Why I’m going ‘nearly nude’ with my iPhone 15 Pro Max


iPhone 15 Pro Max with no case, held aloft defiantly
iPhone case? I don't need no stinkin' case.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

After several months with my iPhone 15 Pro Max, I’m stripping off its case and going “nearly nude.”

Yes, there’s a chance I’ll drop it and incur a hefty repair bill. (If so, AppleCare+ will ease the sting.) But the unbridled joy of the naked iPhone in my hand — and the lurid thrill of leering at its sleek natural titanium finish — make it worth the risk.

Twin dilemmas: iPhone too big versus iPhone with no case

Some people love gigantic iPhones, fueling high demand for Apple’s biggest devices, while other folks yearn for something more like the svelte iPhone 5. (That model ranks No. 1 on Cult of Mac‘s list of the best iPhones of all time, BTW.) More than a decade after the first iPhone arrived to shake up the smartphone scene, debate rages on about the perfect size.

You can count me in the latter category of people who generally prefer smaller phones. In fact, years ago I swore I’d never buy a plus-size iPhone again. They’re too unwieldy for one-handed use, and Apple’s Reachability feature feels like a cruel joke. They’re too big to fit securely in some jeans pockets. And if you do stash a recent iPhone Pro in your back pocket, its stainless steel edges make it so dense and heavy that it weighs down your pants. Honestly, I sometimes felt like a toddler with a hot diaper load.

All that said, when Apple revealed last year’s iPhone lineup, I swallowed hard and went against my phablet phobia. Why? Because Apple refused to play the feature-parity card with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, giving it one killer feature that its smaller sibling didn’t receive: a 5x telescopic lens. That tetraprism optical zoom enticed me into another year with an iPhone bigger than I legitimately need.

Call me a sucker, but I just can’t bear to go without top-tier features. (Maybe it’s a side effect of my job here at Cult of Mac.)

Falling prey to the siren call of the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 5x optical zoom

The iPhone 15 Pro Max camera array, pictured in front of a green plant.
I just couldn’t resist that 5x telephoto zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

Anyway, bleary-eyed on iPhone 15 launch day, I — like so many others — sprang for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, even though it goes against my better judgment (and even the wisdom of the late, great Steve Jobs). I figured I could always return it within two weeks if I just couldn’t handle the size.

But a funny thing happened after I got Apple’s latest, great and biggest iPhone in my hand. It wasn’t that much bigger, heavier or more onerous to use than my iPhone 14 Pro in a case. The weight saved by Apple’s switch from stainless steel to titanium made a real difference in the feel of the iPhone 15 Pro Max in my hand. In fact, the new phone didn’t seem as heavy as my iPhone 14 Pro. Plus, the rounded edges made the Pro Max feel less “sharp,” and therefore more comfortable to grasp for extended periods.

So I carried it around my house for the first couple of weeks and didn’t flinch when the return window closed. However, I did get nervous when anticipating a two-week vacation in Italy. I envisioned lots of cobblestones, uneven walking surfaces, dizzying photo ops and empty wine bottles.

Safety first: A case for a European vacation

I figured the possibility of dropping the iPhone 15 Pro Max increased dramatically on a European sojourn. So I bought a screen protector and a bumper case — just in case. (I know from experience that spending time at an Apple Store during a vacation isn’t the worst thing in the world — muchas gracias, Apple Passeig de Gràcia — but it’s definitely not an ideal addition to a travel itinerary.)

Sadly, the bumper case made the iPhone 15 Pro Max seem huge. The increase in dimensions was bad enough, but the size of the lip on the back — which extends several millimeters to protect the iPhone’s camera array — seemed particularly grotesque.

However, it gave me something to hold onto and provided a welcome sense of security during my vacation. I didn’t love it, but I don’t regret it. It’s easy to pop on and off, so I’ll keep it in case I run into another sensitive situation. (I did the same thing on a recent trip to rural Ohio, where I was working a long way from an Apple Store.)

‘Nearly nude’ bliss with my iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro Max in natural titanium with some water droplets on it, shown in front of a green plant.
Nothing gets between me and my natural titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max. (Most of the time, anyway.)
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

Now that I’m back home in San Francisco and within spitting distance of Apple Union Square and other repair options, I’m ditching the bumper case. I’ll leave the screen protector on, at least for the time being, although it feels a little weird around the edges.

And apparently, I’m not alone. A recent unscientific poll by Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber found that nearly one in three iPhone users go caseless.

To me, using the iPhone 15 Pro Max without a case seems like the natural and right thing to do. The phone feels great in my hand, and doesn’t seem too big. (It’s not like even the iPhone 15 Pro is really a one-hander for me anyway.) I get to savor the Pro Max’s big, beautiful screen in all its glory. The pictures from the 5x optical zoom look pretty gorgeous.

I’m careful to employ a G.I. Joe-style Kung Fu Grip every time I grab my case-free iPhone. I’m vigilant about where I set it down, since iPhones are notorious for sliding off smooth surfaces. (In fact, mine has taken gut-wrenching dives off restaurant tables and my kitchen countertop. Live and learn.) And I’m even warming to the concept of the smartphone pinkie shelf.

Perhaps most importantly, I get to enjoy the natural titanium finish that Apple worked so hard to perfect, the way God (and Tim Cook) intended.


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