Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

GSMArena Team, 28 September 2023.

Design, build quality, handling

Oh, it is so...titanium. Said nobody ever. Until Apple made a big thing about that. Indeed, the new iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max replace the stainless-steel frames with aerospace-grade titanium, which are lighter, tougher, and corrosion-resistant. The new frames now feature a matte finish instead of the jewelry-like glossy look from the previous models.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The new iPhone 15 Pro Max is 20 grams lighter than the 14 Pro Max, and you can feel it immediately. This is a welcome improvement, as the 14 Pro Max always felt a notch heavier than what we consider normal and pocket-friendly.

New Max vs. old Max New Max vs. old Max

Another frame change is the barely visible but definitely feelable rounded chamfers. With this subtle design improvement, the new 15 Pro Max feels even thinner and more natural in hand. The matte finish improves the grip, too, and now we can safely hold and play with the iPhone 15 Pro Max almost carefree.

And for those who had their week-old beard pinched between the steel frame and the glass - that is a thing of the past now.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is still IP68-rated for dust and water resistance with a promised endurance of 30 minutes in 6m deep water - the best among the non-rugged smartphones. The Ceramic Sheild, the toughest smartphone glass, is here to stay as well.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The back panel has no changes - it is as matte as before, made by Corning, and still not a Ceramic Shield one. You can get the iPhone 15 Pro Max in Black Titanium, White Titanium (pictured), Blue Titanium, and Natural Titanium (pictured). They are all quite subdued colors but still likable.

Other Apple specifics like the Dynamic Island cutout and the trigonally arranged rear camera are here to stay for yet another generation. Before we move to a closer look and inspect the new things like the Action button, we want to share a couple of observations with you.

First, the new iPhone 15 Pro Max is all but a premium feeling when compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This year, Apple has made the Pro feel like the non-Pro. The expensive model feels cheap (by Apple's standards). The "oh-so-titanium" is, in fact, "oh, aluminum". Thanks to the new material, chamfers and finish, the iPhone 15 Pro Max looks and feels identical to the iPhone 14/15 Plus. And that is something core Apple fans may find hard to swallow.

Plus and Max Plus and Max

And second, it's not only the exterior that has suffered a downgrade, albeit the more premium titanium frame. The internal chassis is made of aluminum instead of steel, and the new rounded chamfers might be weak design points.

USB-C and Lightning USB-C and Lightning

See, the numerous drop tests on YouTube are unanimous - the iPhone 15 Pro Max glass panels, especially the back one, break far easier than on the previous model. In fact, one drop from a short distance can destroy the back immediately. And while the iPhone 14 Pro Max could have survived very well a dozen drops in its lifespan, just one could be the 15 Pro Max undoing. And that is a huge bummer!

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

On a positive note, the teardowns have also revealed that the 15 Pro Max is easier to repair than the 14 Pro Max. But then again, with every component requiring Apple's digital signature to work properly, this is pointless. Here is hoping the EU gives another long-awaited nudge and stops Apple from getting in the way of third-party repairs.

And now, let's look at the iPhone 15 Pro Max up close.

The front is home to the marvelous 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED rounder corners and two perforations that unite to become the Dynamic Island eyesore, sorry, feature. The screen is indeed among the best on the market as far as quality, colors, contrast, brightness, and viewing angles are concerned. And its bezels are thin and even.

New Max vs. old Max New Max vs. old Max

The pill-shaped cutout is unavoidable. It contains the 12MP OIS selfie camera with AF and the 3D scanner for the secure Face Unlock feature. One of the ambient light sensors is behind the display, while the other is next to the cameras around the back.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

A similar thing is valid for the speakers - one is above the display behind a barely visible grille-free outlet, while the other one is mounted at the bottom.

There is no Touch ID on the Series 15 of the iPhones.

We do admit the Dynamic Island animations and multi-tasking features are super neat and only Apple can transform a huge eyesore into a cool feature. And we do confess - we use its multi-tasking capabilities daily, and they are convenient.

Now let's talk about the back. It is covered with matte glass with a mirror-like Apple logo.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The square camera housing seems the same as last year's. It contains three metal rings, jutting out of its surface, and each of those packs a camera - a 48MP primary, a 12MP ultrawide, and a 12MP 5x periscope telephoto.

You can also spot the dual-LED dual-tone flash, the LiDAR scanner, an ambient light sensor, and one rear-facing microphone - all flush with the camera housing.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

You bet the iPhone wobbles a whole lot if used on a flat desk without a case. And those camera lenses will scratch any glass they come in contact with.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max supports MagSafe for wireless charging and accessory attachment. The magnets are quite strong, and the MagSafe wallets, cases, chargers, stands, and whatnot have become quite popular accessories in recent years. Once considered a pure gimmick, MagSafe has become a strong lineup of accessories.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

Finally, let's talk about the titanium frame. It is grippy, fingerprint-resistant and pleasant to touch.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The bottom contains the new USB-C port surrounded by two dotted grilles - one for the primary microphone and one for the second stereo speaker.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The long Side key is alone on the right - it is used for Lock/Wake up, power on, Apple Pay, and also participates in taking screenshots and powering off, restarting or emergency menu activation.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

Finally, the left side of the iPhone 15 Pro Max houses the SIM tray, the two volume keys and the new Action key, which is like a 50% smaller version of one of these buttons. This new Action key replaces the old Mute switch.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The Action key triggers on/off when you long press it. There are a few predefined actions - silencer, torch, magnifier, camera shortcut, Focus, Voice Memo, Shortcut, and No Action. The Shortcut option allows you to assign any configuration you've set up within the shortcut app and opens thousands of possibilities.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The Action key is supposed to be used more than the Mute switch, and we are wondering if its original position is the best one for that purpose. We guess only time will tell, but it didn't feel easy to adjust your handhold and reach for it regularly throughout the day.

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max measures 159.9 x 76.7 x 8.3 mm and weighs 221 grams - about the same size as the iPhone 14 Pro Max but 20 grams lighter.

The 15 Pro Max feels solid and secure when handled; its design is as premium as it can get these days, even if you cannot really show the titanium. It's the same look and feel as the iPhone 15/Plus, even if the build is different, and Apple has essentially eliminated one of the few key differences between the two versions.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max review

We think the iPhone 15 Pro Max deserves an A(-) for its design and build. Even if the new frame doesn't feel very Pro-like, it is still a carefully crafted device with meticulous attention to detail, and you can tell it every step of the way. The minus here is for the easier-to-break rear glass, which is unfortunate.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous
  • 14 Jun 2024
  • NhR

Wait for iPhone 16 pro and pro max. They're getting a new one 48Mp

  • Piper
  • 07 Jun 2024
  • ixj

That’s not the phone’s fault…

  • Anonymous
  • 06 Jun 2024
  • ITL