Is the iPhone 11 Pro Max worth buying in 2021?
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase from the links on this page.
If you are upgrading from an older iPhone or if you are switching over from Android, you will find that the iPhone 11 Pro Max at all three major US carriers, and you can also often get great discounts when you trade in an older device.
To freshen up your mind, the iPhone 11 Pro Max was released in late 2019 and it addressed one of the biggest complaints about its predecessor, the XS Max, which had poor battery life. Apple not only included a bigger battery, but also premiered new camera features like Night Mode, making the iPhone 11 Pro Max feel like one of the most well-rounded iPhones of all time.
So... should you buy it in 2021?
Why it's worth buying the iPhone 11 Pro Max?
The design and size
Apple completely overhauled the way iPhones look with the 12 series, which now come with flat sides and an overall styling that brings memories of the iconic iPhone 4. While all of that looks good in pictures, the reality is that with this new design, the iPhone 12 Pro Max in particular has grown even bigger, to gargantuan proportions.
It has gained 0.3" inches of thickness and is both wider and taller, and even though it's not by much, the fact that it has flat sides makes the iPhone 12 Pro Max hard to even hold comfortably in the hand. It's also not very comfy in a pocket, and if you wear tighter clothing, even tying your shoes with that phone in your pocket might be mission impossible.
On the other hand, the iPhone 11 Pro Max remains within reasonable size limits and its curved sides actually make it far more comfortable to hold and carry. And if that's important to you, my personal opinion is that the iPhone 11 Pro Max has the more practical design, while the 12 Pro Max takes things to the extreme, so thta
For a few years now, Apple holds the lead in smartphone performance, and with the iPhone 12 Pro Max we get another welcome speed improvement. However, that doesn't mean that the iPhone 11 Pro Max is slow in any perceptible way. Quite the opposite: in just daily use, we couldn't spot a difference between the two. iOS is a big part of that. It's a brilliantly optimized platform that has smooth animations and moves just as fast on the 11 Pro Max as on the 12 Pro Max.
We should note that the iPhone 12 Pro Max has 6GB of RAM vs 4GB of RAM on the 11 Pro Max, but while this is nice to have, we only noticed it on a few occasions where we had to multitask vigorously.
The camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is almost identical to what you get on the newer 12 Pro Max, so you really aren't missing out on much. As you can see in the image gallery above, this iPhone has great dynamic range and very pleasing, balanced colors that still look incredible even for the standards of 2021 phone photography.
If we look at a direct comparison, there are some slight differences in exposure and colors.
< iPhone 11 Pro Max iPhone 12 Pro Max >
In the above photo, the newer iPhone captures a slightly better exposed photo that shows more detail in the shadows.
< iPhone 11 Pro Max iPhone 12 Pro Max >
And in this next example, we see how Apple's color science has improved and we get more vibrant and lively greens and yellows, for a more pleasing image overall. Those differences, however, are hardly anything major and we had to comb through a few dozen pictures to actually find these few ones where there are some actually noticeable differences.
Finally, above you can see some low-light images captured on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It performs great in our opinion!
The battery life
Fun fact: the newer iPhone 12 Pro Max actually has a smaller battery than the iPhone 11 Pro Max! Despite the 12 Pro Max being a bigger and thicker phone, it seems that the added components required for the 5G connectivity have actually pushed Apple to include a smaller sized battery.
The actual battery size on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is 3,969mAh vs 3,687mAh on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, meaning you get a 7% smaller battery size on the 12 Pro Max.
With the newer and more power efficient chip on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it's hard to say which of the two has the better battery life, but the iPhone 11 Pro Max is definitely out there among the very longest lasting phones we have used.
If all above have convinced you in the benefits of the 11 Pro Max, the fact that it also comes at a lower price will be a nice extra. The official MSRP for the iPhone 11 Pro Max stands at $1,000 vs $1,100 for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, a difference of $100.
What might stop you from buying an iPhone 11 Pro Max?
While the more reasonable size, the uncompromised performance and camera are great reasons to pick the iPhone 11 Pro Max, there are a few caveats you should know about.
The newer iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with 128GB of storage in the base model versus just 64GB on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is... well, not a whole lot for a "Pro" phone.
The lower storage on the 11 model would be of particular concern after a few months and we sincerely recommend getting the slightly more expensive, but more future-proof 256GB iPhone 11 Pro Max model. This will bring the price up, but it will save you the trouble and embarrassment of not having enough space on your super expensive and supposedly modern phone.
The price and deals
Even though the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a $100 lower price, we have seen that trade-in deals for the newer iPhone 12 Pro Max are more prevalent and appear more often. If you can save a few hundred dollars with a trade-in to get the iPhone 12 Pro Max at a lower price than the older 11 Pro Max... well, it's hard to argue against that.
iOS and software updates
Even though all iPhones get iOS updates for long years, having a newer one means one more year of software updates, so if you plan on keeping your phone for longer than 3 years, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the one that will get that extra year of software updates.
As of writing this, 5G is not a factor that you should consider when purchasing your phone. However, 5G coverage is expanding rapidly and the iPhone 12 Pro Max does support 5G connectivity, while the 11 Pro Max maxes out at 4G LTE, so that's another thing to keep in mind.
Okay, so... should you buy the iPhone 11 Pro Max in 2021? We would say yes, you should, especially if you are looking for a phone of a more reasonable size than the gargantuan 12 Pro Max.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn't compromise with nothing: performance is indistinguishable from the newer models for most tasks, the camera quality is great and the only bigger concern is with the 64GB of storage that is just not enough for a Pro phone these days.