Apple iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max review: I fell in love with zoom the first time


  • Lighter and more comfortable to hold
  • 15 Pro Max’s 5x optical zoom adds versatility
  • A17 Pro for console video games
  • Welcome to the ability to change the focus of portrait photos


  • Action buttons can only trigger one action
  • Baseline 15 Pro Max is $100 more expensive
  • The only color option is blue

I’ve been reviewing and testing iPhones for years, but Apple’s new iPhone 15 Pro Max is the first time I’ve been so obsessed with it. (The iPhone 12 Mini follows closely behind.) These two phones, as well as iPhone 15 and 15 Plus and new Apple Watch are now available in stores.

I tested the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max for five days, but it wasn’t until I photographed a grocery store cat named Kit Kat that I realized how much improvement these phones had. They are full. After taking Kit Kat’s photo, I saw the option to turn his image into a portrait mode photo. It’s a small detail, but one that’s significant: almost any photo can now be a portrait. That’s not even the biggest addition.

Apple has given its Pro models a new look, with a new lighter construction, new shortcut buttons and the world’s smallest processor. It does all this while successfully maintaining the iPhone’s time-tested aesthetic. While reviewing both phones, I recorded video of penguins swimming, played the game Resident Evil Village on the 15 Pro, spun the 15 Pro Max’s new zoom lens on the San Francisco Ferris wheel, and absentmindedly tried to put the The Lightning cable plugs into the new USB-C port. Old habits, am I right?

iPhone 15 Pro Max

The new iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in Apple’s “natural” finish.

The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are known for their refinement. These two phones are some of Apple’s most compelling products in years.

But all this comes at a price. While the 15 Pro costs $999 (£999, AU$1,849), the same price as the 2017 iPhone X, the 15 Pro Max’s entry barrier is $100 higher than last year. Apple dropped the cheapest 128GB storage option and made the $1,199 256GB storage model the new baseline. This price is comparable to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

If you’re curious about other phones from Apple, check out CNEWS.COM.IN Senior Editor Lisa Eadicicco’s article iPhone 15 and 15 Plus review.

Pricing and storage comparison

Telephone storage us price UK prices Australian price
iPhone 15 Pro 128GB $999 £999 AUD 1,849
iPhone 15 Pro 256GB $1,099 £1,099 AUD 2,049
iPhone 15 Pro Max 256GB $1,199 £1,199 AUD 2,199
iPhone 15 Pro 512GB $1,299 £1,299 AUD 2,399
iPhone 15 Pro Max 512GB $1,399 £1,399 AUD 2,549
iPhone 15 Pro 1TB $1,499 £1,499 AUD 2,749
iPhone 15 Pro Max 1TB $1,599 £1,599 AUD 2,899

iPhone 15 Pro design features titanium and USB-C

The new titanium body is cute, lightweight, and has slightly rounded edges that make it easy to hold. Feels lighter than the fixed blade 12, 13 and 14 series. In fact, it’s almost as if Apple melded the curved sides of the X, XS, and 11 series with the blocky sides of recent years to find a Goldilocks-esque middle ground for the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. That said, most people would probably put a protective case on their phone and not notice the change at all.

There are two other major changes in the body. The first is the inclusion of a USB-C port instead of the Lightning port on previous models. While this move made headlines even before Apple announced it, it’s not actually a fundamental change. I now plug in a USB-C cable (that comes with the phone) instead of the Lighting cable. But it’s still very convenient to use a “one-stop” charging cable.

Then there are buttons. The volume buttons are more bouncy than those on previous stainless steel Pro models. It’s like wearing a pair of foam-soled sneakers that give you extra bounce in your step instead of the air-bag cushioning we used in shoes like the Nike Air Max from the ’80s and ’90s. Both are comfortable, but the newer foam design is more comfortable.

iPhone 15 Pro MaxTitanium frame for iPhone 15 Pro Max. Gone is the mute switch, replaced by programmable operating buttons.

Goodbye mute switch, hello action button

Gone is the mute (or mute) switch, replaced by an action button. By default, it mutes your iPhone, but you can also customize it to turn on the flashlight, record voice memos, open the camera, and more. I especially like having it turn on the camera. Once the app is open, the action button doubles as a physical shutter button to take photos. But the simple fact that I can use a button to trigger a shortcut makes it exponentially more likely.

The button only reacts to two inputs: click or press. It can only trigger one function at a time, which seems limiting. I do wish Apple would open this up and let people program multiple presses and clicks to trigger different presets. Just like pressing it twice launches a shortcut, pressing it once silences your phone. Currently, the only way to change the button’s functionality is to go into the Settings app, scroll down to the Action Button and make the change there. Additionally, I would also like to be able to add a control center button for quicker access to this action button menu.

Like last year’s 14 and 14 Plus, the 15 Pro’s interior has been completely redesigned to make it easier to service. If the rear glass is damaged, it should be faster and more economical to replace it. Here’s how much it costs to replace the back glass on a new phone versus an older Pro iPhone model.

Rear glass replacement cost

Telephone iPhone 15 Pro iPhone 15 Pro Max iPhone 14 Pro iPhone 14 Pro Max
cost $169 $199 $499 $549
iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro MaxThe camera bump of the iPhone 15 Pro (left) and the camera bump of the iPhone 15 Pro Max (right).

5x zoom on iPhone 15 Pro Max

Let’s get this out of the way. The zoom lens on the smaller Pro is different from the zoom lens on the larger Pro Max. Like previous models, the 15 Pro features a proven 3x telephoto camera. But the 15 Pro Max has a new 5x telephoto camera made from multiple prisms and some clever engineering.

By comparison, there are many Android phones with periscope-style telephoto lenses that use a single prism to reflect light to the sensor, such as the 10x zoom on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The advantage of Apple’s design is that the lens takes up much less space and allows the image sensor to be placed parallel to the lens, eliminating the limitation of telephoto image sensor size being limited by the thickness of the phone.

The two Pro phones also feature a larger 48-megapixel sensor on the main camera, which should help improve performance in low-light conditions. When I took photos with the iPhone 15 Pro Max and 14 Pro Max after dusk, I noticed that the new phones don’t have to go into night mode as much. Additionally, Photon Engine (Apple’s fancy name for photo processing) seems to help more with highlights.

Cinema box office photosThis was shot in low light using an iPhone 15 Pro Max.
two great peopleMy portrait mode photo, shot in the style of a 90s grunge band.
boring clam photosThis boring clam photo is anything but boring.
There is a cat outside the windowPortrait mode is even better with cat whiskers.
people dancingI took this photo using the 5x optical zoom of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
iPhone 15 Pro shooting portraitsPortrait mode photo taken with iPhone 15 Pro.

iPhone 15 Pro Max camera vs. Pixel 7 Pro, Galaxy S23 Ultra

To test the versatility of these cameras, I decided to take a studio photo shoot with my CNEWS.COM.IN colleague Abrar Al-Heeti, an award-winning journalist and tea party connoisseur. I took Abrar’s photos with the Pixel 7 Pro, Galaxy S23 Ultra, iPhone 15 Pro Max, and iPhone 15 Pro. I try to photograph her the same way for every phone.

Even under studio lighting, each phone handled Abrar’s photos very differently.

Of the five photos, the S23 Ultra’s 10x zoom photo is my least favorite. The Pixel’s photo darkens the background and smoothes out the paper texture and imperfections behind Abrar. As far as her skin goes, both the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max give her a warmer tone while retaining most of the detail.

Samsung’s 3x optical zoom lens looks great, but has a lot of skin smoothing, which some people prefer. The Pixel does the best job of accurately capturing the color and detail of Abrar’s skin. Again, all of these photos are great. However, the images on the 15 Pro Max and Pixel are my favorite.

3 photos taken by Abrar using iPhone 15 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra.

I also decided to take the 15 Pro Max, Pixel, and S23 Ultra on the Ferris wheel in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The weather was overcast and foggy (ah, summer in San Francisco!), conditions that posed a challenge for all three phones. But the Galaxy S23 Ultra has even greater disadvantages.

While both the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have 5x optical zoom, to match it on the S23 Ultra, I set it to 5x digital zoom, as you can see in the image below, and the results were less than ideal. The Pixel performs better, but note that the tree details look blurry compared to what the iPhone captured. None of the photos are great, but the iPhone snap is the best of the three.

Each photo was taken at 5x magnification.

But wait, Samsung has something no other phone has: 10x optical zoom. It gets closer. The quality isn’t great, but it looks better than the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 10x digital zoom. Galaxy S23 Ultra photos battle with fog and have very strong contrast.

University of San Francisco PhotosThis was taken using the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 10x optical zoom camera.
University of San Francisco PhotosPhoto taken with iPhone 15 Pro Max at 10x digital zoom.

Also, if you’re like me and you’re wondering what that building is, it’s the University of San Francisco. But I didn’t know that at the time. So I used the iPhone’s Visual Lookup tool to find it. While the iPhone does recognize it as a landmark, it can’t actually tell me what it is. In fact, it shared a photo of an Iranian Sa’attar. So, I hopped on my Pixel, used Google Lens, and discovered correctly that it was a university, which added up since I live in San Francisco, not Iran.

Change the focus of a photo on iPhone 15 Pro MaxAfter taking a photo or portrait, you can change the focus afterwards.

iPhone 15 Pro portrait shooting is undoubtedly

Then there’s Portrait in Photo Mode, which lets you take a normal photo and then change it into a Portrait Mode photo for certain subjects (people, dogs, and cats). This is a photo I took of Kit Kat, the grocery store cat, in photo mode. Remember him from the beginning? I could turn on portrait mode, adjust the aperture to keep his beard in focus, and even apply a portrait lighting effect.


I took a picture of Kit Kat outside a grocery store in San Francisco. I was able to convert it to these two portrait mode photos afterwards, even though the 15 Pro Max wasn’t in portrait mode when I took the shot.

But I can also change the focus after the fact. Check out the 90s grunge band photos of me and my friend Beacham. After taking the photo I was able to shift the focus from me to him. For parents, this would be a killer feature.

I’m also happy to say that the new lens coating on the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max helps reduce reflections from light sources. Overall, if reflections or lens flare are present, they are minimal at best, and usually a dot.

Photos of walking under the sunsetThe 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max handle light reflections and lens flare much better than previous models. Note the small circle of light reflections on the man’s backpack.

In night mode, I did get some weird light streaks when using the 5x telephoto camera on the 15 Pro Max, string lights, and the lights in the bar. I wonder if this has something to do with the prism used in the lens. But to be clear, out of the hundreds of photos I took, only three had these stripes.

Night mode photo of sidewalk with string lightsThis is a night mode photo taken using the 5x zoom of the 15 Pro Max. Pay attention to the appearance of the string lights.
Night mode photos of barsNote the lens flare from the light on the right.

Video recording looks good. I’m glad I was able to record in log format, which makes the footage look flat and with desaturated colors. Rather than baking colors into the video file, recording in log format allows the color of your iPhone video to match footage from other cameras you use. I could see using Apple Log Video when shooting movies with multiple cameras from different brands or in social media videos like the one we made for this review.

Play Resident Evil: Village on iPhone 15 ProThe new iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are equipped with the A17 Pro chip, which is powerful enough to handle console video games including Resident Evil: Village.

iPhone 15 Pro is the next gaming console

The brains behind the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max is the new A17 Pro chip. Its processing and graphics performance are best demonstrated in video games. I’m not talking about Candy Crush.

The 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max support full console games like Resident Evil Village, which I got to test out… well, at least to start with. Resident Evil Village looks great on the 15 Pro Max screen, especially in terms of lighting and shadows. Through my casual gamer eyes in my time, I was impressed. The fact that this type of game can land on iPhone fully illustrates this point.

I’ve had the new iPhone for less than a week, so I still need to run CNEWS.COM.IN’s series of battery drain and charge tests. But I can share how the battery is performing so far. In most cases, the 15 Pro Max’s battery lasts a full day of use (from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.), usually with 20 to 25 percent charge at the end of the day. On perhaps my most demanding day on the phone (taking photos, recording videos, and turning the screen to maximum brightness), the 15 Pro Max started the morning on a full charge and ended the day with 7% battery left.

I did do a wired charging test on the 15 Pro and Pro Max. I used the USB-C cable that comes in the box and the Twelve South 20-watt wall charger. In 30 minutes, the battery charge of the 15 Pro rose from 4% to 66%, and the battery charge of the 15 Pro Max rose from 7% to 56%. Both phones support wired charging up to 27W, which I plan to test and will update this review with the results.

The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max also support 15-watt wireless charging via MagSafe or Qi2.I’m in a Belkin BoostCharge Pro Stand. In 30 minutes, the 15 Pro went from 30% to 52% and the 15 Pro Max went from 7% to 28%, with very similar results.

iPhone 15 Pro Max in standby modeiPhone 15 Pro Max in standby mode.

iPhone 15 Pro equipped with iOS 17

If the A17 Pro chip is the brain, then iOS 17 is the soul of the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. The new operating system is packed with lots of small quality-of-life improvements. Standby mode won me over. I like to have my lock screen show the time in alarm-sized numbers, app widgets, or photos while it’s charging. The interface is clean and modern, breathing new life into the iPhone.

I also like making custom stickers with photos from messages and live photos. It makes communication with friends and family more expressive. Autocorrect on the keyboard works great for me. I’m usually a terrible phone typist, but this new autocorrect feature pleases me. I didn’t even curse that much.

Ultimately, I’m impressed by the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. I recommend these two products to anyone using the 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, or older. If you’re trying to decide between the 15 Pro and the 15 Pro Max, the 5x telephoto lens on the Pro Max is attractive. But if you don’t take a lot of blown-up photos, it’s better to stick with the smaller Pro size. Additionally, if you are considering purchasing any of these phones, you should consider some trade-in discounts.

iPhone 15 Pro specifications and iPhone 15 Pro Max, Google Pixel 7 Pro, Galaxy S23 Ultra

iPhone 15 Pro iPhone 15 Pro Max Google Pixel 7 Pro Galaxy S23 Ultra
Monitor size, technology, resolution, refresh rate, brightness 6.1-inch OLED; 2,556×1,179 pixels; 120Hz adaptive 6.7-inch OLED; 2,796×1,290 pixels; 120Hz adaptive 6.7-inch OLED display, QHD+ (1,440×3,120 pixels), 120Hz refresh rate, 1,500 nits brightness 6.8-inch AMOLED; 3,088×1,440 pixels; 120Hz adaptive
Pixel density 460 pixels/inch 460 pixels/inch 512 pixels/inch 500ppi
Dimensions (inches) 2.78 x 5.77 x 0.32 inches 3.02 x 6.29 x 0.32 inches 6.4 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches 3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35 inches
Dimensions (mm) 70.6 x 146.6 x 8.25 mm 76.7 x 159.9 x 8.25mm 162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9mm 78 x 163.3 x 8.9 mm
Weight (grams, ounces) 187 g (6.6 oz) 221 g (7.81 oz) 212 g (7.5 oz) 234 g (8.25 oz)
mobile application iOS 17 iOS 17 Android 13 Android 13
camera 48 megapixels (wide angle), 12 megapixels (ultra wide angle), 12 megapixels telephoto (3x optical) 48 megapixels (wide angle), 12 megapixels (ultra wide angle), 12 megapixels telephoto (5x optical) 50 megapixels (main), 12 megapixels (ultra-wide), 48 megapixels (telephoto) 200 megapixels (wide angle), 12 megapixels (ultra wide angle) 10 megapixels (telephoto) 10 megapixels (telephoto)
Front camera 12 megapixels 12 megapixels 10.8 megapixels 12 megapixels
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 8K
processor A17 Professional Edition A17 Professional Edition Google Tensor G2 Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 12GB RAM + 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 8GB+256GB; 12GB+256GB; 12GB+512GB; 12GB+1TB
Expandable storage not any not any not any not any
Battery Undisclosed; Apple claims up to 23 hours of video playback (20 hours of streaming) Undisclosed; Apple claims up to 29 hours of video playback (25 hours of streaming) 5,000mAh 5,000 mAh (45W wired charging)
fingerprint sensor None (Face ID) None (Face ID) On display On display
Headphone jack not any not any not any not any
special function 5G (mmw/Sub6), action buttons, always-on display, IP68 protection, MagSafe, dynamic island, 5x optical zoom (120mm equivalent), satellite connectivity, eSIM, Thread network technology 5G (mmw/Sub6), action buttons, always-on display, IP68 protection, MagSafe, dynamic island, 5x optical zoom (120mm equivalent), satellite connectivity, eSIM, Thread network technology 5G, magic eraser, photo blur, true tone, face blur, long exposure mode, motion pan; please wait for me, waiting time, call me directly for real-time translation, 5G (mmw/Sub6), IP68 rating, Wireless PowerShare to charge other devices, Integrated S Pen, 100x spatial zoom, 10x optical zoom, UWB to find other devices
US off-contract price $999 (128GB), $1,099 (256GB), $1,299 (512GB), $1,499 (1TB) $1,199 (256GB), $1,399 (512GB), $1,599 (1TB) $899 (128GB + 12GB) $1,200 (12GB/256GB)
UK prices £999 (128GB), £1,099 (256GB), £1,299 (512GB), £1,499 (1TB) £1,199 (256GB), £1,399 (512GB), £1,599 (1TB) £849 £1,249 (12GB/256GB)
Australian price AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,399 (512GB), AU$2,749 (1TB) AU$2,199 (256GB), AU$2,549 (512GB), AU$2,899 (1TB) AUD 1,299 AUD 1,949 (12GB/256GB)

How we test phones

Every phone the CNEWS.COM.IN review team tests is actually used in the real world. We test the phone’s features, play games and take photos. We checked the display to see if it was bright, sharp, and vibrant. We analyze the design and construction to see how well it holds and whether it has an IP waterproof rating. We push the processor’s performance to its limits using standardized benchmarking tools like GeekBench and 3DMark, as well as our own anecdotal observations while navigating the interface, recording high-resolution video, and playing graphics-intensive games at high refresh rates.

All cameras were tested in a variety of conditions, from bright sunlight to dark indoor scenes. We tried out special features like Night Mode and Portrait Mode and compared our findings to competing phones at the same price. We also checked battery life through daily use and running a series of battery consumption tests.

We considered other useful features such as 5G support, satellite connectivity, fingerprint and face sensors, stylus support, fast charging speeds, foldable displays, and more. Of course, we’ll balance all of this with the price to let you decide whether this phone, whatever its price, is truly a good value. While these tests may not always be reflected in CNEWS.COM.IN’s initial review, we do follow-up and long-term testing in most cases.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *