iPhone 13 Pro Max: A Review

iPhone 13 Pro in Graphite

When Apple introduced the original iPhone in 2007, no one outside of Apple knew how often there would be a new iPhone model. The cadence turned out be every single year. Since 2007, they have introduced at least one new iPhone every year, with some years having more models than others. On average though, it is closer to two per year, with the last two years being the outliers with five iPhones introduced throughout 2020, and four new iPhones this year. Each new iPhone brings its own set of features and enhancements.

Even though Apple has an increasing number of products and services in its repertoire, with desktops, laptops, iPads, and accessory hardware, and an ever increasing number of services, the biggest product for Apple is the iPhone. The iPhone is the largest portion of all of Apple’s revenue and since the fourth quarter of 2009 this has been the case. At that point, the iPhone overtook the Mac for the largest percentage of revenue for Apple and has remained there since then.

2021 actually marks the 15th year of iPhone releases. This year’s iPhone 13 lineup make it a total of 33 different phone models. The iPhone has seen its share of changes over the last 15 years, and the biggest amongst these was not the flat sides of the iPhone 4 in 2010, or even the first new screen size with the iPhone 5 in 2012. The biggest change came two years later.

Starting in 2014 Apple eschewed the standard single screen size for its flagship phones by introducing two brand new sizes. These were the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. These phones set a demarcation point that marked a shift to use larger screen sizes Each subsequent year introduced either two or three discrete screen sizes.

As has likely been the case with many people, how I use the iPhone has changed over the years. At first its primary usage was as a phone and music player. Soon, it shifted to being a game and app platform, music player, and social media consumption device. My usage of the iPhone has not expanded too much beyond that, except for the fact that it is also the camera that I use most often.

I have been lucky enough to be able to purchase a new phone every year since the original, and I have either picked up or received it on release day. From 2007 to 2013, the model of phone, storage size, and color have all varied, depending on the year. Here is a complete list of all of the iPhone that I have purchased over the years:q

Model Color Size
iPhone 4GB
iPhone 3G Black 16GB
iPhone 3GS Black 16GB
iPhone 4 Black 32GB
iPhone 4S Black 32GB
iPhone 5 Space Gray 32GB
iPhone 5s Space Gray 32GB
iPhone 6 Plus Space Gray 64GB
iPhone 6s Plus Space Gray 128GB
iPhone 7 Plus Space Gray 128GB
iPhone X Space Gray 128GB
iPhone XS Max Space Gray 128GB
iPhone 11 Pro Max Graphite 256GB
iPhone 12 Pro Max Pacific Blue 256GB
iPhone 13 Pro Max Graphite 512GB

Since I upgrade every year, I am not on a typical upgrade path. Most people do not upgrade every year. When the iPhone was first released it had subsidies from the carriers, so It is more likely that they upgrade their iPhone every two or three years. Now though most people keep their iPhones for a longer amount of time, typically for two years, but possibly three to four years.

As you can see I typically opt for Black, Space Gray, or Graphite. With the introduction of the iPhone X in 2017, the phone color itself became less important to me because the bezel on all of the phones was the same color, black.

Last year I purchased an iPhone 12 Pro Max in Pacific Blue. This was the first departure from the Space Gray, Black, and Graphite choices I made previously. The reason I opted for the Pacific Blue is two fold. The first is because the color was a dark shade of blue that I did not mind. The second is that it is getting handed down to someone else, who had some input on the color choice and if I didn’t like the color it would be likely gust I would only be using it for a year,

The iPhone 13 Pro models come in four colors, Graphite, Gold, Silver, and Sierra Blue. I thought about getting the Sierra Blue, but the product photos indicated that the phone was a bright blue, and it looked to be a bit too pastel for my liking, so this year I opted to go with the trusty Graphite.

As you can see the last few years I decided to get 256GB of storage. This is generally enough storage space for my needs. But this year I moved up the storage to 512GB of storage. The reason for this is future proofing, not necessarily for myself, because it is quite likely I will end up buying a new phone next year and the iPhone 13 Pro Max will get handed down to someone else, and they will continue to use it until it is their turn for another handed down phone.


Picking Up the iPhone

Given the times that we live in, I debated on doing delivery or an in-store pickup. Last year I opted for delivery. The downside of this is that there is no way to know when my phone would actually be delivered. If I recall properly, it was almost 5pm when it was delivered last year, so instead I opted for in-store pickup. I got the earliest pickup time possible, so I would have a ton of time to do the actual setup of the phone.

Given that this is the 15th year that iPhones have been released, the physical Apple Stores have a quick and orderly process for being able to get everyone through the store. Part of the quick process is that they were not allowing any setup of phones in the store. This meant that they could get more people through the pickup process even quicker because they would not be staying in the store very long,

If you want to know how popular picking up an iPhone is, at the store I picked up my iPhone there were over 800 in-store pickups for launch day, and that was just what already scheduled. They still had slots open for those who wanted to see if they could manage to get a phone on launch day. Many were able to, but, as you might expect, there was a limited supply and limited quantities of phones to purchase on launch day.

This is not my first time picking up a phone from the Apple Store, so I knew what to expect. From the time I entered to the time I left it was a total of 5 minutes, from start to finish. So, it was definitely orderly. Next, let us look at setting up the device.


Setup

When you get a new iPhone, you will need to do the initial setup. If you are buying a new iPhone for the first time, and do not have any Apple devices, then you can do the setup as a new phone. Even if you have had an iPhone previously, this is always an option.

However, most opt to transfer the information from their old phone to their new phone. There are a few different approaches to restoring data onto your new iPhone. These options include:

  1. Restoring from an iCloud Backup.
  2. Performing a device to device transfer.
  3. Restore using an encrypted backup from your computer.

Each of these options has its own benefits and downsides.

iCloud Backup

It is likely that many users restore using their iCloud Backup. This is the method that usually takes the least amount of time, which is a plus. However, you do need to re-download all of the apps and media that were previously on your phone. So this can take a while, however you will be able to use your new device much faster, even if you have to wait for the apps and media to download.

Device to Device Transfer

A device to device transfer is a newer option where you scan a code that will pair your two devices and transfer all of your data from your old iPhone to your new iPhone. The data includes all of the apps, media, photos, and app data. The biggest downside of this method is that it can take quite a while to transfer the data, depending on the amount of data on your old iPhone. While you are transferring data, you cannot use either device, so your old iPhone will be out of commission until it finishes.

Encrypted Backup

The encrypted backup is the oldest and least used method. This method is very similar to the Device to Device transfer, but requires a Mac or Windows PC to transfer the data. Along with this, you need enough space on the device to do a full backup of your old iPhone.

Those are the available options for restoring your iPhone. You can, of course, start completely new with your iPhone as well, if that makes more sense for you.

How I transferred my data

I ultimately ended up doing the third option, restoring an encrypted backup. Initially I had started doing a Device-to-Device Transfer, but the estimated time started at 2 hours, but quickly jumped to 7 hours and was staying there. Instead of waiting out that length of time, I opted to do a restore from an encrypted backup.

I was going to do another backup of my iPhone before starting the restore, but the backup I had was from the night before, and anything that would not be updated could be replicated again. The initial restore that I had done failed, and this was after two and a half hours of attempting to restore. I then attempted to do another restore. This one too also took approximately two and a half hours, but did finish properly.

One thing I would like to see with this approach is an estimated time until finished. Even if it is not 100% accurate, even an estimate would be helpful. There is an indicator within Finder, but it is a simple progress indicator and does not have any indicator for how much time is remaining until the restore is complete.

Once I had the iPhone up and running, it was time to actually use the device. The first feature we will cover, is definitely one that you cannot miss, ProMotion.


ProMotion

One of the more prominent features of the iPhone 13 is ProMotion. ProMotion is not a new feature to Apple’s ecosystem. ProMotion first appeared on the 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 1st generation 11-inch iPad Pro, both introduced in May of 2018. However, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are the first iPhones to have a ProMotion display.

ProMotion is a technology that can intelligently adapt the refresh rate of the screen, depending on the content that is currently being displayed. In terms of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the refresh rate can range from 10 Hz to 120Hz. This adjustment is done automatically depending on the action being taken. For instance, if you are scrolling the refresh rate will go up to 120Hz. Conversely, when you are not scrolling and you are just reading content, the refresh rate will reduce down to 10Hz. If you are watching a movie, the rate should be around 30Hz, but while playing a game it may be 60Hz, if the game is designed to run at that frame rate.

When you first see ProMotion on the iPhone 13 Pro Max it may be a bit jarring. For me, at least, this was the case. What I find strange though, is that I do not have any issues with ProMotion on the iPad Pro. I am not sure if it is due to being acclimated to ProMotion on the larger screen and not yet being accustomed to seeing it on the smaller screen.

ProMotion does make some people ill, or have some other sort of side effects. If you need to disable it, you can do so by using the following steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down to “Accessibility”.
  3. Tap on “Accessibility”.
  4. Locate the “Motion” Accessibility setting.
  5. Tap on “Motion” to open the Motion-specific settings.
  6. Locate the “Limit Frame Rate” setting.
  7. Tap on the toggle next to “Limit Frame Rate” to disable ProMotion.

When you disable ProMotion the frame rate will be limited to 60 frames per second, or 60Hz. This should help reduce the sickness that some experience when using ProMotion.

Upon first realizing what ProMotion is doing, you may think that the constant switching of frame rates might use more battery, where in fact, it can actually save battery power, because the screen does not need to be refreshed as frequently. And since the screen is one of the biggest power draws on an iPhone, instead of refreshing at a constant rate, the adaptive rates of ProMotion will ultimately preserve battery life.

Not all apps will be able to take advantage of the full 120Hz refresh rate right out of the box, some app developers will need to add support for the screen resolution in order for their apps to be able to take full advantage of the technology,

ProMotion should make a significant change for many users, particular if you want to be able to view 120Hz videos that you have recorded. On the topic of battery, let us look at that next.


Battery

One of the areas of an iPhone that might, or might not, change between each version of a device is the amount of battery life. Of course everyone’s experience will differ depending on what the user does with their iPhone. Games will naturally use more battery power, as will using cellular data.

It is Apple’s intention to be able to have at least the same amount of battery life as the previous year’s phones. This is the case this year as it has been for every previous release. This year’s entire line of iPhone 13 models have seen improved battery length. Here are the reported battery lengths (in hours) according to Apple:

Model Video Video (Streamed) Audio
iPhone 12 mini 15 10 50
iPhone 12 17 11 65
iPhone 12 Pro 17 11 65
iPhone 12 Pro Max 20 12 80
iPhone 13 Mini 17 13 55
iPhone 13 19 15 75
iPhone 13 Pro 22 20 75
iPhone 13 Pro Max 28 25 95

As the tables show, the improvements range from 10% for the iPhone 12 mini for audio playback to 108% improvement in the iPhone 13 Pro Max streamed video playback length. Of course these numbers will vary, but even if the iPhone 13 Pro Max only gets 20 hours of video playback, that is still a significant improvement over the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, not everyone upgrades their phone every year. Therefore, if you are upgrading from an older device, say an iPhone XS or earlier, the battery life improvements will be significant over your current experience.

Battery life is not the only change, a much bigger change has been the Cameras. Let us take a look at those changes next.


Cameras

As mentioned earlier, 2016 marked a big turning point in the iPhone. Beyond screen sizes there was another major change that took place that year, one that focused on the camera that were in the iPhone. It is not that the camera was not important prior to 2014, but it was not the highest priority and not much effort was put into making sure that the camera was the best it could be. The increased size of the phones did allow more that just additional screen real estate. The increased size also allowed for larger chips, additional battery, which all means more space for cameras lenses.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus began a trend for the iPhone where the camera would bugle outside of the back of the iPhone. The reason that this was needed was to allow the camera to be able to improve. If Apple had decided to keep the camera lens flush with back of the iPhone, the camera would likely not be able to improve a whole lot just due to limited space due to the depth of the phone.

At the time there were many who thought that the camera protruding was not a good idea because the phone would not be completely flat when it was on a surface. For any though, it is not a problem because they put their iPhones in a case, and a almost every case would protrude just beyond the camera lens. The camera bulge, while seen as a negative to many, ultimately lead to the cameras we have today, which are absolutely fantastic.

One of the biggest uses of the iPhone, for me anyway, is as a camera. I know I am not alone in this. My biggest use for the camera is taking pictures of nature. I also use the camera to take pictures of items that I review. Therefore, I always want to have the best camera possible. The iPhone Pro Max will likely always have the best camera available on an iPhone, regardless of the year.

The camera on the iPhone 13 makes a number of improvements over the iPhone 12 line of cameras.

  iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 13 Pro Max
Telephoto ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.8 aperture
Wide ƒ/1.6 aperture ƒ/1.5 aperture
Ultra Wide ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view ƒ/1.8 aperture and 120° field of view

The camera on the iPhone 13 is an improvement in many ways. If you compare the two tables above, you can see that the Wide and Ultra Wide cameras both have lower apertures. When it comes to cameras, the lower the aperture the more light that is able to enter the lens. Subsequently the more light means that pictures should be a bit better and have a bit less distortion, or noise, in the picture.

  • Picture of a lake taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Picture of a Maple tree taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Picture of a leaf with dew taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max with 2.5x zoom
  • Picture of a lake taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • Picture of a Maple tree taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Picture of a leaf with dew taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max with 3x zoom

The aperture on the Telephoto lens has gone from 2.2 to 2.8. This means that less light will be able to enter into the lens, so when you are in a low light situation the results may not be as good as you might hope. But you likely won’t be using the telephoto lens at night, at least not without a lot of light.

even though the aperture is not as good as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, there is a good trade off for this. The telephoto lens now has a 3x zoom, which is the equivalent of a 77mm lens. This compares to the 65mm equivalent, with the 2.5x optical zoom on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

In practice, it is not likely that you will need the telephoto lens while in low light. If you do use it, you may notice a bit more grain and the zoomed in photos may be less clear. Overall though, I think that this is a very worthwhile trade off to make.

Cinematic Video

One of the features of the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the new “Cinematic Video”. Cinematic Video is a new feature that can allow you to create videos much like larger and more professional cameras. Cinematic Video will allow you to add depth of field effects to your videos.

With Cinematic Video you are able to set your desired ƒ stop, between 2.0 and 16, with the default of 2.8. When you switch the ƒ stop the amount of blur of the background will change. The lower the ƒ stop the more blur. Similarly, you can also adjust the exposure for the video. This range is for the exposure can be between -2.0 and 2.0.

When you select the ƒ stop for the background blur, or for exposure, this data will be saved with the video. This data is not baked into the video, but instead it can be adjusted later so you can get just the right effect that you are going for while you are in the post-production phase of your video editing.

In order to use Cinematic Video, you will need to choose Cinematic Video mode in the carousel. Once you have selected this mode you can make the adjustments to the depth of field and the exposure by tapping on the arrow button to expand the options. Here you will find both of the buttons. Tapping on either of the will allow you to make the necessary adjustments for the selected option.

Here is a video example of some Cinematic video that show the focus changing between two Lego minifigs.

After you have taken your Cinematic Video, you may need to do some editing. While the iPhone 13 models are the only devices which can take Cinematic Video, you are not limited to editing Cinematic Video on your device. You can use any of the following devices for editing including:

  • iPhone XR, iPhone XS or later
  • iPad Air 3rd generation or later
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd generation or later
  • iPad Pro 11-inch 1st generation or later
  • iPad mini 5th generation or later

Complete instructions for Cinematic Video can be found on Apple’s support site. Cinematic Video is not the only new Camera mode, let us look at the next mode, Macro Mode.

Macro Mode

The 3x Zoom Telephoto lens allows for a new mode for photos, called Macro Mode. Macro Mode will allow you to more easily take Macro photographic pictures. This mode is not one that you can manually trigger, it is an automatic mode that the iPhone 13 Pro Max will switch to if an object is detected and if you are extremely close to the object.

When the iPhone 13 Pro Max goes into Macro photography mode, the screen will switch focus to Macro mode. What is actually occurring is that the lens it adjusting its focus in order to be able to capture the detail. When the iPhone 13 Pro Max enters into Macro Mode you will be able to take photos that are super close. Normally when you would do this, the resulting photos might be blurry, but not with Macro photography mode. Instead, they subject of the photo will be very much in focus. Here are a few examples of the results of Macro photography mode.

One of the downsides of Macro photography is that there is no way to identify which photos were taken using Macro mode. The only way to be able to tell is by looking at the Exchangeable image file, or EXIF, data. From what I can tell, any photos that are Macro should be 77mm with an ƒ stop of 1.5.

Macro photography mode is not the last camera change, there is one more, called Photographic Styles.

Photographic Styles

The iPhone’s camera is capable of being able to take some fantastic photos, without any sort of manual processing or any adjustments at all. Despite this, everyone has their own preferred look for photos. If you do perform some editing after the fact you may have a standard look that you attempt to go for with each picture. With the new Photographic Style, you can possibly save some post-processing.

Photographic Styles are a means of being able to automatically have each photo you take have the same overall style. There are five different styles to choose from. These are:

  • Standard
  • Rich Contrast
  • Vibrant
  • Warm
  • Cool

Each of these styles has its own look to them. These looks are accomplished by altering two different values. These values are tone and warmth. The tone and warmth values are modified from the default value of “0” in order create each of the styles. For example, the “Rich Contrast” style has a -50 Tone, and Warmth of 0, while the “Warm” style has a Tone value of 0, and a Warmth value of +50. Standard, has a value of 0 for tone and 0 for warmth.

Photographic Styles are not filters that are applied after the fact. Instead, the style is applied to each of the numerous individual photos that are taken and combined to create the final overall picture.

You can choose your default preferred style by performing the following steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the “Camera” settings.
  3. Tap on “Camera” to open the settings for the camera.
  4. Scroll down to the “Photo Capture” section.
  5. Tap on “Photographic Styles”. The available styles will appear.
  6. Scroll through each of the style to find your preferred style.
  7. Tap on the “Use Style” button at the bottom of the screen to enable the specific photographic style.

After you have set a particular photographic style, it will be automatically applied to all of the photos that you take. Once a cinematic style has been applied to a particular photo, it cannot be changed after the fact. This is because the style is embedded into the photo itself.

When you select a particular style as your default, that does not mean that you are stuck using that particular style all of the time. You can actually choose the style on a picture by picture basis and even make individual adjustments. To choose a different style, perform the steps:

  1. Open the Camera app.
  2. Tap on the arrow near the Face ID sensor to open up the options.
  3. Tap on the triple square with a slash through it. This will bring up the various styles.
  4. Swipe through each of the styles to select the style you want to use for that photo.

While you have the settings open you can also tweak the Tone and Warmth individually to your liking. Each of these values can range from -100 to 100.

If you have changed the values and you want to reset it back to the default for that photographic style, you can tap on the reverse circle with an arrow at the end to reset it back to the particular styles default values.

The new Photographic Styles allows iPhone users to apply their own individual style to each of the photos that they take. If you have a default style that you prefer, you can set that as the default, but it still leaves room to tweak the options to provide just the right style.

There are some final things that need to be covered, so let us look at those next.


Other Changes

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a lot of headlining features. However, there are some other smaller changes that have also been made that you might not notice right away. These include changes to the Face ID notch, the weight of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and some changes around the eSim. Let us start with the Face ID Notch.

Face ID Notch

One of the changes that appears on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a smaller notch. Apple was able to do this by moving the top speaker to above the Face ID module and then moving all of the lenses to be closer together. The notch is technically a bit taller, which is not likely noticeable. What is noticeable though is that the notch is a smaller width. This means that the “ears” around the notch are a bit bigger and can provide additional space for icons or buttons, if an app decides to utilize the space. Below is a comparison of the notch on the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is on the left and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is on the right.

The notch on the iPhone 12 Pro Max compared to the notch on the iPhone 13 Pro Max

Despite being the prominent feature of all Face ID-enabled iPhones, at this point I do not notice the notch at all. The only time I even really notice it is when I am watching a video in full screen and if I zoom in to watch the video full screen. This is because some of the video is being covered, and then I end up noticing the notch. When I first got the iPhone X, the notch was brand new and not something anyone had become accustomed to yet. Now four years after its introduction, the controversy with the notch has become a non-issue

Weight

For me the iPhone is the most used device throughout the day. No matter what else I am doing it is very likely that I am using my iPhone for one reason or another. This is very likely listening to something Luke music, a podcast, or an audiobook.

Most of the time it is lying on a surface, but there are those times when I am carrying around with me. Having carried the heaviest devices introduced over the last four years, I am not going to notice a 12 gram, or 5 percent difference in weight. However if you are upgrading from an earlier phone to an iPhone 13 Pro Max, you may notice the difference in weight.

In the overall scheme, the iPhone is not a heavy device. Yet, in comparison to other iPhones that have been introduced, it is quite heavy. Throughout the entirety of its lifetime the iPhone line has ranged from 112 grams with the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S, to 240 grams with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The bulk of the weight is due to the battery being significantly larger than previous models. The battery improvements were covered earlier in the review.

eSIM

Throughout the history of the iPhone, each phone has had a physical slot for a SIM card. There have been dual physical SIM models of the iPhone, but these are only available in Mainland China where users are required to have a physical SIM for their carrier plans, therefore Apple has had to create custom phones just for Mainland China. Starting in 2018, with the introduction of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, Apple included an electronic SIM, or eSIM, in addition to the physical SIM.

With an eSIM you can add an existing carrier plan, or you can add an additional one along with the carrier that you have with your physical SIM. The iPhone 13 line has expanded beyond a single eSIM to now have dual eSIMs. This has ramifications in two ways.

The first being that it has benefitted Apple because they do not need carrier-specific models because all iPhones 13s activated on a U.S. carrier will be activate on one of the eSIMs. The second, is that you no longer need to have a SIM ejection tool, nor visit a carrier, to upgrade your device.

This change can allow you to activate carrier plans without needing to have a physical SIM card at all, which means you may not need to contact your carrier if you needed to in the past.

If you have a physical SIM card you can use the physical SIM and an eSIM simultaneously, provided your carrier supports it. It should be noted, that even though there are two dual eSIM cards and a physical SIM, you can only have two carriers activated at a single time. Furthermore, if you have a Physical SIM, you can only activate one eSIM.

The addition of two eSIMs will make it much easier for those who need to activate an account either while they travel or just on a daily basis. I know that this would have been great when I traveled to London in 2010, because no carriers were able to get me a sim because the iPhone 4 switched to a micro-sim. If I had an eSIM I wouldn’t have needed to try and get a SIM card.

Benchmarks

No iPhone review is completely without some benchmarks. Here are some benchmarks to compare the iPhone 13 Pro to various other devices. These benchmarks are not meant to be definitive, but as a means to provide a comparison to other Apple Silicon-based devices. These benchmarks were all run using the latest version of Geekbench 5. I did not run any comparison to Intel-based Macs, because it would not be a worthwhile comparison.

Device Single Core Multi Core Geekbench ML
M1 Mac Mini (Late 2020) 1753 7758 N/A
iPhone 13 Pro Max 1739 4691 2744
12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 1703 7316 2700
iPad mini (6th Gen) 1603 4543 2543
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1593 3726 2469
iPhone 7 Plus 768 1397 419
iPod Touch (7th Gen) 565 1077 308
iPod Touch (6th Gen) 278 533 N/A
iPhone 5s 259 498 N/A

As you can see the iPhone 13 Pro Max with its A15 processor came in just under the M1 Mac mini in terms of single-core performance and does significantly better in multi-core as compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. There is one last thing to cover, the Apple Silicon Case.


Midnight Silicone Case with MagSafe

Box of an iPhone 13 Pro Max Case in Midnight

Purchasing an iPhone is not generally a tasks that someone does on a whim, mostly due the cost of the device. The price of an iPhone ranges from $399 for a 64GB iPhone SE 2 all the way up to $1599 for 1 TB iPhone 13 Pro Max. Regardless of how much you pay for an iPhone you will likely want to protect it. This is typically done by purchasing a case. There are endless choices available when it comes to selecting a case for your iPhone. I typically go with the Apple Silicone cases. Not only because I know that they will fit, but because I like the feel.

I am not one who typically goes for a color that varies too wildly from the color of the iPhone. Much like the color of iPhone, I have purchased a color that was very similar to the phone color, typically a Black case. Last year with the iPhone 12 Pro Max I stuck with a similar color, specifically the Deep Navy silicone case. I have continued sticking to a close color, this time I went with an Apple Silicon Case with MagSafe. There are no physical differences in the features or the feel for case from the iPhone 12 Pro Max version. Where it does differ is in the look, and not just the fact that this case is not a shade of blue.

The Midnight case looks like it is dark gray, but at some angles you can absolutely see hints of blue in the case. Here is an example of where it looks blue, as opposed to dark gray.

The Midnight case is aptly named because at midnight it is not actually black because there is still faint light, thus making it a very deep shade of bluish gray.


Closing Thoughts

At first glance you might think that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is just a slight upgrade over the iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, there are a number of features that make it worth looking at. This includes the ProMotion display, the battery, and the cameras.

The new ProMotion display can adaptively adjust the refresh rate of the screen to be able to match the content that you are consuming, whether it is a video, game, or an app. if you are not doing anything but just reading the screen, the refresh rate will drop down to 10Hz. What this ultimately means is that battery should improve.

The battery levels on the iPhone 13 Pro Max have increased significantly. Specifically for the streaming video has improved 108% or 25 hours, up from 12 hours with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Similarly, watching video has improved 40%, and audio listening has improved 18%, to a whopping 95 hours. These are significant improvements. The trade off of this improved battery life is the iPhone 13 Pro Max is 5% heavier at 240 grams, up from 228 grams.

The most important reason that people upgrade their iPhone is for the cameras. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a slew of new camera features, like cinematic video, photographic styles, and macro photography mode.

Cinematic Video will allow you to create videos similar to those you see out of Hollywood. Photographic styles allows you to create customized looks to the photos that you come out of your iPhone.

The last big change with the cameras is the new macro photography mode. Macro Photography allows you to take close up photos that are detailed. Macro photography mode is an automatic mode that the iPhone will switch to when it detects an object.

If you are upgrading from an older iPhone, like an iPhone 11 or earlier, the iPhone 13 Pro Max will be a fantastic upgrade. If you are looking to upgrade your phone I recommend giving the iPhone 13 Pro Max a good look, while it may be the heaviest iPhone ever produced, the weight may be worth upgrading, even if it is just for ProMotion and the new cameras.

Apple Releases MagSafe Battery Pack

Today Apple quietly released a new MagSafe accessory called the MagSafe Battery Pack. The MagSafe Battery pack is a MagSafe accessory that attaches magnetically to your iPhone, or MagSafe Case. Therefore, it is compatible with the iPhone 12 line.

The MagSafe Battery Pack can charge either wirelessly or with a lightning cable. It is recommended that you use a 20-watt charger, or higher, to get the maximum charging speed.

You can order a MagSafe Battery Pack in any color you want, as long as it is white. The MagSafe Battery Pack is available to order now for $99, or the equivalent in your local currency, and it will ship in 3 to 5 business days.

The MagSafe Battery Pack does require iOS 14.7, so be on the lookout for that to be released soon. I have ordered a MagSafe Battery Pack and will do a review of it in due time.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: A Review

The iPhone 12 line of phone represents the 14th family of iPhones, but it is not the 14th iPhone. In fact, to date there have been 25 different iPhones, across 14 different processor families, introduced prior to this fall’s crop of iPhones.

Early in the life of the iPhone, the improvements that one would see from year to year were more significant than they have been lately. However, that is it not to say that any year’s iPhone is a dud. There is a segment of users who do upgrade every year, like myself. We are not the norm, and the differences that we see are less pronounced, compared to most iPhone users.

Most people when they get a phone, they will use that phone for multiple years, and sometimes the iPhone that they are using is one that has been used by someone else, prior to them receiving the iPhone. The typical upgrade cycle for most users is around three years. If you were upgrading to one of the iPhone 12 line, your last phone would have possibly been an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or even an iPhone X.

This review is going to cover a few different areas and some accessories. These will include, the form-factor, the cameras, 5G, the Silicone Case with MagSafe, and the MagSafe Charger. Let us turn to something a bit more practical, the form-factor of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Form Factor

The iPhone has seen a significant change to the way each phone looks. The original iPhone had its own distinct shape, replete with rounded corners and the 3.5-inch screen.

The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3Gs improved upon the original iPhone’s design with a more tapered shape. With the release of the iPhone 4 though a whole new design was undertaken, one with squared edges and glass on both the front and back of the phone. The iPhone 4s had the same form factor as the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s took their cues from the iPhone 4, but instead of a glass back, there was a metal back, but the square corners remained. Furthermore, the iPhone 5 was a slightly taller screen, which was the first change in screen size.

The phones released in 2014 changed everything and was the biggest change to the iPhone. No longer were the older iPhones. The 3.5-inch and 4-inch screen sizes were no more. Now, there were two new sizes, 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches. Along with this screen size differences, the square edges were also gone in favor of rounded edges.

The form-factor of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remained the same for both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. The next big change came along with the iPhone 8 with a brand new form factor on a whole new phone, the iPhone X.

The iPhone X introduced a slew of new features, like the removal of the home button and the inclusion of Face ID, in place of Touch ID, and a rounded screen. The rounded screen allowed a whole new interaction mechanism with the home bar at the bottom of the screen and using gestures for navigation instead of relying on the home button.

The entire screen of the iPhone X, through the iPhone 11, had the edges of screen wrap around into the case of the phone. This provided a smooth transition from the screen onto the other portions of the screen. This was particularly useful when you were attempting to use the home bar and sliding up from the bottom of the screen.

iPhone 12 Pro Max next to an iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max next to an iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max does not follow the same form factor as the other Face ID-enabled devices, insomuch as the outer case is no longer rounded. Instead, it more closely mimics the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and iPhone 5s by using squared edges.

The square edges of the iPhone 12 Pro Max provides a bit more bulk to the iPhone, despite it being 0.7mm or 0.29 inches smaller. The item that adds the bulk is the square corners. This is because with the previous five phones have all had rounded corners.

There is one last item to cover regarding the iPhone 12 Pro Max, The screen size.

Screen Size

I have been fortunate enough to be able to get a new iPhone every year that there has been a new one. At first this was made possible because AT&T was subsidizing the price. I made the decision to no longer be held into a contract and instead starting paying for the phone at its full price. This started with the iPhone 5s.

Having owned an iPhone every year, I have seen a significant number of changes to the iPhone, in particular, the screen size. The first of these was subtle. This was with the iPhone 5, when the screen size went from 3.5-inches to 4-inches. While only a change in the vertical dimension, it was still a noticeable change.

The bigger change came two years later, with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. I purchased the iPhone 6 Plus and it was a huge jump going from a 4-inch screen to a 5.5-inch screen. This change required a different method of holding the iPhone. The additional screen real estate also allowed for a split view when held in landscape, as well as a new “reachability” feature that would slide the entire screen down so you could reach an element in the upper corner.

Even if you did not get the iPhone 6 Plus, and instead opted for the iPhone 6, you would still get a phone with a 4.7-inch screen. This alone was still a 17.5% increase in diagonal screen size. Still a significant difference.

As mentioned earlier, the next big change came in 2017, with the release of the iPhone X. This was the biggest change with the removal of the home button and Touch ID, the inclusion of Face ID, and the most significant change, edge to edge screen. With the screen going edge-to-edge, the physical size of the screen increased to a 5.8-inch screen. Even though the actual difference is only 5.4% different, the entire iPhone being screen does make the screen feel significantly larger than it actually might be.

In 2018, Apple took the iPhone X, introduced just a year earlier, and added a larger version. This larger model created the largest screen for any iPhone, to that point, with a 6.5-inch screen on the iPhone XS Pro Max. The successor to the iPhone XS Max, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, retained this same screen size.

Comparison of iPhone Models, iPhone X, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Pro Max
Comparison of iPhone Models, iPhone X, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has now usurped the iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 Pro Max as the largest iPhone, to date, with a 6.7-inch screen. The screen is now 3% larger. Even though this is the smallest jump from the previous model, it is still a noticeable change.

As has been the case with all of the previous changes in screen size, after a couple of days, picking up the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it now seems a bit small. I am pretty sure that if I had to go back to the smaller phone, I would be able to do so after a few days.

If you are going to go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and you have not had a “Max” phone, be prepared for a whole different experience. The larger phone does mean that your thumbs will need to reach even further than before in order to interact with an element on the screen.

Now that we have covered the screen, let us look at an aspect to the phone that is entirely superficial.

Let us start with something that makes no difference in the function of the phone, but is a change, for me anyway.

Pacific Blue

I have purchased an iPhone every year since 2007. While I have not always gotten the phone with the highest amount of storage, I have traditionally gotten the phone which was either space gray, black, or graphite. For the first three iPhones, the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS, the color would not have mattered, as the front glass was black.

Starting with the iPhone 4, through the iPhone 7 Plus, the only way to get the front plate to be a dark color was to get the Space Gray/Black/Graphite iPhone. So, this is what I did. However, since 2017 and the introduction of the iPhone X, there have been no bezels on the front of the phone, so in reality the color would not matter. However, the iPhone X and iPhone XS Max only came in three colors; Gold, Silver, and Space Gray. If I would have ended up with a Silver iPhone X or iPhone XS Max, it probably would not have mattered to me, in the long run. However, I do not like gold, so that would have been a non-starter.

Last year with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple did offer a Midnight Green color. I was tempted to get this color, but I was not sure that the color would be what I wanted. Instead, I went with the Graphite iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Back of a Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max
Back of a Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max

This year I did something different. I went with the Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max. I opted for this color for two reasons. The first is that it is likely that I will only have the phone for a year, so if I did not like the color, I would not have to have it that long. The second reason I went with the Pacific Blue is that the person who is likely to be getting the phone next year indicated that they like the Pacific Blue. Therefore, I opted to go with the Pacific Blue model.

Having had a Space Gray/Black/Graphite phone for so long, I never even really noticed the color on the phones, most of the time. I did notice that the shade of gray was different, but after looking at it it initially, I would not think about it.

Overall, I like the color. The color is diffused on the back, due to the glass that covers it. The stainless steel edges of the iPhone are a different shade of Pacific Blue. The edges match the Apple logo on the back of the phone, which is a nice touch.

The next topic is something that was initially introduced in 2017 with the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. That feature is wireless charging.

Wireless Charging

When Apple announced the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X in 2017, it introduced a new feature, wireless charging. All three of the phones used the standard known as Qi. Any new iPhone that Apple has released since 2017 have all had the ability to charge wirelessly. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is no different. If you have an existing Qi Charger, it will work just as it would with any other Qi-enabled phone.

At the same event where Apple introduced the iPhone X, they also announced another device called AirPower. AirPower was designed to allow you to place your iPhone or Apple Watch anywhere on the AirPower mat and have your device charge. Unfortunately, the product itself was never released. But the idea of charging without wires did not go away.

Even though AirPower never made it to market, you can still use Qi Chargers, however there is a new line of products from Apple called MagSafe.

MagSafe

From time to time Apple has been known to repurpose names of previous products for new products. Sometime the old product and the new product do not have any correlation, as is the case with the original iBook being a laptop, but the name being repurposed for an e-book format, called iBooks.

Apple has done the same thing again, however in this case it is actually a much closer repurposing. At its keynote at MacWorld Expo in January 2006, Apple introduced a new product, the first MacBook Pro with an Intel Processor, specifically the Core Duo. Besides being the first Mac notebook with an Intel processor, it also had a new feature, the MagSafe power connector.

The MagSafe power adapter allowed power to go from a power brick into the MacBook Pro, but the connection was magnetic. This had a significant advantage, if you tripped over the power cord, the power cord would not drag the laptop with the power cord, instead it would separate. This was possible through the magnetic connection between the power cord and the MacBook Pro itself. With the introduction of the MacBook Pro in 2016, the MagSafe power connector was replaced with USB-C connections. This left the ability for Apple to use MagSafe for another product.

Apple has done just that with a new line of accessories, specifically for the iPhone 12. The MagSafe line of accessories is more than just power, but it still uses magnets to connect the accessories to the iPhone.

MagSafe Charger

The line of accessories includes cases, wallets, sleeves, and power adapters. The one that will likely be used by a majority of people is the case, let us look at the Apple Silicone case with MagSafe. One of these is a power adapter specifically designed for cases and sleeves. The MagSafe power adapter takes its cues from its older brethren and uses magnets to secure a connection to case or sleeve and will provide power to the iPhone.

The MagSafe Charger has the MagSafe Charging pad on one end and a USB-C connection on the other. You can use any USB-C power adapter, however, you may not get the fastest charging possible. In order to get this, you will need to use Apple’s 20-watt USB-C charger. To provide a way to gauge the size of the MageSafe Charging Pad, here is a comparison of the Mophie Wireless Charging Base, the MagSafe Charging Pad, and the Apple Watch charger.

Mophie Wireless Charging Base with the MagSafe Charging Pad stacked on top, and a Apple Watch charger on top of the MagSafe charging pad.
Mophie Wireless Charging Base with the MagSafe Charging Pad stacked on top, and a Apple Watch charger on top of the MagSafe charging pad.

According to Macworld’s testing, when you use the Apple 20-watt charger you will get up to 17 watts of power to charge the phone. During my testing I was never able to get more than 14 watts of charging for my iPhone 12 Pro Max. It is possible that the reporting of my Eve smart switch was not reporting the proper usage.

For most users this is not necessarily a problem, unless you really need to charge quickly. Even when I plugged in directly to the iPhone I only got 18 watts of power to the iPhone. So, that is actually more than Macworld got in their tests.

I also tried using the 18-watt charger. When I used this I only got 14 watts of power, This is approximately 77.7% of the 18-watts that I got with the 20-watt power brick. So this is still quite acceptable.

Just to complete the testing, I also used a 29-watt USB-C charging brick that I have purchased for use with my iPad Pro. The highest it ever got was actually 10-watts, which is most surprising given that it can provide more power.

While the power rating that I saw is less, it makes sense because Apple cannot guarantee the power capabilities of the USB power brick that you use, therefore Apple is capping the amount of power allowed to be pushed to the iPhone. This is designed as a safety measure.

While you may be annoyed that you are not getting the highest throughput, in day to day usage it is not a problem. Any USB-C power adapter that you use will work perfectly well, just at lower speeds. Give that most users charge their phones overnight, this really is not an issue.

I would remiss to not mention that the Apple MagSafe Charger is a standard Qi-compatible charger. This means that you can use it for anything that is compatible with Qi-charging. This includes the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case, any iPhone introduced after 2017, as well as any other Qi-compatible device. This means that even if you do not have an iPhone 12, the MagSafe charger may be a worthwhile investment. Next, let us cover one of the new accessories that works with the MagSafe charger, the silicone case.

Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case box.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case box.

While it likely Apple’s intent that people do not use a case on their phones, the fact that a new iPhone is at minimum a few hundred dollars, there are many, myself included, who do not feel comfortable using their iPhone without some sort of case on it.

The success of the iPhone has created a market for third-party cases. It would not surprise anyone if the third-party market for cases vastly outsold Apple’s own cases. There are a couple of reasons that this may be the case that come to mind. The first reason being options available. Apple has traditionally only provided a few different types of cases. Typically these have been silicone and leather. There have been Apple cases for each of the iPhone models and sizes.

The second reason that many choose third-party cases is due to price. Apple has not been a company that is afraid of charging a premium for their products, accessories like cases included. Apple has been selling its own cases for almost as long as the iPhone has been around.

I have used a case with each and every iPhone that I have owned. This includes the original, the iPhone 3G, and the iPhone 3GS, which all could have handled not having a case on them. Having spent so much money on them, I wanted to protect them.

Typically Apple releases two different types of cases, leather cases and their silicone cases. Apple has added additional cases over time. Some of these include clear cases, leather folios, and even smart battery cases. Apple has charged $35 or $39 for silicone cases. Meanwhile, they have charged either $45 or $49 for the leather cases.

This year’s set of Silicone and Leather cases include a MagSafe charger, therefore the price that Apple is charging has increased. For the silicone cases the new price is $49 and for the leather cases, it is $59.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case in Deep Navy
Interior of the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case in Deep Navy

The case I have purchased has been the official Apple Silicone case, in the same shade as the phone. As mentioned earlier, I have always, until this year, gotten the Space Gray/Black/Graphite case that has gone with the phone. This year Apple has not made a case that exactly matches the color of the Pacific Blue iPhone. Therefore, I got the closest one that I could, and I opted for the Deep Navy Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe. I would have preferred one that matches exactly, but that is not the approach Apple is going with this year. Apple does release new cases quarterly, so maybe they will release one that does match the Pacific Blue color. If they do, I am not sure I would end up buying it, but you never know.

One of the features of the previous iPhone cases, not all of them, but those introduced since the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus, and in particular iPhones with Face ID, is that the Apple cases have not had is a bottom lip on the case. This has been the form-factor on all of Apple’s Silicone and Leather cases since they were introduced.

With the iPhone 12 the official Apple Cases have a lip at the bottom. For those who have become acclimated to not having any barrier when swiping up from the bottom of the phone will need to adjust. It is likely that there will be third-party cases which do not have a lip around the entire screen.

I have found that it is strange to have to deal with the lip on the bottom of the case. While it does not affect the functionality, it is a different experience after using cases without the lip.

There are two reasons that I can think of why Apple would make this change. The first is symmetry for the entire case. The second reason may be that having a case cover the entire iPhone will allow the cases to last a bit longer. These are merely speculations, as Apple has not provided a reason for the change.

The Apple Silicone case with MagSafe has, as the name implies, a MageSafe magnet embedded in the case. The MagSafe magnet provides two functions simultaneously. The MagSafe within the case provides a passthrough for charging either via the MagSafe charger or via any Qi-compatible charger.

If you have used any Qi-enabled iPhone at all, undoubtedly you have placed your phone on the charger at night and then when you went to look at it in the morning realized that it had not charged because it was misaligned.

The second function, and the one that is probably most welcome by users, is the fact that the magnets within the case allow you to easily line up the MagSafe Charger with the the case. This will allow optimized charging, which is a common problem when using any Qi-enabled iPhone with a Qi charger.

Given that the third-party case market is a thriving one, Apple is not limiting MagSafe to their own products. Instead, third parties will be able to offer not only their own MagSafe cases, but also their own MagSafe accessories. Companies like Belkin, Otterbox, and Pitaka have already made MagSafe accessories, like cases and chargers. It is only a matter of time before additional companies begin making accessories that will work with MagSafe.

If you plan on using any of the MagSafe accessories by Apple, or third-parties, you will likely want a MagSafe case and while the Apple case does have some tradeoffs, like the increased price and full lip at the bottom of the case, it seems like a pretty good case for use with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Time will tell if the case holds up or not.

There is another aspect to the MagSafe Charger and Silicone Case that needs to be highlighted. Those items are related to some animations. When you put the iPhone 12 Pro Max into a Silicon MagSafe case, you will see an animation with the color of the case that you have. Similarly, if you place an iPhone 12 Pro Max on a MagSafe charger, you will see an animation of the current battery power, in a circle, that looks a lot the MagSafe charger. While neither of these animations is necessary, it is a nice touch to see both of them work on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Animation after putting an iPhone 12 Pro Max into an Apple MagSafe case
Animation after putting an iPhone 12 Pro Max into an Apple MagSafe case
Animation after placing an iPhone 12 Pro Max on to an Apple MagSafe Charging Pad.
Animation after placing an iPhone 12 Pro Max on to an Apple MagSafe Charging Pad.

There is one more thing to mention about the case, but that can be done in the next section, which will be about the Camera.

Cameras

iPhone 12 Pro Max in the Apple Silicon Case with focusing on the Camera lenses.
iPhone 12 Pro Max in the Apple Silicon Case with focusing on the Camera lenses.

One of the major reasons for anyone to upgrade their iPhone, particularly if they are on an every two or three year upgrade cycle, is the improvements that are made to the camera system. Normally, if you upgrade every year the changes in the camera are not that great. They are undoubtedly better cameras, but they may not be noticeable to most people. That is not necessarily the experience if you were to go from the iPhone 11 Pro Max to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as I have.

The first thing you will notice you the cameras is how large they are. One easy way to compare the increase in size is by putting the iPhone 11 Pro Max into the case of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. You can clearly see the difference in the sizes of the entire camera module.

Back of an iPhone 11 Pro Max in the case of an iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Back of an iPhone 11 Pro Max in the case of an iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The size difference brings the last change about the Silicone case to mention. The Apple Silicone case for the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a hard plastic bumper around the cutout of the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera system. The reason for this is likely to protect the lenses when the iPhone is moved around as well as to prevent scratching should someone place the iPhone on its back.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a new feature, a LiDAR sensor, although it is not the first device with this sensor. The 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro, both introduced earlier in 2020 received this sensor first.

The LiDAR sensor has a few different applications. The first is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max can be used for augmented reality applications. This could be apps like Wizards Unite or Pokemon Go, or even room mapping applications.

While some augmented reality apps are popular, the second application for the LiDAR sensor is one that users will likely encounter more often, taking photos in low-light environments. The LiDAR sensor will allow objects, specifically people and faces, to be more easily recognized when the amount of light might be limited.

One the topic of low-light, let us look at the changes in the actual lenses. The iPhone 12 Pro Max still has three lenses, a wide angle lens, an ultra-wide lens, and a telephoto lens.

The iPhone Pro Max ultra-wide lens is still a 0.5x zoom lens, while the wide angle lens is still 1x, however the zoom lens is a slightly different than previous models. With the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it was a 2x lens. Now, however, it is a 2.5x zoom. It should be mentioned that all of these are optical zoom, meaning that the lenses themselves will be able to have those particular zoom levels.

With the new optical zoom of 2.5, this means that the maximum digital zoom has been increased from 10x to 12x. While this does not sound like a big jump in actual numbers, you have to realize it is a 20% increase in optical zoom. This should allow you to take even better pictures when you zoom in.

Here is a good comparison between what the iPhone 11 Pro Max vs the iPhone 12 Pro Max. These were taken in low light.

iPhone 11 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light. The image is a bit blurry.
iPhone 11 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light. The image is a bit blurry.
iPhone 12 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light.
iPhone 12 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light.

The reason that iPhone 12 Pro Max is able to take even better low-light photos is due to the bigger aperture in the lens. When it comes to low-light pictures, the more light that you can let in, the better the image can be. The iPhone 11 Pro Max improved low light photos by leaps and bounds. Still, the iPhone 12 Pro Max improves upon this.

Here is another comparison of some clouds taken with each phone. If you look carefully, you can see that the iPhone 12 Pro Max represents the colors more accurately than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit washed out.
Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit washed out.
Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit more vibrant
Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit more vibrant.

One of the major reasons that I waited for the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the cameras. I use the iPhone as my exclusive camera. It is always with me, or at least not very far. From what I have seen so far, the improved cameras were worth waiting for. Next, let us look at a feature that is new to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and that is improved cellular connectivity.

5G

5G Speed OMGGGGG.
5G Speed OMGGGGG.

One of the most touted features of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the other iPhone 12s, is the inclusion of 5G connectivity on the device. I use AT&T for my service, and I have since before the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.

When the original iPhone was introduced I bought one on the second day and immediately signed up for the unlimited plan. I continued to use the same plan since then. AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans in 2010. However, if you had an existing plan you could continue to use it. I, of course, kept using my unlimited data plan.

Over time AT&T had increased the price of the unlimited plan from $30 to $35 in 2015, and then to $40 in 2017, and to $45 in 2018. I continued to dutifully pay the increase prices. I was on a family plan, so switching to either another carrier or to a different plan was not as simple as you might expect.

I called AT&T about changing my plan and they informed me that it would cost me $15 more to switch two phone lines, even though one of them was a flip phone. I was able to move the second line off of my account and then I was able to switch to one of AT&T’s newer unlimited plans. I wanted to make the switch in anticipation of getting an iPhone 12 Pro Max, with 5G. And the older AT&T plan that I had would not have provided me with 5G, nor did it allow me to use the hotspot functionality that has been available on AT&T plans for a while, but those latter two are a different story.

Prior to getting my iPhone 12 Pro Max I did look at the AT&T 5G coverage map to see if I would be able to get 5G in my area, and I am able to get 5G coverage. Here are three different comparisons that I did with the iPhone 12 Pro Max using the SpeedTest app. These compare AT&T’s LTE, which they label as “5Ge” (do not get me started on that), and true 5G. These results are in Megabit per second, or Mbps.

  LTE Download LTE Upload
Server 1 35.50 1.81
Server 2 5.60 0.44
Server 3 12.50 3.67
  5G Download 5G Upload
Server 1 30.90 4.57
Server 2 42.50 2.95
Server 3 36.90 6.50

These tests were all done about the same time. Each of the servers used for each test are the same. Servers 1 and 3 are located in Chicago, while Server 2 was a local server. As you can see in some cases 5G was significantly faster, but in others, LTE was faster. The biggest difference is the difference in upload speed.

One thing mentioned in the iPhone 12 keynote was that macOS Big Sur has a bit more optimized when connecting to a hotspot on an iPhone. I did some testing to see if this was true.

  LTE Download LTE Upload
Server 1 3.79 0.44
Server 2 7.06 0.43
Server 3 19.50 0.27
  5G Download 5G Upload
Server 1 40.00 3.35
Server 2 25.30 3.95
Server 3 38.0 4.47

When tethered wirelessly to LTE and 5G, the same general outcome is shown, where 5G was faster, but particularly so with upload speeds. Your experience with 5G is definitely dependent on many things, including current congestion, usage, number of devices on the same cellular tower, the servers you are using, and many more factors.

I have mixed thoughts on 5G for the iPhone 12. On one hand, it is great to see that 5G is available on the iPhone. At the same time, I do not think that most will notice the difference at this point in time. However, in a few years users may actually notice a difference. If you combine this with the fact that many users will hold onto their phones, it may be worthwhile having 5G in the iPhone 12. Furthermore, even after one person has upgraded, their old phone may go to another person and therefore having 5G would be a nice upgrade for them.

One of the benefits to using a standard like 5G is that should there be any improvements that can be made via software, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will get that benefit, through a firmware update. Should there be an improvement that can only be made with hardware, they will not get it, but the likelihood of a change requiring a hardware change is quite low. The last thing that we will tackle is just some benchmark comparisons for various devices.

Benchmarks

Would it really be a full review without some benchmarks? I do not know if it would be. So here are some benchmarks for comparison. These were all run using the Geekbench 5:

Device Single Core Multi Core
iPod touch (7th Gen) 553 1077
Early 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro 684 1400
Late 2018 Mac mini 992 4442
Mid-2017 27-inch iMac 1068 4377
12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1124 4680
Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro 1170 5391
iPhone 11 Pro Max 1328 3252
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1604 4297

While the iPhone 12 Pro is not the fastest when it comes to Multi-Core performance, it is the fastest when it comes Single Core performance, at least of the devices that I own at this point. The iPhone 12 Pro Max out performs the iPhone 11 Pro Max, quite easily. Benchmarks are only one aspect to overall performance, but they can be useful to give you a comparison to how a particular device might perform, compared to other devices.

Closing Thoughts

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a large phone. A very large phone. The increased screen size, which is only 0.2 inches or 5.08mm, is still quite noticeable. The width and height have also increased slightly, which accounts for the larger screen. The squared off edges are a nice touch that harkens back to the old iPhone 4, 4s, 5, and 5s form factors. It is good to see the old form factor come back in a new revision of the iPhone.

The Pacific Blue color is a nice color and the fact that stainless steel edges match the Apple Logo on the back is a nice touch. Although, to be honest I probably will not be seeing much of the back or the sides, because I will have a case on the phone. The new Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe is a pretty good case, albeit with an increase in price. The increase in price does include the new MagSafe charging feature.

The MagSafe charger can be used with any Qi-compatible charger, not just the MagSafe Charging pad. However, if you opt to use a standard Qi-compatible charger, you will not get the full fast-charging capabilities that come with the MagSafe charger, but that may be worth the tradeoff. I know for me, I almost always charge overnight, so I do not need the fastest charging possible. Even so, the magnetic aspect of the MagSafe Charging case, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max in general, means that if you do use the MagSafe Charger, you will always have a charged phone. You will no longer need to worry about a misaligned charger and therefore a phone that did not charge overnight.

The addition of 5G, may not make a meaningful difference right now. In the future depending on what applications and use cases arise with having 5G, it may become an absolute necessity at that point. For now though, if you do not have 5G in your area, it is not necessarily a deterrent for not upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

As has been the case with previous years. If you have an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS Max, then upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro Max may not make sense. However, if you have an iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, or older phone, then upgrading to any of the iPhone 12 Pro Max may be a worthwhile upgrade, but be prepared for a significant jump in physical size and screen size. The larger screen real-estate, combined with the improved cameras may make it an easy choice for some users.

Here are a few more examples of some photos taken with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.\

Two Space Gray HomePod minis on a shelf.
Two Space Gray HomePod minis on a shelf.
Lego Super Mario Brothers set taking up the full frame.
Lego Super Mario Brothers set taking up the full frame.
Lego Super Mario Brothers zoomed in using the 2.5x zoom lens.
Lego Super Mario Brothers zoomed in using the 2.5x zoom lens.

Apple Announces iPhone SE

Today, Apple announced the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE is a 4.7-inch Retina HD display. This is the same size as the iPhone 8. The iPhone SE still has a Touch ID sensor, so if you are accustom to that and do not want to upgrade to a phone with Face ID, this is definitely the model you should be looking at.

The biggest difference between the iPhone 8 and iPhone SE is the internals. The iPhone SE has an A13 Bionic. This is the same processor as the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. Having an A13 means that you can use many of the same feature of iOS that the iPhone 11 line can. This includes

There are some other tidbits about the iPhone SE to know about. The iPhone SE can be charged wirelessly using a Qi charger, and get up to 50% charge in 30 minutes with fast charging.

The iPhone SE has Portrait Mode with all six modes (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, and High-Key Mono) including controlling the depth mode of the photo. Along with this, there is Portrait mode on the front-facing camera, which was not available on the iPhone 8. For connectivity, the iPhone SE feature is that the iPhone SE has 802.11AX, also known as WiFi 6.

The last feature to mention is that the iPhone SE has dual-sim support. A physical sim as well as an e-sim. So if you need to have multiple carriers for some reason, the iPhone SE can accommodate.

The iPhone SE is available in 3 colors, Black,White and (PRODUCT)RED. Unlike previous phones, the front face is black on all three of the phones, where as previously most models had a white faceplate.

The iPhone SE comes in three sizes, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. The prices for these are $399, $449, and $549 respectively.The iPhone SE can be ordered starting at 5AM Pacific Time on Friday, April 17th. AppleCare for the iPhone SE is $3.99 per month, or $79 for two years. AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss is $7.99 per month or $149 for two years.

With the release of the iPhone SE, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are no longer available for purchase as new, but may be available as refurbished.

Source: Apple

iPhone 11 Pro Max: A Review

Every year Apple releases at least one new iPhone and this year is no different. In fact they released three new models. The iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It has been the case that I have purchased a new iPhone each year. I have done so again this year.

Over the course of its history, the iPhone has been available in six different screen sizes, ranging from 3.5 inches to 6.5 inches. The biggest change occurred in 2014 with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The old 4-inch screen size, introduced in 2011 with the iPhone 5, was replaced with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively. The next big change occurred in 2017 with the release of the iPhone X and its 5.8-inch edge-to-edge screen.

Last year, when I purchased an iPhone, I decided to stick with the 5.8-inch screen size. I did this because I was not sure if the 6.5-inch screen would be too large. In contrast to last year, I decided to get the iPhone 11 Pro Max. If I do not like the screen size I can always downgrade the next time I get a phone. Normally when I review a phone, I would talk about a bunch of its features. However, this year, I will focus on a few of the new features. The first of these will be how my upgrade went.

Upgrading

Having had an iPhone since 2007 and having done 12 upgrades and countless restores due to various issues, I have developed an upgrade path which has worked for me with very few problems. That upgrade path is as follows:

  1. Unpair my Apple Watch. This will create a backup of the Watch on the iPhone.
  2. Perform an encrypted backup using iTunes of the iPhone after the watch has been unpaired.
  3. Restore the new phone using the encrypted backup that was created.
  4. Pair the watch with the newly restored iPhone.

I use this procedure because it restores everything, including Health data, two factor codes, and other private data. This procedure has worked quite well. I debated on using this same procedure, but this year I decided to do something different. I used the Direct Transfer method that was introduced in iOS 12.4.

Direct Transfer

Direct Transfer is a method where you allow your old iPhone and your new iPhone to directly communicate with each other to transfer your data from your old phone to your new phone. There are a few things to understand about the process.

The first is that this will create a direct connection, using wireless between the two devices. This means that you will not be able to use wireless during the transfer.

The second is that you will not be able to use the devices while the data is transferring. This is because the transfer interface will take over the whole screen. If you have an Apple Watch paired to your iPhone, you will be able to control any audio that is playing and you can change it as well.

On the topic of the Apple Watch, if you have an Apple Watch paired it should be transferred in the process. However, for me this did not actually occur. I had to open the Apple Watch app and then it recognized the Watch and then the transfer process began.

Fourth, the last thing to realize is that it will take a while for the transfer to actually occur. For me it took approximately 2 1/2 hours to complete. This was after it failed once and the process had to be restarted. Once it was stopped there was no way to resume it, so it had to be started again. This is faster than the way I had done this before. When I upgraded my iPhone XS to the release version of iOS 13, it screwed up half way through and I had to restore it from an encrypted backup. This process took 6.5 hours, so this new process was significantly faster.

The Direct Transfer process does have some significant advantages, besides being faster. The biggest among these is that while my downloaded music did not transfer, the fact that it was downloaded on my old iPhone did transfer. So after the transfer process finished the downloaded music began re-downloading. I actually prefer the songs to re-download, as compared to just transferring over. It turns out that a large number of the songs that had been downloaded to my old iPhone were corrupt. I did not really notice until I started hearing songs that I had not heard for a while, despite them being downloaded. What it turned out to be is that

The last thing that happened after the transfer completed, and is the case with any restore, my applications downloaded. In case you are wondering, the reason that this occurs is because the apps that are downloaded from the App Store are tuned specifically for your device. This includes, but is not limited to, asset sizes and optimizations specifically for the processors in your device.

Now that we have covered the upgrade process, let us look at the biggest change and the primary reason I upgrade each year, the Cameras.

Camera and Photos

This year iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, come equipped with three cameras. These are the Wide, Telephoto, and Ultra Wide lenses. These are equivalent to a 26mm, 52mm, and 13mm lens respectively. The Ultra Wide is new on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. It has been interesting trying to figure out the best use for the Ultra Wide lens. The Ultra Wide camera does add a bit of a curvature to the image, so it can be a bit distorted when you do take a photo.

Camera

The Camera app on iOS 13 is specifically designed with the three different cameras in mind. As an example, if you select the Wide or Telephoto lens, the Camera app will actually show the view that the Ultra Wide camera can see. This can help you not only identify which lens you are using, but also assist you to determining the best shot. This is because of the extra information provided by the Ultra Wide camera will be shown behind the control areas of the Camera app’s interface.

Here are some examples of the Wide, Telephoto and Ultra Wide Photo examples from the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Night Mode

Throughout the history of all iPhones one of the more difficult times to get a good photo is when you are in a low light situation. In order to accommodate for this, Apple has introduced Night Mode. Night Mode does some machine learning to pull in as much light as possible and generate a picture that simulates daylight. Here are a couple of examples.

You can actually see the subject of the images taken with the iPhone 11 Pro, as opposed to the iPhone XS. You are not able to enable Night Moe on your own. Instead, when there is not enough light the Night Mode will automatically be enabled. You do have a couple of options with Night Mode, when it is enabled. By default the duration is 3 seconds, but this can be adjusted to be 2 or one second. Whichever setting you choose, the Camera will take a series of photos. All of these photos will be consolidated into one single image that will produce an image that will bring out the brightest colors possible. Because the image is a composite, it is possible that there may be some noise in the photos.

You should keep in mind that Night mode is not night vision. This means that Night Mode does requires some light in order to function. It is not possible for Night mode to work in a completely dark room. If you take a picture with Night Mode in a completely dark room, you will get, a black image. The Night Mode on the iPhone 11 will allow many people to take photos that they may not have been able to get otherwise. Next, let us look going back to the larger phone.

Back to the Max

In 2014, Apple did something that it had not done before. It introduced 2 new sizes of iPhones instead of just one, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. These two new size of phones were 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches respectively. In 2017, Apple changed everything again with the release of the iPhone X. As you are likely aware, the iPhone X only came in one size, a 5.8-inch screen size.

I am not entirely sure why I opted to go back to the larger size this year. I think part of me wants to see whether or not the larger phone is the right choice. Only time will ultimately be able to tell, but my initial thoughts are that the larger screen is nicer. Each year, I end up getting a case, next we will look at a case that I got.

Clear Case

Many people are willing to risk using their iPhone without a case. I can understand wanting to show off the iPhone in its unadorned site. I am not one of those people. Instead, I purchase a case with each new iPhone. This year I actually purchased two cases. I bought a Black Apple Silicone case as well as the Clear case.

The Clear case is made of acrylic and as most other acrylic super slippery. The Clear case is not designed to be removed as easily as the Silicone case is. The Clear case is more difficult to put on and take off as compared to other cases. Of course the Clear case’s biggest assets is the clear nature of the case. This allows the back of the phone, as well as the steel bands, are visible. The clear case is definitely good for showing off your phone, but it is not necessarily the best choice due to its slipperiness. The last feature that we will look at for the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the battery life.

Battery Life

The iPhone 11 Pro Max supposedly has 4 more hours of battery life over the iPhone XS Max. I did not have the Max last year, so I can only compare it to the iPhone XS. With my normal day to day usage the battery is around 75% when the day is over. Of course the amount of battery life left varies depending on what I am doing with the phone. If I play some Apple Arcade games for a while, the battery will be drained quite a bit more than if I am merely listening to music, browsing the web, or listening to audiobooks. Overall, this is significantly more battery life than I would have at the end fo the day with my iPhone XS.

I cannot say for certain, but it could be difficult for Apple to maintain this type of battery life in iPhones going forward. It will not be easy to do, particularly with any transition to 5G, where there has not been the necessary time to perform optimizations for battery life.

Benchmarks

In today’s computing world, Benchmarks do not have as much weight as they once did. This is because of the dynamic nature of processors and their power draws. What Benchmarks are good for is proving a relative measurement compared to other devices. I have run a set of benchmarks on 6 different devices, for comparison purposes.

Geekbench 4 Single Core Multi-Core
iPod Touch 6th Gen 1302 2314
iPad Air 2 1848 4512
iPod touch 7th Gen 2719 4541
Mid 2014 iMac 3072 5556
Mid 2011 iMac 3504 8750
Early 2015 MacBook Pro 3766 7031
iPhone XS 4840 10496
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd Gen) 5017 17879
iPhone 11 Pro 5489 13863
Mid 2017 27-inch iMac 5680 19651
Geekbench 5 Single Core Multi-Core
iPad Air 2 384 1071
iPod Touch 6th Gen 384 1071
iPod Touch 7th Gen 529 929
Mid 2014 iMac 652 1278
Mid 2014 iMac 720 1934
Early 2015 MacBook Pro 709 1636
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd Gen) 1111 4613
iPhone XS 1114 2766
Mid 2017 27-inch iMac 1214 4664
iPhone 11 Pro 1337 3494

As you can see from the results, the iPhone 11 Pro is one of the fastest, in terms of single core. My 2017 iMac and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are still faster in terms of multi-core performance.

As a note, the Geekbench 4 scores are calibrated using a Microsoft Surface Book with an Intel Core i7-6600U processor as a baseline with a score of 4,000 points.

Similarly, the Geekbench 5 CPU scores are calibrated using an Intel Core i3-8100 processor as a baseline. Geekbench 5 measures the performance of your device by performing tests that are representative of real-world tasks and applications. Higher scores are better, with double the score indicating double the performance.

Both of these statements are from the Geekbench knowledge base.

Closing Thoughts

The iPhone 11 Pro Max, and by extension its younger sibling the iPhone 11 Pro is a solid phone. This is particularly true if you use your iPhone as your primary camera. The screen of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is definitely a plus. Yet, at the same time, the size can definitely be unwieldy and a bit bulky. I must have forgotten what it was like having a larger phone after owning the iPhone X and the iPhone XS for the last two years. It has been a re-adjustment. The battery life is absolutely incredible and you can easily use an iPhone 11 Pro Max all day without any issues.

If you are updating from an iPhone X or any earlier model, this will be a great upgrade. The speed increase that you see will be significant and the inclusion of night mode will make the photos that you take in low light that much better. If you are in the market for a new phone, then the iPhone 11 Pro Max could be the phone for you.