The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the iPhone I've been waiting for. And I say that as someone who has been carrying around an aging iPhone 12 Pro Max. The biggest upgrade for me is the new 5x telephoto zoom, but the most pleasantly surprising thing is how this flagship feels in your hand.
The new titanium design isn't just stronger than the stainless steel sides on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It results in a lighter overall device, which is great when we're talking about a huge 6.7-inch screen. I also noticed how much slimmer the bezels are on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and appreciate the USB-C port.
I spent some time with the iPhone 15 Pro Max at the Apple event, and I came away impressed with the potential of the new A17 Pro chip and the versatility of the camera system. The Action button is handy, too. This could be the best phone of the year.
But there are some things I don't like, including the higher $1,199 starting price and the lack of faster charging. Here's my pros and cons with the iPhone 15 so far, and check out our iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 14 Pro Max comparison that breaks down all the upgrades.
iPhone 15 Pro Max: Specs
iPhone 15 Pro Max: Price and release date
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is available for pre-orders September 15 and the release date is September 22.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199, which is $100 more than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The good news is that you get double the storage at 256GB. There's no 2TB option, but you can upgrade to 512GB for $1,399 and 1TB for $1,599.
iPhone 15 Pro Max: Design
Wow. That's what I said to myself when I picked up the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Thanks to the new titanium design, Apple shrunk the weight from 8.5 ounces on the iPhone 14 Pro Max to just 7.8 ounces on the new Pro Max. And it makes a substantial difference when holding this device. In fact, it's so light you might decide to upgrade from the 6.1-inch Pro to get the Pro Max's bigger screen.
The titanium bands also have a cool brushed metal look to them, as opposed to the more ostentatious (and smudge prone) stainless steel side rails on the previous Pro Max.
Another plus for the new iPhone 15 Pro Max is that it sports the thinnest borders yet on an iPhone, so the 6.7-inch display seems even more immersive. I played around with all the color options — Black Titanium, White Titanium, Blue Titanium and Natural Titanium. The blue model pops most but the Natural model has more of a futuristic vibe.
iPhone 15 Pro Max: Action button
The iPhone 15 Pro Max ditches the mute switch on previous iPhones for the new Action button on the left side. It uses haptics to tell you when you've silenced the phone with a long press, but you can perform all sorts of other shortcuts.
In the settings menu you can program what the Action button does, including launching the camera, the flashlight, voice recorder and magnifier. And you can even customize what the button does via the Shortcuts app. My only complaint is that you can't map more than one shortcut at a time; for example, why not launch the camera with one press and flashlight with a double press?
iPhone 15 Pro Max: Cameras
So far I've only taken a few photos with the iPhone 15 Pro Max but at least on paper the new camera system seems very impressive. There's a larger new main sensor, and the 48MP main camera offers a new 24MP super-resolution default option.
Thanks to improvements in Smart HDR, portaits now offer brighter highlights and richer colors even in challenging lighting conditions, and I like that you can take portraits without even having to switch to portrait mode. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is smart enough to capture the depth info.
The real highlight, though, is the 5x optical zoom option, made possible via the tetraprism design of the telephoto sensor. I was blown away with how close the iPhone 15 Pro Max could get to woman way across a field without loss of detail. But we'll be putting this zoom to the test against the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which offers a 10x telephoto. The digital zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is 25x versus up to 100x on the Galaxy.
iPhone 15 Pro Max: A17 Pro
The A17 Pro is the world's first 3nm chip, and it means business. Apple is making the biggest noise about the new 6-core GPU, which is up to 20% faster and enables hardware-accelerated ray tracing in games.
I had a chance to play Diablo Immortal on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and the lighting effects were very dynamic and action quite smooth, even with lots of enemies on screen.
The CPU inside the A17 Pro is 10% faster, and the Neural engine is up to 2x faster, which can help with features like autocorrect and personal voice in iOS 17.
iPhone 15 Pro Max: USB-C and Wireless
Apple has begrudgingly adopted USB-C for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but I'm still glad it's here. You can now use the same cable for charging your MacBook, iPad and iPhone, and there's a USB-C charging case coming for the AirPods Pro.
The USB-C port on the iPhone 15 Pro Max supports USB 3 and gives you transfer speeds up to 20x faster than before. There's also a new Ultra Wideband chip, which lets you connect iPhones from longer distances and also lets you find nearby iPhone users that are friends or family when you're in a crowd.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max upgrades to to Wi-Fi 6E for faster speeds but not the state-of-the-art Wi-Fi 7 standard. A new satellite-based Roadside Assistance feature will give you peace of mind if you get stuck, which connects directly to AAA.
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
The iPhone 15 Pro Max looks like a formidable competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, which for the moment is the top pick on our best camera phone list. Samsung has an advantage with its dual telephoto zooms that go beyond Apple's 5x optical to 10x and much longer digital zoom of 100x vs 25x. However, we'll test these two phones side by side to see which has the better cameras overall.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the advantage when it comes to weight (7.8 vs 8.25 ounces), thanks to its titanium design. But the Galaxy S23 Ultra is a bit more versatile as it comes with a built-in S Pen for those who like to use a stylus. And Samsung offers slightly faster charging as well.
But when it comes to raw performance, the A17 Pro chip should beat the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip inside the Galaxy S23 Ultra. For more, see our iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra preview.
iPhone 15 Pro Max Outlook
There was a rumor that the iPhone 15 Pro Max was going to be called the iPhone 15 Ultra, but the new device feels pretty Ultra to me so far. You get a surprisingly light and sturdy titanium design, a handy Action button and powerful A17 Bionic chip. My favorite upgrade, though, is the new 5x telephoto zoom lens.
At the same time, $1,199 is a lot of money to spend on a new iPhone. And while the Action button is clever, I'd like to see Apple add more options so you can use it for more than one action at any given time. The charging is not any faster either despite the arrival of USB-C.
Overall, though, the iPhone 15 Pro Max could be the phone to beat. Stay tuned for our full iPhone 15 Pro Max review and in-depth testing.