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Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review

iPhone 12 Pro Max, the S21 Ultra of iPhones, the biggest phone, Apple has ever made and my choice of phone for 2021…or at least until something more interesting comes along. Now, I don’t consider this phone a Pro, because a real Pro phone would have features similar to what Sony Xperia Pro has to offer but I do recognize the Pro Max as a valuable tool that serves a purpose in my life.

Of course, as with every piece of tech, not everything is perfect and this time, the 12 Pro Max surprised me as to where the annoyances came to be. In the meantime, things that normally drive me crazy seemed to have been fixed which caught me off guard. Let me show you what I mean.

Camera impressions

Although computational photography is well established throughout the entire line, with the Max I can get better photos at night…faster. Where it may not make much of a difference during the day between the line of phones, the camera improvements of the Max shine at night, where light is scarce. Especially during the winter when the day is shorter, I get to be a better family photographer 80% of the time.

In many cases, the Max doesn’t need to stay in night mode like the other iPhones or when it does, it requires less time to take the photo which also has a lot more information in it. Also, the lens compression at 65mm for portrait mode is fantastic. It makes many of the portraits more life-like and even more professional-looking.

Portrait video

Something that was missing when we did the talking head of the 12 Pro Max video at the time was something called Portrait video with an app named Pro takes. With it in combination with the Lidar sensor, you can now do some very, very decent portrait video, although it works in Full HD only. Nevertheless, the option is here, and on more than one occasion, I would be using this feature when possible. Keep in mind that this will soon become a standard and it will be working in 4k as well guaranteed.

Camera conclusion

If I was, to sum up, the camera combo, I would easily call it the best smartphone camera system for me – photos and videos combined and that’s exactly why I stuck with the Max this year. Unlike before, the Max is sitting proudly in my camera arsenal and wears the shoes of the quickest way to capture high-quality 4k video at 60fps at any location and occasion, delivering fantastic close-up shots and even helping to put together thumbnails. There is another topic that I wanted to pay special attention to as time goes by and that is the front glass of the phone with the new ceramic shield coding.

Aside from durability, this coating apparently should be able to preserve the phone from major scratches, but the fine ones were the ones that were driving me crazy and always made me slap a screen protector on any of my previous iPhones. The 12 Pro Max is the first iPhone that I carry absolutely as-is, no glass protection whatsoever and I am stunned at how good it is when it comes to fine scratches.

Over the last months, the phone has been used constantly, not only as a phone and a camera but as the favorite toy for my children as well. Still, under the bright light one can barely notice any imperfections.

Managing this big phone

So, one concern I had with the Max was the sheer size but thanks to the sharp edges, this has been a surprisingly manageable device. In fact, this is the first phone in years, aside from the iPhone mini that I am perfectly confident in carrying without a case and feel it comfortably and confidently in my hand. Of course my jeans and pants are not so happy about it and I might have problems if I wanted to assume the Captain Morgan position but hey…what can you do?

Battery

The battery of the Max is king in the world of Apple and yet another reason to put my favorite mini on the side. It is easily almost a 2-day battery for me and so far I can’t remember a day when I had to prematurely charge it before midnight.

Display

Of course with the big size, there’s another significant advantage and that is the display. I absolutely love the completely flat appearance. Consuming content on it is phenomenal especially with the ridiculous speakers but I’ll use this opportunity to gradually switch to my annoyances.

Multitasking

See, 6.7″ is almost tablet category, where the iPad mini is 7.9″ and yet we still have no use to properly utilize all this image real estate. When I am in the car, for example, I always keep my phone horizontally positioned and I keep wondering how difficult would have been for Apple to have a horizontal orientation of the UI like they used to but in 2021. Not only that but we still have no dual app support or real multitasking, which I think could’ve been implemented nicely…similar to what the iPads have to offer.

Sure, we have picture and picture but it only works on supported apps and I rarely multitask while I watch a TV show or a movie for example. Unfortunately, the Pro Max is just a blown-up version of any other iPhone which is sad if you ask me and very not Pro-like.

Camera Dirt

Another annoyance is the individual lens protrusion on the camera module leaving big gaps for dust, debris, and gunk to gather in between and this is something very difficult to get rid of. It might not be an issue for most, and by the way, it is most prominent on the Max since the lens housings are larger but to me such nastiness makes this expensive premium device look awful after a while. Of course, as always, there’s a solution to this and it comes in many forms and by many companies.

The one I choose is from a well know brand Spigen. It is basically a camera protector, something that I never thought I would use and normally I don’t care about, but in the case of my annoyances and nasty dirt, it fixes and unfortunately hides all this beautifully designed space.

Typing on the Max

So aside from the usual reasons for choosing an iPhone like security and the whole ecosystem, the main reason I chose to use the Pro Max is the display first because of content consumption and second because of typing. On many occasions when I have thoughts for videos the phone is the quickest way to put everything down and with the 6.7 display this year it is easier than ever.

The battery life as mentioned earlier is yet another reason to go for the biggest iPhone, not because the other phones are that much worse, but because it gives me that much more freedom to not have to look at the battery percentage. But most of all, the reason for going for the Max is the camera combo and the fact that it’s an integral part of my video workflow. At this point, it is clear that the iPhone is an essential tool for me.

Overall conclusion

So, at this point, it is clear that the Pro verbosity that companies are throwing around these days is mostly marketing and in the case of the iPhone, Apple is clearly presenting only the cameras of the iPhone because unfortunately, almost nothing else on the 12 Pro Max is that much of a Pro.

However, if we remove the word Pro and just leave Max and we combine the cameras, with the outstanding battery life, the industry-leading display, the iOS and Mac integration, and the app support, it is clear that this phone is as Max as it can get. Is this Maxness worth 10% more than the smaller Pro? I guess it is up to you.

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