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The iPhone 15 Pro Max could to some eyes seem like yet another iterative update out of Cupertino. My "black titanium" model, in particular, looks almost identical to my "space black" iPhone 14 Pro Max at first glance. But after using the phone nonstop across three countries for the past week, I can say this is the most impressed I've been with an iPhone since the iPhone X; I like it significantly more than I did the last few Pro Max iPhones; and while I can never be a "full time" iPhone user because I test so many Android phones, I may finally do what most of my media peers do and make the iPhone my default phone when I'm not reviewing a new phone. This is coming from someone who's been very vocally and publicly criticized the iPhone and championed Android over the years. But Apple is slowly winning this Android diehard over.

About this review: Apple provided me with an iPhone 15 Pro Max for review, it did not have input in this article.

An iPhone 15 Pro Max render
Source: Apple
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
The best

Powerful and premium

9 / 10

The iPhone 15 Pro Max could appear like a minor upgrade at first glance, but the combination of the much improved in-hand feel and better cameras really make a difference.

Apple A17 Pro
6.7-inch OLED Super Retina XDR
256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Operating System
iOS 17
Front camera
12MP TrueDepth camera
Rear cameras
48MP f/1.78 main, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide, & 12MP f/2.8 telephoto with 5x optical zoom
USB 3.0, 5G, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, Thread
159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25mm (6.29 x 3.01 x 0.32 inches)
Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, Black Titanium
Main, ultrawide, telephoto
221g (7.8oz)
20W wired, 15W MagSafe wireless
IP Rating
Release date
September 22, 2023
  • Much improved in-hand feel compared to previous Pro Max iPhones
  • More focal versatility including longer zoom
  • Tremendous SoC
  • Action Button feels half baked
  • Still no free homescreen grid
  • Very slow charging compared to rivals

Design and hardware

Much more comfortable to hold — about damn time, Apple

The iPhone 15 Pro Max in the hand with the screen on.

While the iPhone 15 Pro Max keeps the overall design language and shape of the past three Pro Max iPhones, Apple made three improvements that significantly improved the in-hand feel. The first is the switch to a titanium frame instead of stainless steel. Apple says titanium is stronger and lighter than stainless steel, and while I can't vouch for the first claim, the lighter weight is immediately noticeable when I first picked up the phone. Weighing 7.8oz (221g), this new model is almost 0.7oz (19g) lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

iPhone 15 Pro Max (left) and iPhone 14 Pro Max (right). The iPhone 15 Pro Max appears to have thinner bezels, but it's all due to the slimmer titanium frame.
iPhone 15 Pro Max (left) and iPhone 14 Pro Max (right). The iPhone 15 Pro Max appears to have thinner bezels, but it's all due to the slimmer titanium frame.

This titanium frame is also less thick than the stainless steel frame, which gives the iPhone 15 Pro Max the illusion of thinner bezels (I fell for it too, as I wrote in my initial hands-on the bezels were thinner). This also means the iPhone is slightly less wide from left to right.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max's titanium frame (bottom) has chamfered edges compared to the stainless steel rails of the previous model.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max's titanium frame (bottom) has chamfered edges compared to the stainless steel rails of the previous model.

But the most important change Apple made that improved in-hand feel is to give the edges of the phone (where the frame meet glass) a subtle chamfered finish. The last three iPhone series had hard 90-degree angle edges. On one hand I want to applaud Apple for finally adding this design element to soften the previous pointy edges, but I also want to ask why it took three years. Adding chamfered corners to pointy edges is not a new innovation, Xiaomi managed to pull this off in its similarly boxy phone two years ago. Apple should have known after the iPhone 12 Pro Max that its boxy design with hard corners was not good for such a gigantic phone.

The edges of the iPhone 15 Pro Max (top) and iPhone 14 Pro Max (bottom). Notice the new model has softer, subtly rounded chamfered corners.
he edges of the iPhone 15 Pro Max (top) and iPhone 14 Pro Max (bottom). Notice the new model has softer, subtly rounded chamfered corners.

The titanium frame also does not attract fingerprints and smudges the way stainless steel does, making for a much better-looking phone. Like I said, these improvements may not even matter to someone who slaps a protective case on their iPhone, but if you do happen to use your phone naked, the iPhone 15 Pro Max feels so, so much better than the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

New button, new port

USB-C on the new iPhone 15 Pro Max

There are two more noticeable changes to outer hardware: the port at the bottom is now USB-C instead of Lightning, and the alert slider switch has been changed to a clickable button. The former is a big change and immediately improves usability: almost all modern gadgets of the past few years use USB-C as the charging solution, so now consumers can use one cable for their iPhone and other accessories. The Pro model iPhones' USB-C ports also support external hard drives and monitors (the non-Pro iPhone 15 models do not, as they use an older USB-C port). Apple is keen to suggest this would allow professional photographers to quickly transfer files from phone to MacBook, but honestly, AirDrop works so well and so fast that I don't really see the need unless you're moving over 10GB of files.

the action button of the iPhone 15 Pro Max
The iPhone 15 Pro Max's left side houses the volume rockers and new "Action Button."

I was initially very excited about the new "Action Button," because I love being able to quickly launch an app or a specific app action with a shortcut. But Apple's implementation is not ideal for me. First, it's too high up on the Pro Max model for easy finger reach. I have average adult-sized hands, and whether I hold the phone with my left or right hand, my finger cannot reach the button without first loosening my grip on the phone and readjusting my grip (though iPhone users are no strangers to doing this, because the Control Center is also impossible to trigger with one hand for most people).

On top of that, you can only assign the Action Button to do one task right now, which is triggered with a long-press. Why not give us at least one more action, like double press? The things you can do with the Action Button is also a bit limiting by my (admittedly high) standards. You can, for example, assign the Action Button to jump straight into the camera app, but not a specific shooting lens. You can have the button open WhatsApp, but not go to a specific contact. I suppose Apple can fix this second part of my complaint with a software update, but the location of the button is not ideal.

Display and dynamic island

The iPhone 15 Pro Max's 6.7-inch OLED display
The iPhone 15 Pro Max's 6.7-inch OLED display 

The 6.7-inch OLED screen here seems to remain unchanged from the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which at the time of release was the brightest and most vivid display on the market. While Chinese Android flagship screens have since surpassed the 2,000 maximum nits brightness here, the iPhone 15 Pro Max screen is still more than bright enough for direct use under sunlight. Apple's animation fluidity has been traditionally great, so the 120Hz refresh rate here looks visually pleasing.

Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro Max

And while the Dynamic Island camera cutout has been divisive, I like it. The shifting UI animations that cover the camera cutout make the homescreen UI feel alive, and more and more apps are taking advantage of it. United Airlines' app, for example, will show upcoming flight information, including airport gate number, and a countdown clock to boarding time, directly on the island in the hours leading up to the flight. And once you've boarded, the app then shows you your seat number, and later luggage pickup carousel number. Grab, which is Southeast Asia's version of Uber, will show me the license plate of my ride before the car arrives. Having this useful information — airport gate and car license plate number — directly on the screen at all times (even when phone is locked) has been very useful.


Much improved zoom, HDR, and versatility

the iPhone 15 Pro camera module

The iPhone 15 Pro Max's camera module may look the same as the last four generations of iPhones, but it's improved over the previous generation iPhone in both hardware and software. In terms of hardware, there's the new zoom lens. But while the main and ultra-wide cameras appear to be the same hardware as last year's, Apple introduced a new image processing algorithm for the main 48MP camera that outputs 24MP photos. Last year, the 14 Pro phones could shoot in either pixel-binned 12MP or full-resolution 48MP mode. Apple's approach this year is to snap both a 12MP and 48MP photo every single time you hit the main camera shutter: from there, the iPhone will merge the two photos to produce a 24MP shot that keeps the strengths of pixel binning while giving you more resolution to play with. As far as I can tell, I see no noticeable delay or lag in shutter speed or when I can preview a photo after it's been snapped. All the processing happens instantaneously.

It is here that I must mention I am not like many western reviewers who have had high praise for the iPhone cameras the past few years. I have, in fact, been very critical of the iPhone camera system. I found the last few iPhone cameras to produce colors that are too warm, with noticeable noise when pixel peeping, blowing out highlights often, and images generally lacking the depth that photos snapped by the best Android cameras. And when I say "best Android phone cameras," I am not talking the usual suspect that most western reviewers focus on. No, I'm talking about superior camera phones coming out of China from the likes of Vivo, Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei, who use higher quality lenses, newer larger sensors, and more optical hardware overall. It is not disputable that Chinese flagships have been pushing the limits of camera hardware more than American and Korean phone brands have.

Let's start by looking at how the iPhone 15 Pro Max cameras improve over the 14 Pro Max. For stills snapped with the main camera, the below images seem identical at first glance.

Main camera, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)
Main camera, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)

But notice the iPhone 14 Pro Max's color science is far too warm, turning my friend's skin tone into an unpleasant orange. If I zoom in to pixel peep, the 14 Pro Max's image is also noticebly noisier and softer on details.

100% crops, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)
100% crops, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)

In this next set, notice the 15 Pro Max again produces more accurate and better exposed colors, and does not blow out the white highlights in the right part of the frame as much.

Main camera, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)
Main camera, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)

Here are cropped versions. The difference may be subtle, but almost every side-by-side shot sees the 15 Pro Max image take small wins in colors, details, and exposure.

100% crops, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)
100% crops, 15 Pro Max (left), 14 Pro Max (right)

Here are a couple more cropped in samples of iPhone 15 Pro Max main camera images compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

You may be thinking "the differences are miniscule", but this is just one aspect of the main cameras. Apple also gave the iPhone 15 Pro Max main camera the ability to shoot in tighter 28mm or 35mm focal length without losing resolution and automatically capture depth information. The latter is really ingenious: every single photo I snap with the main camera, if there's a human or animal face, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will automatically capture depth information, so the shot can be turned into a portrait shot later. I can add digital bokeh, or even change focus points.

This is the level of zoom I've been waiting for on the iPhone

The bigger camera improvement come in the new 5X telephoto lens. Using a design similar to a periscope lens which sees light information bounce multiple times through a prism before reaching the image sensor, this new tele lens can grab quite sharp 5X zoom photos and respectable 10X zoom photos. Now in terms of raw details, it's still going to fall short of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's 10X optical periscope zoom lens or even the 3.5X lens of the Huawei P60 Pro. But for an iPhone, this is a significant upgrade in zooming capabilities. Below are 5X and 11X images snapped with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Look at the details in the dog's fur, even the 11X image is very respectable.

To put it simply: this is the level of zoom I've been waiting for on the iPhone. I enjoy shooting street photography, capturing images of random things around the city, including animals, buildings, signs, and people. For street photography, you usually want to use a long zoom, particularly when snapping photos of people or animals. The iPhone's lack of a good zoom lens has been a glaring flaw compared to Android phones, which has been able to snap credible 5X zoom shots for years. With the 15 Pro Max, I find myself going around cities snapping zoom photos of interesting things around me, documenting my daily life with portraits. For example, one early morning I caught the exact moment when this trucker was exhaling a mouthful of vape smoke.

Later that day, I snapped this portrait of a person who seems to be having a stressful day at the airport.

A few days later in Thailand, I used the 5X zoom lens to grab shots of this cool couple having wedding photos taken, a closer look at a cafe's vinyl collection, and an intimidating statue outside a Buddhist temple.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max does a very good job keeping colors and exposure consistent across all the lenses too. Below are images shot at ultra-wide, main camera (1X), 2X (in-sensor crop), 5X.

So yeah, the iPhone 15 Pro Max cameras are pretty darn good at still photography, and a noticeable step up from past iPhones. But in some aspects, it still falls short of the best Chinese phones. For testing, I took side-by-side telephoto shots with the iPhone 15 Pro Max (on the left) against the Huawei P60 Pro (on the right), and Huawei's telephoto still comes out on top, with stronger natural bokeh and less noise. For the main camera, the 1-inch sensor seen in Xiaomi or Oppo phones are still going to produce more raw details and stronger bokeh than the iPhone 15 Pro Max's main camera.

But that's purely speaking of photography. Move to videography and the iPhone 15 Pro Max beats everyone without the need of any qualifiers. The iPhone 15 Pro Max cameras produces video footage with the best stabilization, the best automatic exposure adjustment, and the best audio quality too. I'll wrap up this camera section with more photo and video samples below.

Software and performance

iOS 17 further reward Apple users

The new iPhone ships with iOS 17, which also went live for older iPhones yesterday. My colleague Mahmoud did an excellent deep dive into the software, and there's plenty on offer for iPhone users. iOS 17 is about improving the Apple community experience, from improved FaceTime supporting gestures to trigger animations, to a new Check In app allowing one iPhone user to quickly share their real time location with another iPhone user, to quickly sharing your contact (along with a personalized contact card) with another iPhone user by just tapping your iPhone with theirs.

iOS 17's app library

Unfortunately, most of those new features don't benefit me. Having been based in Hong Kong for the last decade (where WhatsApp is used by virtually 100% of the population), I have avoided relying on iMessage or FaceTime. But even if I can't take advantage of the bulk of the new iOS 17 features, and even if I still prefer Android's customization and completely free homescreen grid, I can concede iOS is becoming so polished, and its lead over Android in key areas such as app ecosystem and accessory synergy is becoming too jarring to just dismiss.

For example, when I set up this new iPhone, I used wireless data transfer to move my old iPhone data over to the new device. Once the process finished, my new iPhone practically behaved as if it had been in my pocket for years. All my old photos dating back to years of iPhones are in the photo gallery, all my social media apps are already logged in, and all my banking apps were able to use Face ID to log in instead of requiring me to re-enter the password. The experience is nowhere near as seamless with Android. When I move data from an older Samsung phone to a newer one, I have to log back into all my social media accounts. Online banking apps will treat the new phone like a foreign device, requiring me to re-enter password and do a two-step authentication.

I also am blown away by improvements made to AirDrop, which has been a very fast and easy way to move files between Apple devices (iPhone to iPad, iPhone to Mac, etc). AirDrop now no longer require the two devices to be in proximity during the entire transfer period. This saves me plenty of time because I often move large video files between my iPad and MacBook, or iPhone and MacBook. In the past I've had to sit there and wait for the minutes-long transfer period, now as long as the AirDrop process has started, I'm free to leave the location, and the AirDrop will continue over iCloud.

Apple's software ecosystem is so polished, so well curated, I don't blame people for diving in

It's little things like this, that constantly tempt me to just jump over to the iPhone full time. I already use a MacBook and iPad Pro for work, because I edit videos using Final Cut Pro and I find Apple's silicon to be better for video exporting. But my insistence on daily driving Android flagships the past few years has thrown a monkey wrench into Apple's goal to have us all live in its walled garden. I am reminded that life inside the garden can be pretty sweet, and that if I just use the iPhone more, I can move files from phone to laptop easily, I can access iCloud files anywhere from my phone, and I can use the Apple Watch, which is clearly the best smartwatch.

I'm also testing the new USB-C AirPods Pro right now, and I'm blown away by the new software features, such as a very intelligent adaptive ANC mode, and best-in-class spatial audio. Apple's software ecosystem is so polished, so well curated, I don't blame people for diving in.

The A17 Pro is the first 3nm SoC

The iPhone 15 Pro models also get Apple's new A17 Pro chip, which is as expected ridiculously powerful, with single-core CPU speeds matching those of Apple's M2 chips that power computers. The A17 Pro is also the first SoC to be built on 3nm process, which makes it more efficient than 4nm or 5nm chips.

GeekBench 6



iPhone 15 Pro Max (A17 Pro)




iPhone 14 Pro Max (A16 Bionic)


did not test


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Plus)




Google Pixel 7 Pro (Tensor G2)


did not test

did not test

I'm not much of a benchmark guy, but numbers are above for those who care. Instead, I focus more on real-world performance, and the A17 Pro brings noticeably better battery life, and also feels even faster when editing videos directly from iOS's Photo app.

Overall performance

The iPhone 15 Pro Max running Antutu Benchmark

That 3nm A17 Pro chip is the first 3nm SoC on the market, with a six-core CPU that includes two performance and four efficiency cores. There's also a six-core GPU that can handle ray tracing. I have not been able to test ray tracing because the games that support it are not out yet, but whether it's benchmark numbers or real world performance, this chip shines.

One of the ways the iPhone constantly flexes its power is how fast I can edit videos or export videos. If I'm trimming the length of a video in the native iOS photo gallery, the edits are saved in under a second. This year, Apple reps were keen to show me the ability to make batch edits to dozens of photos and videos. Essentially, I can make tweaks to a photo — say turn it into a black and white, and apply a vignette — then I can copy those edits, and apply them to 50+ photos and videos and the process would render in 20 seconds or so. If I try this on the notoriously slow and warm Tensor G2, the Pixel 7 Pro would probably take 20 minutes and become so hot the phone couldn't be held.

Everything else, from call quality, cell reception, speaker quality are top-notch. I didn't have anything to complain about over my week of testing. Battery life, as mentioned earlier, is tremendous. Throughout my days of testing, the phone's battery never dipped below 20% on any day. Even with lots of navigation and video filming, this is an all day phone, easily. The phone still charges quite slow, however, taking well over 70 minutes to top up the iPhone 15 Pro Max from zero to full.

Should you buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max?

You should buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max if:

  • You want the most powerful and capable mobile phone with the best SoC, best battery life, and best software/hardware ecosystem
  • You are on an iPhone 13 or older and looking to upgrade
  • You want the best cameras Apple has to offer

You should not buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max if:

  • You own the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and you aren't exactly looking to splurge
  • You are perfectly happy with your Android phone

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is my favorite iPhone in a long time, and the first time I am seriously considering just making it my default phone. I say so because the iPhone has improved my two biggest complaints about the past few iPhones — the lackluster cameras and uncomfortable in-hand feel. By fixing these two things, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has closed the gap enough on the best Android devices, that the other benefits of using an iPhone is starting to sway me. For example, I have always wanted to wear an Apple Watch more, but I couldn't settle for the underwhelming iPhone 13 cameras, its poor color science, and weak zoom. Now that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has fixed the cameras, then the benefits of being able to use the Apple Watch may convince me to use the iPhone 15 Pro Max over, say, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max (right) with the Huawei P60 Pro (middle) and Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 (left).

It doesn't help that my favorite Android phones lately have been hampered or limited by various factors, such as lack of global ROM (Oppo Find X6 Pro and Xiaomi Mix Fold 3), a mediocre chip (Google Pixel Fold), complacency (Samsung's iterative Fold 5), or by outside factors (Huawei).

If I do end up switching over to iPhone completely, it would be a combination of Apple stepping up, and Android brands faltering. But I think that day is coming near. For the rest of you who have been on iPhones for years, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is very much worth an upgrade.

An iPhone 15 Pro Max render
Source: Apple
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
The best

Powerful and premium

9 / 10

The iPhone 15 Pro Max could appear like a minor upgrade at first glance, but the combination of the much improved in-hand feel and better cameras really make a difference.

  • Much improved in-hand feel compared to previous Pro Max iPhones
  • More focal versatility including longer zoom
  • Tremendous SoC
  • Action Button feels half baked
  • Still no free homescreen grid
  • Very slow charging compared to rivals