Two Months With Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max

People are often surprised that I don’t automatically upgrade to the newest iPhone each year. Given the fact that I write about technology for a living, that’s understandable. And there was I time when I did just that. However, smartphones have reached the stage where they are so capable, that there is no compelling need to replace them on a yearly basis. I had been using an iPhone XS Max since its 2018 launch and really had no complaints. It was a solid phone. However, I use my phone for photos and videos as part of my job, and the cameras were an area where Apple has been making big improvements. So this year, I bit the bullet and shelled out the cash for an iPhone 13 Pro Max. I’ve been using it for just over two months now and I have some thoughts.

iPhone 13 Pro Max: Initial Impressions

Going from the XS Max to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I didn’t think there would be much of a size difference. After all, my old iPhone has a 6.5-inch display, which is just slightly smaller than the new iPhone’s. And on paper, there is little difference — a fraction of an inch here and there, and the exact same thickness. The real difference is weight, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max tipping the scales at 8.39 ounces compared to the XS Max’s 7.34 ounces.

However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max gives an impression of being bigger than those numbers suggest. it looks far thicker than the XS Max. Part of that is the squared off edges instead of the rounded edge approach that Apple first adopted with the iPhone 6. I prefer this design, but it does make the new iPhone look more like a slab. The super-sized and protruding cameras also add to the impression of being larger.

cameras

The cameras were the primary reason why I upgraded to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I have a DSLR that I use for some product review shots, but I rely on my iPhone a lot — it’s just easier and I always have it with me. I also use the iPhone for shooting video. And it’s my iPhone that I usually have with me on hikes and day trips. The addition of an ultra-wide camera, the increase of the optical telephoto to 3X zoom, and features not available in the XS Max like night mode, cinematic mode, RAW capability, and macro mode were the reason I bought the iPhone 13 Pro Max .

For the most part, I haven’t been disappointed. The macro mode is incredible. The main (wide) shooter is fast and captures nice detail. The extra zoom of the telephoto camera comes in very handy and the sensor-shift optical image stabilization works well. Night mode is literally night and day difference compared to low light shooting with the XS Max. There’s no comparison. The only issue I have is that night mode shots can be a little harsh, although that can be fixed up in editing. Cinematic mode for videos isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty impressive when shots are set up properly and everything clicks.

Here are a few examples from this iPhone’s cameras.

Display

The iPhone XS Max already had a very nice Super Retina, OLED True Tone display. I had no complaints there. That being said, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a noticeable upgrade. The display is significantly brighter (1200 Nits maximum with HDR vs 625 Nits for the iPhone XS Max), and it has much deeper contrast. The camera notch is a bit smaller. The real win is the ProMotion with adaptive refresh rate. Scrolling through Twitter is so much smoother it makes the Pro Max display seem jerky when performing the same task.

5G

I could have cared less about 5G. I can’t ever recall being out and about with my iPhone and cursing the speed of LTE, although I don’t typically download apps or videos while on cellular. For me, 5G has been the most “meh” of the big upgrades compared to the iPhone XS Max. My iPhone 13 Pro Max is zippy on cellular service regardless of whether it’s connected to 5G or LTE, but for what I’m doing it feels no different than my old iPhone.

Battery Life

Battery life is a big win for the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I never had any complaints about the iPhone XS Max. It was rated at 15 hours of playback and would usually get me through a full day and then some.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is a true battery beast. Apple rates it a up to 28 hours of video playback on a charge — and I suspect a larger battery is a big part of this phone’s extra weight.

Last weekend, I went back to my home town for an overnight visit. I used the iPhone 13 Pro Max for in-car navigation, snapping photos, playing security footage from my home cameras, at least three or four hours of streaming music to a Bluetooth speaker that evening, messages, checking e-mail, and my usual scrolling through Twitter. When I went to bed the following night (that’s two full days and one entire night without being on a charger), I still had 52% of the battery remaining.

That’s hard to believe.

Final Thoughts

Is the iPhone 13 Pro Max a good smartphone? I’d say it’s a great smartphone — especially if you’re upgrading from an iPhone that’s several generations old. Great display, great cameras, great overall performance, and exceptional battery life.

If I were going to do it over again, though, I would probably go with the smaller iPhone 13 Pro instead. With both models packing the same camera array this year, the extra cost — and the extra weight — of the Max version are tougher to justify. Part of that equation might be the fact that I also bought a new iPad Mini this year and I tend to use that rather than my iPhone for scrolling through news and other tasks that would benefit from maximum display area.

That being said, if you want the largest display and longest battery life possible in an iPhone, then the iPhone 13 Pro Max rules.

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