Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review

GSMArena Team, 20 November 2020.

Apple iOS 14 on the iPhone 12 Pro Max

All new iPhones come with the iOS 14.1 pre-installed, but the iOS 14.2 will be already waiting for you in Settings. It's a minor update over the iOS 14.1 containing mostly bug fixes, 8 new wallpapers, and over 100 new emojis.

Let's take a closer look at iOS 14 on the iPhone 12 Pro Max now.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review

Its focus falls on the new widgets and App Library, which will improve your experience should you decide to use them. It's nice to see Apple has decided to make new features as optional as possible, instead of forcing them on you right away. The rest of iOS remains mostly unchanged since iOS 13, with some minor UI improvements across different system apps. Some new apps and features are available, too.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review

The lockscreen on iOS 14 remains intact - it's one with the Notification Center and houses your notifications (privacy options are available), plus shortcuts for the torch and the camera. You can get past it via Face ID or PIN if you've opted for secure unlock.

Your apps usually populate the homescreen(s) and widgets - the leftmost Today page. Now there is also a rightmost page - the App Library.

A new option allows you to hide specific homescreens - you may have a page that's full of games and hide when at work or hide the two pages of work apps when on vacation. You can't opt-out of Today and App Library, though.

Lockscreen - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Homescreen - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Homescreen - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Today - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review App Library - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Hide homescreens - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Lockscreen • Homescreen • Homescreen • Today • App Library • Hide homescreens

You can continue to use iOS 14 the old way if you like and completely ignore the App Library. There is no option to disable the App Library entirely, though.

The new Widgets can be placed on any of the homescreens and the Today page, and they can coexist with app icons. There are three widget sizes supported by iOS 14 - 2x2, 4x2, and 4x4.

You can stack widgets of the same size on top of one another. Once you have a stack, you can either have the OS automatically choose which is the most relevant widget to surface to the top of the stack automatically. You can also flip through the stack manually by swiping up or down until you find the widget you need. We love this idea of stacked widgets - it's a real space saver - especially if you combine a frequently used widget at the top with less frequently used ones in the stack below it.

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Widgets • Widgets • Widgets • Stacked Widgets • Settings

The App Library is an app drawer, which is always your rightmost homescreen pane. Apps are added automatically to the App Library upon installation. The sorting is also an automatic process, and you can't edit the categories or move apps to other categories. The app sorting depends on the App Store tags the developer has used upon uploading the apps.

The App Library has three settings only - Add new apps to Homescreen and App Library, Add to App Library only, and Show Notification Badges in App Library. That's it.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review

The App Library is where you will ditch your least used apps to die. (With Thanos's voice) It's inevitable.

App Library - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review App Library - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review App Library - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
App Library

We bet the Today page will slowly go away, but for now, it is only for widgets. You put the same widgets and stacks you can on your homescreen(s). Here you can also use the old third-party widgets that haven't been optimized yet for iOS 14. The old widgets come right after the new one, should you choose to use some new ones.

In time, we guess all developers will update their widgets to support iOS 14, and that will be the death of Today as we know it.

The Notification Center is summoned with a swipe from the left horn or the notch. The pane was unified with the lockscreen in iOS 11, and that's why you can have different wallpapers on your homescreen and notification center.

The Control Center, which has customizable and (some) expandable toggles, is called with a swipe from the right horn. You can use haptic touch to access additional controls. And the battery percentage is also here.

Today - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Today settings - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Notification Center - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Control Center - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Today • Today settings • Notification Center • Control Center

The navigation gestures stay the same as they were on the iPhone X. Swipe upwards from the bottom line to close an app, swipe and stop midway for task switcher, swipe from the side of the screen for back and forward. You can also swipe on the line left or right to switch to your recently used apps instantaneously.

The Back Tap is a new accessibility shortcut. It recognizes double and triple tap on the phone's back, and you can assign whatever you like. We chose 'Take a screenshot' and 'Control Center,' but it is really up to you. Overall, it has to be one of our favorite features in iOS14.

Gestures - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Task Switcher - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Moving between apps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Back - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Closing an app - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Back Tap - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Gestures • Task Switcher • Moving between apps • Back • Closing an app • Back Tap

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has exclusive support for enhanced landscape view in some system apps. The Settings app looks different in landscape orientation; the Mail, and Messages, Safari as well.

Landscape view in different apps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Landscape view in different apps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Landscape view in different apps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Landscape view in different apps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Landscape view in different apps

There is a system-wide Dark Mode. You can enable it manually or schedule it from within Display Settings, and it switches to dark all-white backgrounds across iOS. The Dark Mode affects all system apps, but also apps that rely on system backgrounds. You can also check the option to darken the homescreen wallpaper when in Dark Mode.

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Dark Mode

The App Clips service is a major part of iOS 14 even though it is yet to become widespread. An App Clip is a pop-up window where you can use a small part of an app that you don't have installed on your phone without going to the App Store and downloading it. Basically, iOS 14 downloads this "clip" for you in real-time, you use the function, and then it goes away.

For example - you browse burgers in your browser, you see a place with nice burgers, you tap on a burger you want to order. A small pop-up window appears of, say, Foodpanda's app where you can order the said burger without installing their app and making a proper registration. The same goes for taxis, bike, or scooter rentals, among others.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Review

Siri - Apple's digital assistant - is used by 400+ million people monthly. You summon it by holding the 'side' key (the Power key). You can do all sorts of things with Siri - from questions and translations through setting up reminders and sending replies to asking for reservations or tickets, directions, and whatnot.

Siri Shortcuts are available within a standalone app. You can assign a shortcut to so many things that it will take many pages to describe them. You can script almost anything available within iOS itself, a lot of stuff from within the system apps, and some advanced actions from any well-known apps such as YouTube or Facebook.

Another new feature in iOS 14 is the more compact Siri interface. Upon summoning Siri, you will see a small ball around the bottom, and your answer will be provided in a small pop-up window. This way, you can still see what's happening in your active app.

Speaking about compact interfaces, Siri isn't the only app getting such refresh. The Phone app is still the same, but receiving a call while your phone is unlocked has become a much more unintrusive thing with the new compact UI. Instead of pausing everything you were doing and throwing you the black call screen, now you get a small pop-up with Green and Red receivers and the caller ID.

PiP or Picture-in-Picture mode is a very welcome and long-overdue feature in iOS. It does precisely what the name suggests - minimizes your currently playing video within a hovering pop-up over the iOS UI or other apps.

PiP is supported in Apple TV, Podcasts, Safari, FaceTime, iTunes, Home, YouTube, and any other third-party app that chooses to add support for it.

Now, can we get PiP for Maps next, Apple? Pretty please?

The new Siri UI - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Compact Siri answer - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Compact phone call - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Picture in Picture - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review PiP - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
The new Siri UI • Compact Siri answer • Compact phone call • Picture in Picture • PiP

The multimedia is handled by Apple's default apps - Photos, Music, TV - and they are mostly unchanged since their iOS 13 versions.

The Photos tab has four different views - Years, Months, Days, and All Photos. Days, Months, and Years tabs use what the AI considers as best pictures at a glance, and this way, all the clutter gets filtered - you won't see screenshots, notes, or even duplicates. When you scroll through your images in these three categories, all live photos and videos will play automatically (muted). Also, your best photos or videos will show in bigger thumbnails.

AI-powered search option and powerful photo and video edit modes are available, as usual.

Photos - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Photos

The Apple TV app is part of iOS 14, and it is your default video player for locally stored movies and shows you've added via iTunes. This is also the digital store for movies and TV shows, but it is also where you find the Apple TV+ streaming service.

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Apple TV

Music has a new homescreen icon. It is the default player, and it relies heavily on Apple Music. But even if you decide not to use the streaming service, it can still do an excellent job if you have a few minutes to add your songs via iTunes. Realistically, adding music tracks via iTunes requires as few clicks as it would take to copy them via Windows Explorer, so there is no overhead. The requirement to download and install iTunes in the first place, however, can be off-putting to Windows PC users.

Music - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Music - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Music - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Music - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Music - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Music - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Music

Books are here for your documents, PDFS, and eBooks. Stocks and News are onboard. Safari is your default web browser, and it has a Download manager and some enhanced privacy options we will talk about in a minute.

Apple Maps will be bringing its new, enhanced mapping solution to the UK, Ireland, and Canada "later this year." It adds cycling directions, complete with elevation info, and a new "avoid stairs" option for New York, LA, San Francisco, Beijing, and Shanghai.

The new EV routing will factor in necessary charging stops along the way.

Guides let you discover restaurants, popular attractions and explore recommendations from "respected brands."

The maps also show known speed cameras and red-light cameras.

Maps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Maps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Maps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Maps - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Maps

Some of the new Privacy features include options to change default browser and mail client, Safari's Privacy report about website trackers, the option to report approximate instead of precise location, and also the green and orange indicators for camera or microphone in use.

Default browser - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Privacy report - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Approximate location - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Mic indicator - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review Camera indicator - Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Default browser • Privacy report • Approximate location • Mic indicator • Camera indicator

Finally, Apple Pay is on board, of course, and Sign-in with Apple is pushed everywhere. You can use this to quickly sign into apps with your Apple account, authenticating with FaceID and with two-factor authentication included. Apple will send the app a unique random ID. If an app demands your email address, you can choose to give it your actual email or a random one automatically created by Apple for you with built-in forwarding.

Reader comments

  • Wiser

Fine

  • CINDY

sucks that it doesn't have an optional button or feature for unlocking the phone. not only with face masks but people who only wear glasses part of the time (readers, etc) have a problem getting the phone to recognize them unless it is the ...

"Maybe less sharpening and more efforts on high-frequency detail instead of HDR would help." Couldn't agree more with this statement. The amount of oversharpening effect from the photos is totally unbearable! It's only great ...