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Why I went back to the iPhone 14 Pro Max (and why I still love it)

Someone holding a Deep Purple iPhone 14 Pro Max, showing the back of the phone.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

As section editor for Digital Trends’ Mobile section, I frequently use a lot of different phones. But regardless of which excellent Android phone or bleeding-edge folding phone I’m reviewing, I’m always using an iPhone at the same time. From September 2022 until early March 2023, my iPhone of choice was the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But after getting annoyed with its gargantuan size and weight, I downgraded to the smaller (and more manageable iPhone 14 Pro).

I’ve been using the iPhone 14 Pro since then, and it’s been a great experience. It does everything the iPhone 14 Pro Max does, but in a form factor that’s significantly easier to use — especially one-handed. But in preparation for the iPhone 15 series coming soon, I recently went back to the iPhone 14 Pro Max to see how I would get along with it after months of living with its smaller sibling. And in doing so, I realized something. This is still a pretty darn good phone — and one that makes me excited for the iPhone’s future.

The battery life situation

Close-up view of remaining battery life on an iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Complaints about the iPhone 14 Pro’s battery first started rolling in shortly after folks got their hands on the phone last September. Since then, it’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs. Some iOS updates over the last few months appeared to have improved things, while others seemed to do the opposite. The general consensus, though, is that battery life still isn’t particularly good — even after 11 months.

This is something I noticed myself — and complained about shortly after switching to the iPhone 14 Pro. With moderate use, I was finding myself hitting 20% (or lower) by late afternoon. That never improved as the months went on, and it only got worse after I downloaded the iOS 17 beta. I’ve never felt confident in the iPhone 14 Pro’s battery life, and while that’s not a huge issue when I’m at home all day, it’s incredibly annoying when I’m traveling or hanging out with friends in the evening. Thinking about when I should grab a charger is always oin the back of my mind with the iPhone 14 Pro, and that kind of battery anxiety isn’t fun to live with.

Battery stats on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I’ve been using the iPhone 14 Pro Max on the iOS 17 public beta since I switched back to it, and even on beta software, battery life has been significantly better. It doesn’t last quite as long as it did during those first couple of months in September and October of last year, but it’s still very good. Even with 6 to 7 hours of screen time — with over an hour of that being me playing Call of Duty: Mobile — I can comfortably get to 11 p.m. before I dip to 10% battery remaining. If I limit my gaming time, I can easily get through a day-and-a-half on a single charge.

Yes, I wish the iPhone 14 Pro Max wasn’t quite so big and heavy, but I’m becoming more willing to overlook those things when there’s such a big difference in its endurance. It’s not ideal, but if it means I don’t have to worry about battery life 24/7, I’ll happily use a heavier phone than I’d like.

Big screens just do it better

Call of Duty: Mobile running on an iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

But it’s not just a bigger battery that’s helped me appreciate the iPhone 14 Pro Max again.  Most of the phones I’ve used this year have had big displays. Whether it’s the Motorola Edge Plus, OnePlus 11, or Nothing Phone 2, I’ve gotten used to smartphones with 6.7-inch displays. As such, going back to the 6.1-inch screen on the iPhone 14 Pro came with some unexpected consequences.

I love how compact the iPhone 14 Pro feels and how easy it is to manage with one hand, but I also found it was feeling a bit cramped. It’s fine for browsing Threads or checking Microsoft Teams messages, but if I want to do anything more immersive — such as following Apple Fitness+ workouts, watching YouTube videos, or playing too many matches on Call of Duty: Mobile — the iPhone 14 Pro Max is far and away the more enjoyable phone.

There are plenty of phones that offer a big screen in a more manageable form factor, including all of the Android phones mentioned above. But after using both Pro iPhones and thinking about where my priorities lie, I’ve found myself being more willing to put up with the bulky size if it means getting a bigger, more expansive display. Videos look better, workouts are easier to follow, and games are more immersive. It sounds like such a simple thing on paper, but I didn’t realize how much I actually valued the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s bigger display until I had to live without it.

I can’t wait for the iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro render showing USB-C

I wanted to revisit the iPhone 14 Pro Max for a couple of reasons. The first was to see if I had made the right choice in downgrading to the regular iPhone 14 Pro earlier this year, and to that end, I find myself a bit conflicted. I still vastly prefer how the iPhone 14 Pro feels. It’s a much more comfortable phone in almost every regard, and for a gadget you primarily interact with by holding it, that’s a big deal.

But as I use the two phones side by side, it’s hard to deny how the iPhone 14 Pro Max outclasses its smaller sibling. The iPhone 14 Pro’s battery life problem has only persisted as the year has gone on, and while the Pro Max isn’t a battery champion, it still fares far better. Also, as someone who’s found myself playing more mobile games and watching more videos on my phone, the larger screen size has been a significant positive I can’t overlook.

So, what does all of this mean? I’m going to keep using the iPhone 14 Pro Max for the immediate future, but if anything, it’s only made me more excited for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Rumors heavily suggest that Apple is switching to a titanium body this year instead of stainless steel, which should help address my concern about the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s weight.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I have very few bones to pick with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, so if its weight is addressed in a meaningful way, that’s really exciting. And that’s before we even start thinking about the strong likelihood of a USB-C port, a periscope zoom camera, and a new A17 chipset with (hopefully) better power efficiency.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max remains one of my favorite phones of the past year, and if Apple delivers on the iPhone 15 Pro Max rumors we’ve been hearing, that sounds like a phone I can’t wait to get my hands on.

Joe Maring
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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