Truth be told, there’s lots of thunder each time a new iPhone is launched, but this year is special. One of the first things that comes to mind while discussing the new iPhone 15 series is the inclusion of the Type-C port of course, and before the new smartphones went official, I was reasonably sure that this would prove to be the biggest talking point later on as well. As it turned out, I was wrong. I think the iPhone 15 series can boast tons of big and small changes, significant enough for this lineup to be highlighted in the annals of iPhone history in a major way, and not just because of the Type-C port. The most loaded option in the new lineup is the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and I’m going to dwell on its accomplishments and shortcomings in some more detail in this review.
Table of Contents
VerdictThe iPhone 15 Pro Max comes as one of the most significant upgrades in recent years, and not just because of the Type-C port. It shines in the performance and display departments and boasts capable cameras that shoot excellent stills and videos. On the other hand, charging is still slow, and you need to shell out quite a bit to acquire one.
Design and display
While the overall design DNA of the iPhone 15 Pro Max hasn’t changed in a big way, the new model brings with it a few tweaks, including a titanium frame with subtly rounded edges and slimmer bezels. These changes make the iPhone 15 Pro a wee bit smaller and lighter than its predecessor — it’s a marginal reduction, but given that the iPhone 14 Pro Max was a heavy device, the changes are noticeable and more than welcome. Plus, the rounded edges not only make it more comfortable to hold, they help impart a more premium feel as well. The placement of the ports and buttons remains the same as before too, except for the Lightning port making way for the Type-C… and that barely has an impact on the design anyway. The IP68 rating that offers peace of mind against exposure to dust and water is present and correct. I must say I haven’t faced any issues with the overall build, though I’m not a big fan of the colours on offer this time — the brushed titanium hues are a bit subdued I think. It’s just my opinion though, so I’d prefer to err on the side of caution and use the word ‘elegant’ to describe how the phone looks.
One big change however, both from a design as well as a usability perspective, is Apple getting rid of the mute slider switch which used to live on the left spine. This physical toggle has been around for ages, but now the brand has removed it and added a configurable Action button in its place — a minor change visually but one that impacts usability in a big way. I do miss the mute switch — it came in quite handy for quickly putting the phone into silent mode while entering a meeting or movie theatre without turning on the display, and the orange accent inside provided a visual indication of whether the phone is silent or not. A long press of the new action button does the same job, except that there’s no visual indication this time, at least not a persistent one. You do get an alert on the Dynamic Island along with haptic feedback, and a silent icon appears on the status bar when the iPhone is in silent mode. I think Apple should have provided a similar icon on the iPhone’s AoD display too, so that a quick glance on the screen would have sufficed.
However, the action button does have its own benefit — the fact that it can be customised and assigned a different task via settings. So instead of acting like a mute toggle, you could set it to turn the torch on and off, enable a specific focus mode, record a voice note, launch the camera in a shooting mode of your choice, start the magnifier, run a shortcut or launch a specific accessibility feature. You could even choose “no action”, thereby disabling the action button. If you’re in the camera app, the action button can also work as a shutter key. The option to run any shortcut via the action button also gives you a fair bit of flexibility, as you can use this route to launch any app or run a series of more complex smart home scenes. As I said, I do miss the physical mute switch, but clearly, technological advancements do require some sacrifices and in this case, the mute toggle has become the sacrificial lamb and given way to the more versatile action button. But now that I’ve tasted blood, I feel Apple could have added a few more options for the action button — maybe by letting users assign functions to double-press and triple-press actions. I mean, it’d be nice to retain the default long press action for the silent mode and be able to launch the camera quickly using a double press — some food for thought, huh Apple?
On the display side of things, on offer is the expectedly gorgeous 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED screen, offering 2,796 x 1,290 pixel resolution, up to 120Hz refresh rate, HDR support, True Tone, Always-On Display (AoD), and a peak brightness of a whopping 2000 nits outdoors. It’s a beautiful, fluid display that makes everything from text to graphics, photos, videos, games, etc come alive and pop on the screen, all sharp and vivid. And just like last year, the expanse of the display is broken by the pill-shaped Dynamic Island, with the front camera placed towards its side.
This might not deserve its own sub-head here, but I’ll still add one. Truth be told, the USB-C port is a nice addition, but at least from a regular user’s perspective, might not be as game-changing as I thought previously. I mean, if one is stranded outside with a low battery, the USB-C port might make it slightly easier to find and borrow a compatible charger from someone, and connecting accessories and other devices is easier too. But from the point of view of a traveller or anyone who juggles multiple devices, the inclusion of a Type-C port on the iPhone just means having to carry one less cable. Not such a big deal then… just a bit more convenient. For pro users and videographers though, the USB 3 speeds and the ability to record straight to SSD should definitely prove to be very useful. More on that in a bit.
The cameras form a big chunk of the story this time, just like previous years, and Apple has ensured that the new iPhone 15 Pro Max justifies its pro tag properly. The 48MP f/1.78 main snapper features sensor-shift OIS and shoots in 24MP by default now. Apart from 24mm, it can also shoot in 28m and 35mm (displayed as 1.2x and 1.5x respectively when you tap the 1x icon on the camera viewfinder), though I can’t say I found this particularly useful. Pros might appreciate it though. Then there’s the 12MP f/2.2 Ultra Wide shooter with 120-degree field of view. A big talking point this time is the 5x optical zoom (only on the Pro Max), up from 3x in the previous model. Digital zoom can go up to 25x, and there’s a new long-range zoom guide to help from shots. These high zoom levels are aided by a new 3D sensor shift stabilisation which Apple calls its most advanced stabilisation yet. All of this means you can take those long-range shots — birds, wildlife, nature, sightseeing, what have you — easily, with good quality and minimal shake. Another big addition is the ability to shoot portraits directly from photo mode, without switching to the dedicated portrait mode. This feature works only when the iPhone detects a person, dog, or cat in the frame, automatically capturing depth info so can turn on the portrait effect later. An f icon on the bottom left of the viewfinder indicates depth info is being captured. And not only does it work really, I do think it’s a game changer. The option to add bokeh to a regular shot later is so handy, and one can really go wild paying out with photos when you’re browsing through them after returning from a vacation, for instance.
Apple is also promising all-round improvements across the board in the photography department, adding and enhancing aspects such as the Photonic Engine (which powers portraits and aids night mode photography), Smart HDR, a new anti-reflective coating on the ultra-wide camera, etc. Even the front TrueDepth camera boasts auto portrait mode and promises improvements in dynamic range and night mode.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating though, and as these images indicate, the iPhone 15 Pro is a champ at shooting images in pretty much all shooting scenarios. Comparing it with the Pixel 8 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro Max aced almost all scenarios, only falling a tad short in daylight. That said, the iPhone 15 Pro Max won’t let you down, and shines in common shooting conditions like low light, portrait, telephoto, wide angle, etc. You can expect shots with tons of detail, ample dynamic range, crisp focus, hardly any distortion, and in general, peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a reliable pocket camera that will give you consistent results no matter what.
Performance and software
Speaking of consistency, another reliable aspect is the performance delivered by the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Thanks to the new A17 Pro chip (Apple sure loves using the Pro label wherever it can), which, for the very first time, uses 3nm transistor technology. There’s a new 6-core CPU, a new Neural engine that is supposed to be 2X faster than before, a new 6-core GPU, dedicated engines for features like ProRes codec, a new AV decoder for streaming, a new controller for USB 3 and more. One of the big talking points here is that the new SoC aims to make the iPhone 15 Pro Max a portable gaming console. Notably, games like Resident Evil Village and Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be coming later this year and early next year. As expected, the iPhone 15 Pro Max aces benchmark scores and delivers super smooth usage in day-to-day tasks — whether they’re productivity-based, social apps, entertainment and multimedia, or a bit more strenuous, like intensive games. Also worth mentioning are the heating issues, reports of which have been doing the rounds. I did notice some random heating on my review unit, but it never became too uncomfortable to hold. Thankfully, I also didn’t encounter any alert saying the iPhone can’t be charged till it cools down. Apple did acknowledge the issues and has since issued an update to resolve it, so hopefully those niggles should be past us.
On the software front, there’s iOS 17, which brings with it a bunch of new features, touching upon and enhancing almost every new aspect of regular smartphone usage. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that everything from messages to health, accessibility to sharing, maps to music, and many more, has been refreshed and updated. New features like NameDrop, Contact Posters, Standby, and the upcoming Journal app, deserve special mention.
Next up, the battery. In my usage, the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivered a day’s worth, and with light to moderate use, most people should be able to return home with some juice in the tank by the end of the day. With heavy use, AoD on, and innumerable apps waking up the screen for notifications, I found myself looking for a charger by late evening sometimes. As far as charging is concerned, Apple says the iPhone 15 Pro Max can be juiced up to 50 percent levels in 35 minutes using a 20W charger, and that’s about right. In my testing, the phone charges up pretty quickly till 80 percent, and then takes a while to move up to 100. Expect close to a couple of hours if you want a full tank. Then there’s support for MagSafe wireless charging up to 15W speeds, and Qi Wireless charging at 7.5W too. And the iPhone can now even reverse charge other devices via Type-C at 4.5W speeds as well. Also worth mentioning are the new options found under battery settings. Apart from adaptive charging, you also have the option of restricting battery levels to 80 percent, thereby helping reduce battery ageing over the long term.
Rs 1,59,900 for the base 256GB model, going all the way up to a heart-stopping Rs 1,99,900 for the 1TB variant, the iPhone 15 Pro Max goes after your bank balance with a vengeance. The 1TB model in fact, could possibly be the priciest smartphone in the country yet. There are niggles and small issues too. And while it finally boasts a Type-C port, some aspects like battery charging speeds still leave a bit to be desired. As far as competition is concerned, the Pixel 8 Pro (review) and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (review) come to mind, and the latter can still hold its own after so many months as the most well-rounded Android flagship if that’s the way you swing.
All said and done, the 15 Pro Max certainly brings a lot to the table, and comes across as one of the most significant iPhone upgrades in recent years. Aspects like smooth performance and capable cameras aren’t extremely surprising, and at its core, the 15 Pro Max is still the same iPhone people aspire to own year after year. And that makes it a no-go for those who currently own and use a 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max. But for others, it comes as the torchbearer of the latest iPhone line-up and the most loaded one of them all, delivering on most promises proudly and emphatically.
Editor’s rating: 8.5 / 10
Reasons to buy:
- The new 15 Pro Max is Slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor
- The performance is top-notch and super-smooth
- The cameras are very capable, and boast pro-grade features
- The Type-C port is here finally
Reasons not to buy:
- The new action button performs just one task
- The charging speeds are still slow
- Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is an expensive purchase
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