iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhones generally have a long lifespan, as Apple continues to support them with new iOS versions and the hardware has enough performance headroom to carry them through the years. That said, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is now nearing its third anniversary, and while it’s still a very solid phone, you may feel like you’re missing out on some new technology. Like a better camera, a 120Hz screen, or… a dynamic island?

Well, the iPhone 15 series is about to hit the stage in just a few months, and you might be thinking “Hmm, I might upgrade this year…”. Will it be worth it? Well, let’s dive deep into everything we know about the iPhone 15 Pro Max so far and try to find out, shall we?

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max expected differences:

  • Slight redesign
  • 120 Hz screen vs 60 Hz screen
  • Much higher peak brightness on iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Dynamic Island vs Notch
  • Titanium frame on the 15 could make it slightly lighter
  • Mute switch to be upgraded to Action Button
  • A17 Bionic will be a significant upgrade over A14 Bionic
  • 8 GB of LPDDR5 RAM (upgraded from 6 GB LPDDR4X)
  • Same storage options
  • Upgraded 48 MP main camera
  • New periscope zoom
  • Overall improved low light performance of cameras
  • USB Type C instead of Lightning
design and size

Like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but with three facelifts.

The iPhone 12 series set this new trend of iPhones being a bit more rigid and rectangular, with flat sides and right angles. Apple rarely overhauls the design but adds minor tidbits and changes it year after year.

So, we have the base look, with the camera module in the top-left back corner, the MagSafe array down the back, and the end-to-end screen up front.

But the iPhone 15 Pro Max will inherit the Dynamic Island (instead of a notch) at the top of the screen, as we first saw on the iPhone 14 Pro. It’s like a permanent taskbar that masks the selfie camera cutout by placing bubbles and widgets from your background apps around it. Reportedly, Apple is working hard to make Dynamic Island “more useful” in iOS 17, as most users haven’t been super-impressed with its implementation so far.

But okay, it’s not that important. What we also expect is a bigger screen-to-body ratio up front and slim bezels. And the iPhone 15 Pro Max could have a titanium frame instead of stainless steel, which would make it lighter but still retain the premium look and feel.

The signature mute switch that is present in every iPhone is also likely to see a change with the 15 Pro series. Apple is said to be experimenting with the action button we first saw on the Apple Watch Ultra and thinking of slapping one on the iPhone. It will still retain its mute properties as an option, but it will supposedly have other functions or app shortcuts that you’ll be able to add to it. It would be great if it could work with Siri shortcuts natively (and Apple is probably thinking about that).

iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

And, thanks to new EU regulations, Apple is finally out of 2014, kicking and screaming. The iPhone 15 Pro Max will come with a USB Type-C port with USB 3.2 speed, which will be almost 10 times faster than Lightning’s USB 2.0. There is still a possibility that high speed and fast charging will be supported only if you buy an MFi cable.

display differences

The size of the Pro Max is what it is and will remain — even if the iPhone 15 Pro Max has slightly thinner bezels, the screen size shouldn’t budge. So, this would mean 6.7-inch OLED panels with 1290 x 2796 pixels on both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Of course, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will feature a premium screen with a super-high refresh rate, while the 12 Pro Max is stuck with 60 Hz. Also, the 12 Pro Max has a notch cutout at the top, while the latest flagship will have a dynamic island—whether that’s a pro or a con is up to you.

Also, Apple has been playing with maximum brightness lately, ensuring their screens can display HDR content even in bright conditions, and the 15 Pro Max will likely reach 2,500 nits, which is a lot at this point. Is this crazy? This will effectively double the 1,200 nit peak brightness of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

display and software

The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s A17 Bionic chip is likely to be the first smartphone SoC built on the 3nm process made by TSMC, and Apple is said to have basically booked the full production line, so no one else is getting in.

That’s a small jump over the 4nm process of 2022’s Apple A16 and a big jump over the 5nm A14 inside the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But wait, what’s with the nanometer?

Well, they basically refer to the size of the transistors that are inside the chip. Smaller transistors mean more space; more space means more transistors; and more transistors mean faster performance and better energy efficiency, as the chip can do more calculations with less power draw. The iPhone 12 Pro Max still has great performance and great battery life. But it pales in comparison to the iPhone 14 Pro Max, for example, and we fully expect the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s jump to feel significant.

camera sensor

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is already a bit long in the tooth with its 12 MP main camera sensor. Yes, back in the day, we used to say that fewer megapixels were better because we had bigger pixels to work with. Now that technology has improved, smartphone camera sensors have evolved, and manufacturers are using pixel binning to turn high-res sensors into low-res sensors when light collection is a priority.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max showed that Apple has a lot of room for improvement, as it introduced a 48 MP main camera sensor, which is much better than what we’ve had before. The buzz on the street is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max inherits that one, so we can confidently say that it will be better than the main camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

It is also expected that the 15 Pro Max will get a major improvement in zoom—a periscope camera that will reach 5x or 6x magnification. We have a hunch (and a secret hope) that Apple may be experimenting with real variable zoom here, which would explain why the rumors on the zoom have been so vague and confusing.

In any case, yes, you will get a camera upgrade if you jump from the iPhone 12 Pro Max to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. We can’t say much about the selfie camera or the ultra-wide camera right now, but the latter should, at least, perform better at night, as this is something Apple improved on with the 14 Series.

Audio quality and haptics

iPhone speakers have been great for years now, especially the Pro Max models. Every year, they get a small improvement, we think—5% better generation after generation. But their sound profile generally remains the same: meaty low end, slightly scooped mids, and a prominent presence. We don’t find it likely that the iPhone 15 Pro Max will change that, although we do hope that we’ll get less stiffness on the higher side with it.

For haptics, the Taptic Engine is here to stay and has been so for the past few generations of the iPhone. For good reason—it’s a robust, accurate haptic feedback machine that was a staple in the industry for a while (thankfully, Android smartphones have caught up). In any case, we don’t expect the iPhone 15 Pro Max to feel any different in this regard.

Battery Life and Charging

full day x2

Apple has always had the tagline “All day battery!” When it introduces a new product. However, for the past few years, iPhones have gotten pretty adept at exceeding that expectation. Especially the Pro Max models, which have more space for larger cells. Combine this with iOS’ excellent battery management, and you can easily stretch the iPhone Pro Max to two days on a single charge.

This is especially true for the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and if the A17 doesn’t turn out to be a power hog (it shouldn’t be 3 nm) in the iPhone 15 Pro Max, we expect the same. The iPhone 12 Pro Max can still last you a day plus a few hours, unless your battery health has deteriorated over the past 3 years.

As for fast charging, iPhones generally aren’t about it. The 12 Pro Max can draw 20 watts over a wire and 15 watts wirelessly (via MagSafe, 7.5 W on any ol’ Qi pad). We expect the iPhone 15 Pro Max to hit up to 27 W on wired and still 15 W on MagSafe.

specs comparison

Let’s take a look at the key specifications of both phones here. If you want to delve deeper into the specs, visit our dedicated page for the iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max specifications comparison.

So, three generations apart, we definitely see a good split in specifications between these two phones. Especially in the camera and hardware departments.

Summary and Final Verdict

So, is it time to save up for the iPhone 15 Pro Max to replace that old iPhone 12 Pro Max? We’d say yes — there’s a lot to look forward to, like a 120Hz screen, a much better camera, and a more powerful processor that should last you the next few years.

Why “X amount”? Well, because at its core, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is still a very solid phone. And still receives timely updates thanks to Apple; iPhones have been known to receive iOS builds for at least 5 years after release.

In other words, if you’ve been yearning for an upgrade, yes, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will give you a new, better experience. If you don’t feel like spending the extra cash this year, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is still cool.

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