iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: is the time to upgrade coming?

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iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

Intro


Apple's iPhones look pretty similar, don't they? Take an iPhone 13 Pro Max from a couple of years ago, put it up to the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max. What's different? We have the new Dynamic Island on the new screen and an Action Button instead of the mechanical mute toggle.

Clearly, we need to dive deeper. Like explore the upgraded camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the new A17 Pro processor, the battery life improvements, and see if that titanium frame changes anything about the feel of the phone.

Should you upgrade an iPhone 13 Pro Max to an iPhone 15 Pro Max? We think... there's no rush. But if you are itching to do it, let us give you the full nitty gritty of that upgrade:

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max differences:
  • Slightly thinner bezels on 15
  • Dynamic Island vs Notch
  • Titanium frame on the 15
  • Mute switch upgraded to Action Switch
  • A17 Pro is a noticeably faster processor
  • iPhone 15 Pro Max options start from 256 GB vs 128 GB for 13 Pro Max
  • Upgraded 48 MP main camera
  • New 5x optical zoom on 15 Pro Max
  • USB Type C instead of Lightning with faster data transfer

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Design and Size

A small hop into the future


The iPhone 13 Pro Max still has the "old style" design — with a notch cutout at the top of the screen, that is. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the new Dynamic Island cutout, as on the 14 Pro Max... for better or worse.

Also, you will immediately spot the pretty brushed finish of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Its frame is now covered with titanium, meaning it's slightly lighter than the iPhone 13 Pro Max with its shiny stainless steel frame.


The iPhone 15 Pro Max has an increased screen-to-body ratio up front, meaning the bezels around the screen are now very, very thin. That also slightly reduces the overall size of the phone.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
Dimensions

6.3 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches

159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25 mm

Weight

7.80 oz (221 g)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Dimensions

6.33 x 3.07 x 0.3 inches

160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65 mm

Weight

8.47 oz (240 g)

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
Dimensions

6.3 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches

159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25 mm

Weight

7.80 oz (221 g)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Dimensions

6.33 x 3.07 x 0.3 inches

160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65 mm

Weight

8.47 oz (240 g)

See the full Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max size comparison or compare them to other phones using our Size Comparison tool.

Another first for the series — the mechanical mute switch is gone from the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Instead, it is replaced by an "Action Button" — a-la Apple Watch Ultra. By default, it's still a mute toggle button. But you can program it to launch any app, Siri shortcut, flashlight, Focus Mode, or accessibility feature you choose.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also has slightly beveled edges on the back, making it sit a bit softer in the palm, but otherwise — the phones look very, very similar. Both are flat-sided rectangles with MagSafe compatibility and stove-shaped cameras on the back.

Display Differences



The Pro Max series hasn't changed much about its screens for some years now — the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro Max both have 6.7-inch OLED panels, 120 Hz ProMotion, and 1290 x 2796 resolution. Of course, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will get the Dynamic Island where the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a Notch. The former being a hardware feature that fuses with the software — iOS floats different widgets around the Dynamic Island, improving the multi-tasking capabilities of the iPhone and hiding the selfie camera in an element that looks "intended".

Furthermore, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a higher peak brightness of 2,000 nits, which is pretty insane at this point. Are we going to be watching HDR movies while at the beach? No, we don't recommend you do, imagine the heat. The iPhone 13 Pro Max taps out at 1,200 nits during HDR playback, and we'd say that was already plenty enough. But hey, the 15 Pro Max will give you more brightness headroom.

Early in its life, the iPhone 15 Pro Max was marred by screen burn-in reports, which was frankly weird — burn-in doesn't usually happen that fast. In any case, it turned out to be a software issue, which Apple fixed with iOS 17.1 — it was what Apple called "image permanence", with some pixels retaining faint information from what they've shown before.

Display Measurements:



Both screens look very similar otherwise, with a slight yellow-ish tint on the whites, but otherwise very accurate color reproduction. And both give you True Tone and Night Shift for warmer colors and more reading comfort.

Performance and Software

A generational leap

The iPhone 15 Pro Max's A17 Pro chip is built on a 3 nm process — it's the first 3 nm smartphone chip at that. It comes with more powerful performance cores and a GPU that now supports hardware ray tracing. It is absolutely not... a small deal.

And it's definitely a big jump over the 5 nm A15, which powers the iPhone 13 Pro Max. What does that all mean for you, though?

More transistors inside the chips, smaller pathways for the electrons to travel — we expect better energy efficiency from the Apple A17 Pro, and better performance. The iPhone 13 Pro Max already has a pretty good battery life — the 15 Pro Max does beat it by a small but noticeable margin. The iPhone 13 Pro Max already has great performance, the 15 Pro Max comes with more and more headroom for future-proofing.

The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max had overheating issues at launch, though that was fixed with the release of iOS 17.0.3. With no impact on performance and battery life, according to our tests.

Performance Benchmarks:


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2958
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max2409
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max7288
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max5941
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max4236
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max2990
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2632
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max2266

Apple is betting big on those performance jumps and has actually partnered up with big names like Ubisoft and Konami — console-quality games like Assassin's Creed: Mirage and Resident Evil: Village will be coming to the iPhone 15 Pro series. Resident Evil: Village is currently pre-listed on the App Store as supporting iPads with the M1 chip. Meaning that, indirectly, we can compare the Apple A17 Pro with the Apple M1, at least!

Also, it's worth noting that the A17 Pro comes with Wi-Fi 6E connectivity for the latest-and-greatest in wireless speeds.

We are now up to iOS 17.2, which is available for the iPhone 13 series as well. It adds the Journal app, which was demoed in September, a "jump to last unread message" in iMessage, a Weather app facelift plus a couple more widgets for it, Spatial Video recording for iPhone 15 Pro, and various bug fixes.

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And to round off the list of firsts — the iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a USB Type-C port, all thank the EU for that. With USB 3 speeds at that, while the Lightning-equipped iPhone 13 Pro Max is still stuck to USB 2.0 — about 10 times slower than the newest standard. This essentially enables you to transfer your huge 4K video clips to your computer for actual pro work — imagine that. And you can even record 4K 60 FPS ProRes video straight to an external drive with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Camera

You've been missing out


The iPhone 13 Pro Max already feels behind the times with its 12 MP main camera sensor — the 14 series upgraded that to a massive 48 MP one, which takes much improved photos — still 12 MP, but using clusters of quad pixels for better light collection. Now, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will make better use of that 48 MP sensor, taking 24 MP photos by default. And, of course, it unlocks full 48 MP mode for RAW photos in Pro Mode.

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The main camera lens has been treated for anti-glare — we'll see how that goes — and the new iPhone 15 Pro Max gets a 5x telephoto lens for optical zoom. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 3x lens there.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max will certainly be a good jump up for pros that want to use their iPhone for videography. Thanks to the new USB 3 port, you can actually record ProRes video straight to an external drive, which is incredibly convenient.

Surprisingly, the iPhone 13 Pro Max holds up really well in 2023. Pixel-peeping will reveal that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is slightly better when handling fine details, sure. But dynamics and colors look very similar, at least during the daylight.

At night, we can see those details from the iPhone 15 Pro Max pop out even more, as the bigger sensor does a better job at collecting light. The iPhone 13 Pro Max imagery begins to look jagged when zooming in. But again, both manage to boost shadows and give us pretty good photos overall.


When zooming in, the iPhone 15 Pro Max definitely wins. It retains colors, dynamics, and fine detail throughout, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro Max quickly gives us oversharpened, jagged detail and washes out the colors while processing. Even at 3x, where the iPhone 13 Pro Max's optical zoom sits, the image still looks a bit oversharpened and somewhat unnatural. The detail in the 3x shot with the iPhone 15 Pro Max is softer for sure, but looks much cleaner with no weird auras or sharp edges.

Here's a scenario when the new 5X telephoto camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max came in handy:


Apple has been improving its ultra-wide camera processing in incremental steps over the past couple of years. And we can see a small improvement here for sure — the iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra-wide camera gives us slightly sharper, slightly more balanced images. But the difference isn't exactly make-or-break.

The selfie cameras perform slightly different with the iPhone 15 Pro Max giving us a bit more detail and balancing skintone a bit better in different lighting conditions. But, otherwise, not much has been upgraded here.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

Audio Quality and Haptics


The iPhone's speakers are pretty good — especially the Pro Max models, which have the space for bigger drivers and acoustics. They get loud and detailed, and even the bass is well audible. Our only complaint is that they can get harsh in the highs, especially with some genres, and maybe that they lack some details in the mids. The iPhone 15 Pro Max does sound slightly meatier than the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but both phones have nice speakers.

And the haptics are still as crisp as ever. The Taptic engine has been clicking and brrr-ing inside iPhones with accurate accents for years now. So — more of the same, but you won't see us complaining!

Battery Life and Charging

The big ones always last longer

The Pro Max models have always had the best battery life in their generation. Having the room for a massive battery probably helps with that. Well, more recently, the Plus models have taken that crown, since they don't have to power a 120 Hz screen, but enough semantics.

As per Apple's stats, the endurance of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is comparable to that of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, citing 29 hours of video playback for the former and 28 for the latter. Here's what our battery tests gave us:

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 45 min
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max10h 23 min
Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max19h 20 min
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max18h 52 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 36 min
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max10h 29 min

Interestingly enough, our tests show us that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is slightly quicker to drain its battery when streaming or playing a game. About the same for normal web usage. So, that Apple A17 Pro chip is a bit of an energy hog. So, basically, about the same battery life from both units, unless you happen to have an old iPhone 13 Pro Max with an already degraded battery.

Charging speeds? 20 W on the wire and up to 15 W with MagSafe wireless accessories. Here's how fast it takes to top these phones up:

%Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
28%
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
29%

Specs Comparison


Let's see the main specs for both phones here. If you want to take a deep dive with the sheets, do visit our dedicated page for iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max specs comparison.


While the screen won't be changing, we definitely see differences under the hood — and in the hood design itself. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is to be slightly leaner, while packing more impressive performance and camera tech.

Summary and Final Verdict


So, will the iPhone 15 Pro Max be the one to upgrade to if you own an iPhone 13 Pro Max? Yeah, especially if you care about the camera changes. The 48 MP sensor was a pretty good jump in 2022, and shines better with the processing pipeline upgrades of the 15 model.

Plus, that titanium frame looks lovely, and the processor upgrade sounds quite impressive.

That said, if you would rather hold on to the iPhone 13 Pro Max for another period — we are pretty certain it will do perfectly well. You still have a 120 Hz screen, MagSafe, pretty good performance, good battery endurance. Why not keep it?

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