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iPhone 15 Pro Max review six months later: Still an exciting upgrade

iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Apple's top-of-the-line smartphone

iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term

4.5 / 5

I've spent a half-year to the day with Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max, and it has not just held up to the rigorous trials of daily life — it has been worth every penny.

It was exactly six months ago, to the day, that Apple released the iPhone 15 lineup. Since then, the 15 Pro Max has been our daily driver.

It's come on vacations, been through major life events, and taken more photos than any other device we've owned before it.

There's this growing sentiment in the space that the iPhone has gotten a little stale. That year-over-year changes are increasingly small and lack the "wow" factor Apple is known for.

We find ourselves in this boat, too, sometimes, but with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it feels different. Six months later, it feels like a notably new experience to me. It's not perfect, but I haven't enjoyed an iPhone this much in a long time.

iPhone 15 Pro Max review six months later: Moving to the Max

We've been using the 6.1-inch Pro for the past-few generations, but since Apple included the better camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, we figured we'd try it again.

One of the first things that caught our attention was how much of a difference the move to titanium made. It's significantly lighter and hasn't weighed down our pockets as much as we remembered.

I also missed the larger screen more than we expected, and the battery life was incredible. By late afternoon I still regularly have more than 80% battery life.

Overall, I'm happy I went with the larger size and will probably stick with it again next time we upgrade.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in Blue Titanium

iPhone 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch (diagonal) OLED display.

iPhone 15 Pro Max review six months later: Action Button

One of the biggest new features on the iPhone 15 Pro line is the action button. But even six months later, we're torn on its utility.

The Action Button on the side of the phone
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: The new Action Button has its perks

I go through phases where we just... forget it exists. There's nothing the Action button can do that you can't already do easily in some other way — like running a shortcut, or opening an app.

Yes, it can be faster for some tasks, but muscle memory is hard to break.

I still mindlessly swipe to the left for the camera, tap the Lock Screen to turn on the flashlight, triple-tap the side button to turn on the magnifier, and change Focus modes directly through Control Center.

Opening a Shortcuts folder with the Action Button
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Some of the Shortcuts from the Action Button

Currently, I have it set to open a folder of Siri shortcuts. That grants us quick access to getting our blood glucose value, running the vacuum, feeding the cat, and other frequent tasks.

But that's only when we remember it exists. Unfortunately, that isn't that often.

iPhone 15 Pro Max review six months later: Other new features

Action Button aside, there are other changes on iPhone 15 Pro Max to appreciate.

USB-C, for example. I don't doubt that this is a big deal for some users and was sorely needed, yet I have probably only used it once or twice since we got the phone.

Using StandBy mode with the iPhone 15 Pro Max
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: StandBy Mode is still a great iOS 17 feature

I would prefer a Qi2 or MagSafe charger. There are many options, and StandBy mode on a MagSafe charger is too cool.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I don't need to worry about carrying a Lightning cable around — but this wasn't as big of a shift as I thought it would be.

The iPhone 15 Pro is also the first time Apple added a Thread radio to one of its smartphones. Thread is a networking standard that will go unused by the bulk of users, but for anyone who loves smart home tech, this is a great addition.

Controlling our smart shades with Thread in the Home app
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Thread allows for faster smart home control

Across the AppleInsider staff, we haven't measured it, but anecdotally it feels as though supported accessories — like smart plugs, shades, and lights — respond more quickly to commands since our phone is almost always nearby.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also just looks better. There was no keeping older models clean. This brushed finish looks outstanding, is fingerprint-friendly, and is part of the reason I choose to go caseless.

iPhone 15 Pro Max review six months later: Cameras

Arguably, the most important upgrade of the iPhone is the camera, so let's talk a bit about that. In fall 2023, there was a slew of meaningful changes from setting the focal distance in the Camera app, Smart HDR5, and the 5X telephoto lens.

Example of photos with the telephoto lens
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: The telephoto lens looks much better than the iPhone 15 Pro

That new telephoto lens is exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max and has come in handy. Not only do you get significantly better optically zoomed photos, but you now also get up to a 25x digital zoom.

Sometimes, we even use the phone like a magnifying glass or pair of binoculars to see things you can't see with the naked eye. It's like some new iPhone-assisted superpower.

What I love most about the new camera is the combination of Live and Portrait photos. You no longer have to choose one or the other.

You can choose either Live Photos or Portrait on the iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: We use the Portrait and Live selector all the time

When you take a photo and it detects a human, dog, or cat, it automatically captures depth data alongside the picture. Especially with a kid, this has been huge.

I can snap ten photos of a child running down the hall while still keeping our eyes on him. When looking through the pictures, I can choose one action shot to keep as a Live Photo and another as a clean bokeh-ridden black and white portrait.

To compound all of those camera features, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max can record Spatial Video for use with the Vision Pro. Unfortunately, Apple puts owners of its titular headset in a tight spot here.

Example showing how Apple crops in the 12MP ultra wide lens
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Apple has to significantly crop the 12MP ultra wide lens for Spatial Video

To record Spatial Video, you are limited to just 1080p. Standard HD isn't enough in 2024.

This is because Apple must use the 12MP UW lens for capturing the stereoscopic image. When the 12MP gets cropped in, it can only capture footage at 1080p.

I hate this tradeoff but it sounds like Apple may look to remedy it with the upcoming iPhone 16 Pro. These are purported to adopt a larger 48MP ultra-wide lens, which would have the resolution to capture 4K.

Spatial Video example on Apple Vision Pro
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: We love watching Spatial Video on Vision Pro

These stereoscopic videos look great, especially if you don't move the camera around too much. Watching spatial videos of a child running through the yard is tear-inducing.

They drop you into that moment more than anything else. Not everyone has an Apple Vision Pro, but start to capture these memories now, in anticipation of buying a second, third, or even fourth-gen headset down the line.

iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: The front glass

Our only real gripe with the iPhone 15 Pro Max isn't even exclusive to this phone. It's something that has plagued all past iPhones.

It's that front glass.

Apple says it has a special ceramic shield coating, but it still takes on these tiny scratches endlessly. Six months in and my iPhone is covered in little marks.

It may be mitigated somewhat by using a case, but not even that prevents the eventual buildup of micro-abrasions that dance across the display.

Scratches all over the screen of the iPhone 15 Pro Max
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Why does the screen scratch so easily?

You don't see them when it's on, but when the screen is off they're everywhere. It's a phone with a price tag above a thousand dollars and yet it gets marred by just debris in your pocket.

We haven't dropped our phone, we don't put it in our pockets with keys, yet these scratches prevail probably because of the incredibly hard grain of sand that gets in there from time to time. Not only does it look bad, but it can also hurt the resale value.

This isn't just cosmetic, it can also hurt the resale value of a phone. For people who upgrade frequently, that's a big deal.

The good news is that Apple has finally decided to do something about this — just not anytime soon.

The iPhone 17, debuting in 2025, is rumored have a new anti-glare screen that's more protective against scratches. I can't wait for this, but like I said, it's not here today.

iPhone 15 Pro Max review six months later: Should you still upgrade?

I love this iPhone. There are bigger changes this time around that keep the experience fresh again.

USB-C was a bit of a "meh" upgrade for me and I often forget the Action Button. But, I love the titanium body, the new telephoto lens, and the other camera improvements are huge.

Reading a book with iPhone 15 Pro Max sitting next to it
iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: This iPhone has become a part of our lives

Plus we got some smart home love this year with Thread. I didn't even get into the A17 Pro processor that enables a new era of games.

An iPhone is still an iPhone so there is always going to be that overwhelming sense of familiarity. But this phone still has me excited to use it every day.

iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Pros

  • Action Button is still a nice edition
  • Very speedy and great battery life
  • Telephoto lens is a huge upgrade
  • Spatial Videos for Vision Pro are jaw-dropping
  • Combination of Live Photos and Portrait Photos is huge
  • USB-C simplifies your cables
  • Thread radio makes your smart home faster

iPhone 15 Pro Max long-term review: Cons

  • Screen easily scratches
  • Action Button is easy to forget

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max at a discount

Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199, but wireless carriers are incentivizing the smartphone, bringing the cost down to as low as free via bill credits.

The best iPhone deals are at your fingertips in our roundup, but you can also jump straight to individual carriers below.