iPhone 16 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Biggest expected upgrades

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Right now, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is as good an Apple phone as you can get. But if you're looking to the future like us, then you're probably wondering what the iPhone 16 Pro Max could introduce to take things up a notch.

It's been 6 months since the release of the iPhone 15 Pro Max and we've been seeing plenty of iPhone 16 Pro Max rumors. Thanks to all of them, there's a good idea at the kind of upgrades we can expect.

There’s one important caveat to mention before we begin, however. Last year, Apple was tipped to be launching an ‘Ultra’ variant of its iPhone 15. It didn’t happen, but Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman thinks it might be in store in 2024. It’s possible that it will replace the Pro Max, or be an even more premium model. 

Whether or not that turns out to be the case, just be aware that these features could be for the iPhone 16 Pro Max, the reported iPhone 16 Ultra or both. 

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: A bigger screen than ever, with a smaller Dynamic Island

A comparison of renders, with the iPhone 16 Pro Max compared to the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: PhoneArena)

The Pro Max model is already Apple’s largest smartphone by some distance, measuring 6.7 inches across the diagonal. But the company is apparently planning to make the 2024 Pro Max even larger, with a 6.9-inch display tipped. You can see what a difference that makes in these images of alleged dummy units, with another set also suggesting the new iPhones will use redesigned MagSafe wireless charging connectors.

If true, it will be interesting to see how much larger the phone is in the hand. In the past, Apple has managed to limit footprint increases by slimming down the bezels, and that may be the case again this year. New iPhones could implement a Border Reduction Structure (or BRS), thus shrinking the bezels even more, possibly to as small as 1.2mm.

We also might get a bit more screen to play with thanks to a shrinking of the cut out used for the Dynamic Island. Plus a higher peak brightness too.

A report from January suggested that 2024’s iPhone 16 Pro models would move Face ID under the screen, leaving just a single cut-out for the front-facing camera. Though that might be something to look forward to in 2025 instead. 

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: A brand-new button

The current batch of Pro iPhones introduced a brand-new button to replace the Mute switch. Now Apple is reportedly looking to introduce a second button, referred to as the ‘Capture Button’ by leakers.

By the sounds of it, this will be a useful physical shutter button for the iPhone 16 Pro Max’s camera. What it will do outside the app remains to be seen, but it will apparently be capacitive rather than a physical button

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: More power across the board

A new iPhone guarantees a new chipset (unless you favor the non-Pro models, in which case you get last year’s Pro hand-me-downs), and that means the iPhone 16 Pro Max will debut the A18 Pro CPU.

This will doubtless mean smoother performance and higher frame rates in the most demanding games. No mean feat, given the current A17 Pro is comfortably the best-performing mobile chipset around.

Leaked benchmark scores indicate that the A18 Pro could outperform Apple's top-of-the-line MacBook Pro M3 Max with GeekBench 6 scores reportedly reaching 3,500 single-core and 8,200 multicore. On another hand, it has stiff competition against other silicon; like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 4 and MediaTek's Dimensity 9400. Both chips seemingly outperform the A18 Pro, but it's too early to tell if this will turn out to be the case.

Unfortunately, this won’t be accompanied by a boost to RAM. Apparently, the Pro Max will stick with 8GB for another year.

The iPhone 16 Pro Max's battery has been tipped for expansion, with a new stainless steel case to give the higher capacity cell improved heat management.

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Big camera enhancements

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 16 Pro Max’s biggest improvements could be coming in the camera array — which had already seen a big improvement this year with the introduction of 5x magnification. 

For starters, said telephoto lens could be improved further with a 300mm focal length — which is more than double the 120mm one in the current model. The same leaker also predicted a larger 1/1.4-inch camera sensor, which means it could perform far better in low-light conditions. The telephoto lens could also be thinner with improved magnification.

It’s not all about the long-distance photography, either. Another rumor says that the iPhone 16 Pro Max could come with a 48MP ultrawide lens. That’s a big improvement on the current 12MP one.

As for the front-facing selfie camera, it appears as though upgrades will have to wait for a future model as a 24MP front camera is hinted to arrive with the iPhone 17.

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: Outlook

It’s early days for iPhone 16 Pro Max rumors, but already we’re hearing about plenty of possible improvements in the works. No doubt we’ll hear more over the coming months, but even if these are confirmed as the only upgrades, it will still represent a big step forward from this year’s model.

Should you hold off, then? Not necessarily. These upgrades aren’t guaranteed, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max remains one of the best phones you can buy today.

Simply put, you won’t be disappointed if you don’t feel you can wait until late next year for that phone upgrade. All the same, it never hurts to wait if you’re happy with your current model.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.