I can’t give you a full review of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
I’ve barely had it for two days.
However, I can reveal exactly what it’s like to play with Apple’s latest flagship smartphone for those first few hours of ownership.
This is a really important time. It’s when you make snap judgements about your expensive purchase, and decide far too quickly as to whether or not you like Apple’s latest smartphone.
This time around, there are some very important things to cover.
The colour (Natural Titanium)
I very nearly opted for the white version of the iPhone 15 Pro Max this year but made a last-minute decision to buy the Natural Titanium version, instead.
This is becoming a habit. With each release of the new iPhone, I end up with the newest colour option. Last year, that was Deep Purple, which I only picked because of its relation to the band with the same name.
It remains my least favourite iPhone colour ever.
I have some good news. Natural Titanium might be my favourite shade of iPhone ever.
It is utterly lovely – like a massive, phone-shaped Apple Watch Ultra. The only complaint I have is that as lovely as the brushed sides are, they do smudge. As a reviewer who is constantly having to polish tech during the filming of b-roll, I was hoping for something less fingerprinty. In reality, it’s just as bad at attracting the ugly stuff as the outgoing polished metal.
Regardless, the choice of titanium for this year’s flagship iPhone was an inspired one. Despite the lack of any meaningful external design changes, the new finish on the iPhone 15 Pro Max makes it, in my opinion, the best-looking iPhone to date.
Fight me in the comments.
It’s also 100% recycled, and it’s the same grade 5 titanium that was used on the Mars Rover, so it should put up with a bit of stick.
The choice of Titanium for the iPhone 15 Pro Max has another surprisingly big benefit: it is satisfyingly light.
The difference between the 15 Pro Max and the 14 Pro Max on the scales is only 8%, but it feels more substantial than that. This phone isn’t as light as the Nothing Phone (2), but it’s a huge step in the right direction for Apple.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max (and those before it) has always been a cumbersome phone. With the latest version, Apple has managed to retain the ever-present premium look and feel of the Pro Max with a far more lightweight design.
It’s a bigger deal than you might think, but one you’ll only ever experience when you get your hands on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The display (versus the iPhone 14 Pro Max)
The rumour mill suggested that there would be a significant reduction made to the bezels on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.
In reality, the change is actually quite minor when placed side-by-side with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But the effect is actually more impressive than you might think.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max display does feel bigger. And, regardless, I can’t see how Apple could go any thinner with these bezels. All-display smartphones can be a pain to use if you don’t have a case attached.
Everything else is the same, including the Dynamic Island which is now standard across the range, and which remains entirely unremarkable but weirdly functional.
This really is a lovely display – as it always is – but I’m looking forward to comparing it against the Samsung S23 Ultra, which, I suspect, still beats it.
This is a big deal.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is finally capable of super-fast transfer speeds via its charging and data port. For anyone shooting ProRes video, this is what they’ve been waiting for.
The USB-C port on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is capable of speeds of up to 10Gbps. But it also signals the death of Lightning.
I know this will be annoying if you’ve got loads of Lightning charging cables and accessories, but it was inevitable and Apple is massively behind on this. Every other device I own uses USB-C for charging and data transfer. It is the modern standard.
So, selfishly, I’m happy to declare that this is the biggest update to the iPhone for quite some time.
Oh, and the braided USB-C cable you get in the box is rather lovely (if not colour-matched).
Thank you, Tim.
The Action Button
Something else we’ve waved goodbye to this year is the mute switch.
I’m not particularly sad to see that go, either. Mine has always been switched to ‘off’ shortly after unboxing the phone, only to be left in that state for the duration of the ownership.
I think most people did the same.
Swapping the mute switch for a customisable Action Button was, therefore, the logical next step for Apple. And this is a proper button – not solid-state as had been suggested by the rumour mill during the run-up to the launch event.
There are some interesting – and slightly obvious – things you can do with the iPhone 15 Pro Max Action Button. These range from opening and operating the camera to switching focus modes, firing up the torch, and kicking off a Shortcut.
I’ve set mine to the camera (for photos – you can even customise the camera mode into which it opens), but I feel I might change that at some stage. For instance, the idea of having a dedicated button for switching to my ‘Filming’ focus mode is rather tantalising.
It’s also worth noting that you have to press and hold the button for a second to instigate whatever task you’ve given it to avoid accidental presses – smart.
The new camera (controls)
I’ll be undertaking a more comprehensive camera review soon, but it’s worth quickly talking about the changes to the camera interface on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Everything looks normal until you realise that there’s a new way to access the now voluminous number of focal lengths that are available on Apple’s flagship.
The wide angle (13mm) is available from the tap of the 0.5x button as before, but the 1x button now provides access to three focal lengths. There’s the standard 24mm, but another tap takes you to 28mm, and another tap zooms to 35mm.
It’s a curious change and one which I think might be missed by anyone who didn’t watch Apple’s iPhone 15 launch event. Regardless, if you know it’s there, it does feel intuitive.
The 2x option is 48mm, and there is a new 5x option which provides a 120mm focal length from the not-a-periscope lens. This is the furthest reach we’ve had on an iPhone, and it uses a clever tetra prism design to achieve what should be a very useful zoom option for iPhone photography. I can’t wait to give it a thorough test in London next week.
Conclusion (for now)
It doesn’t make sense to upgrade from the iPhone 14 Pro Max to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. There aren’t enough meaningful updates on offer.
But if you’re coming from an earlier iPhone, you’ll be super happy with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. We may have reached peak iPhone innovation for now, but I feel that Apple has done enough with that new titanium frame, USB-C charging and data transfer, and the 120mm zoom to ignite some interest from yours truly.
Next up, is a camera comparison with the S23 Ultra, and a more detailed two-week review. Stay tuned!