Why I’m Picking the iPhone 15 Pro Over the 15 Pro Max

Key Takeaways

  • The primary difference between the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max is the telephoto camera, with the Max offering 5x optical zoom compared to the Pro’s 3x zoom.
  • The 15 Pro Max has a larger 6.7-inch screen and provides approximately six more hours of battery life compared to the 15 Pro.
  • If price and size aren’t deterrents, choosing the 15 Pro Max will give you access to all the latest features, while considering price alone still leans towards the higher-end phone. Size, however, cannot be changed and may impact pocket or purse fit.

2023’s iPhone options present a conundrum for the most enthusiastic tech upgraders. Should you stick with a smaller iPhone 15 Pro or go for the larger and more expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max to get the more advanced 5x telephoto camera?

My early-adopting and technology-loving tendencies were pulling me toward the 15 Pro Max to get the absolute latest features that Apple offers. Of course, the less pocketable size gave me pause. I’ll walk you through my decision to go with the 15 Pro to see if it makes your decision about the two Pro phones any easier.

iPhone 15 Pro vs. 15 Pro Max

I scoured the specifications of the new iPhone 15 Pro models to find the differences. I was hoping there would be at least a few items I could build a case on to argue to myself about getting the 15 Pro Max, but I didn’t find much. The primary differentiator is the telephoto camera with either 3x optical zoom for the Pro or 5x optical zoom for the Pro Max.

The iPhone 15 Pro costs $999 for 128GB of storage and $1,099 for the same 256GB that the base 15 Pro Max comes with. There’s a $100 price difference between the two phones, which will get you a larger 6.7-inch screen and roughly six more hours of battery life on the 15 Pro Max model.

Otherwise, both phones share the titanium design, updated 48MP main camera, A17 Pro processor, customizable Action Button, and USB-C port with USB 3 speeds. (The Pro phones also got new iPhone 15 features too.)

Overall, I had to decide whether I wanted to accept a higher price and larger size for more optical reach from the camera. I also had to remind myself that the decision wasn’t between no optical zoom and a lot of it. It was between 3x and 5x with the two camera systems.

Looking at Past Evidence to Make My Decision

When the first “big” iPhone debuted years ago, I couldn’t help but get sucked into its siren song. I foolishly thought that maybe the iPhone 6 Plus could be my phone and my tablet. I switched back to the smaller iPhone 6s the next year.

But again, when the iPhone 7 Plus debuted with a second camera, and the 7 only had one, I tried to make the larger-sized phone work in daily life. Two cameras! I ended up ditching the larger size after one year.

More recently, the iPhone 12 Pro Max got a 2.5x optical zoom and a tiny bit better image stabilization over the 12 Pro’s 2x optical zoom. Again, I almost fell for the 12 Pro Max’s trap, but I managed to resist. This year’s better optical zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is tempting because good zoom has always been lacking on incredibly thin iPhones over the years. It’s why, despite knowing digital zoom is terrible, we do it anyway. Because sometimes a picture is better than no picture.

So why is there any difference in the camera at all? The differences between the two models are almost exclusively justified by the amount of internal room the Pro Max phones have compared to the Pro ones. The iPhone 15 Pro Max uses a tetraprism to add more distance between the lens and the sensor. It’s the same basic idea as a periscope camera, which shifts depth from going outward with a longer lens to being internal. In order for the Pro iPhones to get the extended optical zoom, it seems like the tetraprism will need to be shrunk down, or other internal components will need to be altered to make room for the new camera system.

If I had been blown away by the 3x telephoto camera on the iPhone 14 Pro I might have been tempted to go down the Pro Max road one more time. But I haven’t been overly impressed with the sensor used for the 14 Pro’s telephoto camera. It’s not as good as the main camera, so most of the time, pictures taken with it are duller and less sharp.

Even if the new 15 Pro Max telephoto camera is improved over the 14 Pro, I still have a feeling that I will be slightly disappointed with it and not use it enough to justify the purchase.

So, with some tampering of expectations around how useful the extra optical reach will be, paired with my past experiences of trying to wield a large phone, I’ve decided to stick with the 15 Pro this year.

iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max Price and Availability

Both the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are available for pre-order on September 15, with the phones being delivered and available in stores on September 22, 2023.

Should You Buy the iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max?

Showing hands holding each of the iPhone 15 Pro models

Using the triangulation of the three main differences: price, size, and camera, I think it should be easier to figure out whether the iPhone 15 Pro or the 15 Pro Max is the right choice for you.

If the larger size and $100 price difference aren’t deterrents in any fashion, then definitely go with the 15 Pro Max and get every feature Apple offers. If the price is the only consideration, I would still lean towards the Pro Max phone. Money can be made up in some fashion. Size, on the other hand, is a permanent aspect that can’t be shrunk if the larger phone doesn’t fit well in a pocket or purse.

Of course, we haven’t tested the iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max yet, so there is a chance that the 5x tetraprism periscope camera might blow us away. We’ll have full reviews of both phones for you to check out soon.


Apple iPhone 15 Pro

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro features a titanium design with Action button, A17 Pro chip, USB-C port, and a 48MP camera.

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