Tech review: iPhone 15 Pro Max - No more iPhone charger as USB-C becomes standard

Apple’s latest and most powerful smartphone ditches the lightning port but adds extra features to make it worth the upgrade

iPhone 15 Pro Max
    
Price: €1489
Where To Buy: Apple

“Does anyone have an iPhone charger?” That is the one thing that, if you are an iPhone 15 user, you will never have to utter again.

The latest smartphones from Apple have adopted USB-C for charging and data transfer, ditching the lightning port after 11 years and making all of our lives that little bit simpler. And, for the first time this week, I actually left the house without making sure I had an iPhone cable in my bag or car, just in case.

This isn’t exactly an unprompted move on Apple’s part; the European Commission has been pushing for a standard charger on portable electronics for years. In October last year, it finally signed off on USB-C to become the standard for smartphones, tablets and cameras by the end of next year. It’s a move to help reduce electronic waste, which is increasing every year, and it means that you won’t need different cables for every device. So Apple is getting in there just ahead of the deadline and adopting the same standard that it has for some of its iPad models in recent years.

This is just one of the changes, though, that Apple has made to the phones, its latest and most powerful. But it’s by no means the most compelling. After several days with the phone in my pocket, there are more reasons than just the charging port to upgrade to the newest version – assuming you need the upgrade.


One of the main reasons people give for their choice of smartphone is the camera quality, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn’t disappoint. It gives you the choice of several lenses in one device – seven, according to Apple – and, in one key difference from the 6.1-inch Pro model, it has the more powerful zoom capabilities.

This is due to the extra space in the Pro Max’s case. Apple has added what it calls a tetra prism lens to get a 5x zoom, bouncing light around mirrors inside the lens to create a 120mm lens. You get closer to your subject without losing any detail or image quality.

The changes to the portrait mode mean you can shoot a photo in normal mode, and create a portrait from it later, getting that bokeh effect (a photography technique) to blur the background and make the subject stand out. You can also edit the focus point afterwards.

But beware: it doesn’t always capture the detail needed for the retrospective portrait edit; you need to look for the “f” symbol in the corner of the frame to make sure that you can apply the portrait effect afterwards.

Apple has made a couple of design changes, too. The iPhone 15 Pro Max replaces some of the stainless steel elements with titanium, making it lighter and a shade smaller than last year’s phone, even though it keeps the same 6.7-inch screen. It is noticeably lighter and, coupled with some minor design tweaks, it’s a bit easier to keep hold of.

Apple says it is more durable although we haven’t dared test that feature just yet, but if the worst should happen it is also easier to repair. Apple has made some changes so if you smash the back glass on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, you can replace it without the need for major work. Score one for the right-to-repair movement.

Like its predecessor, the Pro model of this year’s iPhone also has a few features that make it stand out from the base iPhone. It gets the latest Apple chip, the A17 Pro (the Bionic tag appears to have been consigned to the scrapheap), which is, as you would expect, more powerful and efficient than before.

That chip also enables more powerful gaming. Lighting effects are more impressive, reflections are more realistic and the overall effect is something you expect from a much more powerful games system. Will you be ditching your console? Probably not, but if you want to play Resident Evil on your phone you’ll get better graphics than you expect from a smartphone.

The new iPhone 15 Pro also gets the action button. Instead of the mute switch – something that you may have used once or twice a month at the most – you now have a customisable action button that you can assign to a number of preset actions, or a shortcut of your own creation. It’s a handy way to get people more engaged with Siri Shortcuts – you can trigger a whole series of actions from a single long press of the action button.

And then there is the previously mentioned USB-C port. No longer will you need to hunt down an official – or licensed – iPhone cable to power up your phone; now you can grab one of the multitude that are cluttering up your drawers at home to plug into your phone. Apple has fully adopted the USB-C standard. Incidentally, that means an end to the “made for iPhone” certification for cables, and the annoying error message that popped up from time to time.

The Pro models get the USB 3.0, which means you can transfer data at higher speeds than the regular 15 – up to 20 times faster, with the right cable. You can shoot photos on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, using the previously mentioned lenses, and transfer directly to a computer over a good quality cable. There are also the usual pro photo and photo modes available.

There are some caveats. While USB-C can support high-powered charging, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will charge at a the same rate as last year’s model. And you will need to buy a different cable to get the USB 3.0 data transfer speeds.

There are some convenient features enabled by the USB-C port. You can now use your phone to charge your AirPods Pro, for example, or your Apple Watch. In fact, almost anything that you plug into a USB-C adaptor.


The upgraded camera is useful, with the improved zoom capabilities, and the more lightweight frame is welcome, as is the improved repairability of the device.

The change to USB-C means there’ll be no more “this accessory is not supported” messages; you’ll be able to use any cable, and the high-speed data transfer makes the device more versatile.

Plus there is the price drop to factor in. Although the Pro Max still starts at €1,489, you now get double the storage for that price.


The changes to the iPhone 15 Pro Max may not be enough to upgrade if your smartphone is relatively new. Anything newer than the iPhone 12 Pro won’t see enough of a jump to justify the expense.

Everything else

The tweaks to the portrait mode, while not limited to the 15 Pro Max, make it more versatile than previous iPhones, and the improved night mode is also welcome. Smart HDR delivers more true-to-life skin tone and better colour reproduction.

You can also switch between three focal lengths in the main camera – 24mm, 28mm and 35mm – and choose your preferred as the default.


If you are in the market for an upgrade, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best of the bunch.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist