Boring. That's roughly how I and some of my colleagues reacted to the presentation where Apple showed new gadgets, among them the new iPhones.
But after getting the chance to try the iPhone 15 Pro Max myself, I felt the day-by-day features of the device begin to draw me more and more quickly into thinking about whether buying this model in late 2023-early 2024 would really make sense.
In this review, I will not focus on the many features of the new product - instead, I will share my impressions as an owner of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This will be useful both for those who use Apple smartphones of previous edition and for those who are already thinking about buying an iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Finish: natural titanium, blue titanium, white titanium, black titanium;
Dimensions: 159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25 mm, 221 g;
Display: 6.7" (2796 x 1290, 460 ppi), LTPO OLED, 1-120Hz, 2000 nits peak brightness, Super Retina XDR;
Camera: three-camera main system - 48MP + 12MP + 12MP, f/1.78 + f/2.2 + f/2.8; front camera - 12MP, f/1.9, Smart HDR 5;
Processor: A17 Pro;
RAM: 8 GB;
Capacity: 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB;
OS: iOS 17;
Battery: 4422 mAh, charging up to 27W;
SIM Card: 1 x nanoSIM + 1 x eSIM (Europe), 2 x eSIM (US), 2 x nanoSIM (China); 5G, Gigabit LTE, Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz), Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, UWB 2;
Connector: USB Type-C 3.0;
Extras: IP68, Action Button, Always-On Display, MagSafe 15W wireless charging, UWB-2.
Appearance. It's gotten better. Really.
Nothing has changed with the new Pro models. Everything is as simple as possible - you pay only for the iPhone, an "eco-friendly" box, a couple of papers with a sim card clip and a wire. By the way, there is no sim card clip in American versions, because there iPhones are sold only with eSIM. Only the cable has been updated: it is now in a fabric cover and with USB-C instead of Lightning.
The included cable is a classic USB 2.0, although the iPhone 15 Pro Max itself has a USB 3.0 connector. The practice of using a simple cable is typical of other manufacturers. And to get the advantage of data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps, you'll need to buy a separate black cable for $70.
For professional content makers, such a price is not a problem; for other users, AirDrop and cloud services will be enough. I don't see any "revolution" in the USB-C story: now it's just enough to have just one cable to charge all gadgets. The iPhone 15 smartphones support any third-party cables.
In the previous three generations of Pro models, the only design element that annoyed me was the glossy side bezels. Yes, they are made of surgical stainless steel with scratch-resistant and corrosion-resistant coating. But the constant finger marks made the device lose its "premium" look.
Basic iPhones with normal bezels without excessive pretentiousness against this background were in a more favorable position. But the iPhone 15 Pro Max seems to really correct this problem: gloss has been replaced by a matte surface, and not just a simple one, but a titanium one!
I don't think the new Pro models will lose their original look too quickly. This is unlikely to happen with "natural titanium", but the other models do not become damaged by keys and coins. Natural titanium can only be damaged if it is dropped heavily, for example, on asphalt.
Therefore, in terms of scratch resistance, the smartphone is not worse than previous generations. Yes, and prints on the frames are hardly noticeable, although in the same "blue titanium" they look like yellowish spots and they are not so easy to wipe off. Every time I wanted to do it, I had to make much more effort.
The side bezels are more rounded. Now you won't scratch 😁. Holding the iPhone in your hands is a bit more pleasant. This feeling is also influenced by the reduced weight. It was closer to 240 g on the 13th and 14th Prox. And although my iPhone 12 Pro Max is only 228 g, the iPhone 15 Pro Max with its 221 g is still a bit lighter.
Replacing the mute switch with a multifunctional Action Button seems to have surprised no one. Many people say "we didn't use this thing at all". Now it's the opposite, as the user can assign one of the suggested actions to this button, including a custom one using "Commands".
I didn't notice any other significant changes in appearance. When comparing it to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the only thing that catches my eye is the screen bezels that have been reduced to 1.55 mm - still as sharp and colorful, but now with peak brightness of up to 2000 nits.
Cameras. It feels like progress. But not much.
As in the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the main camera module is still the same - at 48 MP with an aperture of f/1.78 and an equivalent focal length of 24 mm. But there are three important changes: the default shots are now not 12MP, but 24MP; the shooting format is not only in ProRAW, but also in HEIF; there are several focal lengths - 24, 28 and 35mm.
The first innovation affects the detail, the second - to reduce the size of the image while maintaining high quality, but the third is the usual cropping of the original picture without loss of quality and with preservation of the original resolution.
The "Camera" now has a shooting mode HEIF Max, with which images can be taken at a resolution of 48 megapixels. But such photos will weigh about 5 MB, not 75 MB as in ProRAW Max mode. Note that this feature appeared with the iOS 17 update, so it is available on last year's Pro model as well.
Night shots sometimes turn out pretty good, but if the scene has enough light sources (like in the first and last photo). There's some doubt that the iPhone takes the best night photos, but they're certainly unashamedly good.
The camera now automatically recognizes people, animals, and other objects so that you can adjust the background blur yourself after the photo is created. Portraits are great during the day, but in poor lighting conditions, the iPhone can be inaccurate in blurring the boundaries of the subject.
iPhone 12 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max:
Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the new Pro model makes the shots a bit more rich, you can feel more details in the frame and the white balance is a bit more accurate. But I don't see any significant difference.
In the iPhone 15 Pro Max with the main module, as in the 14 "Pro" is available 2x zoom with an equivalent focal length of 48 mm. It essentially mimics 2x optical zoom, taking 12MP photos. Want more? Welcome the new telephoto with 12MP resolution, f/2.8 aperture and 120mm equivalent focal length.
In the new generation of Pro models only Pro Max has a telephoto with such parameters and the optical zoom is not 3x, but 5x. Revolution? Yes, but rather only in the world of Apple. Although even here, the "unique" technologies were not missing: the lens with improved stabilization and tetraprism, which reflects light 4 times before it reaches the sensor.
I managed to get good and detailed shots - they are very deep and pleasing. By the way, the camera now supports digital zoom at 25x. But I don't quite understand who needs it at all. Perhaps we'll wait for the same zoom someday, but already optical.
The 12MP ultra-wide-angle module with f/2.2 aperture, 13mm equivalent focal length and 120-degree viewing angle doesn't make me very excited, to be honest. But still, there is progress compared to my iPhone 12 Pro Max, which has the same focal length but f/2.4 aperture.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is capable of shooting ProRes video in 4K not only at 30 FPS, but also at 60 FPS. In addition, the Movie Effect mode supports up to 30 FPS in 4K HDR as before, while the Action mode supports up to 2.8K at 60 FPS. Available video capture formats are HEVC, H.264, and ProRes. No comments here - the videos are great, as always.
An innovation that is sure to please professionals is Log encoding support. In simple terms, this is the ability to shoot video in a logarithmic profile, which allows you to professionally color the video during editing. That's why it is somewhat faded after shooting.
The 12MP front camera with f/1.9 aperture hasn't advanced much since the iPhone 12 Pro Max, although there's improved portrait photo processing and improved Smart HDR 5. Overall, the front shoots both photos and videos just as well, but bloggers will still continue to shoot "video selfies" with the main camera.
Capabilities and autonomy. It's fine. Almost.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is still as fast as ever, with smooth interface animations and no lags. But I didn't notice any new feel in speed, especially after I upgraded my Pro Max 12 to iOS 17, which seemed to make the device a bit more optimized.
The iPhone for the first time uses a processor made on 3nm process technology - 6-core Apple A17 Pro. Support for ray tracing, AAA games like Resident Evil 4 Remake and Village, Assassin's Creed Mirage and Death Stranding: all this will be evaluated after a while. But it sounds ambitious - maybe at least now we'll be able to use the iPhone's capacity to the max.
But so far the web was filled only with news about extreme overheating and strange lags in Genshin Impact. I didn't experience overheating (and the problem was common for all iPhones), but in Genshin I really noticed lags, and in different modes - in high quality graphics with 30 FPS, and with maximum graphics settings at 120 FPS.
Power efficiency should get better with the A17 Pro. From my experience, the battery life is still good in normal usage, where I mostly surf Telegram and sometimes apps with VPN enabled, and sometimes watch videos. With that, I use Wi-Fi rather than mobile internet for more than half of the day.
For example, in this case, the smartphone once discharged from 100% to 19% in about 13 hours with an active screen for about 7 hours. If you want to play games, often set the screen brightness too high, shoot photos and videos more actively, the indicator can be much worse. Sometimes the smartphone discharges before the end of the day. Therefore, I can't say that the autonomy is great.
Verdicts. Shall we buy?
The conclusion I'm going to draw is pretty simple. If you have an iPhone of the 11th, 12th generation or older ("Pro" or basic), you can think about buying an iPhone 15 Pro Max. But only if you want an advanced camera.
If you have an iPhone from last year or the year before, upgrading to the iPhone 15 Pro Max is not worth it, even with the addition of USB-C. It's better to wait another year.