It’s big and heavy, but also fantastic in so many ways. The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max is a true flagship phone.
- Stunning display
- Performance that should stay fast for a long time
- Reliable cameras in all conditions
- Long battery life
- Dynamic island is a great idea
- No big zoom camera improvements
- Uncomfy design without a case
- UKRRP: £1199
- USARRP: $1099
- EuropeRRP: €1449
- CanadaRRP: CA$1549
- AustraliaRRP: AU$1899
Safety techSOS satellite network and Car Crash Detection
High-end specsA16 Bionic chipset, 6GB RAM and up to 1TB storage
Dynamic islandThe updated notch now serves an actual purpose
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the biggest Pro-sized iPhone, and the one to choose if having plenty of battery life left at the end of the day is an important detail.
In previous years Apple has often differentiated the Pro Max from the Pro by way of extra features; maybe smarter cameras or better stabilisation features. That’s not the case this time around.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is an iPhone 14 Pro with a battery that lasts a good amount of time longer and a bigger screen that’s better for gaming.
I’d say it’s the only iPhone to recommend if you’re after a large display, however with the arrival of the more affordable iPhone 14 Plus, that’s not necessarily the case.
Screen and Design
- The large 6.7-inch display is a joy
- Dynamic Island makes use of the notch (finally)
- Boxy design can feel cumbersome
There are two main reasons to plump for the Max version of the iPhone 14 Pro over the regular 14 Pro, and the first of those reasons is the screen.
While the iPhone 14 Pro has a modest 6.1-inch OLED display, the Max has a far larger 6.7-inch display. A bigger display is, in my opinion, much better if you use your phone a lot for gaming, content creation or consumption. TV shows from Netflix or Disney, especially those rendered in HDR, look stunning on the roomy canvas and there’s so much more space to feel immersed in with games.
Of course, a bigger screen means a bigger phone and here’s where the iPhone 14 Pro Max falls down a little. The boxy, squared-off design suits the smaller phone far better – here it can make the 14 Pro Max a little cumbersome, with the sharp edges digging into my palms. A softer case will easily fix this, but it’s worth taking into account should you wish to use the phone without any added protection.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max, like the 12 and 13 Pro Max before it, remains almost jewel-like in its design approach. The highly polished (and very fingerprint-prone) stainless steel sides glisten in the sunlight, while the range of three colours – along with a very gaudy gold – are muted and tasteful. I personally prefer the more fun shades you’d find on the iPhone 14 line, but the choices here, especially the new Deep Purple, do give off a more ‘professional’ vibe.
The biggest visual change this time around is the new Dynamic Island. This received a lot of stage time during the phone’s announcement and dodgy name aside it feels like a proper step forward for the derided notch. If we don’t see a smattering of Android phones with a similar feature in 2023 I will be very surprised.
Dynamic Island takes the notch that’s been present since the iPhone X, separates it from the top bezel and adds some clever software around it to turn it into a new little interactive area – while still hiding the array of front cameras and Face ID sensors.
Everything from music playback controls, to alerts from connected AirPods to low battery warnings now pop up in the Dynamic Island – but regular notifications and messages, for instance, do not. This can create some confusing visual elements if two notifications from two different areas pop up at the same time.
For the most part, the Dynamic Island is a step forward. Having music control, or timer alerts, accessible in any app is great, and the addition of Live Activities in iOS 16.1 expands the functionality to third-party apps. In a year or so, I think we’ll really start to see the benefits of the change.
The rest of the screen is just as brilliant. The biggest upgrade is in brightness, both in HDR consumption and when you’re outside on sunny days. This is the brightest screen I have used outdoors, with it easily combating direct rays.
I delve more into the display in my iPhone 14 Pro review, but it really does tick all the boxes. The smooth adaptive 120Hz ProMotion display ramps up and down depending on what you’re doing, and it makes everything from scrolling up and down a webpage to gaming feel much smoother than on the 60Hz iPhone 14.
Apple has allowed the screen to drop to 1Hz for the 14 Pro series, enabling an Always-On option that keeps the screen always visible in a darkened state. While some Android phones do this by only highlighting certain parts of the display, usually the clock, the iPhone 14 Pro Max slows the whole screen down so that it just refreshes once a second.
I’ve been using the Always-On display for over a month now, and I both find it very useful and a little annoying. Once it’s enabled, you have very little customisation over it at all – you can’t tweak the brightness levels and whatever shows on the Lock Screen will be mirrored. If you have a loud wallpaper, this will always be visible.
Sometimes I have found it too bright, making the phone a distraction when it’s on a table. Though other times, especially when at a desk working, it can be handy always to see the time and other alerts. You can turn the feature off if it really annoys and it turns itself off when the phone is in sleep mode, so it won’t distract too much on a bedside table at night.
There’s also an effect on battery life by keeping the screen on all the time, though I noticed this far less on the Pro Max as opposed to the smaller Pro.
- Exactly the same camera arrangement as the iPhone 14 Pro
- 48-megapixel main sensor, improved selfie camera
- Telephoto zoom still not as strong as the competition from Samsung
The iPhone 14 Pro Max matches the camera spec of the smaller Pro, so you’re not getting any benefits by plumping for the bigger, more expensive option. As I mentioned in the review of that phone, this is right up there with the Pixel 7 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra as the best camera phone you can buy.
As with previous iPhones, it’s an easy, quick phone to shoot with and takes reliably excellent pictures in all situations. The addition of auto-focus on the front camera also helps it take great selfies.
In daylight, it can be hard to spot differences between the 13 Pro Max and the 14 Pro Max, but it does offer more room for creativity with a couple of extra pro-targeted features and improved low-light skills.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max marks the first time Apple has gone beyond a 12-megapixel sensor on a phone, replacing it with a completely new 48-megapixel version, For the most part, you’ll still be churning out 12-megapixel images, as it uses the pixel binning technique Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra use. This combines four pixels into one in the sensor, giving you an effective larger pixel size without resulting in huge image sizes.
You can, if you want, utilise the full megapixel count by enabling the ProRaw mode. This will churn out large (often 80MB or more) images in the RAW format, allowing for more intricate and effective editing in apps like Lightroom.
After shooting with both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max for a month, I have come to the conclusion that for the most part, I shoot at 12 megapixels as the quality and detail are excellent and it’s just that bit quicker to shoot and easier to share. However, having the freedom to change when I know there’s a shot I will want to spend a little more time editing and tweaking is very welcome, and can result in some truly fantastic shots that are far beyond what I would expect from a phone.
The iPhone has long been excellent at daylight shooting and that doesn’t change here. Put a shot taken with the 13 Pro Max next to one from the 14 Pro Max and the differences are minimal until you zoom in, but the difference is far greater if you’re coming from an older device.
Detail in hair, plants and even the woollen strands on a jumper all are captured mostly well. Though there is certainly more processed sharpening in certain instances than before. Smart HDR levels out dynamic range well, dealing with trickier lighting conditions with ease and consistently churning out great images with accurate colours. The bigger sensor gives a more natural bokeh effect too, so you can get the silky blurry background with the foreground in focus without switching to the dedicated portrait mode.
When taking pictures of people, I still prefer images from the Google Pixel 7 Pro. Google does a better job of various skin tones and they often look a lot more natural.
It’s in tougher conditions where these pricier phones set themselves apart and the iPhone 14 Pro Max is excellent in low-light situations. I’ve found it doesn’t need to go into the Night Mode as often as the past few iPhones and when it does, it requires less time and light to produce usable results. Photos taken at night are universally very good: detail is retained without noise, colours are a little brighter without looking gaudy and skies retain the deep night sky colours. The 12MP ultrawide camera is better at night too, offering more versatility.
There are no changes to the 12MP telephoto camera, and while the zoom is on par with phones that don’t utilise a periscope arrangement, it doesn’t come anywhere close to competing with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra once you push past the 3x range. Apple has added a new 2x zoom option, which utilises the middle 12-megapixels from the 48-megapixel to crop in.
No major changes have been made to make the videography experience better here, yet it still maintains its lead as the best phone for capturing video on the market. Smaller tweaks include 4K support in the gimmicky Cinematic Mode and a new Action Mode that stabilises video if you’re moving quickly at the expense of low-light performance.
- The A16 Bionic chipset is a fantastic performer
- 6GB RAM, up to 1TB storage
- No SIM slot in the USA
One of the more surprising aspects of the iPhone 14 range is the removal of the SIM slot entirely in the USA, forcing users to switch to eSIM. It seems like all major carriers are supported and the process of switching from a physical card to a virtual one is straightforward.
My UK review unit sports a SIM slot like all previous iPhones, and I don’t feel the tech is anywhere close to being as advanced here. While Vodafone, the network I reviewed the phone on, supports it, others don’t. Three, for example, is a popular network in the UK and currently doesn’t support eSIM.
Like the removal of the headphone jack and the charging plug from the box, this feels like a change that will permeate the high-end phone market in the coming years.
US models benefit from mmWave 5G, a tech that’s not available on any network in the UK so is missing from these units. UK users will still get 5G, just the sub-6Ghz form.
Another US (and Canada) only feature, at least for now, is Emergency SOS – a satellite service that’ll let you contact emergency services even when there’s no phone network signal. It’s hard to judge this…