iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Plus: Battle of the heavyweights

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iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Plus

Intro

A few years back, you were mostly forced to get a Pro Max model if you wanted a large display on your iPhone. However, in 2022, Apple reintroduced the Plus designation, affixing it to a 6.7-inch model to broaden consumer options and fill the void left by the discontinuation of the iPhone mini.

Fast-forward to 2023, and we witnessed the latest Plus version poised to rival the Pro Max for the title of heavyweight champion. At first glance, these smartphones boast striking similarities, making them indistinguishable, particularly from a distance. Yet, upon closer examination, the disparities become glaringly evident, revealing which one aligns better with individual preferences.

Stay tuned as we meticulously compare the iPhone 15 Plus and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Our comprehensive assessment spans various aspects, including display brightness, real-world battery performance evaluations, and performance testing. 

Now, in 2024, the differences between the two phones are still mostly unchanged, and they are still positioned in such a way that once you start considering the iPhone 15 Plus, Apple might easily entice you into getting the pricier, but also more capable iPhone 15 Pro Max. How exactly is Cupertino doing that? And should you buy any of these phones or wait for the iPhone 16 series, which is just around the corner? Let's find out!


Table of Contents:

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Design and Display Quality

Same size, different speed


Both of these sport big 6.7-inch OLED panels, but here's where the similarities end. The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with ProMotion technology, allowing the screen to switch between 1 and 120Hz and everything in between, while the iPhone 15 Plus sports the old-school 60Hz refresh rate.


Another big difference that stems from the above is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has an Always On mode, while the Plus doesn't. The typical brightness of the Pro Max model is a tad higher at 1,000 nits (versus 800 nits on the Plus), but the peak HDR brightness, and peak outdoor brightness are the same, 1,600 and 2,000 nits respectively. As you can see from our display benchmarks below, both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Plus feature great displays, very bright and color accurate. 

The deciding factor here will be the refresh rate and Always-on mode. If you need those, you should pick the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Otherwise, the iPhone 15 Plus has equally bright and crisp display.

Display Benchmarks




As far as design goes, another big change is the switch to a titanium frame on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The Plus model stays with aluminum, and it's safe to say that this results in a significant difference in feel, weight, and durability.

Another new feature that the 15 Pro Max brings onboard is the new Action Button. This new, multifunctional button replaces the Mute Switch, but the feature is reserved exclusively for the Pro models, so the iPhone 15 Plus stays with the more conventional mute switch.

Both phones sport USB-C connectivity, as the EU mandated the change in order for Apple to be able to continue selling iPhones in Europe. However, the vanilla and Plus models are limited to USB 2.0 transfer speeds, while the faster USB 3.0 is reserved for the Pro versions.

The color options for the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 15 Plus are also different; you can check the available color options below.

iPhone 15 Plus colors:
  • Pink
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Black

iPhone 15 Pro Max colors:
  • Black Titanium
  • White Titanium
  • Blue Titanium
  • Natural Titanium

The overall feel of the phones is similar. If you wonder whether titanium makes a huge difference, we don't feel like it does. It's nice to the touch and looks cool, but the weight difference is not that big, and the overall user experience while holding both the iPhone 15 Plus and the iPhone 15 Pro Max is very similar. Add a case to that equation, and you'll further mitigate any design and feel differences.

Performance and Software

Different silicon, but plenty of performance on both phones

The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes equipped with the latest and greatest in mobile silicon technology, the Apple A17 Pro chipset. This chip is built on a 3nm technology node and has the potential to bring massive gains over its predecessor, both in performance and efficiency. Apple claims that this six-core chipset is 20% faster than the A16 and our synthetic benchmarks corroborate this.

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Geekbench

Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2958
Apple iPhone 15 Plus2629
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max7288
Apple iPhone 15 Plus6680


3D Mark

3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max4236
Apple iPhone 15 Plus2986
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2632
Apple iPhone 15 Plus2036


That being said, Apple's silicon has been at the top of most synthetic benchmarks for years, and this fact, paired with the great software optimization, means that you won't feel a major difference between the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 15 Plus, although the latter uses last year's A16.

The RAM situation is similar, with the iPhone 15 Pro Max sporting 8GB of RAM, while the Plus comes with "only" 6GB. In practice, you probably won't feel any difference in day-to-day performance between these two phones. We're practically living with both phones now, and we haven't spotted much of a difference in fluidity and smoothness, regarding the pure speed of both phones.

Despite the differences in hardware, both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Plus run on the very same iOS 17 software. Apple's next big mobile software upgrade comes with a variety of new features. The Phone, Messages, and FaceTime apps receive significant updates; there's a cool new NameDrop functionality, and the autocorrect feature has been improved as well.

Apple already rolled out iOS 17.1 with some bug fixes and improvements to AirDrop and StandBy. With this update, you'll be able to continue your AirDrop transfers through the cloud, even if the devices are no longer close to one another. There are some improvements in Apple Music as well: 

  • Favorites expanded to include songs, albums, and playlists, and you can filter to display your favorites in the library.
  • New cover art collection offers designs that change colors to reflect the music in your playlist.
  • Song suggestions appear at the bottom of every playlist, making it easy to add music that matches the vibe of your playlist.

Camera

5x zoom wins the race


The segregation between the Pro and non-Pro models when it comes to the camera system has carried over this year. The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes equipped with three cameras on the back, while the iPhone 15 Plus has only two.

Main Camera




Both phones feature a 48-megapixel main camera, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a different aperture (f/1.6 vs f/1.78 on the Plus) and two optical-quality zoom ranges - 1.2x and 1.5x. When shooting in good lighting conditions both phones produce quite pleasant images, the iPhone 15 Pro Max being able to catch just a tad more details. The Pro Max sample also looks warmer, while the Plus seems to overexpose just a little. All in all, not a huge difference in quality when it comes to the main camera.

Ultra-Wide Camera




The ultra-wide camera is very similar on both phones, featuring a 12MP sensor and 13mm focal length. There's a small difference in aperture, the Pro Max comes with an ultra-wide camera with f/2.2, while the Plus has f/2.4. In reality, the images taken with both phones are almost identical, so no clear winner here. You can always check out our other comparisons to see how the iPhones perform against other brands, but if you're choosing between these to, and you use the main and ultrawide cameras most of the time, we think you'll be fine with either model.

Zoom Quality




The big difference is called the tetraprism zoom lens, and it's found on the new iPhone 15 Pro Max model. This next-gen optical zoom system allows for 5x zoom levels, making the Pro Max a much better option if you're into portraits or use telephoto a lot in your daily photo adventures. The iPhone 15 Plus relies on 2x crop images from the main 48MP sensor to achieve what Apple calls Optical-quality telephoto. As you can see from the samples, the iPhone 15 Pro Max obliterates the Plus at any zoom range above 2X.

Selfies



Both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Plus feature identical front cameras, and unsurprisingly, the results are also identical, give or take the tiny variables in framing the shots. Selfie shots look good, with decent level of detail, natural colors and balanced exposure.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail


The video quality is great on both phones, there are no major differences when it comes to colors, image detail, stabilization, exposure, etc. The only big difference again comes from the zoom capabilities, the iPhone 15 Pro Max can zoom up to 9X during recording, while the Plus model caps at 6X. The zoom quality is also better on the Pro Max.

The final verdict after we had done all of our camera/video tests is that you're getting a very similar photo and video quality from the main and ultrawide cameras, and the deciding factor is the tetraprism camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. If you like to zoom a lot, you'll love the iPhone 15 Pro Max, if you don't care about zoom shots, you'll get almost identical shots from the iPhone 15 Plus.

Audio Quality and Haptics

Don't fix what's not broken

Both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 15 Plus come with a stereo speaker configuration: one bottom-firing main speaker and a secondary speaker located in the earpiece.

The audio quality has been pretty good ever since the iPhone 13 series, and the sheer size of both phones allows for more resonance and bass, so these two have similar audio performance. There's no 3.5mm audio jack on either of these, but we're now used to the omission. Both phones sounded rich and detailed in our tests, a pleasure to listen to, whether you're watching a Netflix series or just checking out the latest Taylor Swift video.

In terms of haptics, the Taptic Engine is on duty, and given the great results Apple has been getting with the system over the years, both the iPhone 15 Plus and the iPhone 15 Pro Max feature industry-leading haptics. The vibration is tight and prominent, you won't miss a call or a notification. We were very pleased by the results we got from both the iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max during our haptic tests.

Battery Life and Charging

USB-C on both, but different?


Both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Plus have received a slight upgrade in battery capacity. The top model now features a 4,422mAh cell, while the Plus comes equipped with a 4,383mAh battery. Funnily enough, the Plus seems to beat the Pro Max in our YouTube and Gaming tests, while the Pro Max takes the win in the Web Browsing category. This might have something to do with the A17 Pro chipset getting hot and throttling, but we might have to run those tests again just to be sure.

The USB-C port made its first appearance on an iPhone device last year. All iPhone 15 models come equipped with this port. However, there is a difference between the USB standard on Pro and non-Pro models. The iPhone 15 Pro Max features the USB 3.2 Gen (10Gbps), while the Plus gets only USB 2.0 (0.5Gbps).

So, what are the battery test results?

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 45 min
Apple iPhone 15 Plus11h 14 min
Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max19h 20 min
Apple iPhone 15 Plus16h 21 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 36 min
Apple iPhone 15 Plus11h 22 min


According to our own battery tests, which are ran with the displays set at 200 nits, the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 15 Plus consistently trade blows. The iPhone 15 Plus wins the 3D gaming and video streaming tests, whereas the iPhone 15 Pro Max has the upper hand in our web browsing test.

PhoneArena Battery Charge Results


Even though we now have USB-C onboard, the charging speeds remain the same, Apple cites 50% charge in 30 minutes with a 20W charger for both the iPhone 15 Plus and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

15 MinsHigher is better30 Mins(%)Higher is betterFull Charge(hours)Lower is better
Apple iPhone 15 Plus27%
55%
1h 32 min
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max28%
53%
2h 1 min


 In reality, we achieved another peculiar result in our charging test, the iPhone 15 Plus was able to charge to full 30 minutes faster than the Pro Max. 15 and 30 minutes charging times are nearly identical, so again there might be some thermal management going on when topping the battery up to 100%.

The same MagSafe wireless charging technology is also present on both phones, allowing for wireless charging speeds up to 15W, and also the ability to slap a number of cool accessories on the back of both phones, like wallets, kickstands, and attach them to a car charger equipped with MagSafe.

Specs Comparison


Here is an overview of the iPhone 15 Pro Max vs the iPhone 15 Plus specs:

 

Summary and Final Verdict


Even though the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 15 Plus look very similar from a distance, these are different animals. The top Apple model is a technology stew that comes with all the new ingredients: the latest A17 silicon, a brand-new tetraprism zoom camera, a titanium frame, and a new Action Button. It also features a ProMotion screen and faster transfer speeds through its new USB-C port.

On the other hand, we have the second iteration of the resurrected Plus model. It's roughly the same size, the main camera is similar (albeit taken from last year's Pro models), and the battery size is also pretty much the same.

Which one should you get, then? 

The answer is pretty simple. If you want the best Apple has to offer, price not an issue ($1,199) you should go for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. If you just need a larger-screen iPhone with decent performance and great battery life for $899, the iPhone 15 Plus is the right one for you.

The third option here is to hold your horses and wait a couple of months until the iPhone 16 series launches. This will not only give you the option to get the latest and greatest from Apple, but also bring down the price of the current iPhone 15 models.

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