Trying to decide if you should buy iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max? After a few years of feature parity, this year’s lineup once again makes a marquee feature exclusive to the Pro Max model. And for photographers, it’s a doozy: iPhone 15 Pro Max gets a new 5x optical zoom, thanks to its tetraprism periscope lens.
Bigger display and longer battery life aside, this key camera improvement alone could make it worth upgrading to the larger iPhone Pro this year. Here’s how iPhone 15 Pro compares to iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Comparing the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max
Over the last few years, Apple considerably narrowed the differences between the iPhone Pro and Pro Max models. That was great news for people who wanted Apple’s best hardware but didn’t want the biggest, heaviest phone around.
From a specs viewpoint, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, revealed during Tuesday’s “Wonderlust” event, are almost identical phones. They use the same A17 Pro chipset with 8GB of RAM. They pack the same connectivity options: 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C and Thread support. While there’s obviously a difference in their display sizes — 6.1 inches on the Pro and 6.7 inches on the Pro Max — they both use 120Hz ProMotion panels that deliver 2,000 nits of peak brightness.
Instead of highlighting how the two phones are similar, below are the key differences or improvements that the iPhone 15 Pro Max packs over its smaller sibling.
- Design: Lightweight titanium makes Max less burdensome
- Camera: iPhone 15 Pro Max is all about the optical zoom
- Storage: iPhone 15 Pro Max base model comes with more
- Battery life: Pro Max is still better
- Price: iPhone 15 Pro Max base model gets a price hike
- Should you wait for the iPhone 16 Pro?
Design: Lightweight titanium makes Max less burdensome
The iPhone Pro Max’s large size makes it an obvious choice for phablet fans but a hard no for those who prefer a smaller smartphone. Previous years’ stainless steel construction also made all iPhone Pro models heavier than “regular” iPhones made of aluminum.
Here’s how big this year’s Pro models are and how much they weigh:
- iPhone 15 Pro: 5.77 inches (146.6mm) x 2.78 inches (70.6mm) x 0.32 inch (8.25mm); 6.6 ounces (187 grams)
- iPhone 15 Pro Max: 6.29 inches (159.9mm) x 3.02 inches (76.7mm) x 0.32 inch (8.25mm); 7.81 ounces (221 grams)
Like every year, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the biggest phone that Apple offers. But thanks to a major upgrade this year, the larger size might make the beastly phone less of a burden to tote around. The iPhone 15 Pro series uses a titanium railing with a redesigned internal aluminum chassis. Aside from the premium look, the titanium chassis is also considerably lighter than last year’s stainless steel models.
That’s a key difference that benefits the iPhone 15 Pro Max. If you previously shied away from a Pro Max phone due to its size and weight, the iPhone 15 Pro Max might change that. It is 0.67 ounces (19 grams) lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max and has slightly more compact dimensions, which should make it easier to hold.
Titanium will make both models lighter
Those improvements also carry over to the iPhone 15 Pro, though. It also weighs 0.67 ounces (19 grams) less than its predecessor, with slightly more compact dimensions thanks to slimmer display bezels.
“Titanium has one of the best strength‑to‑weight ratios of any metal, making these our lightest Pro models ever,” Apple says on its website. “You’ll notice the difference the moment you pick one up.”
While both Pro phones are slightly shorter and narrower than before, their thicknesses increased by a minuscule amount. But with a reduction in their weight, this should not be an issue. (Side note: The revised dimensions mean that your existing cases won’t work with the new iPhones.)
Camera: iPhone 15 Pro Max is all about the optical zoom
While both iPhone 15 Pro models offer excellent three-lens cameras, the Pro Max gets that possibly irresistible 5x optical zoom. Here are the camera specs, with the differences bolded:
- iPhone 15 Pro: 48MP f/1.78 primary camera with 24mm focal length, a larger sensor and second-gen sensor-shift stabilization; 12MP 2x Telephoto (enabled by quad‑pixel sensor) with 48 mm focal length and ƒ/1.78 aperture;12MP f/2.8 Telephoto camera with 77mm focal length, 3x optical zoom and 15x digital zoom; 12MP f/2.2 Ultra Wide camera with macro photography capability; Adaptive True Tone flash, Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Cinematic mode (4K HDR@30fps), Action mode; front-facing 12MP camera with f/1.9 aperture and autofocus.
- iPhone 15 Pro Max: 48MP f/1.78 primary camera with 24mm focal length, a larger sensor and second-gen sensor-shift stabilization; 12MP 2x Telephoto (enabled by quad‑pixel sensor) with 48 mm focal length and ƒ/1.78 aperture; 12MP f/2.8 Telephoto tetraprism camera with with 120mm focal length, 5x optical zoom, 25x digital zoom, 3D sensor‑shift optical image stabilization and autofocus; 12MP f/2.2 Ultra Wide camera with macro photography capability; Adaptive True Tone flash, Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Cinematic mode (4K HDR@30fps), Action mode; front-facing 12MP camera with f/1.9 aperture and autofocus.
If you want an iPhone with the most versatile camera setup, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the obvious choice. Both Pro phones feature the same upgraded 48-megapixel primary and 12-megapixel Ultra Wide shooters. But on the Pro Max, the new tetraprism Telephoto lens comes with 120mm focal length for 5x optical zoom. The iPhone 15 Pro comes with a 3x optical shooter, the same as the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
The upgraded Telephoto camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max lets you get closer to your subject from a distance and take stunning photos. And it is not just the optical zoom that got better. On the iPhone 15 Pro Max, you also get 25x digital zoom. The regular Pro tops out at 15x digital zoom.
From an image processing viewpoint, both phones offer Smart HDR 5, upgraded Photonic Engine and Deep Fusion, and more. If you don’t care about the zoom, the rear triple shooters on the iPhone 15 Pro will serve you fine.
Storage: iPhone 15 Pro Max base model comes with more
This year, Apple changed up the storage options on its Pro phones:
- iPhone 15 Pro: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
- iPhone 15 Pro Max: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Apple doubled the base storage on the iPhone 15 Pro Max to 256GB (a boost that would have cost you $100 extra on the iPhone 14 Pro Max). The smaller iPhone 15 Pro’s entry-level model still comes with 128GB storage. However, 1TB remains the maximum storage you can get on either model.
Both of this year’s Pro iPhones ship with 8GB of RAM, a 2GB increase from the iPhone 14 Pro series.
Battery life: Pro Max is still better
Like every year, the iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a big battery life advantage over the smaller Pro model. Here’s how long the batteries will last, according to Apple:
- iPhone 15 Pro: Up to 23 hours of video playback, 75 hours of audio playback
- iPhone 15 Pro Max: Up to 29 hours of video playback, 95 hours of audio playback
The claimed battery life of the new iPhones is the same as 2022’s iPhone 14 Pro series. Given the 3nm A17 Pro chip is more efficient than the A16 Bionic, the new iPhones might even last a bit longer than their predecessors. Either way, if maximum battery life is a big deal to you, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the obvious choice.
Fast charging speeds remain unchanged from last year’s models, with a zero to 50% charge taking 30 minutes when a 20W or higher power adapter is used. Wireless charging speeds over MagSafe also stay the same at 15W. As expected, USB-C comes standard on the two phones, so you’ll need to ditch your Lightning cable irrespective of which model you go with.
Price: iPhone 15 Pro Max base model gets a price hike
- iPhone 15 Pro: Starts at $999
- iPhone 15 Pro Max: Starts at $1,199
Until last year, there was a $100 difference between the Pro and Pro Max models. But starting with the iPhone 15 Pro series, that gap increases to $200. (This is before taxes and trade-in or carrier offers, so you might be able to get a better deal that reduces this gap.)
While the iPhone 14 Pro Max started at $1,099, the 15 Pro Max retails for $1,199. You get twice the storage space for the base model (256GB), but that’s just Apple’s way of hiding the price hike.
For that extra $200, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers a bigger display, longer battery life and, more importantly, that promising 5x optical zoom camera. If you use your iPhone primarily for taking a lot of photos and videos, the higher optical zoom could be an invaluable tool in your photographic arsenal.
Should you wait for the iPhone 16 Pro?
If the iPhone 15 Pro Max is still too big or unwieldy, consider waiting for 2024’s iPhone 16 Pro. Rumors indicate the periscope camera that enables the 5x optical zoom on the Pro Max could come to the smaller Pro phone next year. However, next year’s Pro model also might get a bump in size due to a larger display.