A Review of the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
The iPhone was introduced in January of 2007 and released in June of the same year. At the time it was a radical new product. Each iteration of the iPhone brings something new. This year Apple has released four new phones, the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max. As has been the case for the last two years, the iPhone Plus and iPhone Pro have the same screen size, while the regular iPhone and iPhone Pro Max are their own distinct sizes.
When you look over the different body designs that Apple has used for iPhones, their cadence has changed over time. Here are the various families of phones.
|iPhone X/XS/11 Pro||2017-2019||3|
|iPhone XS Max/11 Pro Max||2018-2019||2|
|iPhone 12 mini/13 mini||2020-2021||2|
|iPhone 12 Pro/13 Pro/14 Pro/15 Pro||2020-2023||4|
|iPhone 14 Plus/15 Plus||2022-2023||2|
The way that these have been arranged is by screen size, and line. Which is why there is a difference between the 14 Pro and the 14 Plus, even though they have the same screen size, the guts of the phones are different, hence the differentiation of the lines.
As you can see the length of time used for the same body has increased to four years, starting with the iPhone 12 in 2020. At first you may question this, since the 12mini/13 mini and the 14 Plus/15 Plus are only two years, and this is correct. However, these two are outliers, due to them being only manufactured for two years, at least in the case of the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 13 mini. If these had sold better, it is possible that the 14 Plus and 15 Plus might not have been manufactured and the "mini" iPhones would have continued, but.
I am not sure if the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max should be considered the same as the 12, 13, and 14 Pro and Pro Max lines or not. The reason for this is because the iPhone 15 Pro Max is different in significant ways, which will be outlined throughout this review. As of right now I consider the iPhone 15 Pro Max to be the same as the last three generations of iPhone. I may end up revising this in the future and the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max may actually be the start of the next generation of iPhones, but I will not know that until next year’s release.
We will dive into a number of aspects of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but first, let us cover my experience pre-ordering.
Having purchased a new iPhone each year I have had a wide range of experiences when it comes to buying an iPhone. Some years are seamless while other years are a bit stressful and plagued with problems. This year was a mixed bag. My normal approach is to have my iPhone, iPad, MacStudio and MacBook Pro all ready and open to the Apple website, or Apple Store app, depending on platform. Whichever one comes up first is the one I use to order my iPhone.
This year it was my iPad Pro that was the first, which is somewhat peculiar because it was on Wi-Fi, just like my iPhone and yet I had completed my entire purchase on the iPad before the Apple Store app on the iPhone even started working. I scheduled my iPhone for Pickup at my local Apple Store for 8:15am on Launch Day. I was actually in and out of the store by 8:07am and walking back to my car.
The iPhone that I ordered is a Blue Titanium 512GB iPhone 15 Pro Max. Along with my iPhone I ordered a Blue FineWoven case. While I was in the Apple Store I also purchased a Pacific Blue Silicone case. Before we dive into my thoughts on the FineWoven case, let us briefly look at some comparisons of the various colors of Blue that Apple has had over the last few years.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in one of four colors, White, Natural, Black, and Blue. I opted for the Blue Titanium for two reasons. The first is that it is one of the two non-standard colors this year. The "standard" colors being the Black Titanium and White Titanium, and the non-standard being Blue Titanium and Natural Titanium.
The Blue Titanium is a darker color than most of the other "Blue" accessories released over the last few years. Here is a photo of the various Blue accessories. In the photo there are the following items:
- Deep Navy iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case.
- Storm Blue iPhone 15 Pro Max Silicone Case.
- Pacific Blue iPhone 15 Pro Max FineWoven Case.
- Spanning across all of the cases is the Midnight 45mm Apple Watch Sport Loop.
- Directly underneath the Sport Loop is the Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The closest two items that match are the Midnight Sport Loop and the Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max. When you look at the back of the iPhone 15 Pro Max you will notice that there are two shades of blue, one for the back glass and another around the camera. This is the same as the iPhones introduced in the last few years.
A Case of the Blues
A significant portion of people who purchase an iPhone will end up putting it in a case. When Apple releases a new iPhone they also offer cases in two types of material Silicone and Leather. At their "Wonderlust" event, where the iPhone 15 line was introduced, Apple announced that they would no longer be selling Leather cases. The reasons provided for this decision are that it fits into their goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, and the manufacturing of cases require significant energy. I have never owned a Leather case, so I cannot attest to any aspect of the case, like the quality, finish, or how it wears over time. In place of the Leather case Apple introduced a new product called FineWoven, more on that in a bit.
With each new iPhone has its own set of distinct colors for the case. For this year there are eight different colors for the Silicone case. Some of the colors include Light Pink, to go with the Pink iPhone 15, Clay to go with the Natural Titanium, an Orange Sherbet for those who want a bright case, a Black, because Black is a standard color choice, and one called Storm Blue, which is a darker blue. The Storm Blue is the color I opted to purchase.
Just like their Leather predecessors, the FineWoven cases also come in their own colors. There are only five, Mulberry, Evergreen, Taupe, Black, and Pacific Blue. When I ordered my iPhone 15 Pro Max I went with the Storm Blue FineWoven case. I figured if I was going to get a Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max, I might as well get the closest color to the phone. In this case it was the blue.
The Blue Titanium is not the first Blue iPhone Pro or Pro Max phone that Apple introduced. In fact, they introduced the Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2020. At the time they also introduced a Deep Navy Silicone case as well. Here is a photo from my iPhone 12 Pro Max Review that shows that case and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The Storm Blue Silicone case is a brighter color than the Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max. The name is somewhat appropriate given that the blue does look like it could be from a stormy day.
As I just mentioned when I actually picked up my iPhone 15 Pro Max I went ahead and purchased a Silicone case. The Silicone case has been my go to option for a number of reasons. The first is that I know what to expect. Apple has been producing Silicone cases for over a decade. There have been minor variations in cases over that time, above and beyond those needed for each individual iPhone’s camera and buttons. Some of the cases have had an open bottom to the case with no lip, like the Clear cases, while others have had a closed bottom. It was in 2020 with the release of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max when Apple started adding the bottom lip to its cases.
One thing that I have noticed with the iPhone 15 Pro Max Silicone case is that the case does not line up with the bottom port. The hole for the bottom port is slightly offset from center. It is actually towards the left of the phone. You can see the head of a screw. If the hole was perfectly lined up you would not be able to see it. The iPhone 14 Pro Max Silicone case was the same way, except it skews to the right.
In most instances this may not be an issue, but it could be a slight problem for some depending on which cables you use. If the cabe that you use is a bit chunkier, you may not be able to seat the cable properly with the case on. So far, this has not been a problem for me on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It was never an issue on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but that was likely because all Lighting cables are the same size, since the connectors had to be purchased from Apple.
The Silicone case for the iPhone 15 Pro Max seems to be pretty much the same as the previous Silicone cases. This is not necessarily a problem, because the Silicone case has decent grip and has remained unchanged since 2020, again this s not a problem. One of the reasons I get a Silicone case is because the case provides some grip not just for when I am holding the phone but also so it does not accidentally get easily knocked off of a surface with a simple tap.
If you are comfortable with the previous Apple Silicone cases, then this one will work just as well as the previous ones have. Now, let us look at the FineWoven case.
As I have outlined above I ordered a Pacific Blue FineWoven case when I pre-ordered my iPhone 15 Pro Max. I went with the Pacific Blue because it was the closest to the color of the iPhone. The Black would have also worked, however it looks more like a dark gray than Black, so instead I opted for the Pacific Blue.
If you look at most reviews of the FineWoven case, you will easily see that the case’s reception has been quite negative. From what I can gather it is not the fact that the Apple replaced the Leather case with the FineWoven, but the fact that it sits in the same spot as the Leather case. For those who chose to go with Apple’s Leather cases, there is a certain amount of quality and finish expected. It appears that the expectations of fit, finish, and quality of the FineWoven case does not match that of the previous Leather cases.
Some of the other critiques of the FineWoven case was that during testing, it could easily get marred. As an example, if something scraped across the back, it might leave a noticeable path along the fabric of the case. From what I understand this is the exact same behavior as the Leather cases exhibited. I have never purchased a Leather case from Apple, so I could not speak to the quality of the case, nor whether it actually exhibits this behavior. As mentioned above, I opted to give the FineWoven case a try. Like other reviewers, I too have issues with the FineWoven case. However, my issue with the FineWoven case is not the material on the back, which actually feels somewhat similar to the interior of the silicone case, even though it is a different material. The issue for me is that the case is too slippery and does not have enough grip to it. Within 24 hours of putting the FineWoven case on my iPhone 15 Pro Max, it slipped out of my hands, hit my foot, and then hit a tile floor.
At this point, I immediately put on the Silicone case I had purchased when I picked up my iPhone 15 Pro Max. While I have dropped my phones while they are in Silicone cases, it was never because of the case slipping through my hands, like the FineWoven one.
What I find interesting is that the slippery nature of the FineWoven case is the same reason I stopped using the clear case on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. From my iPhone 11 Pro Max review, " The clear case is definitely good for showing off your phone, but it is not necessarily the best choice due to its slipperiness."
I could write the same words about the FineWoven case. There is also another sentence that from that review that is also applicable to the FineWoven case. That quote is " is not designed to be removed as easily as the Silicone case". This is also quite true. I did find it somewhat difficult to remove the FineWoven case when I wanted to put on the Silicone case.
I may end up giving the FineWoven case another chance at some point in the future. But, at least as of this writing, the Silicone case remains on my phone. Now that we have the case covered, let us get prepared for the setup of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The process of transferring from one iPhone to another has drastically changed from the initial transfer of an original iPhone to the iPhone 3G in 2008. Instead of needing to use a Mac, or PC, to backup your iPhone you can either use iCloud or a direct device to device transfer. For the last few years I opted to go with the latter.
The first step with a device to device transfer, after the initial setup, is to move your phone number. In years past it was a simple thing for me to do, I simply moved the physical SIM card from my old phone to my new phone. Last year when I first setup the iPhone 14 Pro Max I was required to move from a physical sim to an eSim because all new iPhone models sold in the U.S. do not have physical SIM slots. Last year the transition did not work the first time and I had to go back and try it again before it worked. I was a bit apprehensive about moving my eSim from phone to phone. However, my eSim transferred over without an issue. It did take a couple of minutes to actually do, because the carrier needs to do work on their end to get things moved over.
After the eSim has been transferred comes the bulk of the process, transferring of data.
The Long Wait
When you perform a device to device transfer, it can take a long time depending on how much data you have on your device. Much like last year, it took approximately 2.5 hours to complete. This is much sooner than the initial estimate of 6 hours, but still longer than I would have hoped it would take.
When you do the device to device transfer both of your devices are out of commission until the process finishes. The more data you have on your device, the longer it is likely to take to complete. Apple indicates that you should have the two phones near each other during the transfer, and I certainly did. I even had both of the devices plugged in, so to make sure there was no issue.
In years past, I have backed up my iPhone to my Mac and then restored it from there, and I am not sure that restoring from a backup would be any faster, because the Lightning cable on the iPhone 14 Pro Max is USB-2, so it has a maximum transfer of 480 Megabits per second, or 60 megabytes per second, at its maximum. So, either way it would take a while.
Given that both devices are out of commission, it is quite understandable why so many people use iCloud because the process takes so much less time after the initial setup items have been performed. The reason it takes so much less time is because the apps an data will be downloaded in the background, so you can use your new device faster.
I am not sure if I will use iCloud for restoring in the future or not. I may try it sometime just to see how well it works. This would also require that I backup to iCloud, which I could do, but I do not currently do so.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a set of reduced bezels around the edge of the screen. These are only slight reductions, but they are noticeable. When you reduce the bezels you have two options, reduce the physical size of the device or increase the screen size. Apple chose the former with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The screen is still the same 6.7-inch display, but the physical size is smaller.
The way that the physical size was reduced was through the reduction of the bezels. The bezels around the outside of the iPhone 15 Pro Max are noticeably smaller. The size of the iPhone has gone from 160.7mm wide to 159.9mm wide, a reduction of 0.8mm. Similarly, the width of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is 76.7mm as compared to the 77.6mm on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This is 0.9mm difference. These are slight changes, but any reduction in physical size can be helpful for those who may have struggled with previous phones.
This size change has also allowed the corners of the iPhone to become a bit more rounded, when combined with the changes in bezels, the overall change is noticeable, but may only stand out when you look at the two phones side-by-side.
Now, let us look at the finish of the iPhone 15 Pro Max
While a majority of people who buy a new iPhone they will immediately put a case on it, like I do. However, there is a certain segment of the iPhone users who prefer using their iPhones without a case. The iPhone 14 Pro Max had stainless steel bands along the outside edge of the iPhone. When you looked at the stainless steel bands, they were entirely smooth and a mirror-like finish. One of the downsides of the stainless steel bands is that they are definitely fingerprint magnets.
The titanium on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is different from the stainless steel. The titanium bands are not mirror-like. Instead, they are non-reflective and when you look at the bands you will see striations of differing colors. These are normal and are from the manufacturing process. The Titanium bands will show fingerprints, but they will be less noticeable than on the stainless steel bands.
The titanium in the iPhone 15 Pro Max does lead to another change, a change in weight, so let us look at that now.
The inner structure of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is titanium. Titanium is lighter than Stainless Steel, which has been the material for the iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max for the last few iPhone releases. The Titanium structure allows for the iPhone to be lighter. The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in at 221 grams, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro Max is 240 grams. In terms of actual difference it is only 19 grams, or 8 percent, but you reduce something by 8 percent and it will feel noticeably different.
This is definitely the case with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. When you hold the iPhone 15 Pro Max it feels substantially lighter. This can have a few knock-on effects, like reduce strain on your hands and wrists. You may also notice the slight difference when you are carrying it in a pocket.
In 2008 Apple acquired a company called P.A. Semi. At the time, nobody was 100% confident in what Apple would do with the acquisition. In June of 2010 we found out what the acquisition produced. This was made clear when Apple introduced the iPhone 4, which had an all new processor, the A4. This was the first processor wholly developed by Apple.
From 2010 to 2016, Apple improved each chip. In 2017 Apple introduced a whole new chip, the A11 Bionic. This processor was designed for a brand new iPhone, the iPhone X. From the iPhone X to the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple continued to use the "Bionic" moniker. With the introduction of iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max Apple has chosen to go with a different moniker, one that they have used on other products. That moniker is "Pro".
Breaking with the "Bionic" name makes sense, and given the significant number of changes with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, it is a good time to do so.
The first change is that the A17 Pro is the first chip to use a 3 nanometer process. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro max both used a 5 nanometer process. With each die shrink comes new efficiencies, like speed, and battery life. The A17 Pro has 19 billion transistors, which is an increase of 18.75% over the 16 billion transistors in the A16 Bionic. The additional 3 billion transistors provides a significant improvement in CPU performance, GPU performance, and machine learning.
There are 6 CPU Cores in the A17 Pro, 2 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores. According to Apple the High Performance cores are up to 10% faster than the A16 Bionic. Along with the CPU there is a 16-core Neural Engine. According to Apple the Neural Engine is up to 2x faster than previous versions and the Neural Engine can do 35 Trillion operations per second.
The CPU and Neural Engine are not new, but there are some new engines. There is now a dedicated ProRes Codec, just like on the M1 and M2 lines. There is also a Pro Display engine, for better handling of displays. There is also a dedicated decoder for AV1.
The GPU in the A17 Pro is designed for gaming. The A17 Pro hardware accelerated Ray Tracing is 4x faster than the software-based solutions. This should help for any games and apps that can utilize the power of the A17 Pro.
The A17 Pro adds some functionality to another change, USB-C. Let us inspect that next.
Being able to have one device talk to another can be done in a couple of different ways. Sometimes this can be done wirelessly using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but other times you need to have a physical connection. The computing industry has had a myriad of different connections over the last 30 years.
Over the last 20 years of portable devices Apple has only had three connections, the 30-pin connector, Lightning, and USB-C. The 30-pin connector was used on iPods and iPhones from 2003 until 2012. First introduced on the third-generation iPod, the 30-pin connector was a proprietary connector that would allow transferring of data from a Mac, or PC, to the iPod. This connector allowed for either FireWire or USB connections to the computer, depending on the computer. Starting in October of 2012 Apple replaced the 30-pin connector with a new one called Lightning.
The Lightning connector was a huge improvement over the 30-pin connector in a number of ways. The first is that the connector was significantly smaller. The small size provided the capability of creating even smaller devices, like the iPod nano. The second enhancement was that the connector is reversible. The fact that it is reversible means that you can plug in the Lightning connector either direction. This was very welcome at its introduction. The Lightning connection was used on all iPhones between 2012 with the introduction of the iPhone 5 through the iPhone 14 line, introduced in 2022.
Starting with the iPhone 15 line, including the iPhone 15 Pro Max, no longer come with Lightning. Instead, they have a USB-C connection. While this is the first time an iPhone has had a USB-C connection, it is far from the first Apple device to have USB-C. That honor goes to 12-inch MacBook which was introduced in 2015.
USB-C is an industry standard that allows for both power and data over the same cable, much like Lightning and the 30-pin connector. The USB-C port iPhone 15 Pro Max can support USB 3 speeds, up to 10 gigabits per second. This contrasts to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus which only support USB 2 speeds at 480 megabits per second. Having the ability to
The iPhone 15 Pro Max does come with a USB-C to USB-C cable that supports fast charging. You can charge using MagSafe up to 15 watts, standard Qi charging at 7.5 watts, and if you have a 20 watt, or higher, charger, you can get a 50% charge in about 30 minutes.
The A17 Pro in the iPhone 15 Pro Max provides the capability of USB 3, meaning up to 10 gigabits per second, as a theoretical maximum. While this is the maximum, it is not likely that you will see those speeds consistently. However, even at half that speed, or 5 Gigabits per second would be more than 10x faster than USB 2, which is 480 Megabits per second.
As outlined in the setup section, it took 2.5 hours to complete the transfer. I am hoping that with the addition of USB-C, and USB 3 that the transfer process will finish much faster. In an ideal world, USB-C is capable of handling up to 10 gigabits per second and this would translate into 1.25 Gigabytes per second. Let us say that it can only get 8 gigabits per second, or 1 gigabyte per second. Currently on my iPhone 15 Pro Max I am using 291.3 Gigabytes of my 512 gigabytes. At 1 Gigabyte a second, it would take just about 300 seconds… this is 5 minutes. That means, that using a cable it could take from unboxing to usage in 15 minutes. This would be a vast improvement if you have the right cable and if Apple actually would allow direct device to device transfers over a physical cable.
I truly hope Apple is enabling this because I would love to be able to have my iPhone setup in 30 minutes, even if I have to wait for apps and music to redownload after the initial transfer, but this happens regardless, so having an iPhone available even faster would be a welcome change.
USB-C is versatile in that you can use it to connect accessories, like thumb drives, external hard drives, and even ethernet adapters. If you have a USB-C device it is possible that it might be usable when connected to your iPhone 15 Pro Max. There is one thing that does not work on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Thunderbolt. I attempted to connect my iPhone 15 Pro Max to a thunderbolt to ethernet adapter that I have owned for a while. I connected this through a USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter. When I did this, it did not work. I actually got a message stating:
Thunderbolt accessories are not support on this iPhone.
It is too bad that they are not usable, because I would have liked to have tried connecting my existing items to the iPhone. I was able to connect a USB-C thumb drive that I have. I was able to use it within the Files app, just like I could with my 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Included USB-C Cable
While USB-C on the iPhone 15 Pro Max can support up to 10 gigabits per second, you cannot get those speeds with the cable that is included in the box. Apple includes a standard charging cable, which only supports USB-2 speeds, or 480 Megabits per second. This cable can support fast charging up to 60 watts, but it does not support faster speeds. For a majority of users this will not be a problem, but it could be a problem for users who are expecting faster speeds. In these cases you will need a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C cable.
Apple does sell a Thunderbolt USB-C cable in three lengths. 1 meter is $69, 1.8 meters is $129, and the 3 meter cable is $159. However, with USB-C being a standard you can find some cables that are less expensive from other manufacturers, like Monoprice and Other World Computing (OWC).
USB-C is a great addition, but let us now look at something that some users might need, the ability to convert existing cables to USB-C.
Lightning to USB-C Adapter
Even though Apple had had USB-C on many of its Macs since 2016, there are still a plethora of devices that use a Lightning connection, including some devices that are still being sold by Apple today. Some of these include older iPhones, like the iPhone 13, iPhone 14, and iPhone SE. But it also includes accessories, like the 2nd generation AirPods, Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad.
With the release of iPhones with USB-C users may still have USB to Lightning cables, Apple created a Lightning to USB-C adapter. This adapter plugs the male end of into the lightning end of a cable and converts it to a male USB-C port. This works well for cases where you need a quick way to convert from Lightning to USB-C.
One of the benefits of the USB-C is the ability to charge items using USB-C. The power flows from the Lightning cable to the adapter to the USB-C port. This is a good thing to have if you need to charge things like AirPods, Beats Headphones, Apple Watches, or other devices.
The place where I use this adapter the most is with my Beats Studio Pros. The reason that I use the adapter is because I only need to power them and the Lightning to USB-C adapter can provide all of the power that my Beats Studio Pros need and when I am not charging my Beats Studio Pros, I can use the Lightning cable for other devices.
There are some limitations to the adapter though. I was only able to use certain Lightning accessories with the adapter. These include:
- Lightning to Headphone Adapter
- Lightning to USB-A cable
- Lightning to USB-C cable
Any sort of "active" device, like the Lightnig to VGA adapter or the Lightning to USB-A adapter will display the message
This accessory is not supported by this device.
Even if Apple were to replace every Lightning-enabled device currently being sold with USB-C devices it will still be years, if not a decade, where people will have a need for Lightning cables. Having a Lightning to USB-C adapter can maintain compatibility for a while.
Things to Consider
While Apple does provide the Lightning to USB-C adapter, there may be other locations where you need to have cables. One place where I needed to replace the cable that I had was in my car. My car has a USB-A port that can be used for CarPlay. Previously, I was using Apple’s 0.5 meter USB-A to Lightning cable. I could opt to use the Lightning to USB-C adapter, but that is a bit much. Apple does not sell a USB-A to USB-C cable, but other manufacturers do.
I ended up buying a 0.5 meter USB-A to USB-C cable from Monoprice. The cable does work as intended, but there does seem to be a slight issue. The boot that covers the USB-C port seems to be just a tad too big. It does indeed work, but it does not seem like there is a secure fit. I have not had an issue with the plug falling out, but it just does not seem secure.
This could be related to the fact that the case is not entirely centered and now the cable that I have is just a bit too big. This was too big to plug in with the FineWoven case on my iPhone. Once I removed the case the thumb drive worked perfectly fine.
Now that we have covered USB-C, let us move to another big change, the Action Button.
One feature that has been on all iPhones is the physical Ringer/Mute switch. The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have removed this switch and in its place is the new Action Button. The Action Button is a customizable button that will allow you to choose an action to perform. There are a limited number of items to chose from and these are:
- Silent mode
- Voice Memo
By default, the Action Button works as a Silent/Ringer switch, just as it had before. You can customize the Action Button by using the following steps:
- Open Settings.
- Scroll down to Action Button.
- Tap on Action Button. The configuration screen will appear.
- Swipe until you get to the action you want.
Some of the Action options will allow you to choose a specific item to open. The Focus option will let you select which of your Focus Modes to use. Camera will allow you to easily select which Camera mode to open. Shortcut will let you choose a specific shortcut. Accessibility will let you choose from a variety of Accessibility options, like Detection Mode, VoiceOver, Apple Watch Mirroring, and Guided Access, just to name a few.
With the possibility of using the Action Button for something other than Silent/Ring there needs to be a way of enabling the Silent/Ring switch. This is now possible through Control Center, just like on the Apple Watch. When you bring up Control Center, the Ring/Silent toggle will be directly above the Focus Mode section of Control Center. You can simply tap on the button to toggle between Silent and Ring.
Using the Action Button
The Action Button is not designed to just be pressed, in fact you have to press and hold for 2 seconds in order to effectively confirm that you want to actually perform the action. If you do press the Action button an informative message will appear near the Action Button indicating that you need to press and hold.
Because the Action Button is an actual button, I have accidentally been clicking it instead of the volume up button. When I click on it, it does not do anything because, as mentioned above, the Action Button requires you to hold down the button for a couple of seconds before your assigned action will actually be triggered.
I am hoping that Apple adds another action, called Media Control. I would think that this would mimic the standard controls for play/pause, going to the next track, and going to the previous track. These would all be done with a single click, double-click, and triple-click respectively. At least, having this as an option would be a nice addition.
Let us move to another action-related item, the Camera.
One of the benefits of having an iPhone is the ability to have a portable camera with you at all times. Each iteration of the iPhone has improved the camera within the device. In some cases these advancements are made entirely through hardware, while other times improvements are made through software enhancements.
As I have mentioned in previous reviews of iPhones, as well as in other situations, I upgrade my iPhone every year. As time has gone on, the importance of the phone portion of the iPhone has been significantly diminished. Something that I have done recently is tell people that I do not upgrade my phone every year, instead "I buy a new camera every year and it just happens to have a phone with it". I suspect that this sentiment is true for many others as well, although they may not upgrade every year, but the sentiment remains the same.
The This is not the first time that Apple has differentiated the highest-end iPhone from the others with the camera. In fact, they first did this 2014, when Apple shifted everything and introduced multiple phone sizes. At the time the sizes were the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Beyond the size differences, one of the ways that Apple differentiated the two sizes was through the camera.
The iPhone 6 Plus included optical image stabilization. Apple continued offering different camera options on the iPhone 7 Plus, and the iPhone 8 Plus also offered different cameras versus the non-Plus model. The iPhone XS and XS Max both had the same cameras. The Pro Max models for the iPhone 11, 12, 13, and 14, had the same camera as the Pro models. For these the difference was the physical size. This is not the case for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Once again Apple has differentiated the cameras between iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the most advanced camera out of all of this year’s iPhones. There are three cameras, the Main, Ultra-Wide, and Telephoto lenses. The Main camera is a 48MP, ƒ/1.78 aperture lens. The Ultra Wide camera is a 12MP, ƒ/2.2 aperture lens. The Telephoto camera is a 12MP, ƒ/2.8 aperture. These are the same as on the iPhone 15 Pro. The change though, is with the optical zoom lengths.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max has 0.5x, 1x, 2x, and 5x optical zoom. In case you are not aware, Optical Zoom is zoom that is being made by the Camera lens itself. Whereas Digital zoom is using software to zoom the camera lens. The amount of digital zoom is 5x, so that means that the iPhone 15 Pro Max can get up to 25x zoom.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a total of seven different lens equivalents. The 0.5x, 1x, and 2x each have the same equivalent as the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which are 13mm, 24mm, and 48mm respectively. The other lens equivalents are at 1.2x which is 28mm, 1.5x which is 35mm, and the 5x zoom is the equivalent of a 120mm lens. The last lens is the Macro lens, which was also present on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Each of the various lenses have their own usage. 28mm lenses are good for street photographs. 35mm lenses are good for portrait photography. Meanwhile, the 120mm lens is good for zooming in on subjects.
Now, you may think that adding even more options to the presets could quickly overwhelm the Camera interface, but Apple has an approach that works so that you can quickly switch between the 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm lenses. You simply tap on the 1x setting and it will switch to the next largest size. You can even select which modes to switch between, as well as which one is your default. These are set within Settings -> Camera.
To quickly select between the 28mm and 35mm lenses, simply tap on the "Main Camera" option. Here you can toggle on and off the lenses. On the same screen you can also set the default lens. When you set the default lens it will be the one selected when you open the Camera app. This is a nice touch for those who have a preferred lens.
While on the topic of Settings, there is one other new Setting called "Photo Capture". This setting will allow you to choose the default for photos. The two options are 12 Megapixels or 24 Megapixels. 12MP images will take approximately 2 megabytes per image, while 24 MP images will take around 3 megabytes per image. It should be noted that images in Macro Mode, Night Mode, flash, or Portrait Lighting will use the 12 megapixels.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max camera can automatically make up to 10,000 micro adjustments per second, which is twice as many as iPhone 14 Pro. These micro adjustments are made in three directions, up/down, left/right, and in/out. This is the first time this this type of adjustment has been in an iPhone.
Experience with the Camera
While I enjoy using the iPhone to take pictures, I am by no means a professional photographer. I am able to to get decent photos from time to time. Here are some comparisons of what I took with iPhone 14 Pro Max and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
As you can see, there have been significant improvements just year over year with the Camera, which again, is why I buy a new iPhone every year. There are a two other smaller items to mention, the View Finder, and Spatial Video.
One feature that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has is that a view finder will be shown once you zoom in past 8x a View Finder will be shown in the upper right corner of your iPhone so you can see the overall item that you are focusing in on, while still attempting to get the zoomed in area that you would like. This is a nice touch for those times when you need to zoom, but want an overview of what you are seeing.
One thing that I would like to see is the ability to move the View Finder, even if it has to be selected from a list of preset positions. The last item to tackle is something that is not yet available, Spatial Video.
Back at their World Wide Developer Conference in June, Apple announced a whole new product the Apple Vision Pro. The Apple Vision Pro is a mixed reality headset that allows for either immersing yourself in virtual reality, or by augmenting reality, depending on the task.
The Apple Vision Pro has the capability of taking videos that are three-dimensional. These videos are ones that provide depth and are more immersive. It turns out that the Vision Pro is not the only device that will be able to to take Spatial Videos, in fact both the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will be able to take them as well.
The ability to record Spatial Video is not yet available, however it will be coming to an update later this year. Even though Spatial Video is not available yet, it is worth mentioning for the future.
Now that we have finished the discussion of all of the features of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, let us look at some benchmarks.
As is the case with all of my reviews, where it makes sense, I include some benchmarks to provide comparison of the device’s speed, as compared to other devices. This year all of the benchmarks were done with Geekbench 6.2.0.
|iPhone 15 Pro Max (2023)||A17 Pro||2892||7032|
|14-inch MacBook Pro (2023)||M2 Max||2710||14797|
|iPhone 14 Pro Max (2022)||A16 Bionic||2640||6220|
|12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation) (2021)||M1||2375||8647|
|Mac Studio (2022)||M1 Max||2335||12453|
|Mac mini (2020)||M1||2238||8741|
|iPad mini (6th generation) (2021)||A15||2157||5548|
|iPhone X (2017)||A10 Fusion||1082||2545|
If you upgrade your iPhone year over year the changes are typically evolutionary, not revolutionary. Even so, from time to time there have been a number of changes with the iPhone that do make it somewhat revolutionary. The iPhone 15 Pro Max fits into this category. The big changes are materials, USB-C, the A17 Pro, and a significantly different camera system.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in an entirely new material for iPhones, Titanium. There are only four colors, Black, White, Natural, and Blue. The titanium is used on the outside bands as well as for the interior structure of the phone. This new structure improves repairability. Along with this the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a bit smaller, but also slightly thicker, but even with it being thicker it is noticeably lighter when compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
USB-C is one of those features that a lot of iPhone users have been wanting for a couple of years. If you purchase an iPhone 15 Pro Max, you will have a USB-C connection. Having USB-C provides a wider range of accessories, like USB-C to ethernet adapters, USB-C thumb drives, or even bus powered, or externally powered USB-C accessories. One thing that you cannot use on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is Thunderbolt.
Even if the USB-C cable that is included does not support the 10gigabits per second, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is capable of doing so. This is enabled with the A17 Pro.
The A17 Pro is a new processor that is up to 10% faster in CPU tasks, but the new Neural Engine can be up to twice as fast and is capable of handling 35 trillion operations per second. Similar to the M1 and M2 chips, the A17 Pro has some dedicated hardware built-in. This includes a Pro Display engine, for better handling of displays, along with the dedicated AV1 decoder.
The biggest change is the camera. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has seven different lenses that can range from 13mm to 120mm. The 120mm lens is exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max and is what powers the new 5x optical zoom. The 5x optical zoom can take some really great pictures. Having a higher optical zoom means that you can be further away but still get clear pictures.
If you have an iPhone 12 Pro Max, or an older iPhone, and you like the Blue on your iPhone 12 Pro Max, you might want to check out the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It could be a worthwhile upgrade. If you do decide to get one, you might want to look at the FineWoven case, but it may not be the right fit for everyone. There is a large swathe of third-party case manufacturers.