iPhone 15 Plus vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Which phone should you buy? – XDA Developers

Can Apple’s best phone of 2022 outperform its middlest phone of 2023? This is a surprisingly even match-up.
The iPhone 15 Plus brings last year’s Pro features to Apple’s flagship line. This includes the addition of the Dynamic Island front camera cutout and an upgrade to the A16 Bionic chip. It also marks Apple’s shift to USB-C.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is competitive with the latest generation of Apple flagship phones despite being 2022’s premium handset. It will still receive software support for many years despite being discontinued, making it a tempting option for those who want to save some money on their next phone upgrade.
With Apple releasing multiple phones every year, the lines that separate each handset begin to blur. Conventional knowledge suggests that the newer device is usually the best phone, but when 2022’s Pro models have the same chipset as 2023’s base iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, things aren't so cut and dry. Apple's latest hardware updates have been so marginal that it's hard to tell how different phone styles stack up from one generation to another. Now that the iPhone 15 Plus has arrived, it's time for the iPhone 14 Pro Max to lay all of its cards on the table and prove that it was ever really max in the first place.
The iPhone 15 Plus was announced in early September and is now available, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max was released almost exactly a year earlier. Being launched only a year apart from one another, these two devices naturally have similar specs.
The iPhone 15 Plus has three different models: the 128GB version starts at $899, the 256GB version at $999, and the 512GB version at $1,199. It is available through Apple, Best Buy, and mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is no longer directly available through Apple because it was discontinued following the release of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Thankfully, it's still available through the big three mobile carriers for varying prices depending on if you start a new plan or upgrade. It is also possible to get renewed versions for even cheaper. For reference, the original MSRP of the 14 Pro Max was $999 for the 128GB version, $1,099 for the 256GB version, $1,299 for the 512GB version, and $1,499 for the 1TB version.
iPhones of all sizes have hit an obvious plateau in terms of design, sporting nearly identical silhouettes since the iPhone 12 generation. However, that’s not to say that the iPhone 15 Plus and 14 Pro Max look indistinguishable. The iPhone 15 Plus barely wins in the design category because it's available in more colors.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is only available in four colorways: Space Black, Deep Purple, Silver, and Gold. And aside from Deep Purple, we’ve seen all of these colors before. On the other hand, the 15 Plus is available in a reimagined line of five colors, including black, blue, green, yellow, and pink. However, once you cover up your 15 Plus with a protective case, it will pretty much look identical to the 14 Pro Max.
Both phones have the same 6.7-inch display, and their dimensions are only a few millimeters apart. They both use the same color-infused matte glass on the back and the same steel frame underneath. They also have the same Dynamic Island to hide their front-facing camera array and the same camera bump for their rear lenses. Besides the inclusion of a USB-C port instead of Lightning on the iPhone 15 Plus, any larger design changes Apple made this year are exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro line, like the new stainless steel build.
This category is also very close call between the two, as both the iPhone 15 Plus and 14 Pro Max have excellent yet similar displays. Ultimately, the 14 Pro Max edges out a victory in this category.
Before I explain why, let’s review the shared features that make either option a top-tier choice for photo editing and watching media. Both handsets sport an identical 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED panel with 2796×1290 resolution (460 PPI). Both panels are HDR-certified, so you can instantly review HDR videos and photos taken with the camera. Alongside the iPhone 15 Pro Max, they have the highest peak brightness of any iPhone display: 2,000 nits. They also both have an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, and an oleophobic coating to prevent fingerprint buildup.
The refresh rate of these displays is the only thing that really sets them apart. The iPhone 14 Pro Max supports a max refresh rate of 120Hz, while the iPhone 15 Plus only supports up to 60Hz. This makes animations in menus and games much smoother on the 14 Pro Max. But this difference aside, neither device is lacking in the display department.
When it comes to comparing the software support of any two Apple phones, the newer device will always be the winner. In this case, the iPhone 15 Plus ships ready to go with iOS 17, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. The iPhone 14 Pro Max, on the other hand, ships with iOS 16. That said, you'll be able to update the 14 Pro Max to iOS 17 in short order, as its specs are comparable to those of any current-gen iOS device.
So, aside from the fact that you will have one less major update to perform out of the box with the iPhone 15 Plus, both phones are equally up-to-date in terms of software compatibility. That means regardless of which option you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy new features like Contact Posters and Live Voicemail. Furthermore, the update cycle for Apple devices is fairly long, so neither device will be obsolete for many years.
This is a tough section because when you compare the specs of these two phones, the technical performance is basically identical. Both phones are powered by the same Apple A16 Bionic chip. Yes, last year's pro-tier chip is now available in Apple's flagship handset.
The A16 Bionic is a 4nm chip with six cores — two performance cores and four efficiency cores. It also has a five-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine. It works equally great for gaming and multitasking on both devices. Both phones also come with 6GB of LPDDR5 RAM as well. We'll have to dig more into the iPhone 15 Plus during testing to see if there are any significant changes, but for now, you can expect similar performance on both phones.
It’s another close call in this category. Both of these iPhones have a great battery life, sporting a 4,383mAh battery and a 4,323mAh, respectively. The iPhone 15 Plus hasn’t been available long enough to get a solid metric on its average battery life, but it is expected to last at least as long as the iPhone 14 Pro Max. In any case, I’m willing to give it the win because of another crucial upgrade to its battery system.
The iPhone 15 Plus is the first Apple smartphone to feature USB-C charging. True, this holds no bearing on the battery life or charging speed of the phone, but it is still a huge upgrade for users looking to consolidate their charging cable situation. The new USB-C port also supports reverse charging, so you can divert some juice over to your AirPods in a pinch.
In terms of camera quality, the iPhone 14 Pro Max takes the cake thanks to the addition of a 3x telephoto (77mm) lens on top of the ultrawide (13mm) and wide (24mm) lenses that both phones share. You can view some example photos taken using this 3x telephoto lens in our iPhone 14 Pro Max review. Aside from this difference, the camera systems on these phones are pretty similar.
Both phones employ a 48MP sensor on the main lens and a 12MP sensor on any other lenses, including the front-facing camera, although the main sensor on the Pro Max has a larger aperture for more natural-looking bokeh in photos. They both have great color accuracy, incredible image stabilization, and advanced image processing using Apple’s Photonic Engine. Both handsets support video recording at 4K UHD (3840×2160) at 60FPS as well.
Some may be wondering if it is worthwhile to upgrade from the iPhone 14 Pro Max to the iPhone 15 Plus. The answer is absolutely not. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is still a highly capable handset; even an iPhone 15 Pro Max would barely be considered an upgrade. Trading up for the iPhone 15 Plus would be considered a side-grade at best.
As for which handset is better to upgrade to from an even older iPhone model, it comes down to your specific reasons for a phone upgrade. Each phone has its own merits and faults, so If you want the best price for performance, the iPhone 14 Pro Max should be your go-to pick. It is the better phone on paper and performs great in benchmark tests.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is my top pick because it offers superior specs and performance to Apple’s latest flagship phones, and you don’t have to pay inflated day-one prices like you do for the iPhone 15 Plus. Just don’t expect to find a new one as easily as you would find a new 15 Plus.
Although the iPhone 15 Plus doesn't quite match the iPhone 14 Pro Max in terms of rear camera quality, screen refresh rate, or performance benchmarks, it still performs great in these categories compared to its wider competition. As a tradeoff for these minor shortcomings, you get USB-C support, out-of-the-box iOS 17 support, and a reimagined line of color options.
The iPhone 15 Plus is Apple’s best 6.7-inch flagship to date. It offers all the shiny new features you want from a brand-new handset and debuts with an alluring entry price as well.


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