Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review

GSMArena Team, 05 October 2021.

Apple iOS 15 on the iPhone 13 Pro Max

All new iPhones come with Apple's iOS 15 out of the box. It's not a major update over iOS 14, but it does round many UI elements shapes such as settings menus and icons, notifications, buttons. The new version improves heavily on FaceTime and Messages, Notification management, Safari browser (now with extensions), Wallet and Maps. It also makes Photos and Spotlight even more intelligent, while the Camera app can now read and let you copy any text in your viewfinder in real-time.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review

Let's take a closer look at how iOS 15 looks on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Its interface is still based on homescreens populated with apps and widgets, App Library for your less important apps, and Notification and Control Centers.

The lockscreen on iOS 15 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. There are two specific screens - the leftmost is Today page, while the rightmost page - App Library.

You get to hide specific homescreens - you may have a page that's full of games and hide when at work or hide a page of work/school apps when on vacation. You can't opt-out of Today and App Library, though.

Apple iOS 15 has a new Focus option, which switches between different modes like Work, Personal, Driving, Gaming, Do Not Disturb, among others, and it is now the best way to automatically hide/show homescreen pages. We'll get to it in a bit.

Lockscreen - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Homescreen - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Today - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review App Library - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Hide homescreens - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Lockscreen • Homescreen • Today • App Library • Hide homescreens

If you don't like the App Library, you can continue to use iOS 15 the old way and completely ignore the feature. There is no option to disable the App Library page, though.

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 have the OS automatically choose which is the most relevant widget to surface to the top of the stack automatically. Alternatively, you can flip through the stack manually by swiping up or down until you find the widget you need. And we love 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.

Widgets - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Widgets - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Widgets - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Stacked Widgets - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Settings - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
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 into different categories. The app sorting depends on the App Store tags the developer has used upon uploading the apps.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review

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.

The App Library is where you are going to ditch your least used apps to die.

App Library - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review App Library - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review App Library - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
App Library

The Today page is still alive, but barely. You put the same widgets and stacks you can do on your homescreen(s). Here, you can also use the old third-party widgets that haven't been optimized for newer iOS versions yet. The old widgets come right after the new ones, should you choose to use some new ones, of course.

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 13 Pro Max review Today settings - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Notification Center - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Control Center - Apple iPhone 13 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 go to the homescreen, 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 between your recently used apps instantaneously.

The Back Tap is a cool accessibility shortcut. It recognizes double and triple tap on the back of the phone, and you can assign whatever you like. We chose 'Take a screenshot' and 'Control Center,' but it is really up to you.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Task Switcher - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Moving between apps - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Back - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Closing an app - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Task Switcher • Moving between apps • Back • Closing an app • Back Tap

There is a system-wide Dark Mode. You can enable it manually or schedule it from within Display Settings, and it switches all-white backgrounds to dark 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.

Dark Mode - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Dark Mode - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Dark Mode - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Dark Mode - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Dark Mode - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Dark Mode

Some of the novelties that come with Apple iOS 15 include better FaceTime service, smarter Spotlight search engine, Focus modes, improved Safari browser and Weather app, and more.

The new FaceTime app looks more and more like Zoom, and it now supports Grid view. It has a cleaner interface, supports background blur, spatial audio, and most importantly - it can make conference calls, and non-Apple users can join the fun, too, by using an invite link and Chrome of Edge web browser.

Apple users can enhance their microphone with Voice Isolation or Wide Spectrum so the other party can hear them much better.

FaceTime FaceTime FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review FaceTime FaceTime FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review FaceTime FaceTime FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
FaceTime

Notifications got a design overhaul and a few new features. The appearance of notifications is tweaked for better visibility, like a larger contact icon, and iOS notifications will be more granular.

FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review FaceTime - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Focus in Control Center

You can set "Focus" profiles that filter the priority notifications while you're working or gaming, for instance, and it will also let people know if they can reach you. In addition to filtering notifications and calls, each Focus mode can be configured to show/hide certain homescreens, dim the lockscreen, and schedule or trigger this mode by certain events. There are a few pre-defined Focus modes - Do Not Disturb, Driving, Night, Work, Pleasure, but you can also add Gaming, Fitness, Reading or create entirely custom ones.

And because the Focus modes filter notifications by importance, there is a new Notification Summary option that shows a single tile of gathered unimportant notifications rather than a long string of missed ones. It can be scheduled to pop up a few times per day.

Focus - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Focus - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Focus - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Focus - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Focus - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Focus

The Safari web browser has seen quite the upgrade. First, the address bar is now at the bottom of the screen, easily accessible, and you can swipe on it left or right to switch tabs (in portrait mode) just like you fast scroll between apps via swipes on the infamous line. The address bar auto-hides when you start scrolling, of course.

The browser now supports extensions; you can download such from the App Store.

Safari - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Tab switching - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Landscape view - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Download an extension - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Extension settings - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Safari • Tab switching • Landscape view • Download an extension • Extension settings

The Weather app has a new interface, and it supports weather maps.

Weather - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Weather - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Weather - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Weather - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Weather - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Weather

Apple Wallet gets support for new types of keys, like House and Hotel room keys. Apple has partnered with Hyatt Hotels, letting Apple Wallet store a hotel key and use it to enter a room. The Hotel can choose when to activate the key.

Apple Wallet will be able to incorporate UWB technology to work with smart car keys - automatically unlocking a supported car and allowing it to start without the need to take the iPhone out.

Finally, users in supported US states will be able to add their Identity Card to Wallet and use them to pass certain security checkpoints, like at an airport.

Apple iPhone 13 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 Knowledge also lets your iPhone recognize items and landmarks in your gallery.

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. The scripting options are also available throughout various system apps, allowing you to activate reminders, initiate calls, and switch to different notification modes via scripted events.

Siri UI - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Siri answer - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Siri shortcuts - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Siri shortcuts - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Siri shortcuts - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Siri shortcuts - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Siri UI • Siri answer • Siri shortcuts

PiP or Picture-in-Picture mode was finally introduced with iOS 14. 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.

Picture in Picture - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Picture in Picture - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Picture in Picture - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Picture in Picture

The multimedia is handled by Apple's default apps - Photos, Music, TV.

The Photos app's library 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.

The Photos app has three new features, part of the iOS 15 update. The first one is the new album called Shared with me, where you'd find images that were shared with you in iMessages.

Apple has improved the Memories feature by making it more intelligent and powerful - the algorithm selects the best (live) photos and videos and makes a short film, which now uses automatic color and contrast correction for a consistent look and features integration with Apple Music by choosing a relevant song automatically for the film. You can edit this auto-generated film later, of course.

Finally, the Photos app offers detailed information for each photo - full EXIF info and location on the map.

Photos - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review Photos - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Photos

The TV app is part of iOS 15, 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, and it is also the place where you find the Apple TV+ streaming service. A bit overwhelming, but you get used to it eventually.

TV TV - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV TV - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV TV - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV TV - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV TV - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV TV - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
TV

Music 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.

TV Music - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV Music - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV Music - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV Music - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV Music - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review TV Music - Apple iPhone 13 review - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Music

The Camera app now supports Live Text feature - if you point the camera towards text, a text icon will appear - if you tap on it, you will be able to (scan and) copy or look up the text you are seeing. Neat!

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Live text

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 has become quite powerful and feature-rich over the years. Some of the recent highlight functions include cycling directions, elevation info, a new EV routing factor, improved guides and recommendations. You can even see speed cameras and red-light cameras in some areas.

The Maps app in iOS 15 has been improved with AR guidance when using public transport for easier orientation.

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Maps

You can change your default browser and mail client since iOS 14, but you cannot do that with your Maps app, unfortunately.

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.

Some of the upcoming iOS 15 features that will be seeded later this year include SharePlay, App Privacy Report, and CSAM Detection.

SharePlay lets you use, listen or watch content with other FaceTime participants. You can share any Apple TV+ or Apple Music track over a FaceTime call. You can watch or listen via AirPlay on your AirPlay-compatible TV, too.

App Privacy report is something Android users have known for a long time - you will be able to see which apps have access and have been using that access to microphones, camera, location and your photos.

Finally, CSAM Detection will come with several child safety features within Messages and iCloud photos - it will track for explicit content, blur it and issue a warning screen and an alert to the parent account.

Performance and benchmarks

The latest Apple A15 Bionic chip powers all iPhone 13 models. It is the second 5nm Apple chip (second-gen 5nm TSMC process) and packs the whopping 15 billion transistors - that's 27% more than the A14 within the iPhone 12 phones.

The new A15 chip still relies on a hexa-core processor with 2 big Avalanche cores maxing out at 3.23GHz and 4 small Blizzard cores working at up to 1.82GHz. The upgraded processor should deliver a 50% higher performance than the competition, whatever that means (Snapdragon 865 maybe?).

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review

There is an improved 5-core Apple GPU for the Pro models and 4-core Apple GPU for the non-Pro. The being the Max Pro, it gets the quintet.

The new A15 has a new 16 core Neural Engine, too, powering features such as on-device voice and image recognition and other advanced machine learning tasks. On top of that, there is a new ISP on board, twice the amount of cache, as well as a new display engine and new video encoders and decoders.

The 13 Pros have 6GB of RAM, up from the 4GB of the non-Pros.

The Apple A15 Bionic also comes with Qualcomm's X60 5G modem.

We ran the usual benchmark apps, and in GeekBench, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is way ahead of its Android competition, rocking the latest Snapdragons or Exynoses. The gap is smaller when comparing to last year's iPhones, but there is still a modest improvement there, to the tune of 10%.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)
    4709
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    4706
  • Apple iPhone 13
    4645
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    4240
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    4174
  • Asus Zenfone 8 Flip
    3673
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    3636
  • Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro
    3521
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    3515
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    3503
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    3316
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    3294
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
    3239
  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
    3191
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    3124
  • Apple iPhone XR
    2690
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G
    2603

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    1741
  • Apple iPhone 13
    1727
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    1606
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    1599
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    1332
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    1328
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    1130
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    1126
  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
    1126
  • Asus Zenfone 8 Flip
    1126
  • Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)
    1121
  • Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro
    1117
  • Apple iPhone XR
    1115
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
    1095
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    988
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    926
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G
    880

We'll refrain from more cross-platform comparisons and only show how the 13 Pro Max stacks up against stablemates. In Antutu, we're seeing a tangible improvement over the A14-equipped iPhone 12, though it's again not a massive leap in performance.

AnTuTu 9

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    801691
  • Apple iPhone 13
    775519
  • Apple iPhone 12
    692020
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    617292

In GFXBench, we're seeing tons of raw power out of the 13 Pro Max and the first significant difference between its souped-up version of the A15, and the vanilla SoC used in the regular iPhone 13.

But that difference doesn't show up in the onscreen test runs - the iPhone 13 Pro Max is still capped at 60Hz in the benchmark. More importantly, that's also true for essentially all games at the time of writing. We're expecting developments in this respect in the coming weeks, but as it stands right now, your iOS gaming doesn't get a ProMotion. Add that to the 60Hz-only browsing, and you get the impression that Apple is shipping an unfinished product - you'll get 120Hz eventually, just not on day one.

GFX Manhattan ES 3.0 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    256
  • Apple iPhone 13
    222
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    198
  • Apple iPhone 12
    195
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    194
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    179
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    170
  • Apple iPhone XR
    136

GFX Manhattan ES 3.0 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone XR
    60
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12
    60

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    178
  • Apple iPhone 13
    150
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    135
  • Apple iPhone 12
    132
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    131
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    120
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    104
  • Apple iPhone XR
    97

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone XR
    60
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12
    60
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    55

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    121
  • Apple iPhone 13
    98
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    78
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    73
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    70
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    67
  • Apple iPhone XR
    60
  • Apple iPhone 12
    58

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13
    59
  • Apple iPhone XR
    58
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    57
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    55
  • Apple iPhone 12
    53
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    44

GFX Aztek Vulkan High (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone XR
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13
    55
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    55
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    51
  • Apple iPhone 12
    45
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    42
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    33

GFX Aztek Vulkan High (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    50
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    40
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
    36
  • Apple iPhone 13
    34
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    32

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    9751
  • Apple iPhone 13
    8986
  • Apple iPhone 12
    7996
  • Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)
    7537

We ran a couple of stability tests on the 13 Pro Max as well. The 77% long-term performance result for the CPU is probably okay, though the quick drop to that level isn't particularly confidence-inspiring.

Similarly, the GPU was rather quick to throttle, and it plummeted even further down to around 67% of its initial performance in the 3DMark Stress test. That's still a bit better than the 63% stability rating we got on the iPhone 13, and the absolute results remain in favor of the big phone, too, though we would have preferred to see better sustained performance.

APSI Bench Long-term load CPU test - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review 3DMark Wild Life stress test - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review 3DMark Wild Life stress test - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
APSI Bench Long-term load CPU test • 3DMark Wild Life stress test

Reader comments

  • Her khung chiwemewem

I like this phone. Yes A21s samsung same spec with this phone.

  • kentong cha kuicheng

simple. just open the box. easy right.

  • Anonymous

How do you close open files