Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: the differences we know of

Intro

Apple’s iPhone 15 series is here and, as usual, we have 4 new phones in the series — two non-Pro iPhone models, then an iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max.
So, if you just bought yourself a cool new iPhone 14 Pro Max over the past 12 months, you might be wondering — “Oh, is it time to change it now?”. Short story — in our opinion — is “No, not really”. Sure, there will be a number of small improvements, but we don’t foresee any of them being explicit gamechangers (like the 120 Hz screen of the iPhone 13 Pro or the 48 MP camera of the iPhone 14 Pro were). 
But we are not here to be killjoys. You may be an iPhone fan… you may like to treat yourself to a brand new device every year for a “job well done”. Who knows, maybe your birthday is in September? (Hey, happy birthday!) Or, you just want to know how the new flagship iPhone will compare to what you already have. In any of those cases, we are here to explore the differences between the iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Pro Max. This is everything we know thus far:
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 14 Pro Max expected differences:

  • Slight redesign
  • Titanium frame
  • Mute switch is upgraded to Action Switch
  • New A17 Pro processor with ray tracing, USB 3 data speeds
  • No more 128 GB entry option
  • New camera algorithms to improve image quality
  • New 5x zoom lens
  • USB Type C instead of Lightning

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

This one won’t be a Spider-Man meme
Apple typically sticks to the same design for years on end. The iPhone 8 from 2017 looked pretty much like an iPhone 6 from 2014. The iPhone 14 Pro Max looks just like an iPhone 12 Pro Max, with a larger camera. Point being, Apple rarely changes a product’s design, but it’s a big deal when it happens. Did it happen this year?

No.

But we do get a new design material. The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are made with titanium frames for a lighter feel, but still tough endurance. The new metal also has a new brushed titanium finish, which is very, very welcome. The iPhone 14 Pro’s stainless steel frame looks pretty and all, but that shiny finish gets smudgy really, really fast.

Additionally, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is ever-so-slightly smaller since it has thinner bezels around the display, thus a slightly higher screen-to-body ratio.

As for buttons — you will find the power and volume buttons to be on the same spots on both phones. But the iPhone 15 Pro Max has an extra one — the Action Button now replaces the good old mute toggle. By default, the Action Button will cycle through mute and ringer. But you will also be able to customize it to open apps, Siri shortcuts, flashlight, camera, Focus modes, et cetera.

It sounds fun, but we can’t say we won’t miss fiddling with the good ol’ mute toggle on a classic iPhone (or a non-Pro).

Also, the iPhone 15 series have a USB Type-C port instead of the Lightning port for charging and data transfers. You have the EU regulators to thank for this. The non-Pro iPhones are still in the stone age stuck to USB 2.0 speeds, but the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will be able to transfer data via cable with USB 3 speeds. That means 10 Gbps or 20 times faster than USB 2.0 (and Lightning). Finally, you will be able to get those super-huge video files off your iPhone… if you have the optional USB 3 cable that is.

In any case, this is definitely better — much better — than the connector of the iPhone 14 Pro Max and its USB 2.0 480 Mbps speeds. Yes, that is a $1,099 phone.

Display Differences

We have mostly the same screens on both devices — Samsung-made OLED panels that have the Dynamic Island cutout on top, 120 Hz refresh rates, and 2,000 nit max (peak) brightness.

Do you ever need that much brightness? Possibly not, but Apple is using it for headroom so it can display HDR videos and photos comfortably, no matter your ambient lighting conditions.

The other numbers haven’t changed — same 6.7-inch size, with the same 1290×2796 resolution, and a 120 Hz ProMotion refresh rate. Apple has found what it’s comfortable with and, in fairness, it works.

Performance and Software

A17 Pro-Bionic?
Another iPhone, another new processor. The line of succession is followed, and the SoC inside the iPhone 15 Pro Max is called Apple A17 Pro — yes, not Bionic, but Pro. Errr, mostly because it unlocks the USB 3 speeds? But it also gives us a GPU with ray tracing, and 10% faster CPU cores, and machine-learning-assisted upscaling for high res gaming.
It is also a bit of a celebrity — the A17 Pro is the world’s first smartphone SoC built on a 3 nm process, which is ridiculously small. It fits 19 billion (with a b) transistors in it, and performs 18% more operations per second than the A16 Bionic inside the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Do keep in mind that “operations per second” does not translate to performance increase 1 to 1, we will have to run some benchmarks. But for real life use? The iPhone 14 Pro Max is still ridiculously powerful, so the iPhone 15 Pro Max will simply be “more headroom” for 90% of users out there.

What is cool is that the chip has actually convinced some game developers to actually bring their console-grade games to the iPhone 15 Pro. No, that’s not a metaphor like “Raid: Shadowlegends is console-level” — we are talking about Assassin’s Creed: Mirage here — the yet-unreleased but highly anticipated AAA game by Ubisoft.

Apple’s wording made it sound like these games are only coming to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, but we’ll see… It doesn’t sound like a great investment for a game studio to only develop for two devices.

What we do know is that the iPhone 14 Pro Max is is still very snappy, fast, smooth, and basically among the best-performing smartphones on the market. Its A16 chip will likely live on inside the non-Pro iPhone 15, so it’s obviously not going to be considered obsolete just yet. 

And software? Given that Apple updates its older iPhones just as fast as the newer ones — expect both of these devices to have iOS 17 at the same time.  Well, technically, the iPhone 14 Pro Max will have it first — iOS 17 will be available on the 18th of September, while the iPhone 15 itself will ship on the 22nd.
iOS 17 was revealed by Apple a while ago and we’ve had the Public Betas to play with all summer. No extra features regarding the Dynamic Island have been shown yet, but Apple did say that what we saw at WWDC is not the extensive list of new features.

As for what’s actually going to be new with it — we will get a new customizable Contact Poster. Basically, you will be able to choose how you present yourself on the screen of whomever you are calling. There’s also a new journalling app, and quality of life improvements inside iMessage, better ways to share your location and automatic ways to let close ones know when you have gotten home safely.

Camera

Tetra-mega-… look, it’s 5x zoom!

The main camera sensor of the iPhone 15 Pro Max hasn’t changed — it’s still the big 48 MP one that was introduced with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. What’s new with the 15 is the image processing.

With upgraded Photonic Engine and HDR pipelines, Apple is promising better details, better low light performance, and more accurate skintones. Plus, the iPhone 15 Pro Max now bins pixels and shoots 24 MP photos by default — the iPhone 14 Pro Max defaults at 12 MP. Should we expect double the image quality? At this point we are hoping for less software oversharpening.

What the iPhone 15 Pro Maxis getting is a new periscope zoom telephoto lens. Well, OK, it’s a tetraprism lens. Look, the end result is a 5x optical zoom. Did we need that much? That’s debatable. 

Apple will be using software magic to make sure the 1x-4.9x zoom range is of “lossless” quality and the new lens allows for a software zoom of up to 25x. The iPhone 14 Pro Max has a 3x telephoto lens and caps out at 15x total digital zoom.

Still a far cry from what competitors like Samsung are doing, and barely touching the Pixel’s 30x zoom.

The selfie and ultra-wide cameras of the iPhone 15 Pro Max were barely mentioned, but it’s assumed they gain slight improvements from the aforementioned image processing upgrades. Of course, we really want to test it against the iPhone 14 Pro Max to see how they really compare.

Audio Quality and Haptics

Apple’s haptics have been industry-leading for years (though, Android manufacturers did catch up about 3 years ago). At this point, we don’t know how the haptics can be made better — the Taptic engine in the iPhone 14 Pro Max clicks and clacks super-accurately with pleasing feedback, as it has for years now. We don’t see that changing with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

As for speakers — the iPhone 14 Pro Max already sounds excellent, with loud and full stereo sound. It can be a bit harsh or crackle a bit in the highs with specific genres. We do think Apple should revisit the EQ curve for the speakers of the iPhones just for a couple of tweaks. But we don’t think it will happen with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Battery Life and Charging

All day battery? You betcha

The Apple A-series chips have the capability of being powerful but also energy-efficient. Really, if you put an iPhone under a huge strain — max-res 3D gaming, video-editing and exporting, or just benchmark stress testing — it will eat through a battery fairly fast. Even then, the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivered pretty respectable battery life under heavy load.

On the other end of the spectrum, iPhones are exceptionally good at preserving charge while in standby, and also don’t drain much for regular tasks, such as browsing, chatting, and YouTube binging. Again, the iPhone 14 Pro Max smashed results, giving us 19 hours of web browsing before turning off.

We fully expect that the iPhone 15 Pro Max would be capable of hitting at least that endurance, if not more. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t even reveal battery capacity, so we can’t speculate here. Apple’s battery stats for the iPhone 15 Pro Max are exactly the same as the ones for the iPhone 14 Pro Max:

  • Video playback – Up to 29 hours
  • Video playback (streamed) – Up to 25 hours
  • Audio playback – Up to 95 hours
What about charging? Same 20 W draw on the wire, 15 W with MagSafe chargers. The iPhone 15 Pro Max will also work with the upcoming Qi2 chargers, but we see no reason that the iPhone 14 Pro Max wouldn’t — Qi2 was basically designed with Apple’s help (Cupertino gave away the ring of magnets so now everyone can have sticky chargers).

Specs Comparison

Looking at the table here, we can definitely say that whatever notable improvements the iPhone 15 Pro Max would have, they are either in the software or stem from the field of “Apple Magic”. Though, the faster USB C port is definitely a long overdue and much needed upgrade.

Summary and Final Verdict

By all means, if you currently have an iPhone 14 Pro Max, you should feel pretty set — we don’t think an upgrade to iPhone 15 Pro Max would be mandatory or that much of an improvement. Unless you really, really want that optical zoom and the USB 3 speeds (we get it, especially if you actually use that Pro iPhone as a video camera. A novel concept in a product with a Pro moniker).

In fact, we do think we will be recommending the iPhone 14 Pro Max as a “cheaper super-premium phone” once its price gets ticked down by the release of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

But don’t get us wrong — the iPhone 15 Pro Max is definitely shaping up to be a killer phone. If you are on an older iPhone — specifically 12 or below — it will be an awesome jump. If you’ve never had an iPhone, it would be the most impressive starting point.

 

Reference

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