I’ve spent three months with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It’s my first big iPhone in some time, having spent the previous twelve months daily carrying the brilliant iPhone 13 mini.

I’ve been amazed by how quickly I’ve adapted to the large display and hand-filling form factor of Apple’s largest smartphone. It still feels uncomfortable in certain trouser pockets and I’m occasionally frustrated by the inability to use it confidently one-handed, but comparing the iPhone 14 Pro Max to the tiny iPhone isn’t particularly fair.

However, if you’ve reached this webpage, I guess you’re still considering whether or not to go for the latest big iPhone. And I understand the hesitation; it is hugely expensive and a big tech investment – particularly when you look at the competition.

This is my final verdict on the iPhone 14 Pro Max before we head into 2023 and Apple’s latest innovations.

It isn’t my smartphone of the year

We might as well start here because I’ve made no secret of the fact that the iPhone 14 Pro Max isn’t my smartphone of the year.

It was beaten comprehensively to the post by the Google Pixel 7 Pro – a device that’s £350 cheaper in the UK and just as competent in practically every single area.

There are subjective reasons I made Google’s flagship my favourite device of 2022; not everyone will be keen on the photos it produces, for instance. But it’s hard to look past the value delivered by the Pixel 7 Pro when compared to Apple’s top-end offering.

There’s a colossal marketing effort behind the Pixel range – Google knows exactly what it’s doing when it comes to flooding the review network with devices, and making the #teampixel hashtag a permanent fixture in practically everyone’s social feeds. Now, though, they have the hardware to back it up; even the £399 Pixel 6a competes handsomely with the best Apple has to offer.

The novelties wear off quickly

The iPhone 14 Pro Max comes with three novelties you won’t find on any other iPhone (bar the regular Pro).

Unfortunately, they all wear off pretty quickly. Not in a bad way, it should be noted – they just very quickly become part of the flagship iPhone experience, rather than constantly reminding you that you’re in that exclusive club.

The first is Dynamic Island, which replaces the maligned ‘notch’ that’s still present on the regular iPhone 14. At first, it really does offer that ‘fresh out of the box’ feeling that you’re getting something genuinely brand-new. However, Dynamic Island’s brilliant implementation is also its biggest challenge – you forget it’s there very quickly. iOS doesn’t do much with it yet, and neither do third-party apps.

Apple was very late to the always-on display game, and the arrival of the feature on the iPhone Pro series was, unsurprisingly, met with as much derision as it was praise. Too bright, too busy, and too ‘always-on’, it was indeed troublesome for many users. Thankfully, a recent update has improved it immeasurably, with new options for removing the wallpaper and/or notifications from the always-on display. Regardless, this simply brings the iPhone in line with practically every Android device that has offered this functionality for years. You just get used to it very quickly.

Lastly, there’s the 48MP camera, which… well, unless you’re going to dive into the possibilities of shooting full-blown 48MP ProRAW images with your iPhone, is a bit of a non-event. The iPhone still takes wonderful photos, as it always has done, but the new camera smarts will only make themselves known to those with a keen eye or the time required to shoot and edit ProRAW.

I’d argue that, if you’re going to buy the iPhone 14 Pro Max for any of these features, you’re going to be left feeling rather shortchanged after a couple of months.

The selling points

It’s not all bad. If you’ve got the money to spend on an iPhone 14 Pro Max, there is some good news.

It’s important to remember that I’m a tech reviewer and therefore my opinion of the iPhone 14 Pro Max is skewed by the multitude of competing devices I get to try out each year. Most people simply buy the smartphone they want and enjoy it – and, trust me, you’ll be able to do that with the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

For instance, Apple still wears the crown when it comes to hardware. The Pixel 7 Pro comes mightily close (as do many other Android brands these days) but nothing quite beats the fit and finish of an iPhone. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the epitome of that; it feels super expensive, prestigious, and deserving of its heritage. It’s the sort of device you don’t want to cover up with a case (although I highly recommend you do so).

You also get the best hardware and software integration on the market. Again, the Pixel series comes a very close second, but Apple has been ahead of the pack for years in this regard. No other phone I’ve tried comes close to the buttery-smooth feel of iOS running on an iPhone.

Lastly, there’s the one thing that keeps me welded to the iPhone as my main daily driver – the Apple ecosystem. For me, it’s the Apple Watch and the ludicrously boring yet indispensable copy-and-paste Hand Off feature. I couldn’t do without either of those things every day, and my iPhone 14 Pro Max is the linchpin for them both.

Conclusion

We’ve reached a stage where top-end iPhones are for either die-hard Apple loyalists or those who are deeply invested in its ecosystem.

If you don’t sit within either of those camps, yet want a very capable smartphone with as many premium features as possible, I’d point you directly to the Pixel 7 Pro.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max isn’t a revolutionary leap forward for Apple’s best-selling product, but it does represent the pinnacle of what it can do with a touchscreen device. Buy one, and you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t expect to be completely blown away.