iPhone 15 Pro Max — 5 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip

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

I've been using the iPhone 15 Pro Max every day for a few weeks now, and it certainly has a lot going for it if you're thinking of upgrading. The titanium design is striking, and the new Action button is helpful. I'm also impressed with the improved optical zoom and I'm glad USB-C charging is finally here. 

As you'll see in my iPhone 15 Pro Max review, Apple has done enough to take the top spot in our best phones list. But there are some drawbacks here. And there's also been some early complaints around the iPhone 15 Pro series overheating. So is the iPhone 15 Pro Max right for you? Here's a quick overview of what I like and what I don't, and be sure to check out 

Reasons to buy iPhone 15 Pro Max

Lighter and smaller titanium design 

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One of the most pleasantly surprising things about the iPhone 15 Pro Max when you pick it up is just how light it is. It weighs 7.8 ounces, compared to 8.47 ounces for the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This is thanks to a new titanium band design, which is lighter than the stainless steel used previously.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 15 Pro Max iPhone 14 Pro Max
Weight 7.8 ounces8.47 ounces
Dimensions6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches6.33 x 3.05 x 0.31 inches

Apple has also managed to trim the bezels around the iPhone 15 Pro Max, resulting in a device that's shorter and narrower. And with the new contoured design with rounded edges, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is comfier to hold and use. 

Smart new Action button 

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 15 Pro Max replaces the ringer switch with the Action button, which can engage silent mode with a long press but it does so much more. In the Settings app you can customize the Action button to perform several tasks — though just one thing can be assigned at a time.

For example, you can launch the camera with a long press of the Action button, turn on the flashlight or start a voice memo. Or you can leverage the Shortcuts app to open any app or you want and perform very specific actions, such as texting a particular context. The choices are endless. See our how to set up the Action button on your iPhone 15 Pro guide. 

A longer 5x telephoto zoom

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

Apple is definitely playing catch-up here, but I very much appreciate that the iPhone 15 Pro Max features a 5x optical zoom via a tetraprism lens. That's a pretty big jump from the 3x zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

You also get increased digital zoom of up to 25x on the 15 Pro Max, compared to 15x on the previous model.

Based on our zoom camera face-off with the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pixel 7 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro Max holds up very well in the 5x zoom range, delivering plenty of detail along with with great dynamic range. But its digital zoom is a step behind Samsung's. 

Extra long battery life

The iPhone 15 Pro Max offers very strong endurance. Even if I forget to charge the phone at work after a 1.5-hour commute in both directions, I routinely have 30% or more battery life left by the time I get home around 7 p.m.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Battery size*Battery life (hours:mins)
iPhone 15 Pro3,274 mAh10:53
iPhone 15 Pro Max4,422 mAh14:02
iPhone 14 Pro Max4,323 mAh13:39
Galaxy S23 Ultra 5,000 mAh12:22 (adaptive), 13:09 (60Hz)
OnePlus 115,000 mAh13:10 (adaptive) / 12:48 (60Hz)
Google Pixel 7 Pro 5,000 mAh7:54

In our Tom's Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness over 5G, the iPhone 15 Pro Max lasted an awesome 14 hours and 2 minutes. That beats the regular iPhone 15 Pro by over 4 hours and it's also about 20 minutes longer than the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

By comparison, the Galaxy S23 Ultra endured for 13:09 with its display in 60Hz mode and the OnePlus 11's best time was 13:10. The iPhone 15 Pro Max makes our list of the best phone battery life

Killer gaming with A17 Pro 

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 15 Pro Max packs the world's first 3nm chip in the A17 Pro. And as you'll see in our iPhone 15 Pro benchmarks roundup, it blows away the Android competition. But the most exciting part is what the new GPU is capable of. 

This new 6-core GPU is capable of playing console-quality games with raytracing support, so you get realistic lighting effects you'd normally expect from home consoles like the PS5 or Xbox Series X. In titles like Diablo Immortal, the visuals are stunning, and Resident Evil Village is gloriously gory with its zombie attacks. 

Resident Evil 4 Remake and Assassin’s Creed Mirage are also coming to the new iPhone. 

Reasons to skip iPhone 15 Pro Max

Relatively slow charging 

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the iPhone 15 Pro Max makes the jump from Lightning to USB-C charging, Apple annoyingly sticks with the same 20W speed as before — and we did not see great results in our testing. After 30 minutes, the battery meter reached only 41%, compared to 57% for the Galaxy S23 Ultra in the same amount of time. And the OnePlus 11's 80W charger got to 100% in a half hour. 

The good news is that you can use your iPhone 15 Pro Max to charge other Apple devices, like the new AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C. 

Action button can only do one thing at a time

iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

As useful as the Action button can be, it's also strangely limited. You can't map more than one action to the button at once. So if you want to launch the camera with it you can't silence calls. It would be smart for Apple to let you do one thing with a double press and another with a long press.

Apple could also make it easier for users to change what the Action button does by letting people triple press the button. Right now you have to dive into the Settings app each and every time. 

It's pricey 

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

At $1,199 iPhone 15 Pro Max has a higher $100 starting price than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. To be fair, that extra $100 gets you 256GB of storage to start, which is double the previous model and matches up with what you paid last year if you went for 256GB. But the bottom line is that the cost of entry has gone up. Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 for 128GB of storage. 

Bottom line

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Overall, I think the iPhone 15 Pro Max is worth the upgrade, especially if you have an older iPhone 13 Pro Max and especially the iPhone 12 Pro Max or earlier. You get a much improved camera system and a great ProMotion display with always-on capability in a lighter and smaller design. And the battery life can't be beat. 

The Action button is a handy addition, even though I'd like Apple to let you perform more than one shortcut at a time, and I'm excited to play all the console-quality games coming out for the new Pro Max.

There have been early complaints around overheating with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but Apple says that an iOS update should fix iPhone 15 heating concerns, and some apps are being updated as well to address the issue. 

Sound off: Tell us what you think about the iPhone 15 Pro Max in the comments. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.