3 big reasons to get iPhone 15 Pro Max over iPhone 15 Pro

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

There's a fairly big iPhone 15 vs iPhone 15 Pro divide, but the gap between the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max is also bigger than you might think. Yes, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max share many of the same upgrades, including improved cameras, the powerful A17 Pro chip and stronger and lighter titanium designs.

The iPhone 15 Pro (starting from $999) and iPhone 15 Pro Max (from $1,199) also share the new Action button that lets you customize various shortcuts and a USB-C port with fairly swift 10Gbps transfer speeds. It's when you start delving into the key iPhone 15 vs iPhone 15 Pro Max differences that you realize that the Pro Max is in a league of its own. 

Here's 3 reasons why I would absolutely pick the iPhone 15 Pro Max over the iPhone 15 Pro when deciding which of the best iPhones to buy.

Bigger zoom 

iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Pro cameras

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has an exclusive camera feature the regular iPhone 15 Pro lacks, and that's a tetraprism telephoto lens with a 5x optical zoom. The iPhone 15 Pro sticks with the same 3x zoom found on last year's iPhone 14 Pro models.

Sounds like a minimal difference, you say? Take a look at this photo of a statue in Bryant. Park. The first batch is taken at 3x zoom with the iPhone 15 Pro. 

You can clearly make out more detail in the statue in the iPhone 15 Pro Max photo, and it retains very good quality at this 5x zoom level. The iPhone 15 Pro is much further away at 3x. It's also worth keeping in mind that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 2x optical zoom as well leveraging the phone's 48MP main sensor.

Another key iPhone 15 Pro vs Pro Max difference is the digital zoom. The iPhone 15 Pro can only go to 15x while the iPhone 15 Pro Max zooms all the way to 25x. This can make a big difference, whether you're sightseeing or at a concert. That said, the image quality of your digital zoom won't be as good as it is with optical zoom. 

Much longer battery life 

iPHone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro Max front of phones

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 15 Pro is clearly the smaller phone, and there's some benefits to that if you prefer a more compact device. But it also packs a smaller battery, which has a big impact on endurance. As you'll see in our iPhone 15 battery life testing report, it's no contest as to which phone lasts longer on a charge.

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iPhone 15 Pro battery life (Hrs:Mins)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Battery size*Battery life (hours:mins)
iPhone 15 Pro3,274 mAh10:53
iPhone 15 Pro Max4,422 mAh14:02
Galaxy S233,900 mAh10:27 (adaptive), 11:20 (60Hz)
Galaxy S23 Plus4,700 mAh11:24 (adaptive) / 12:08 (60Hz)
Galaxy S23 Ultra 5,000 mAh12:22 (adaptive), 13:09 (60Hz)

On the Tom's Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over 5G, the iPhone 15 Pro Max surpassed 14 hours of runtime. Any handset that achieves 11.5 hours is worthy of our best phone battery life list. 

By comparison, the iPhone 15 Pro endured for a good-but-not-great 10:53. That's better than the Samsung Galaxy S23 achieved with its display in adaptive mode, for example, but it's still a good 3 hours behind the Pro Max. 

Bigger, more immersive display 

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max displaying trailer for The Marvels

(Image credit: Future)

To be clear, the displays on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are both stellar. Everything from the Aquaman 2 trailer to Mario Kart Tour are bright, sharp and colorful on these OLED panels. And the below lab test results back that up. 

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 15 ProiPhone 15 Pro Max
Max brightness (HDR)1,550 nits1,550 nits
Delta-E (lower is better)0.140.14

As you can see, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max get equally bright when displaying HDR content at 1,550 nits. And they both cover a very similar range of the sRGB and DCI-P3 color spaces. Plus, the Pro and Pro Max both achieved a near-perfect Delta-E color accuracy score of 0.14 (a score of 0 is perfect).

But when you're actually watching movies or shows on the best streaming services on these phones — and also looking at the photos and videos you capture — the iPhone 15 Pro Max's larger 6.7-inch panel makes the 6.1-inch screen on the iPhone 15 Pro look tiny by comparison. 

And if you're worried about the iPhone 15 Pro Max being too big and heavy, Apple has trimmed the bezels (and the height and width) on both phones while making them lighter.

Where the iPhone 15 Pro wins

iPhone 15 Pro shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 15 Pro is the clear choice for those who care most about being able to use a phone in one hand and want a device that disappears into a pocket. 

Yes, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is lighter and smaller than the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but the iPhone 15 Pro is still considerably lighter and more compact. The regular iPhone 15 Pro measures 5.77 x 2.78 x 0.32 inches and weighs 6.6 ounces, compared to 6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches and 7.8 ounces for the Pro Max. 

Another benefit we discovered during our testing is that the iPhone 15 Pro's battery is quicker to charge using Apple's 20W charger, which makes sense because the Pro has a smaller battery than the Pro Max. The iPhone 15 Pro reached 57% in 30 minutes versus 41% for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Bottom line

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max backs

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are both among the best phones you can buy, but there's a reason why the iPhone 15 Pro Max is at the very top of our list. You get a bigger and more immersive display, much longer battery life and an exclusive longer optical zoom that gives you much more versatility as a photographer. 

At $1,199, the iPhone 15 Pro Max costs $200 more than the iPhone 15 Pro, but you also get double the starting storage at 256GB. And a 256GB iPhone 15 Pro costs $1,099, which is only a $100 difference. So for me springing for the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a no-brainer.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

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.