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I bought the iPhone 13 Pro Max instead of the iPhone 13 Pro — here’s why

iPhone 13 Pro Max in grey, held in front of water
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Before the iPhone 13 arrived, I thought I already knew I was going to go for the iPhone 13 Pro model. Just a week ago, I unboxed the iPhone 13 Pro Max that I thought I'd never get. So what happened?

As I wrote prior to the iPhone 13 series' launch, I was hoping that Apple wouldn't separate the iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max in terms of camera quality, and that turned out to be the case. However, between writing that and placing my order, my life — and the world to a certain extent — changed in a way that convinced me to revise my priorities.

It starts with my previous phone. I got an iPhone 12 Pro during lockdown in the U.K., which meant that most of the time I was using it at home over Wi-Fi. Even with my heavy use of the 12 Pro for streaming video and music, I found the phone would easily last a full day on a charge. While I was a bit jealous of the iPhone 12 Pro Max's larger screen and improved rear cameras, I didn't miss them, and felt happy with my choice in phone.

However, as everything opened back up and I started commuting to work again, I found that the iPhone 12 Pro's battery was not quite lasting a full day without enabling Low Power mode. And that's after the battery health had only dropped to just 89% after a year of use. 

Every time I make it to the end of the day with the iPhone 13 Pro Max's battery still above half full, I feel I've made the right choice.

In our review of the iPhone 12 series as a whole, we commented that all the phones, excluding the iPhone 12 Pro Max, had pretty lackluster battery life compared to their Android rivals. I knew this, but didn't fully appreciate it until I was listening to podcasts and watching videos through my commute via 4G and 5G data. As a tech journalist, I am swamped in chargers and cables I could use to power up the iPhone again, but I didn't want to be tethered while at work or at home in the evening. So I began to wonder if perhaps when the new iPhone arrived, it was time to go Max.

While I regularly use Android phones that are the same size or larger than the 6.7 inch iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro Max, the flat edges on Apple's recent phones mean they don't sit so well in my hand. It's part of the reason why I went for the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro in the first place. However, given that the iPhone 13 Pro Max was tipped to have a significantly bigger battery than before, I waited to place my order until after our reviews came in. With battery life now mattering more to me than comfort, I wanted to see what longevity both Pro iPhones were capable of before making a decision.

Sure enough, in our iPhone 13 battery life tests we found that while the iPhone 13 Pro was a big improvement over the iPhone 12 Pro in terms of battery life. However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max still lasted half an hour longer. Its performance landed the iPhone 13 Pro Max in the top 10 of our best phone battery life list. (The iPhone 13 Pro sits in 13th as of this writing.). That convinced me that despite the less comfortable design of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, this was the model I wanted.

I've only been using the iPhone 13 Pro Max for a week, and it's lived up to my expectations in the best and worst ways. The battery life is incredible, despite it having one of the brightest displays of any phone this year and me playing plenty of YouTube, Netflix, Spotify and podcasts over the past seven days. It's been a bit of a learning curve though, as I adapt to having to type out messages with two hands on the phone, or shift the phone around in my hand to access buttons in the corner. 

Buying a phone often involves compromises, whether it relates to your budget or features. I miss being able to easily use my phone one-handed and slip it into my pocket almost without thinking, but every time I make it to the end of the day with the iPhone 13 Pro Max's battery still above half full, I feel I've made the right choice.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.