I wasn’t expecting to get excited about the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Another year, another slab of unquestionably capable and good-looking metal, glass, and Apple silicon, I thought.

I bet you did, too.

Well, yes, that’s exactly what the iPhone 15 Pro Max is. But having used it for two weeks, I’m fairly sure that this is the best iPhone Apple has ever made. And, yes, I know they always say that themselves – they have to because it has to be the best one.

This time, though, I think Tim and co. have very good reason to be bullish about their flagship smartphone. It is, in my opinion, unquestionably brilliant. Surprisingly so, in fact.

 

iPhone 15 Pro Max controversies

We have two iPhone controversies this year that I’d like to quickly cover and give you my experiences of.

The first is another ‘bendgate’. We last had this during the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus in 2014 when several large tech publications reported the apparent ease with which Apple’s new super-sized (as it was back then) smartphone could be bent – particularly if you, well, you know, attempted to bend it.

I haven’t experienced any bending issues with my iPhone 15 Pro Max, because I haven’t tried to bend it. So, I have one very simple piece of advice on this front: don’t attempt to bend your iPhone 15 Pro Max, because you’ll probably break it.

Moving onto more realistic potential issues with the latest flagship iPhone we find ourselves in the midst of reports about overheating. Although completely unconfirmed, the suspicion is that Apple’s new A17 Pro chip is running a tad too hot in certain situations, thus resulting in a device which becomes unreasonably toasty during charging and even when idle.

I haven’t experienced any heat issues with my iPhone 15 Pro Max. It gets marginally warm while charging sometimes, but it has been as cool as a cucumber both in use and while lying idle on the table. And I’ve put it through some pretty intensive camera testing, too – even then, it failed to generate any heat.

I suspect we’ll see an end to the reports of hot iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max devices relatively soon, either once Apple updates iOS or when an offending app (some have suggested Instagram is to blame) is fixed. Regardless, if your new iPhone is getting too hot, please take it back to Apple – the more reports there are of things like this, the more likely it is to be fixed sharpish.

Right, onto the good stuff!

Hello, handsome

There’s a reason the word ‘Titanium’ is so prominent within the advertising campaign for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. You see it immediately on Apple’s website, and it’s strewn across every inch of promotional space at the retailers I’ve walked past.

Switching to Titanium for the flagship iPhone was a brilliant choice. It’s why so many people are talking about going caseless; this is Apple’s best-looking iPhone ever. In my humble opinion.

It looks the same as the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but when finished in Natural Titanium, everything steps up a notch. It’s always been the most premium-looking flagship smartphone on the market, in my opinion, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max has more style, beauty, and rugged utilitarian presence than ever before. Combining those design elements is what Apple does best, and this is the epitome of the industrial design team’s efforts.

It’s also the lightest Pro Max iPhone ever, and that makes a real difference. While the dimensions may not have changed, the fact this thing feels smaller makes a massive difference when it’s placed in your pocket.

I’m not sure an iPhone is ever going to look better than this.

The star of the show: 5x zoom

Regardless of my endless gushing about the iPhone 15 Pro Max today, we do find ourselves in a period of stagnation when it comes to smartphone innovation. This leaves us with design tweaks, OS updates, and camera improvements to get our teeth into as reviewers.

I undertook an extensive iPhone 15 Pro Max camera test with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra last weekend, therefore I’m not going to dive too deeply into the iPhone’s camera system today. Instead, I’m going to show you photos from just one of the lenses. You know the new one – the 120mm equivalent; the ‘don’t call it a periscope’ periscope lens.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

Adding a 5x zoom to the iPhone 15 Pro Max was, quite simply, the right thing to do. Compared to the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 3x and 10x optical focal lengths, the iPhone is incredibly useful in so many scenarios.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

That extra reach is practical enough to get you out of trouble when you’re struggling to get close to a subject, but it also adds some lovely compression to portraits, city shots, and when you want to pick out details in the landscape.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

While walking around London yesterday, I couldn’t help but continually switch to that 5x zoom range. It makes the camera system on the iPhone 15 Pro Max feel new, fresh, and capable of inspiring far more creativity.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

The 5x zoom is also an absolute beast in low-light situations.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

In fact, I can’t get over how good these shots of London are at night.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

We haven’t had this degree of optical zoom on an iPhone ever, and the image quality, combined with the low-light capabilities easily make it the most impressive upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro Max this year.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

If you’re considering between the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, that 5x zoom alone should be enough to justify the more expensive purchase of the latter.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review

As for the rest of the camera system updates, I haven’t found myself drawn to the new 28mm and 35mm focal lengths (which are, essentially, crops from the sensor, rather than optical). They’re just too close to the standard 24mm range to be exciting.

A quick note on the Action Button while we’re talking about the camera system. This is another inspired update by Apple and a brilliant departure from the mute switch. Although many weird and wonderful things can be done with it via Shortcuts, I highly recommend assigning it the camera functionality; jumping straight into the camera app with a quick press-and-hold of the Action Button makes all the difference.

And no, I haven’t yet tested recording video directly to an SSD, but I love the fact we can now do that, and will be giving it a go soon.

Conclusion

The iPhone 15 Pro Max feels more complete than any other iPhone. I’d still like better battery life (it struggles against the S23 Ultra in that regard), and the display isn’t as beautifully vibrant as Samsung’s, and, yes Dynamic Island does need to be given the boot as soon as Apple is brave enough to go truly full screen.

But it does not get better than this in iPhone land, folks.

The Titanium frame was the right choice and it makes this the best-looking smartphone on the market – in my opinion. But the addition of the 5x optical zoom is more important than you might think and makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max the only choice beyond the regular iPhone 15.

Should you upgrade from the iPhone 14 Pro Max? Nope – not unless you desperately want more optical reach from the camera system. However, if your iPhone is an earlier model (even of the 13 Pro Max variety), this is a stonking upgrade.

There is just one problem: the Pixel 8 Pro arrives soon. Can Google’s latest flagship effort steal my affections from the iPhone 15 Pro Max? We’ll find out very soon!

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