A bigger iPhone 14 Pro could make the case for a better battery. Is the iPhone 14 Pro Max the best iPhone for 2022?
As the year begins to draw to a close, Apple is ready with yet another big iPhone, as has been the case since we saw Apple start to experiment with plus-sized models. Granted, the “plus” tends to mean something else these days, but ever since Apple started playing with both a small and a plus, we’ve seen a regular sized phone sold alongside a bigger option.
We saw a Max last year and a Max before that, and the word “max” has largely become so connected with Apple’s big iPhones that any time we see a phone with the word “max”, we automatically know what it’s going to be: bigger with a larger battery.
And that’s largely what the iPhone 14 Pro Max looks to be, offering a bigger experience on the already excellent iPhone 14 Pro experience, also with a more sizeable battery. Does that make it better overall?
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Our iPhone 14 Pro Max review starts in a way not unlike how our review of the smaller model went, with design first and foremost, which itself shares a lot in common.
You’ll find stainless steel edges, a solid glass front and back, and in general, a look that oozes heft and class, thanks in part to the shine the flat frame offers.
But mostly, it looks like a big version of the iPhone 14 Pro… because that’s exactly what it is.
That big almost identical design still means you get the one Lightning port at the bottom, plus an IP68 water resistance rating, MagSafe’s magnetic circular ring design built in, and a feature set that is more or less exactly what you’ve probably already heard about or read once before this.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one: the Pro Max variation offers a similar design and similar features to its smaller iPhone Pro sibling, because it is largely the same device, but bigger. That’s the feeling you have when looking at the two side-by-side, and also when you compare the two on specs alone, which honestly shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
While not clones of each other, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are cut from the same cloth. It’s just one of them has slightly more cloth than the other, and that’s the main difference.
It means that the feature set in the 2022 big deluxe iPhone is exactly the same as the 2022 deluxe iPhone of a more normal size, save only for the differences in two areas: screen size and battery, both of which are bigger.
Beyond these, you’ll find the same Apple A16 Bionic chip on the 14 Pro Max featuring a 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine, plus a three camera system on the back cover wide at 48 megapixels, ultra-wide at 12 megapixels, and 3x telephoto at 12 megapixels, plus a single camera up the front with autofocus.
One wired port can be found at the bottom for Lightning, while the wireless options are provided over 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, Near-Field Communication (NFC) for Apple Pay, Ultra Wideband like on the AirTags, GPS, and 5G operating on the sub-6 technology.
Support for Apple’s crash detection technology is on-board, as is support for satellite calls if you’re ever lost in the US or Canada, with wireless charging working for all provided you have either a MagSafe or Qi wireless charger you can use.
Because the feature list has so much in common with the iPhone 14 Pro before it, so too does the display, which is similar, but one of the only major points of differentiation.
The technology is still largely the same, only bigger, as the 6.1 inch OLED ProMotion 120Hz screen with variable refresh rates from 1Hz to 120Hz is increased in size to a 6.7 inch OLED ProMotion 120Hz screen with variable 1Hz to 120Hz refresh rates, as well.
The bigger screen sees a bigger resolution, running at 2796×1290 support 460 pixels per inch, which is the same pixel clarity as the iPhone 14 Pro’s 2556×1179 6.1 inch screen (460ppi, as well).
Like the 14 Pro, the screen features the “Dynamic Island” concept that encloses the screen around the Face ID and camera technology, and creates an animated notch hole that expands based on what you’re doing at the time, making the punch hole design less like a hole and more of an intentional spot on the screen that does something for a valid use.
And there’s that always-on display technology, as well, which if you choose to, leaves a subdued version of your standby screen active with a clock and notifications, running at a much lower refresh rate so as not to impact your battery life.
Outside of this, the screen tech is largely the same, with the True Tone white balancing technology, P3 colour gamut, and support for HDR.
In short, the screen on the iPhone 14 Pro Max is basically a big version of the screen on the iPhone 14 Pro, jumping from 6.1 inches to 6.7 inches.
The jump in size means the 14 Pro Max can be a little difficult to use if you don’t have large hands, but easy once you get familiar with it.
There’s a 36 gram difference in weight, with the 240g iPhone 14 Pro Max not exactly a light phone, though it is one that carries itself well given the heft it offers. Offering the same 7.85mm thickness, it won’t always play nicely with iPhone 13 Pro Max cases, but it’s comfortable to hold and use all the same.
And that’s largely true of the phone in general.
Paired with iOS 16 (which arrives on the 14 Pro Max out of the box), the iPhone is a treat visually and for the hands, with a balance of screens and menus you can control with shortcuts and widgets, not to mention the Focus Modes, which can let you decide on Home Screen choices and backgrounds based on times of the day and what you’re doing.
We’ve found Focus Modes to be quite useful at work, helping to cut back on diversions with a clean wallpaper and one Home Screen, while regular hours get us our regular screen. And at night, we switch to a Focus Mode for sleep which from our settings loads a space-worthy picture and a handful of shortcuts we might need if we’re trying to lull ourselves to sleep.
That’s just one of the aspects worth considering in iOS 16, which has really come a long way, and now offers enough of a balance to give Android users a good reason to check out what’s happening on iOS, as well.
Armed with the same excellent A16 Bionic used in the iPhone 14 Pro, you probably won’t be surprised to learn the Pro Max is a performance beast, and really just gives it its all.
Apps fly, multitasking is a treat, and the only issues you have with anything loading probably need to be taken up with the developer of said app. Sometimes, that may actually be Apple: we ran into the iOS always-on display bug at one point, forcing the screen to switch off until we’d restarted it using the physical buttons in a specific order. We suspect Apple will fix this eventually, but it’s an example of how a super-fast iPhone can still have its performance let down by software instructions.
Back to that performance, though, because the chip and capability of the iPhone 14 Pro Max is such that you shouldn’t need to upgrade in quite some time. It’s all about the maximum performance you can shove into a 6.7 inch phone today, and it shows.
Benched against the previous iPhone Pro Max models, and you can see just how much extra power there is to offer in the 14 Pro Max.
Compared against major models it would normally face off against, and Apple is on top again. Whatever black magic voodoo Apple is doing in its chip designs is really paying off, with extremely good performance that's impossible not to note.
It's not a totally different story for its mobile performance, with the 4G and 5G capabilities on offer still quite impressive.
Granted, you won't find support on an Australian iPhone 14 Pro Max for the mmWave 5G technology -- that appears limited to US models -- but with speeds as high as 350Mbps in our tests on Telstra's 5G network in Sydney, you know there's enough speed for most things.
Keep in mind that beyond faster speeds in general, 5G hasn't yet solved a problem for mobile users. You'll find fast speeds across 4G and 5G, plan and location dependent, with speeds typically maxing out at 2Gbps. You just need to find a use for all that speed.
One use could be sharing your photos and videos with friends and family, and making use of the upload capability 5G provides. That's a decent use, too, because the camera technology is pretty strong in the camera this year, as Apple pushes things just that little bit more from last year.
Again, three rear cameras are along for the ride, and they're serious upgrades.
You'll find that new 48 megapixel wide alongside a 12 megapixel ultra-wide and 12 megapixel 3x telephoto, with Apple opting to throw in support for macro on the ultra-wide and a 2x telephoto option by using the 48 megapixel sensor and cropping in a little. The combination of cameras essentially gives you a focal length equivalent to 0.5X to 3X, and as you zoom through each, it kind of feels like it.
What's more, you'll get three options for iPhone portrait shots, delivering 1X for a 35mm style of portrait, 2x for something closer to 50mm, and 3x for a portrait image more like capturing with a closer lens, say an 85mm or something like it. Photographers who know their stuff will be pleased, and even folks who like taking pictures without the expertise of a pro will be happy, too. There's just so much versatility on offer.
The results are pretty solid, too.
In daylight, images are typically sharp and crisp, with plenty of detail available from each camera, though the 48 megapixel standard camera is often a real treat. Apple's combined processing stack that is its "Photonic Engine" seems to help make images pop more, as technologies like Deep Fusion appear once again, delivering better edges in portrait shots (still not perfect, but definitely improving), while colours seem more on point, as well.
With lower light, the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivers images just as well as its 14 Pro sibling, meaning you should be able to take advantage of what little light you can find in a positive way.
Snapping pictures of the kids at night in an obviously low lit room somehow manages to find light that isn't there, delivering portraits and regular snaps that stand out.
It's a similar situation on the front camera, which is now a 12 megapixel selfie camera with autofocus, allowing you to get much more clarity for those self-portraits, and really deliver better shots overall.
All up, it's the same excellent camera system we experience on the iPhone 14 Pro, and that's great news for customers.
While the camera system is identical to the iPhone 14 Pro, the battery gives you a little more to work with, thanks in part to that bigger screen.
A bigger screen means a bigger body, and a bigger body means more room to pile in more parts. And because the iPhone 14 Pro Max has the exact same feature set as its smaller 14 Pro sibling, the extra parts in the bigger model boils down to battery.
Specifically, you'll find a good 24 hours in the iPhone 14 Pro Max if you want it, and possibly a little more. We found the battery was comfortable at a maximum of 6 hours of screen time, though 5.5-ish was closer to being normal.
That's not as solid a result as the over six we found in the iPhone 13 Pro Max, though could be a result of slightly more pixels to fire thanks to the dynamic island (unlikely), or maybe some small drain happening from the always-on screen. The technology powering the always-on screen is slow and shouldn't consume a lot, but that's one of the main points of difference, so we're guessing it makes some dent, small as it may be.
Priced from $1899 for the 128GB model, this year's Pro Max is slightly more expensive than last year's. The 13 Pro Max offered the 128GB model at fifty bucks less, $1849, and was less in pretty much every other respect. The 256GB 13 Pro Max was $2019 compared to the 256GB 14 Pro Max which is $2099, while the 512GB model is $2419 compared to the $2369 512GB 13 Pro Max. Meanwhile, the 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max was a chunky $2719, which stretches that same $50 extra in 2022 for a $2769 14 Pro Max.
This year, buying an iPhone Pro Max model will cost you roughly $50 more, and while that's not necessarily a huge increase, it's still an increase all the same.
We're not sure that's arguing for "value" so to speak, but more likely a change in the currency conversion that's getting Apple to get the cost more in line with making the same sort of money from last year.
Either way, you're still getting the best phone Apple makes. Whether or not you see it as "value" isn't really the point. Yes, it's expensive, but it's also a great phone.
What needs work?
The value is slightly questionable because of the high price, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max is so good, justification seems less awkward.
The lack of USB Type C is more of a concern, given the whole EU switch over issue, but we also wouldn't worry much either here. Next round, it's more or less guaranteed, and besides that, you're going to be able to find Lightning cables for a while anyway. They've just been used for too long that they're not going out of fashion any time soon, even after Apple retires it.
So that's largely a non issue. But what then, if any, sees issue with the iPhone 14 Pro Max?
That's the question, and it doesn't offer much of a problem beyond that it's a big and pricey phone.
Much like how the iPhone 14 Pro is so good, so is the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It's a bigger version of what's already pretty solid, with a slightly bigger and better battery. There aren't a lot of complaints here, beyond maybe it being possibly not as good as it could be. It could be a two day battery, but it's such a minor grievance that few flagship phones offer, it's hardly worth noting at all.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
All of this adds up to a phone that's all about the maximum everything Apple can throw into one. It's a big phone delivering maximum performance, maximum size, maximum battery, and maximum everything. We get why this is called the "max" and you will too.
There are things Apple could improve upon, and they may change in time. It is entirely possible using machine learning and firmware updates that the battery life in the 14 Pro Max could get better, while the camera may get a little more interesting, too. Evolving Apple's Photonic Engine could see things change, and all the ML love used in the Neural component of the Apple A16 Bionic could see changes for how you deal with the battery, as well.
But if you need the best battery life in a flagship phone and love the look of everything else the iPhone 14 Pro offers, the 14 Pro Max is where it's at. It's just so damn good. Recommended.