Apple's iPhone 13 Pro Max is the mobile gaming monster to buy

Razer Kishi Iphone 11 Pro Steven Universe Unleash the Light
Razer Kishi Iphone 11 Pro Steven Universe Unleash the Light (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

Apple's iPhone 13 lineup is now on sale, but pretty clear there is only one phone to get if you want to play mobile games. If you're really serious about getting the best out of services like Apple Arcade, though, you're going to want an iPhone 13 Pro Max.

According to benchmarks that have been run by those who have one, the five-core GPU that's part of the A15 Bionic chip powering iPhone 13 Pro makes it the GPU monster that gamers will love. Ir's to be capable of performance that's around 55% faster than the outgoing iPhone 12 Pro, which is mighty impressive. Sure, the standard iPhone 13 is still fast by any measurement, but its one fewer GPU core means it can't quite keep up with the Pro.

I've mentioned before the iPhone 13 Pro Max performance:

According to a handful of Geekbench GPU tests that have appeared online, the iPhone 13 Pro appears to be around 55% faster than the outgoing iPhone 12 Pro. Similarly, iPhone 13 is around 15% faster than the iPhone 12.

So if iPhone 13 Pro is the best iPhone for gamers because of its pixel-pushing prowess, why do I say iPhone 13 Pro Max is the one to get? Well, that's because of screen size, of course. 6.7 inches of gorgeous 120Hz ProMotion Super Retina XDR hotness. And slap that thing into a gaming controller like the Razer Kishi, and you have the ultimate in portable gaming – Nintendo Switch be damned.

That's exactly the setup I've been playing Fantasian on, too. And boy is it great. Yes, you could play on a larger display using an iPad and a controller, but you'd lose the handheld approach that is so compelling. The same goes for playing on Apple TV, too — there's just something about having the game in your hand that really benefits from iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Between the larger display, the extra GPU core, and of course, that massive batter, it's impossible to look beyond iPhone 13 Pro Max if you're in the market for an iPhone that will do double duty as a Nintendo Switch replacement. With Apple Arcade and an App Store full of games, you could argue it's even better than a Switch in some ways!

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • Not just iPhone 12 Pro max, Geekbench is showing the 13 Pro max easily beating competitors too. It is the the fastest smartphone on the market.
  • YMMV obviously, but Apple has been hard to beat the iPhone CPU front for years in terms of performance per watt. That may change since multiple cohorts of Apple Silicon engineers jumped ship (probably for large cash and/or equity rewards) starting in 2019 and are now developing chips for Apple's competitors.
  • True but the 13 pro graphics bench is not just winning, it’s crushing comp tests. Its ability to game at highest level has left competitors a very long way past. This is also happening on the M1 MBA just using the stock model. Nothing in its price category is coming close to all bench though Samsung has made it respectable on a few.
    But Competition is great. They catch up or pass Apple, Apple steps up to surpass them. We win. If AR is going to be more than a gimmick imho the iPhone will need serious power. Hiring away staff is part of the game. Apple is suing one of them, rightly or wrongly, for supposed IP usage illegally.
    I don’t think it’ll be easy but eventually the competition will catch up. It’s on Apple to keep going hard (supposed rumor M2 and M2X is or will be using new V9). Just like the competition Apple needs to push hard too. We consumers win…
  • The problem with iPhones for gaming is iOS. Apple has put in some really stupid rules and policies to hold back iOS, especially for cloud gaming. You have to use a web app if you want cloud gaming, plus right now, only Apples Safari browser is supported for cloud gaming. If you really want AAA gaming then iOS right now, is not the platform for AAA gaming, period.
  • If it works in Safari, that seems like a decent workaround. iPhones and iPads (especially the M1 iPad) should be close to the point where browser streaming can get acceptable performance, and battery life will probably continue to improve as well. I don't think Apple cares too much about AAA or cloud gaming on the iPhone. They're happy with the likes of Genshin Impact and many thousands of gacha games that are awful to play (for me at least) but rake in zillions of dollars for Apple. And Apple Arcade. From the perspective of Apple's accountants and shareholders their rules are sensible and highly profitable. Personally I am pretty happy with the Nintendo Switch for handheld gaming, but an iPhone + Backbone controller looks cool if I can find some good non-gacha games to play (it also looks decent for PS4/5 Remote Play and Steam Link, which work fine on iOS.)
  • Another data point as to Apple following the money (WSJ via AppleInsider): "Apple raked in more profits from games than Xbox maker Microsoft Corp. , gaming giants Nintendo Co. and Activision Blizzard Inc. and PlayStation maker Sony Corp. —combined—in its fiscal year 2019" It's a "whale" model though, with the top 6% of customers accounting for 88% of game revenue in 2017, with the 1% whales spending around $3K per year on the average, according to the WSJ.
  • Doesn't Backbone recommend a special adapter to allow it to fit the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, which have different camera bumps from other iPhones? How well does it work with and without the adapter? Are the gaming improvements in the iPhone 13 Pro Max worth the clunkiness and ugliness of having to use an adapter with the Backbone, or are Backbone users better off with other iPhone models for a more seamless experience?