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iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: what’s actually different?

Renders of the iPhone 15 Pro next to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Digital Trends

The release of the iPhone 15 last year brought the usual flurry of interest on the new models, with people wondering whether the iPhone 15 Pro was worth the higher cost over the base iPhone 15. But if you decided that it was and you wanted a Pro, there’s another issue to consider — do you want an iPhone 15 Pro or an iPhone 15 Pro Max? Both models run the latest iOS 17.4 software, released in March 2024, but there are differences in the hardware between the two.

And the Pro versus Pro Max issue is more difficult to decide this time around. While previous iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max models were virtually identical expect for their size, with the iPhone 15 series, things have changed. This makes this the first time since the 2020 iPhone 12 Pro Max that you need to weigh up more significant differences than just size when selecting between the Pro and the Pro Max. We’ve got all the details to help you decide, though, so read on to find out about specs and comparisons.

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: specs

  iPhone 15 Pro iPhone 15 Pro Max
Size 146.6 x 70.6 x 8.25mm (5.77 x 2.78 x 0.32 inches) 159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25 mm (6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 187 grams (6.60 ounces) 221 grams (7.81 ounces)
Screen 6.1-inch always-on Super Retina XDR OLED with 120Hz ProMotion 6.7-inch always-on Super Retina XDR OLED with 120Hz ProMotion
Screen resolution 2556 x 1179 pixels at 460 pixels-per-inch 2796 x 1290 pixels at 460 pixels-per-inch
Operating system iOS 17 iOS 17
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Apple Pay
Processor Apple A17 Pro Apple A17 Pro
Camera Rear: 48-megapixel (MP) main camera (wide), 12MP Ultrawide, 12MP 3X telephoto, LiDAR Scanner

Front: 12MP TrueDepth

Rear: 48-megapixel (MP) main camera (wide), 12MP Ultrawide, 12MP 5X telephoto, LiDAR Scanner

Front: 12MP TrueDepth

Video 4K at 24/25/30/60 frames per second (fps)

1080p HD at 25/30/60 fps

HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps

Slow motion 1080p at 120/240 fps

ProRes video recording up to 4K at 60fps with external recording

Macro video recording

4K at 24/25/30/60 frames per second (fps)

1080p HD at 25/30/60 fps

HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps

Slow motion 1080p at 120/240 fps

ProRes video recording up to 4K at 60fps with external recording

Macro video recording

Cellular 5G mmWave (U.S. models only), 5G (sub-6GHz), Dual eSIM with Physical SIM on non-U.S. models only. 5G mmWave (U.S. models only), 5G (sub-6GHz), Dual eSIM with Physical SIM on non-U.S. models only.
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.3 Bluetooth 5.3
Ports USB-C USB-C
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery Video playback: 20 to 23 hours
Audio playback: 75 hours
20W fast charging
Video playback: 25 to 29 hours
Audio playback: 95 hours
20W fast charging
App marketplace App Store App Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, Black Titanium Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, Black Titanium
Price Starting at $999 Starting at $1,199

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: design

Someone holding the Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

On the design front, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are nearly identical in every meaningful way except for their noticeable size difference. This year, Apple has replaced its stainless steel frame with an elegant brushed titanium finish that adds a different touch of class. It’s a more matte look and better matches the textured glass back, which is basically the same material that Apple has used on its iPhone Pro models for the past several years.

The frame and back are color-matched as usual, although the choice of colors more closely matches the new material theme. Your choices are Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium. Did we mention that titanium is a big deal for Apple this year?

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro leaning on park lamp post.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

However, there’s more to the use of titanium than just looks. The switch has allowed the iPhone 15 Pro models to shed some weight; both models drop 19 grams over their respective predecessors. In practical terms, that makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max closer in weight to last year’s iPhone 14 Pro — and it’s a welcome change for those who have shied away from the larger model purely due to its weight.

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max also get narrower bezels around the screen and rounded edges on the front and back glass that make it more comfortable to hold without a case. A new Action button also replaces the traditional ring/silent switch on the side. Plus, Apple finally switched out its proprietary Lightning port for a more standard USB-C port.

These changes come equally to the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, along with the same IP68 dust and water resistance as prior models, which rates them for a maximum depth of 6 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

Nevertheless, we think the iPhone 15 Pro Max gets a slight edge over its smaller sibling this year. A larger screen is always nice, but with prior 6.7-inch iPhone Pro models, the trade-off was dealing with a heftier phone. The iPhone 14 Pro Max was among the heaviest in its class, outweighing even Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra. Thanks to Apple’s change in materials, you can now get the larger screen in a lighter and more manageable package.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: display

An iPhone 15 Pro Max, lying on a wood floor with its display on.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max feature the same always-on Super Retina XDR Display with Apple’s variable refresh rate ProMotion technology. This allows the iPhone to dynamically adjust the refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz, giving you smooth scrolling and fast-paced action when you need it and saving power when you don’t. The screens also drop to 1Hz when in always-on mode.

If you’re coming from an iPhone 14 Pro model, you won’t find any surprises here; the displays appear identical to what Apple used last year. However, that’s not a bad thing; Apple’s Super Retina XDR Display remains one of the best screens you’ll find on any smartphone today, with vibrant and balanced colors, a buttery smooth refresh rate, and an always-on display that nothing else can match.

Once again, the obvious difference between the two iPhone 15 Pro models is the size, but Apple has made sure that the resolution has been proportionally adjusted for the larger screen so that both iPhones offer the same crispness and clarity. That means a 2,556 x 1,179-pixel screen for the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro and 2,796 x 1,290 pixels for the 6.7-inch display on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. That works out to 460 pixels per inch (ppi) for both.

The displays on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max can also both reach 2,000 nits of outdoor brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness, once again mirroring the specs of last year’s iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

While opting for the iPhone 15 Pro Max will get you a more expansive canvas to work on, that’s the only display advantage it has over the iPhone 15 Pro. Since not everyone needs a larger screen, we’re calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: performance and battery

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing top half of screen including battery level.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Although Apple is now reserving its most powerful silicon for its iPhone Pro models. This year, that’s the A17 Pro — a new generation of silicon that drops Apple’s “Bionic” branding and promises to turn the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max into gaming powerhouses.

The A17 Pro has a six-core CPU that’s made up of two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, plus Apple’s 16-core Neural Engine and a new six-core GPU. On paper, that’s only one more core than prior A-series chips, but Apple says it’s also been significantly redesigned with the biggest changes ever made to an Apple GPU, and it’s been done with a sharp focus on improving gaming performance.

For example, the A17 Pro now features hardware-accelerated ray tracing and Metal effect upscaling that brings in the Neural Engine to produce the highest-quality graphics you’ve ever seen on a smartphone. The changes are significant enough that mainstream developers will soon bring actual console games to the iPhone 15 Pro, including Resident Evil Village, Tom Clancy’s The Division Resurgence, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage.

Call of Duty: Mobile on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

However, as incredibly powerful as the new A17 Pro chip is, this is all about gaming performance. You won’t see any noticeable speed improvements over the iPhone 14 Pro models in day-to-day use, but it’s hard to imagine how it could be any faster at everyday tasks like opening apps and scrolling through webpages and social media feeds since Apple’s iPhones have offered near-instantaneous response times for years.

You also won’t get any performance advantages from the iPhone 15 Pro Max over its smaller counterpart, as both Pro models have the same A17 Pro chip and pack in the same amount of RAM, which Apple has upped this year to 8GB, compared to 6GB in the iPhone 14 Pro models. If you’re a gamer, you’ll probably want the larger display, but games will run just as smoothly on the iPhone 15 Pro as on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

An iPhone 15 Pro Max charging with a USB-C cable.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Still, there’s one area in which the iPhone 15 Pro Max wins handily, and that’s battery life. With everything else being equal, a larger battery means longer run times, and the only thing the iPhone 15 Pro Max has that draws more power than its smaller counterpart is the larger screen — and that’s not enough to make up for that much bigger cell inside the 6.7-inch model. While your actual mileage will vary, especially when it comes to gaming, Apple promises 5 to 6 more hours of watching videos and 20 more hours of listening to audio on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Those numbers are on par with last year’s iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, although iOS 17 seems to have pulled run times down a bit across the board.

Sadly, Apple still doesn’t offer any faster charging speeds. Wired charging is in the 20-watt range, while wireless operates at 15W if you have a MagSafe or a Qi2-compatible charger or at 7.5W with a standard Qi charger. Technically, the iPhone 15 Pro Max likely draws more power over a wired connection — up to 27W if past models are any indication — but that doesn’t give it faster charging times as it also has a larger battery, so it needs more power just to maintain the same charging speed as the iPhone 15 Pro.

Even though the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max offer the same performance and charging speeds, the larger battery in the iPhone 15 Pro Max gives it a solid win.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: cameras

iPhone 15 Pro camera lens
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Where this year’s iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max diverge the most is in the camera systems, as Apple has once again bolstered the optical zoom only on its larger model, giving the iPhone 15 Pro Max more range than the iPhone 15 Pro.

The only other time this happened was in 2020 with the iPhone 12 lineup, when the iPhone 12 Pro retained the 2x telephoto lens from its predecessor, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max got a bump to 2.5x along with a larger sensor.

That year, the iPhone 12 Pro Max had a clear photography advantage over the 6.1-inch model, and this year, Apple is repeating that by giving the iPhone 15 Pro Max a 5x optical zoom for its telephoto lens. By comparison, the iPhone 15 Pro retains the same 3x lens that’s been standard since the iPhone 13 Pro.

The reason for the difference — both in 2020 and now — seems to be a matter of physics. The smaller 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro didn’t have the room for the larger sensor Apple wanted to put in three years ago, and Apple’s unique new 5x tetra-prism lens won’t fit into the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro.

As it is, Apple has rearranged the camera layout on the iPhone 15 Pro Max to make room for the new camera system. The telephoto lens, which has been in the top corner since the three-camera design was introduced in 2019, now moves to the right-center position, below the flash. For consistency, Apple has done the same with the iPhone 15 Pro.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro zoom camera.
Apple

The 5x lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max also maintains the same f/2.8 aperture as the 3x on the iPhone 15 Pro and prior models, which is impressive with the increased focal length. By comparison, the Google Pixel 8 Pro, which offers the same 5x optical zoom, comes in at the same f/2.8, and Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra has a much narrower f/4.9 aperture (albeit with a 10x optical zoom). This means that the iPhone 15 Pro Max will be able to capture just as much light through its telephoto lens as the iPhone 15 Pro, putting it on equal footing for lowlight photography. In fact, it’s one of the best 5x cameras we’ve seen on any smartphone, and the photos captured through it are virtually indistinguishable in quality from those taken with the main lens.

Other changes that come to both iPhone 15 Pro models are a new 24-megapixel (MP) “super high resolution” capture mode from the main sensor, which retains the 48MP sensor from last year, plus a new Smart HDR 5 algorithm that promises greater dynamic range and more true-to-life photos, plus the ability to capture depth information for every photo you take, even when Portrait Mode isn’t on. This lets you turn any shot into a portrait shot.

Someone using the camera app on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The lenses also gain a nanoscale coating to help reduce lens flare, which helps quite a bit with night shots. Both iPhones can also still capture 12MP photos with a 2x optical zoom, thanks to the 48MP sensor, which means you’re not losing out on a mid-range zoom by opting for the 5x lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

In practical terms, all these upgrades produce incredible-looking photos with very balanced colors that look even more realistic, natural, and fun than they did on the iPhone 14 Pro models. The low light performance is impressive, especially on the 5x lens of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but other than that increased optical zoom factor, you’ll find that the iPhone 15 Pro delivers the same fantastic image quality.

However, while both iPhone 15 Pro models have great camera systems, the uncompromising 5x optical zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is by far the most compelling reason to opt for the larger model — and if you travel a lot with your iPhone, you’ll be glad you did, as the higher magnification makes a big difference in providing more unique photo opportunities.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: software and updates

Someone holding the iPhone 15 Pro Max outside.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max ship with the same iOS 17 release that’s now available for older models and should remain in lockstep for updates for the next several years.

This puts both iPhone 15 Pro models on equal footing from a software perspective, and the iOS 17 user experience on Apple’s newest iPhone models should be virtually identical to what other recent models are getting, except for obvious hardware-dependent features like the 5x zoom and the new Action button. Even Apple’s Roadside Assistance via Satellite, which was announced as part of the iPhone 15 unveiling, will be making its way to the iPhone 14 lineup since they have the same satellite capabilities.

Apple doesn’t make specific update promises, but it has a long track record of providing at least five years of updates for its iPhones. This means we can safely expect the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max to take us to at least iOS 22.

Winner: Tie

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: special features

Action button settings page on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Although the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max get a few perks over their non-Pro counterparts, neither one has any advantage over the other in this area.

For example, Apple has (finally) switched its entire lineup over to USB-C, and with that, the iPhone 15 Pro models get faster 10Gbps USB 3 data transfer speeds. With those faster speeds, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will also be able to capture 4K ProRes video at 60 frames per second (fps) to external storage devices; prior models are limited to 4K/30fps as they can only use internal storage. Apple is also adding the ability for the iPhone 15 Pro to capture Spatial Videos for Apple’s new Vision Pro headset when it launches next year.

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max sides.
iPhone 15 Pro (left) and iPhone 14 Pro Max (right) Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Both iPhone 15 Pro models also include a new Action button that replaces the ring/silent switch used on Apple’s iPhones since the very first model came out. It’s a customizable button that can put your iPhone in silent mode and do much more, including launching custom routines in Apple’s Shortcuts app. It’s arguably the most powerful user interface feature to come to an iPhone in years; you’re sadly limited to assigning it to only a single function, but with clever use of Shortcuts, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can do with it.

All of these special features are (or will be) available equally on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, so this one is a dead heat.

Winner: Tie

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: price and availability

A natural and blue titanium iPhone 15 Pro side-by-side.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 for the base 128GB version, with 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities available in $100/128GB increments, up to $1,499 for the highest capacity.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a slightly higher starting price this year since Apple has eliminated the 128GB entry-level capacity, putting the base price at $1,199 for the 256GB version. As with the iPhone 15 Pro, it moves up in the same $100/128GB steps, with 512GB and 1TB models available for $1,399 and $1,599, respectively.

Both models are available in Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium and can be purchased from Apple, your carrier, and most other major retailers that sell Apple products.

Overall winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

Someone holding the Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Most years, the only reason to opt for an iPhone Pro Max is to get a larger screen and more battery life. However, this time around, the iPhone 15 Pro Max pulls out farther ahead of its little sibling thanks to an improved 5x optical zoom on its telephoto lens that has no downside. Plus, the lighter titanium construction means you’ll need to make one less compromise to get the larger screen.

However, the catch is that there’s now a more significant $200 price gap between the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max at the entry-level. The cost of the iPhone 15 Pro Max technically hasn’t increased from last year, as that price gets you 256GB; there’s simply no longer a more affordable 128GB model.

Even with its steep price tag, we think that the iPhone 15 Pro Max really is worth shelling out for, as it’s one of the biggest improvements over previous versions and models of the iPhone.

Even so, the iPhone 15 Pro is a very strong runner-up and a solid buy if you’re not a photography enthusiast and don’t really care about the larger screen and battery. You’ll get a great camera system with the same A17 Pro chip, a stunning 120Hz always-on display, and a titanium frame that makes it the lightest iPhone Pro ever.

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