The iPhone 15 Pro Max: The pros and cons of the successor to the best-selling cellphone in the world

This is Apple’s first device made of titanium. It includes a customizable button, which allows you to choose the action it executes, and a high-speed USB-C port

iPhone 15 Pro Max
Test of the 5x optical zoom, which is one of the most notable new features of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.Isabel Rubio
Isabel Rubio

Five of the 10 best-selling cellphones in the first half of the year were from Apple, according to the consulting firm Omdia. Leading the list was the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which sold 26.5 million units. Its successor, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, is Apple’s most powerful phone. It is also the first made from titanium, which makes it lighter. EL PAÍS tested the cellphone, which has a better camera, but a price tag that will be prohibitive for many people. Here are the pros and cons of the device.

The pros

A lighter cellphone

The 15 Pro Max is a large and heavy phone, although not as heavy as its predecessor. It has a 6.7-inch screen but weighs 221 grams, less than the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which came in at 240. It is a little lighter, partly due to the fact that it is made from titanium, instead of stainless steel. What’s more, it’s somewhat more comfortable to grip since the sides are slightly curved, and it has a fairly smooth finish. That said, this advantage will only be properly be appreciated by people who use the phone without a protective case.

A customizable button

The iPhone 15 Pro has said goodbye to the physical volume switch that has historically been part of Apple phones. Instead, it has a customizable button above the volume controls. To configure it, users have to go to the Settings app and enter the Action Button section. They can choose to keep the button functioning as the volume switch, or opt for another function, such as to activate the camera, the recorder, a specific mode or the flashlight. Users can also launch a shortcut designed to carry out a sequence of tasks. For example, by pressing the button, the user can open an app, play music and display the time, or make the cellphone recognize which song is playing.

One USB-C port

Apple has replaced the traditional Lightning port on iPhones after the European Parliament announced that it will be mandatory for cellphones and other devices in Europe to have a USB-C port from December 2024. This change brings with it two advantages: the iPhone 15 Pro can be charged with the cable of other Android phones or computers and tablets with USB-C and, in addition, it has a data transfer speed that is 20 times faster than the base models. This feature is useful to users who need to transfer large files, such as 4K videos, from their cellphone to their computer.

Result of a photo test taken with the 5x optical zoom of the iPhone 15 Pro.
Result of a photo test taken with the 5x optical zoom of the iPhone 15 Pro.Isabel Rubio

Camera improvements

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has three sensors: a 48-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera. One of the main novelties is that the camera phone offers 5x optical zoom, compared to the 3x zoom of the previous model. This lens offers realistic results, a good dynamic range and more versatility with the portrait mode, which is another of the stars of this model. In fact, a very useful feature — common to all iPhone 15s — is that the portrait mode is activated automatically when the mobile detects a person or a pet. It can also be activated manually by pressing on the screen to focus on a specific point. After taking the photo, users can activate or deactivate the mode, in addition to changing the focus point.

The cons

The price

The cost of the iPhone 15 range has dropped slightly in all four models compared to their equivalents from last year. Even so, the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199. This is the cost of a device with 256 gigabytes of storage, and is likely prohibitive for many users. For phones with more storage, the price tag is even higher: $1,399 for 512 GB and $1,599 for 1 TB.

The new button only activates one action

Before the launch of the terminal, there were many questions about what the Action Button would do. Some suggested it could be used to activate several different functions at the same time, but at the moment it only allows users to choose a predetermined action. This switch would be more useful if it were a multifunction button, allowing different commands to be activated depending on the number or duration of presses. Also, for the button to work, you have to keep it pressed down. Some users may miss being able to activate it just with one quick, push of the button — something that comes in hand when taking photos.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max cable only allows 20 times slower data transfer than its USB-C port supports.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max cable only allows 20 times slower data transfer than its USB-C port supports.Isabel Rubio

The cable included in the box

The USB-C cable that comes in the iPhone box is braided and seems sturdier than the Lightning cables on previous models. But it has a drawback: it is not a high-speed USB 3 cable. In other words, although the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a data transfer speed 20 times faster than the base models, users can’t take advantage of this feature with the cable that Apple includes in the box, which only supports USB 2 transfer speeds. EL PAÍS tried transferring several videos from a cellphone to a MacBook Pro with this cable. A three-minute video one took just under a minute to transfer, while a five-minute video took around two and a half minutes.

Scratches and repairability

“Someone has already managed to scratch the titanium edges of the new iPhone 15 Pro,” said a user on X (formerly Twitter) on September 19. Repair experts at iFixit say that while the material itself is very hard, its coating “scratches quite easily.” This was made evident in a terminal durability test published on the JerryRigEverything channel. What’s more, although Apple focused part of the iPhone presentation on talking about its commitment to the environment, iFixit has failed the iPhone 15 in terms of repairability: all models have a score of 4 out of 10.

The camera will record videos for Apple's mixed reality glasses

Apple has announced that at the end of the year the iPhone 15 Pro will be able to record spatial video for the Apple Vision Pro, the mixed reality glasses presented on June 5 at its Developer Conference. According to the company, this means "users will be able to capture precious moments in three dimensions and relive those memories with incredible depth on Apple Vision Pro when it is available early next year in the U.S."

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