iPhone 15 Pro Max Review – 6 Months Later

Has the iPhone 15 Pro Max been worth it 6 Months Later? What are the standout features? How’s the battery life been? What about the downsides?

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Video transcript:

It’s been 6 months since I bought an iPhone 15 Pro Max, and I’m going to take you through my favorite things about it, the downsides I’ve encountered, and answer questions like: Should you upgrade? Should you get this over the 15 Pro? And how has the battery life been over the past 6 months? Let me actually talk about that last question first. The battery life has been excellent. For 6 months, I’ve never had to worry about it running out of juice, which is the first time that’s happened on an iPhone for me in a while, since at least the iPhone 13 Pro. I’ve been seeing about 40% to 35% battery left on typical days when I put this phone back on the charger at night. And then, for days with heavy usage, the battery is about anywhere from 25% to 20% remaining. 

To give you an idea of what my average usage is like over the past 10 days, my average screen active time has been 2 hours 13 minutes with 7 hours and 45 minutes of screen idle time, and a lot of that is due to apps like music and podcast apps like Pocket Casts, which run in the background. There have even been times I’ve forgotten to charge my iPhone, and I’ve been able to go the second day on the same charge with light phone use, which is pretty good.

Now, the next thing I really like about this iPhone is its weight. Apple finally trimmed the weight of their Pro Models, in part by utilizing titanium, and it’s a noticeable difference from the previous Pro Max version. That weight reduction is part of the reason why I went with the iPhone 15 Pro Max this year. That’s because the 14 Pro last year, its battery life wasn’t great, so I wanted a phone that would have better battery life, but I didn’t necessarily want to be stuck with a heavy and kind of uncomfortable phone to hold like the 14 Pro Max was. And thankfully, Apple not only trimmed the weight of the 15 Pro Max but improved overall comfort by softening the edges of the device. 

Though that does matter slightly less if you put a case on it, which don’t get Apple’s new fine-woven case, by the way. As soon as I ordered one of these and I had it in hand, I felt the material, and I just felt like it would not hold up. And boy hasn’t it for some of the people who’ve stuck with those cases. I went with the silicone case instead, which has held up really nicely. 

And if you’re stuck choosing between the smaller iPhone size and the 15 Pro Max, take it from someone who refused to get the larger-sized iPhones for years. Six months later, I’ve acclimated to this size really well, and I have no regrets. You get a larger screen, better battery life, and a better camera system, at least on the Pro Max. 

And that’s the next thing I’ve really liked about this iPhone after 6 months. By moving the telephoto on the 15 Pro Max up to 5x Optical, Apple has actually made the telephoto camera on this iPhone much more usable than the one found on the 15 Pro and previous iPhone models in general. I always find telephoto cameras on smartphones to be way more useful than their ultrawide counterparts. 

And yes, I do typically recommend going with the models that have the telephoto cameras if you care about taking photos and videos with a smartphone. A few of the other new camera features I’ve utilized quite a bit over the past 6 months is, first, the ability to take 48-megapixel photos, which just gives you a lot more room to crop in on your photos and creates even more detailed photos, which I’ve really enjoyed. 

I’ve also really liked the ability to cycle through between the 24, 28, and 35 mm focal length equivalents by tapping the 1X button, as well as being able to save which focal length equivalent the camera app will default to when opened. Photos are overall sharp; they’ve got great HDR and color, and the video quality produced by iPhones continues to be one of the best out of any smartphone I’ve used, as I’ve talked about in my many comparison videos between this iPhone and other competing smartphones, which I’ll link in the description. Simply put, if our smartphones are the most convenient camera we typically carry around, and you want the best camera system in an iPhone, the 15 Pro Max should suit you well.

Now, another feature that’s new with the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max is the Action Button. It’s a customizable button that you can set up in settings to do a variety of things, and yes, you can still make it act like the old silent ringer switch. The Action Button is something I’ve ended up using quite a bit. Though, yes, on occasion, I’ve caught myself forgetting to use it, and it takes a bit of time to build new muscle memory for the Action Button. But I’ve found once you do, it’s a very convenient feature to use, especially because you can use it to trigger a shortcut, which is an automation that can do a variety of things on your phone. 

I have my Action Button set to a custom shortcut that I created that really does two things well. Actually, three. When my phone is connected to my home Wi-Fi network and I press the Action Button, it will toggle on and off Do Not Disturb. And if my living room Apple TV is on when I do this, it’ll also toggle Theater Mode on my Apple Watch automatically. And when not on my local Wi-Fi, the Action Button just triggers the Camera app to open. And I’ll leave a link in the description below to that shortcut specifically if you want to see it in more detail and use it as a template for your own.

The next thing, 6 months later, I love about this iPhone is that Apple was forced by the Europeans to use USB-C, which ironically Apple themselves helped design back in 2012. This means when I travel, I now only have to bring one cord to charge my phone, earbuds, iPad, camera, Kindle, and even my MacBook Air. It’s an absolute win for Apple customers, and the power delivery and transfer speeds over USB-C are actually better than they were over Lightning.

The last thing, 6 months later, I really like about using this iPhone is, of course, the iOS operating system and how well this iPhone integrates with my other Apple products. I’ll give you a few examples of the features that have really stood out to me, and some of them are actually brand new to iOS this year, like those one-time passwords you get texted to you for two-factor authentication. Well, in iOS, you can now set those to automatically delete, which is great. iOS now has way better speech dictation, and autocorrect has finally, mostly been fixed, though I sometimes find it still corrects to the wrong word. 

I’ve also used Dynamic Widgets, which are new in iOS 17, a lot, especially for things like Reminder Widgets or resuming a podcast without needing to open the app up. And of course, with the 15 Pro Max, you get the Dynamic Island, that little black camera bar on the front of the iPhone, which I know some think is useless, but I’ve actually grown to really like it. The Dynamic Island creates a persistent, intuitive place to tap on your iPhone to get back to something running in the background, like playing music, going back to a phone call, timer, etc.

Now, in terms of Apple ecosystem features that continue to stand out, those include Continuity, where you can copy something on your iPhone and hit paste on another Apple device, and it’ll just magically paste it in. Or Continuity Camera, where you can use your iPhone as a much better webcam than the webcams built into your MacBook or Studio display. And I did a video on that feature specifically if you want to learn how to set it up for your own use. 

AirDrop is another ecosystem feature I use all of the time to move files and links back and forth between my iPhone and other Apple devices. And the last ecosystem feature I really love is how well AirPods pair with my iPhone and automatically switch between all of my Apple devices. And with my AirPods Max, you can play Dolby Atmos tracks off the iPhone 15 Pro Max in Apple Music, and that’s something I’ve come to rely on and enjoy a lot more as time has gone on, as more Dolby Atmos tracks actually sound pretty good on headphones, especially classical tracks, which I’ve become an increasing fan of, thanks to Apple Music Classical.

Now, 6 months later, are there features of the new iPhone 15 Pro Max that I haven’t found myself utilizing all that much? Yes, the first is the new Focus Adjustment feature. It’s a feature I’m glad is there to let me readjust the focus, but it’s one I haven’t found myself utilizing all that much because the iPhone already does a pretty good job locking in focus on the subject, and I don’t feel the need to artificially add in depth of field after the fact. 

Another camera-related feature I was really excited about when this phone first launched was being able to shoot in Apple Log, which gives you way more flexibility in how your footage can look. Though I found because Apple Log takes up so much storage space on my 256GB iPhone that I haven’t really utilized it as much as I thought I would. I’ve just continued to shoot Log on my DSLR cameras like I’m doing right now. Though if you’re more of a mobile shooter, this is a feature you’ll probably want to utilize more than I have. Just make sure you have an adequate amount of storage on your iPhone. I would probably, if I was shooting a ton of Log with this, upgrade to the 512GB model or the one that I think they have a terabyte one as well.

Another feature that rolled out later during my review period is Spatial Video. Spatial videos are 3D videos you can take on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and view on the Apple Vision Pro. And while I’ve actually taken quite a few over the past several months and even viewed them on my Vision Pro, which I’ve already done a few videos on, which I’ll leave here if you’re curious, unfortunately, I didn’t find the spatial videos I took on my iPhone to be as impressive as the ones I took on the Vision Pro itself in terms of depth effect and really recreating the feeling like I was actually there back in the memory. 

And the last thing I haven’t utilized with the 15 Pro Max is the new Ray Tracing functionality you get with the new chip. At this point, I just would not consider myself a mobile gamer. The games I’ve tried to play and been interested in on Apple’s App Store, most of them had like an in-app purchase mechanism, which I’m just not a huge fan of. I’d rather just buy the game outright, and then if you want to sell me some DLCs, fine. But yeah, just not a fan of that gaming model overall. So, not for me.

Now, let’s talk about downsides with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The first one I would point out is repairability. While Apple has made strides to make the iPhone more repairable for most things, things you’ll either need to visit an Apple Store authorized repair shop or use Apple’s own self-service repair, where you can purchase genuine parts and rent Apple’s professional-grade tools for something as simple as getting a new battery, which is something I’d like to see Apple figure out how to make more user-serviceable in the future. 

But that’s not the biggest downside I found with the 15 Pro Max 6 months later. The biggest downside I found, and this actually goes for all iPhones, is Apple’s control over what you can download to your iPhone via the App Store. Apple’s control limits the diversity of apps that you can potentially download to an iPhone, and this control also can end up costing you more money in a variety of ways. So, for example, let’s say I want to sign up for a service via an app on my iPhone. Well, if I do sign up for that service, I can end up paying anywhere from 15% to 30% more money than if I just went on the company’s website and signed up for the service via the web. 

And why don’t companies tell you in their app there’s actually a cheaper way to buy the service? Well, it’s because doing that is actually against Apple’s App Store rules in most countries. And the reason subscriptions you sign up for via an app will typically cost more is due to Apple’s App Store 30% and 15% App Store fees for both subscriptions as well as paid app downloads. A lot of times, people are just like, “Ah, whatever, that sucks for the developer,” without actually thinking it all the way through that, wait a minute, the developer doesn’t just eat that cost, they often pass it on to you, the iPhone user, through higher prices, which you can clearly see in examples like when Twitter launched their Twitter Blue subscription pricing.

Now, Apple must have a good reason for doing this, right? The company will tell you, “Yes, it’s for security,” and there is some truth to that argument, though there is a giant Max-sized hole in it. 

Apple has been able to for decades demonstrate the ability to safely sell consumers a device where, gasp, they can download apps from the internet, and that, of course, is the Mac. Now, Apple will say the iPhone is more secure than the Mac, sure, but look at their advertising for the Mac. It’s not like they’re saying it’s a dangerous, unsafe product you should never buy. The more likely reason Apple wants to keep the iPhone locked down is over time these fees have made Apple a ton of money. 

Apple made a reported $23 billion in Services Revenue just in the first quarter of 2024, and while it doesn’t report out how much of that revenue is from the App Store, a few analysts have estimated it to be somewhere around 35%, which, assuming if those percentages are somewhat accurate, that would mean Apple made about $8 billion in just Q4 of 2023. That is a lot of money from just the App Store. 

So, if I were running Apple, I wouldn’t be in any rush to change anything at all. But I’m not running Apple, so I can say this: once you buy an iPhone, it should be your iPhone, not Apple’s. 

Like with a Mac, you should be able to decide where you want to download apps from and get the best price on apps because there’s actually a competitive market for developers to sell their apps too. Plus, we wouldn’t have all of these bad user experiences you can have on the iPhone today with companies trying to avoid the App Store fees or policies, which result in you not being able to sign up for Netflix via the Netflix app or not being able to purchase Kindle books in the Amazon app. So, that’s my biggest downside with the 15 Pro Max, and I really hope I don’t have to keep repeating myself on this issue every single year. And with the recently announced DOJ case against Apple here in the US, I may not have to. 

Now, let’s pivot and talk recommendations. Do I recommend the 15 Pro Max? Yes, it’s got the best camera system of any iPhone, and Apple’s ecosystem, minus the App Store issue, is overall an excellent user experience. And if you’ve got, I’d say, like an iPhone 12 or older and you can’t wait until September 2024 for the new iPhones to come out, then I’d say you’re good to upgrade to the 15 Pro Max. For everyone else, given these phones’ lifespans are pretty short, I’d just wait till September for the new iPhones to come out at this point. 

Now, if you’re trying to decide between going with an iPhone or going with an Android phone, you can get to my video I’ve done on that exact topic by clicking here. Highly recommend watching that one. And then if you want to see more of my Apple device reviews, like my review of the Apple Watch Series 9 and videos on the Vision Pro, MacBook Air, etc., you can get to my Apple device playlist by clicking here. Don’t forget, if you like this video, hit that Thumbs Up Button below and subscribe to the channel for more. For 6 months later, I’m Josh Teder. Thanks for watching.

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