What better time to write a review of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, with the iPhone 13 lineup coming later this week? Over the course of the past year, I have spent time with three out of the four iPhone 12 models. For one reason or another, this is how the past year has looked for me:
- Pre-ordered iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Sold the Pro Max and bought the 12 Pro
- Sold the 12 Pro and bought the 12 Mini
- Sold the 12 Mini and bought the 12 Pro Max
First things first, you have to understand that I have access to a lot of different phones. ATB is not my only writing “gig”, but it’s the only one where I have the privalege of writing about Apple products, apps, services, tools, and anything else Apple-related. Aside from that, I’m firmly entrenched in the Android world. At any given time, I have two to three (or more) Android phones on my desk and in my rotation.
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iPhone 12 Pro Max Review: Going Big For Battery
For some more context, before pre-ordering the iPhone 12 Pro Max when it became available, my “daily carry” was the Galaxy Z Fold 2. So I already have a penchant for phones that are way too big, even for me. This is doubly-true considering that from the “Apple camp”, I was coming from the iPhone 11 Pro.
Given the ability to try three out of the four models, it may seem a bit weird that I went from the Pro Max and came full-circle back to the Pro Max. Some of this had to do with the fact that I simply wanted to try out the other models. Some of it had to do with my inability to be satisfied with a single device, even with a plethora of Android devices at my disposal.
Nevertheless, the reason why the iPhone 12 Pro Max made its way back into my life and became the 2020-21 iPhone for me, was all about battery life. This phone continues to be an absolute tank, and its the only smartphone in my arsenal that doesn’t leave me reaching for a charging cable before the end of the day.
Of course, it has the best camera system that Apple could offer, as it was the only one to feature the unique Sensor Shift technology. With the Pro Max, Apple went with the “no compromises” approach for just one device. This was a mistake in my opinion, so it brings me joy to see that the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are identical in features, other than battery life.
iPhone 12 Pro Max Review: Where the Mini and Pro Fell Short
To put it plainly, the iPhone 12 Mini was a fun little phone, but the battery life was absolutely abysmal. Even though I now work from home full-time and always have access to a charger, I don’t want to have my phone on a MagSafe dock or charging throughout the day. The iPhone 12 Pro suffered a similar fate, although it’s arguably the most comfortable phone to use out of the three.
Another reason why the Mini lasted for less than a month for me was because I found myself missing the telephoto lens. In the Android world, you’ll find a lot of phones that include solid digital zoom, with others offering a solid telephoto camera lens. But those still pale in comparison to what you get with either the iPhone 12 Pro or the 12 Pro Max. And with the Mini not including one at all, it was just something that I didn’t feel that I could be without.
After coming from the iPhone 11 Pro, I figured downgrading from the enormous Pro Max would be the most logical move. The 12 Pro Max is a heavy beast, even a year later, and it does get a bit tiresome to play finger gymnastics on a daily basis. And although the PopSocket MagSafe solution is solid, it’s just something that I don’t want to have attached on a regular basis.
Battery life on the 12 Pro was much better than the 12 Mini, for obvious reasons, but it wasn’t enough. From a usability standpoint, the 12 Pro would have remained my go-to iPhone. But not being able to get me through a whole day without reaching for a charger was simply frustrating.
iPhone 12 Pro Max Review: Too Big, But The Best
Apple nailed just about every aspect of the 12 Pro Max. From the phenomenal cameras to the big and gorgeous display, and that awesome ‘Pacific Blue’ colorway that has since been replaced by the lighter Sierra Blue. Speaking of which, the frosted glass back was also extremely comfortable to use, and I didn’t even find myself needing to grab a dbrand skin to provide some extra grip.
As I’ve stated numerous times already here, battery life is a dream, and I feel like it actually takes effort to get the battery all the way down to 0%. This remains true, even after owning the phone for six months, with a battery “capacity” of 100%, according to my iPhone.
While I have been honing my craft when it comes to photography, I don’t come anywhere near what you see elsewhere. Nevertheless, the iPhone 12 Pro Max continues to be the phone that I reach for when I want to take a good picture and don’t have my DSLR on-hand. On a regular basis, I end up cursing at myself because I’m using an Android phone, and my Pro Max is either at home, or is not within arms reach when a picture opportunity arrives.
Outside of the Apple ecosystem and how all Apple’s devices offer a seamless experience, the cameras are what keep bringing me back to the iPhone. There are third-party camera apps like Halide that turn your iPhone into a pocketable DSLR. But honestly, just tap the “RAW” button, snap the photo, and editing it from my iPhone is just as good of an experience.
Having the telephoto, wide-angle and ultra wide cameras, ensure that I capture everything I need to, at whatever depth or angle that I need to, without compromise. And that’s the trend with the 12 Pro Max, as it continues to serve as a no-compromises option, even with the 13 Pro Max around the corner.
Making A Change
I truly love my iPhone 12 Pro Max, but considering the business that I’m in, it’s important to have the “latest and greatest” devices. But instead of just opting for the next Pro Max model, I fired up the Apple Store app last week, and pre-ordered the iPhone 13 Pro.
The smaller form-factor is the second-biggest reason why I’m going from the Pro Max to the Pro this time. When the iPhone 11 Pro (non-Max) was my go-to iPhone, it was something that I just couldn’t be without. My main SIM card was only ever in that iPhone, and it’s something that I hope and plan to do with the 13 Pro.
The arrival of MagSafe-compatible battery packs is another, as I own a few of these already and I expect to see more options in the near future. But even if Apple’s claims of two hours of additional battery life don’t come to fruition, it can’t be worse than the 12 Pro.
As for the biggest reason why I’m going for the iPhone 13 Pro over the Pro Max? Hardware parity. By opting for the smaller Pro device, I don’t have to feel like I’m missing out on anything. Whereas that wasn’t the case with the 12 Pro and the 12 Pro Max. The processor, speed, 120Hz ProMotion display, color options, and camera hardware are all the same compared to the iPhone 13 Pro vs 13 Pro Max.
It’s an area where I wish Apple would stop flip-flopping. If a company is going to have two “Pro” devices in the same lineup, they need to be the same. That way, you don’t alienate potential buyers and provide the same great experience, no matter which device you choose.
iPhone 12 Pro Max Review: Time To Say Goodbye
The iPhone 13 series doesn’t arrive until the end of this week. But if you head over to Apple’s website right now, the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have already been removed. So even if you wanted to buy either of those phones, you couldn’t. We’re sure that your carrier might still have some supply hanging around if you really wanted it. Instead, you only have the option to either pre-order the 13 series, or pick up the 12 or 12 Mini.
But for all of its glory and everything that Apple did right with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s time to just say goodbye. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Apple will provide the same great experience (including battery life) with the iPhone 13 Pro. And that the only “feature” separating the 13 Pro Max from the 13 Pro is longer battery life.
It’s been a heckuva ride over the past year, but I’m excited for the future of what Apple is bringing to the iPhone.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.