t use this monumental port change-up to finally address charging performance. It’s a fact that iPhones have been among the slowest-charging smartphones for years now, and the competition is only continuing to outpace them. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra offers 45W charge speeds, taking it from 0-65% in just 30 minutes. The OnePlus 11 goes all the way up to 80W — delivering a full zero to 100% recharge in the same 30-minute window.
I’m happy that USB-C is finally here, and I imagine anyone who’s not exclusively invested in Lightning accessories will be too. But Apple could have done so much more with the new port, and it’s disheartening to see that it didn’t.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is available for purchase now and starts at $1,199 for 256GB of storage. While that’s the same price as the 256GB iPhone 14 Pro Max from last year, Apple has eliminated the $1,099 128GB option this time around — so you’re effectively looking at a $100 price increase this year.
If you need more space, you can also get the iPhone 15 Pro Max with 512GB of storage for $1,399 or splurge for the 1TB model if you have $1,599 to burn. The phone is available in four colors this year: Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium.
So, yeah — the iPhone 15 Pro Max is pretty great. It’s no secret these days that the new iPhone is probably going to be a damn good smartphone, and that hasn’t changed with this latest generation. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the changes that Apple made this year are pretty important.
The new titanium design is exquisite. It looks stunning and feels absolutely lovely. The better in-hand feel also makes it a lot more accessible to anyone who was previously put off by the Pro Max’s size problem. Combine that with the convenience that comes with the USB-C port, the added flexibility of the 5x telephoto camera, and everything else that’s great about the phone, and it’s a seriously impressive package.
If that’s the case, why give the iPhone 15 Pro Max 4.5 stars and not a perfect 5?
The addition of USB-C is a big deal, but Apple really should have done more with it and finally given iPhone users legitimately fast charging speeds. Battery life has also been a sticking point. It’s not bad battery life, but I expected a lot more from it — especially considering the legendary battery performance of the iPhone 13 Pro Max. And as much as I love the Action button, it really should perform more than one action. I hope Apple listens to those critiques because, if addressed, they’d make the iPhone 15 Pro Max an unstoppable force in the smartphone market.
Even with those problems lingering on, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is still top-notch.
But here’s the thing. Even with those problems lingering on, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is still top-notch. It’s expensive, yes, but if you want the best iPhone experience available in 2023 — or one of the very best smartphones money can buy — it’s difficult not to love it.
After the slew of exciting iPhone 15 announcements, all of the major carriers are now offering some incredible iPhone deals, which, of course, include iPhone 15 deals. But that also means there are a ton of offers and discounts happening across several wireless providers, which can make it challenging to find a specific offer, especially from one carrier. We get it. So, we’ve put together a list of deals for each carrier, in this case for Boost Mobile. One thing you’ll notice that Boost is doing differently is that you don’t need a trade-in to take advantage of its offers. Let’s take a closer look.
Apple iPhone 15 — Free with no trade-in required
Ready to upgrade? I’ll bet you are. Boost Mobile is offering a crazy deal right now where you pay $0 for the new iPhone 15 at checkout, minus taxes and fees, as long as you activate and finance through Boost Mobile. After checkout, you will have to pay a $60 activation fee, but that’s credited toward your first month’s wireless service bill.
Boost Mobile’s Unlimited Wireless plan is $60 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data, and it includes annual upgrades, so you can get the latest iPhone every year through Boost Infinite. That’s a pretty rad offer.
It all started with the Apple iPhone 15 event and a host of exciting announcements, and from there, major carriers started offering some incredible iPhone 15 deals with virtually no delay. But if you’re with one carrier, like T-Mobile, and you’d like to stay with that wireless provider or swap from another to that wireless provider, a list of deals from all over the place isn’t really going to help. What you truly need is a list that specifies deals from the carrier you want, in this case, T-Mobile. Cue our T-Mobile iPhone 15 deals guide, which will explore all of the current offers available through the carrier. Whether you’re a new customer or you’ve had service with T-Mobile for a while, there’s something here for you.
Any iPhone 15, including Plus, Pro, and Max — Get up to $1,000 off with Go5G Plus or Go5G Next
As part of its “get an iPhone 15 on us” promotion, T-Mobile is offering up to $1,000 off any of the new iPhone 15 models via 24 monthly bill credits when you trade in an eligible device and sign up for one of its Go5G Plus or Go5G Next plans. It’s available for both new and existing customers — existing just need to switch to one of the new plans. Those plans, by the way, get you access to T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network, 50GB of mobile hotspot data, and a bevy of additional benefits, including a Netflix subscription.
The same offer applies to older iPhone models, including up to $830 off iPhone 14 to iPhone 11 or $400 off anything from iPhone 8 and below.
Since the big iPhone 15 event, major carriers have been clamoring over each other to offer the best iPhone 15 deals. Almost all of the models have been included in a special offer or two, but that also depends on your carrier of choice. For example, if you’re with Verizon and want to stay with Verizon, well, you’re just not going to pay much attention to T-Mobile or AT&T deals, and that’s okay. To help you out, this guide is going to deep dive, specifically, into iPhone 15 deals that are available at Verizon Wireless. Whether you’re a new subscriber or you’ve been with Verizon for years, there’s a deal or two just for you. Shall we get started?
Verizon’s iPhone 15 “on us” deal — Up to $1,000 off with eligible trade-in for new customers
Currently, Verizon is offering a deal where you can get the iPhone 5 heavily discounted. Verizon’s exact words are “
,” but there is a catch. You can get up to $1,000 in credit with an eligible trade-in of an old iPhone in any condition. That $1,000 is then applied to your purchase, whichever iPhone model you decide, including the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max.
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