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The iPhone 13 Pro Max is Apple's biggest flagship device, but how does it compare to its fellow iPhone 13 models?
In the battle of the flagship phones, Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max aims to reign supreme. As the most expensive and powerful model in the entire iPhone range, the 13 Pro Max has been built with pro users in mind.
Not only does it come with a host of upgrades that are head and shoulders above its iPhone 13 siblings, but it’s also significantly more advanced than last year’s iPhone 12 Max Pro.
Yet, with a starting price of £1,049 for a relatively low 128GB of storage, are the advancements worth the money?
Jump links to the following headings:
The most powerful, efficient and stylish iPhone ever made, albeit with a price tag to match.
Price: The iPhone 13 Pro Max is available to buy SIM-free at Amazon with prices starting at £1,049.
While technically both iPhone 13 Pro models are considered flagship – in terms of both specs and price – the iPhone 13 Pro Max is officially the most advanced iPhone model of all time.
It’s the larger, more expensive of the two “professional” handsets released by Apple at its September 2021 launch event. It’s the only handset in the latest collection with a price that starts at more than a grand, and it measures a whopping 6.7-inches. This makes it more than half an inch bigger than the cheaper iPhone 13 Pro while being at least £100 more expensive.
Specification-wise, the Pro Max is almost identical to last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max. It has the same Super Retina XDR OLED panel, protected by Ceramic Shield technology and will last 30 minutes underwater thanks to its IP68 waterproof rating. The iPhone 13 Pro Max runs on Apple’s latest generation operating system, iOS 15. This software comes with a number of additions made possible by both the A15 Bionic chip and the Pro camera setup found on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Namely, Share Play, Live Text and Cinematic Mode.
The A15 Bionic Chip is Apple’s “fastest, most efficient” processor – and comes with a 16-core Neural Engine, 6-core CPU and 5-core GPU. This not only makes the phone super fast and responsive, but it helps push the battery life on the iPhone 13 Pro Max up to 28 hours, according to Apple. You can read more about the realities of this in our Battery section below.
On the rear of the iPhone 13, Pro Max is a 12MP camera system that combines a Telephoto lens alongside a Wide and Ultra-Wide sensor. This means the iPhone 13 Pro Max – and the smaller 13 Pro – now both offer a Macro Mode, allowing you to take photos of close-up objects like never before on an iPhone. On the front of the 13 Pro Max is a 12MP True Depth selfie camera. The FaceID module is housed within this module, all within a notch that sits at the top of the display.
As the most advanced iPhone ever made, the 13 Pro Max offers a lot of bang for your buck – but whether it’s good value for money very much depends on how you’ll use it.
Being able to take macro photos and the addition of Cinematic Mode coupled with the huge display makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max a creative’s dream. The power and battery life boost, again coupled with the larger screen, will appeal to professionals. The dynamic screen refresh rates and the neural engine will be a boon for gamers. Yet, for the everyday user, this handset will seem excessive.
It’s difficult to justify spending such a large amount of money if you’re just using this phone for streaming or browsing, no matter how well the phone does both tasks, and the iPhone 13 Pro or even iPhone 13 will lend itself much more to your needs, and budget.
In terms of hardware, the display on the iPhone 13 Pro Max measures 6.7-inches and comes with a Super Retina XDR panel, protected by Ceramic Shield technology which Apple claims gives the phone four times the protection when dropped.
The upgraded Pro camera system comes with new Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto cameras that capture more light, making them even better suited to taking photos in low light than previous iPhones. The new Ultra Wide sensor also allows for the introduction of Macro Mode, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max now comes with a 2cm minimum focus distance to capture even the smallest details.
Meanwhile, the improved Telephoto lens offers greater optical and digital zoom options and makes videos and images look steady thanks to more advanced sensor-shift optical image stabilisation.
Both front and rear-facing cameras support Apple’s new Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles, designed to make photos and videos look more professional. The FaceID sensor, embedded into the True Depth camera on the front, now takes up less of the display than last year’s notch.
Storage-wise, the iPhone 13 Pro Max builds on the options seen on last year’s range, and you can now buy the Pro models with either 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB. It’s still not possible to physically expand these storage options, meaning the only way to increase the built-in storage is to pay extra for the hardware.
Alternatively, you can buy a smaller handset and pay extra for iCloud storage. Apple softens this blow a little by giving you 5GB of additional storage when you sign up to iCloud, but it’s still a pain. iCloud plans start at 79p a month for an extra 50GB up to £6.99 for 2TB, and you’ll need to weigh up, which is more cost-effective over time.
Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max runs on iOS 15 – the latest generation of Apple’s mobile operating system. Our favourite addition in iOS 15 is the ability to copy text from inside images, called Live Text. While this seems insignificant, it has come to our rescue many times. Even in the relatively short period, we’ve spent with this handset. The latest operating system also comes with new features that let you share movies, music, or whatever’s on your screen in FaceTime; new Focus features designed to reduce distractions when you’re working, sleeping, or with friends; and redesigned notifications and Apple apps.
Speaking of Apple apps, the iPhone 13 Pro Max ships with a tonne of apps pre-installed. These include the Camera, Photos, Health, Messages, Mail, Music, Wallet, Safari, Maps, Siri, Calendar, iTunes Store, App Store, Notes, News, Weather, Reminders, Stocks, Calculator, Voice Memos and more. Plus free apps including iMovie, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, GarageBand, Apple Store, iTunes Remote, and Clips. These apps take up a substantial amount of space – 15.1GB when combined with the operating system files – but it is easy (albeit a little time-consuming) to get rid of, should you not need them all.
This new software has been optimised to work with the new hardware, and Apple claims the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s battery will last up to eight hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max – and no, that’s not a typo. When used for audio-only, this leaps from 75 to 95 hours. You can read more in the Battery section below.
Spending this amount of money on a phone will be as much of a status symbol as a practical purchase for many people. As a result, the iPhone 13 Pro is substantially different, design-wise, from the cheaper iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini handsets.
Instead of being covered in glass, the Pro models are coated in aluminium. This not only makes them feel more premium to the touch, but it also makes them feel more sturdy and robust.
The Pro models come in fewer and less adventurous colour options, slightly muted in greys, golds, blues and silvers versus the pinks, reds and “starlight white” of the cheaper range. Instead of being boring, however, it adds to the premium and professional look. This is largely a moot point if you’re going to buy anything but a transparent case, but it’s worth noting.
The notch on the iPhone 13 Pro Max – and the entire iPhone 13 range – is 20% smaller than on previous models, which means even more of the Pro Max’s huge screen is visible.
Elsewhere, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is thicker than last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max, but the difference is minimal, adding just 0.1mm to the depth. It is 12g heavier, and this is noticeable when you hold both devices. However, when held on its own, this extra weight does very little to the overall comfort of holding the phone. What’s more, the improvements made to the cameras and battery are enough to warrant such an increase and one that we don’t begrudge at all.
The improved camera modules on the rear are positioned in the same way they always have been on Pro phones – two sensors on the left with a third sensor mid-right, below the flash. This high-tech setup protrudes quite far, which stops the phone from sitting flat on a surface. Even when it’s in a case. Speaking of cases, the camera module on the 13 Pro Max is a bit wider than on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, meaning it’s not possible to use last year’s case on this year’s model.
Port-wise, the iPhone 13 Pro Max charges via Lightning connector rather than the USB-C technology seen on the latest iPads. The power button, which can also be used to enable Siri, sits on the top right-hand side of the handset, opposite the volume buttons on the left. The speakers sit on either side of the charging port.
On paper, the displays on the iPhone 12 and 13 Pro Max are almost identical. They’re listed as having the same 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display, the same 2778 x 1284-pixel resolution at 458 PPI. Contrast ratio and support for the P3 wide colour gamut remain, as does the use of True Tone technology that adjusts the white balance on screen based on the lighting conditions you’re in.
However, on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the maximum brightness level has been increased to 1,000 nits, up from 800 nits. This improves both the screen’s colour and vibrancy and makes it easier to read in a range of lights, including direct sunlight. Games and HD content on this display look superb, colours are vibrant and black tones look deep and dark. This both improves contrast and adds a high level of detail and realism not seen on cheaper handsets. Elsewhere, the display has native support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s display additionally comes with a new feature called ProMotion. This technology automatically selects the best refresh rate to suit whichever task you’re doing. If you’re simply browsing, sending emails or switching between apps, ProMotion drops the refresh rate down as low as 10Hz. If you’re gaming, editing video, working on creative tasks and streaming high-quality content, this refresh rate rises up to 120Hz. By comparison, the displays on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini handsets go up to 60Hz.
This means that whatever you throw at the iPhone, the display will be responsive and meet your needs effortlessly, but it also brings with it significant battery improvements. If your phone is dynamically adjusting how much energy it’s using for different tasks, it’s going to use less energy overall. This, alongside the larger battery components seen on the iPhone 13 range, is undoubtedly the reason why the phones can last all day and night. Even during the most intense tasks.
The improvements made to both the camera hardware and software on the iPhone 13 Pro Max are what drew us in most when reviewing this phone and are enough to warrant an upgrade almost by themselves.
Taking the sensors seen on its predecessor – the iPhone 12 Pro Max – Apple has made some tweaks that may seem small, but in reality, are significant. Firstly, the Ultra-Wide camera features a larger ƒ/1.8 aperture and a new autofocus sensor that means it lets in 92% more light. In our tests, this meant that even photos taken at dusk or in a dark room were sharper and more detailed.
When Apple added Night Mode to the iPhone 11 back in 2019, it was a game-changer because it meant our photos looked great, regardless of the time of day. However, our biggest complaint with this mode has always been the need to wait for one to three seconds in order to capture the scene effectively. This is a problem when trying to capture any form of movement or action at night. While Night Mode still exists on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, we barely use it now because of the vastly improved sensor setup, with its new sensor-shift OIS technology, making it capable of taking the same level of low-light photos without delay.
Elsewhere, the improved Ultra-Wide sensor now has a 120° field of view, a larger ƒ/1.8 aperture, and a new sensor with autofocus, enabling the addition of Macro Mode. This new autofocus system works with a new 2cm minimum distance, which allows you to get up close in images and videos, like never before, whether that’s capturing detail in an Instagram-worthy meal or picking out parts of a flower or insect, and much more.
The new ƒ/1.5 aperture Wide camera is described as Apple’s largest sensor ever, capable of capturing 2.2x more light than the iPhone 12 Pro. While the new Telephoto camera has a 77mm focal length and 3x optical zoom.
This advanced camera setup and the features added to iOS 15 also allow for two new modes – Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles. Cinematic Mode uses a technique known as rack focus, commonly used in feature films to switch attention between subjects while adding a depth-of-field effect. This is available on both the latest iPhone Pro models, and it creates superb, professional-looking footage even if you have limited experience or skill, like us.
Photographic Styles transform your photos by adding either a Vibrant, Rich Contrast, Warm, and Cool style to the overall image. Going way beyond your standard photo filter, Photographic Styles uses “deep semantic understanding” to adjust the light, brightness, exposure and contrast based on the ambient light in the scene, a person’s skin tone and more. The differences are subtle but create an incredibly professional overall effect.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max continues to support Deep Fusion and HDR video recording with Dolby Vision seen on the 12 Pro Max, but the latter now supports 4K at 60 fps on all cameras (up from 4K at 30 fps on the iPhone 12 Pro), including the True Depth camera on the front. In addition to housing the FaceID sensor, this front-facing camera also supports Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles.
Until this point in our review, the differences between the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max have been small. Almost to the point where it would be difficult to recommend the latter over the former. When it comes to battery life, however, there is no contest.
Despite being an absolute powerhouse, crammed full of the latest technology and with a superb display, Apple claims the iPhone 13 Pro Max will last 28 hours when used exclusively for video streaming. This is eight hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max and 11 hours more than the iPhone 13. When used for audio-only, this soars to 95 hours versus 80 on the 12 Pro Max and 55 hours on the iPhone 13. These are substantial, almost unbelievable claims that more than carry over into real-world use.
In our looping video test – in which we play an HD video on a loop until the battery dies – the iPhone 13 Pro Max lasted for 29 hours. The video played all day, all night and was still going in the morning, and all without the phone overheating.
In our real-world tests, we used the phone to stream at least one episode of Married at First Sight, send WhatsApp messages, play Sim City, listen to Spotify, watch TikTok alongside a couple of audio calls – the phone lasted substantially longer.
For the first time in our long history of phone reviews, we have found a handset that lasts more than two days. In fact, this phone can easily run for around 56 hours before needing to be plugged back in. An unprecedented amount of time and one that truly elevates the iPhone Pro 13 Max above its own siblings and the competition.
This is made all the more impressive when you look at how powerful the Apple 13 Pro range is. Apple claims its new 6-core CPU, found across the entire iPhone 13 range, is up to 50% faster than the competition and on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. A new 5-core Apple-designed GPU also joins this CPU, said to deliver the same percentage speed upgrades.
During everyday tasks, these speed boosts, along with the ProMotion technology, makes this handset super responsive and slick. Improvements that are even more noticeable when playing graphic-heavy games, like Fornite or streaming high-quality content from Netflix. The refresh rate on the iPhone 13 Pro Max coupled with the processor speed increases offer a super smooth, super-fast experience, and we couldn’t fault it. Over 4G and Wi-Fi.
With the iPhone 13 range, Apple has made the straightforward, step-by-step nature of its setup process even easier. In addition to guiding you through every stage, from transferring files to enabling Siri and setting up FaceID, Apple now makes it easier to back up and manage your data.
Until now, if you didn’t have enough storage on your device to back up your files, photos, and more, you’d have to manually remove items in order to get them moved over to the new phone. Now, Apple lets anyone switching to iPhone use as much iCloud Backup space as they need during setup. The company even lets you keep your data in this iCloud Backup for three weeks to give you the chance to manage your on-device storage.
Apple has also made it easier to move Photo albums, files and folders, and Accessibility settings to your new iPhone if you’re coming over from Android, thanks to the improved Move to iOS app.
You don’t need to have an Apple ID to get this phone set up. However, if you want to copy over apps, settings or access the full range of iOS 15 features, you will eventually need to sign in or set one up. This can be done easily enough in Settings.
In the same way that the iPhone 13 mini occupies a relatively niche audience, the iPhone 13 Pro Max won’t appeal to everybody. In fact, it won’t appeal to most people. It’s huge, it’s expensive, and on paper, it’s not a huge leap from the cheaper iPhone 13 Pro.
Few of us can warrant spending more than £1,000 for a phone, but – and it’s a big but – for those who can, this is the best phone money can buy. Its huge screen is clear, vibrant and perfect for both streaming and working where needed. Its high price means the Pro Max comes with a wide and varied range of hardware and software features that outdo all the competition. Its superior battery life and larger display separate it substantially from the iPhone 13 Pro.
There is enough about the iPhone 13 Pro Max to warrant an upgrade on last year’s Pro Max model, too. If you can afford it, and you’re of the opinion that “the larger the screen, the better”, this is an obvious choice.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is available at a number of UK retailers, with prices starting at £1,049.