Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: The Beard Blog Review

It’s no surprise that Apple releases new iPhones in the fall every year, and this September is no different. Apple held an event on September 13th 2023 to announce four new iPhones and two new Apple Watches. All models were available to purchase starting on September 22nd. I again upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Read about my thoughts on the 17th flagship iPhone.

Custom Shortcut running from new action button

What’s New on iPhone 15 Pro Max

In recent years, iPhones haven’t seen a lot of changes, compared to the models from the past decade. The models of the last four stand out as the least changed. You might remember how, in the past, we used to get a brand-new design and significant feature upgrades every two to three years. However, from the iPhone 12 onwards, including the latest iPhone 15, they all share a strikingly similar appearance.

Now, let’s talk about the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which brings a couple of noteworthy alterations. Instead of the usual stainless steel frame, Apple has switched to lightweight titanium for the phone’s exterior. This change doesn’t drastically alter the phone’s look, but it does make it lighter and potentially more durable. Another significant shift is the move from the familiar Lightning port to a standard USB-C port at the bottom. The Lightning port had been around since the iPhone 5 in 2012, so this change has been a long time coming. Apart from these changes, not much is different on the outside. The edges of the phone are slightly rounded, finding a middle ground between the iPhone 14 and iPhone 11. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the mute switch has been replaced by an action button, which allows for customization or simple silencing/ringing functions. It’s an effort by Apple to make this year’s iPhone a bit more interesting.

New titanium exterior and action button

Inside the iPhone 15 Pro Max, there’s a brand-new system-on-a-chip (SoC) that uses a groundbreaking 3nm manufacturing process. While this may not mean much to the average person, it’s a significant technical advancement that promises better performance in the future. Additionally, the phone now supports WiFi 6E, includes a second-generation ultra-wideband chip, and boasts a slightly larger battery. That’s pretty much it for the internal upgrades.

Now, let’s focus on the camera. While the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro share the same camera system, the 15 Pro Max introduces some changes, especially in the telephoto camera department. This camera features a slightly larger sensor and an improved lens, providing “5x” optical zoom compared to the “3x” on the other models. Apple has also introduced 3D Sensor Shift technology for enhanced stability and improved autofocus with 100% focus pixels. In practical terms, it means you can get slightly closer shots with better quality, but it’s not a drastic departure from the previous year’s offering.

24mp | main camera
12mp | new 5x telephoto

There are some additional camera upgrades worth noting. The iPhone 15 Pro Max can now record video in ProRes Log, which is great for professional video editing. It also offers next-generation portrait photos that can automatically gather data for later focus adjustments, although this feature may not be used often. Another improvement is the ability to capture 24mp and 48mp processed/compressed images in addition to RAW photos, providing higher-resolution photos without the added features like Live Photos. The new default on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is a 24mp image, compared to last year’s measly 12mp.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best smartphone on the market, but this year’s newest entry feels like it was rushed. We’re used to the major changes year after year, but it seems technology and innovation is slowing down. Nothing is progressing like it did in the early 2000’s. Still I love the new material, 5x camera, and action button on this year’s iPhone. This could be the stop-gap for some larger leap next year.

The Good

  • Lighter, better felling titanium exterior
  • USB-C like the rest of the technology world (finally)
  • A17 Pro 3nm SoC is a technical marvel
  • Action button replaces ancient mute switch

The Missed Opportunities

  • The Dynamic Island is exactly the same experience as the day I reviewed the iPhone 14 Pro Max
  • No year over year camera hardware improvements
  • Apple has forgotten some camera modes like Night Mode, Panorama, Slow-Mo, and Timelapse as they haven’t seen updates in forever
  • USB-C port is only USB3 and not something more modern (even slower on non-pro phones)
  • Lock Screen flashlight and camera buttons can’t be customized and remain even if action button is mapped to duplicate function
Same camera, but better

The Bad

  • Colors continue to be boring on Pro models
  • Main camera focus distance still a problem, the second year in a row
  • Front camera is outdated and needs a wide-angle option
  • Siri is still bad, even with a better chip
  • Not a very attractive feature set for upgraders

How can the iPhone get to 10/10?

– Fix the focus on the main camera
– Upgrade front camera to wide-angle
– Brighter and more vibrant colors
– New screen technology
– Massively improve Siri

Should You Upgrade?

If you are currently using an iPhone 14 Pro and are looking at the 15 Pro, don’t upgrade. There’s nothing worth it, other than USB-C.
Even if you are looking at the Pro Max, the only huge upgrade is the new telephoto camera. If you don’t need a new phone don’t get one.

As for the non-Pros phones the iPhone 15 is a good upgrade over the iPhone 14 or 13. Other than the colors, you get some cool features like the Dynamic Island, USB-C, and 48mp camera.

Tune in next year as we see what the iPhone 16 iteration brings.