The dust has settled – so what’s it really like to live with?
How can it be one month since my iPhone 15 Pro Max landed? I know they say time doesn’t stand still…but a month – where did that time go?
Inevitably we’ve had this year’s iPhone-gate. It’s almost as set in stone as the September event from Apple itself. About 4 or 5 days after the phone launches social media goes berserk with the ‘experts’ saying we have a problem. In the past, we’ve had bend-gate, camera-gate and now heat-gate this year.
But as the shock & awe headlines fade away a month on, what is the iPhone 15 Pro Max like in day-to-day life?
It’s the oddest thing – considering that if you place the phones side by side – the 14 Pro and the 15 Pro Max look the same yet they are poles apart.
Some of the reasons they feel so different to use are tiny, nuanced points.
For instance, the pivot point or centre of balance has been shifted so that the phone doesn’t feel so top-heavy. Add to that ‘invisible’ fix the use of Titanium and the the iPhone 15 Pro Max now feels way less unwieldy. Okay, you have to buy into the larger phone school of thought, but putting that to one side this phone is now easy to hold and use all day – it feels so light yet still premium.
The details carry on making a difference too – those rounded-off edges make a massive difference to the comfort of the phone. Holding last year’s iPhone 14 Pro now feels very dated. I made the point in this video that it’s similar to when car companies facelift a model simply by changing the grill – one tiny change suddenly makes all the difference. The old shape with the square edges now suddenly feels ever so dated.
Oddly, Google this year has gone the other way and the Pixel 8 Pro has plumped for more square edges…not sure if I am a fan, but that is for another story…
The colours always attract a lot of attention when the new iPhone gets released and this year was no exception. I’ve seen the entire range in person now when I was up at Apple Battersea last week. Although they sound quite tame and muted in person all four colours in the right light ‘pop’. The blue is really lovely in person but the white titanium I have has one hidden benefit – it remains entirely fingerprint-free – honestly, it’s gorgeous!
I am no bezel maniac, but it is another one of those tiny design signatures that just makes this phone so lovely – the panel, as ever is beautiful, bright, fast, colourful & punchy.
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Performance & battery
At the event, a fair bit of time was handed over to the all-new A17 Pro chip.
In typical Apple style, they trotted out numbers & graphs – a 20% faster GPU, 4x faster ray tracing, 10% faster CPU and a 2x faster Neural Engine…all I can tell you is the iPhone 15 Pro Max does feel quick…but any quicker than last year’s – I don’t know.
These phones are so fast these days that the speed improvements they trot out are fairly iterative. I guess if you are a gamer then there may be an improvement but day to day these phones are built like bricks – you or I will probably never come close to making them even break sweat.
Almost as popular as the colour debate with the release of the new iPhone is the feedback on battery life – and so far, so good. Early on I seemed to be getting some good days and some bad but now, as it settles down it seems to have reached a status quo.
I’ve changed my charging habits as well now since I started to use the 15 Pro Max – I’m more confident of it performing all day so no longer leave it charging overnight. I typically go to bed with around 35% left on it and even though I play podcasts for much of the night (yes – I am a bad sleeper) I still have over 20% battery left in the mornings.
I have a Belkin 3-way charging tree in the studio so I typically throw the phone and watch on that first thing and once charged I know that I will be okay for the day.
This is the first ‘large’ iPhone I’ve ever run with – so I’m certain the larger physical battery and presumably space/cooling are all helping with the performance, but for me, this has been the best-performing iPhone I’ve ever owned.
USB-C & the Action Button
The Action Button as I thought tends to get overlooked – it really is a vanity statement. While I’ll admit it is quicker to open the camera up with it – it’s a bit of a case of re-inventing the wheel. I think I’ll have a look at mapping it to another app – but for now, it’s just a button…
The most over-hyped feature of the iPhone 15 was the departure of the lightning port in favour of an industry-standard USB-C port.
The strange thing is that this is one of the least noticeable features of the phone. For most people, it is only a charging port – but as I am a MagSafe convert that rarely applies – it’s only ever charged via the port in the car – remember to make sure you get a cable in the car before you regret it one day on a long journey!
But…this is the Pro Max and it is built to work for its living.
The Boffins at Apple played a total blinder on that front too. Rather than giving us the touted Thunderbolt 4 port instead they went the route of recording directly to an external SSD. This decision has two benefits – you won’t need an iPhone with stupid amounts of storage (and pay Apple handsomely for the privilege) and the transfer speed issue has been solved.
Using a correctly spec’d SSD along with the correct data cable large ProRes files can now be transferred to your Mac in a matter of minutes. I shot a 15-minute 4K 24FPS ProRes file in log which was about 80GB and it took under 3 minutes to get it from the Samsung T7 drive and onto my Mac – genius simply genius.
If you want to read how to turn your iPhone 15 Pro Max into a full production rig – read this story.
And that leads me neatly to the cameras…
iPhone 15 Pro Max cameras
I could use one word here – amazing!
Pretty much whatever you want to shoot you are covered. The focal length options make the camera on this iPhone 15 Pro Max the most comprehensive they’ve ever been – and possibly ever will be. The main camera now gives you the option to shoot 24mm, 28mm or 35mm. On the Pro Max, you have a 12MP 120mm 5x zoom lens plus you still have the 12MP ultra-wide, selfie and macro lenses as well – that gives you 7 lenses to choose from…on a smartphone! How much better can it get? The 5x struggles a little in low light conditions, but that’s understandable.
For video lovers – this is possibly where the iPhone 15 Pro Max wins out. You can shoot 4K in 24/25/30/60 FPS or 1080P in 25/30/60 FPS. Shooting in log ProRes as mentioned earlier is now a viable and realistic option. iPhone has few pretenders for its pro-level video shooting abilities.
These options are not for everyone – but the fact they are there is what matters – more than ever this phone deserves the Pro moniker. With the rig I mentioned earlier, you have a mobile production workhorse in your pocket.
The stabilisation is crazy good and the low-light capabilities have been greatly improved this year.
The best yet
Every year there will be folks out there who simply want to ruin the party and attempt to find fault. I guess the old yarn ‘you can’t please all the folks all the time’ comes to mind.
I’ve owned more iPhones than I’d care to shake a stick at and so far this 15 Pro Max is wearing the crown.
It’s light, lovely to hold and look at and more capable than any other iPhone I’ve used. Add to that stellar performance and improved battery life and I’d say Apple are on to a winner. And not forgetting if you are willing to spend a few quid you can transform it into a full-blown production rig.
And in case you were wondering – I’ve had no overheating issue…
iPhone 15 Pro Max has laid down the gauntlet.
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