These days we don’t use the phone much on a smartphone. We buy our smartphones for a plethora of uses in which the original use, that of making a voice call to someone, has been relegated to the sidelines. In fact, smartphones these days are so smart and powerful that many buy these devices primarily for other uses, often not even bothering to add a SIM card after the purchase. There there are those who use the smartphone to the best of its ability, trying to push it to the limits as it keeps adding to their convenience and eases workflows. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max is aimed at this last set of users.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Mac specs: 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion OLED display (2778×1284-pixel resolution at 458 ppi) | A15 Bionic chipset (6‑core CPU with 5‑core GPU) | 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage | Triple 12MP camera system: Wide, ultra-wide and Telephoto | 3x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 6x optical zoom range | 12MP front camera | Face ID | Cinematic Mode | ProRes for video | Up to 28 hours video playback |
The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a design very similar to the iPhone 12 Pro Max — the only discernible change is the thicker camera bump which also has a larger square now. This highlights the one part of the phone that has seen significant change over the past year.
On the display side, the notch has now been made smaller, a tad deeper. But it has by no means gone away and I did not think this year the display is getting more real estate with this fix. Strangely, I felt the iPhone 13 Pro Max weighed a bit more than last year’s version.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max: What’s good?
Let me get one thing straight. It is pointless talking about most of the features of an iPhone flagship. They are usually what you expect and maybe a tab better than what you anticipated. So everything from the design, to the actual processing power of this device is top-notch. But that is what you would expect from a top-end Apple device. A top-end device that costs more than a top-end laptop from the same company.
So let’s get to the features that are new.
On the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple is literally flexing its camera muscles. The big bump on the back is this very muscle on show. The lenses too are larger and deeper than before, a clear indication that this camera takes in more light and this performs better in low light.
All this translates to much better photos when compared to the last generation Pro Max phones. There is much better detail, greater clarity in low light, and overall a better character with whatever you click.
But that’s not even what Apple wants to sell this time. For that Apple has lined up its first macro mode. Macro mode is in no way a new feature in smartphones. But the way Apple is doing it is certainly novel. There is no Macro mode as such in the camera app. But as you take the camera really close to a subject the phone switches to the ultra-wide lens and switches on macro.
The results are really good and possibly the best close-up shots on any smartphone. But that is if the light is good. Also, I noticed that the images are not sharp all through and there is a focal point where it’s perfect, that seems to be because it’s being shot on the ultra-wide lens.
The camera magic goes up one notch when you switch to video. Apple has unleashed its processing power in tandem with the three lenses and its computational photography algorithms to offer Cinematic Mode. This mode, like in the thousands of movie scenes it’s trained on, is able to shift focus from one subject to the other when the attention or gaze of the subject shifts. Doing it on movie cameras is tough enough and Apple is doing it automatically. And that’s not all, you can change this whole editing video in the post process. All over, mind-boggling stuff.
There is one more weapon that Apple hasn’t taken out of its quiver yet and that is ProRes, almost a RAW format for video.
What the new camera capabilities do is that they make the iPhone a viable replacement for a lot of professional video cameras out there. So if you are a creator then this is maybe the best videos camera you can buy now. Yes, there are better cameras out there, but none can edit what it captures. And also upload it to the Internet soon after it’s done with output. That’s where the Pro in this iPhone starts making sense.
It’s not just branding, it’s a calling card.
There will be another set of users who will like the other Pro inside this phone. Yes, gamers will love the ProMotion adaptive refresh rate. Again nothing really new, but then Apple does even old things differently. The iPhone 13 Pro Max will switch from 10Hz refresh rate to 120Hz as the content demands. And, no, that’s not for the user to decide. She can leave that complex decision-making to the A15 Bionic that powers this phone.
Frankly, doing regular stuff you can’t even figure out that there is something happening with this display. That’s how smooth this is. But when you start playing some games like Thumper: Pocket Edition+ you do see a difference in how this phone renders the game compared to earlier generations. Remember, this phone has one extra graphics core which is now solely for use on videos.
So how powerful is this phone? Well, powerful enough to edit 4K videos and change their focus. That’s something my 2017 MacBook Air will struggle to do. And that is the sort of power that future-proofs Apple devices for a few years.
All this should have made the iPhone 13 Pro Max a power guzzler. The beauty of the phone is that despite all this the phone offers better battery life than any iPhone before this.
In fact, during the review period, I have used the phone for over 18 hours, charging the phone only while I sleep. And this is with more than average use, including hours of being the default WiFi supplier for my home office. One small thing I could not help but notice: the MagSafe wireless charger latches on to the new phone much stronger than the earlier version though I don’t think it charges the phone faster.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review: What’s not that good?
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is a superb phone, but it pulls back on some punches if you were expecting some features that would blow your mind and change your life on a daily basis. The Cinematic Mode is a testament to how powerful and smartphones are now, but it’s not a feature that’s very useful to regular people. Of course, wedding photographers and creators will be thrilled, but not the top executive who’s upgrading to his next phone.
In that sense, the improved battery life is the feature that really impacts the most number of people. The iPhone clearly seems to have come to a point where the next big change will have to be a disruptor and not something incremental.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Should you buy?
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is clearly the best phone out there. But should everyone buy this phone? No. That’s not because the Pro Max has any issues, but because the iPhone 13 itself is so good when it comes to regular users. The Pro is clearly aimed the those who will find use for the better camera, display, and graphics power. If you are a creator, or a developer working on cutting-edge apps, then this phone is a must-have for you. Regular people will of course buy this phone too, but to show the world they are ahead of the race like the phone they own.