Since Apple started offering regular and pro iPhone models, I have always chosen the largest handset available. This year, I almost went down a different path. And yet, in the end, I elected to buy the latest iPhone Max model once again. It's the fine print that convinced me.
Almost chose iPhone 12
When Apple announced the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro series earlier this month, one significant point stood out. The regular and Pro lineups are much more similar this year, both inside and out. For example, all four new iPhones, including an iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max, feature a Super Retina XDR display. Last year's iPhone 11, by contrast, comes with a Liquid Retina HD display.
Both lineups also come with an A14 Bionic chip, 5G compatibility, Dolby Vision HDR, a ceramic shield front, and other similar features.
The iPhone 12 still doesn't include a telephoto camera, nor does it offer a LiDAR Scanner. Its frame is also made from aerospace-grade aluminum versus the surgical-grade stainless steel found on the iPhone 12 Pro. I also find the Pacific Blue finish on the iPhone 12 Pro/iPhone 12 Pro Max a little bit more refined than the blue hue of the iPhone 12.
Almost chose iPhone 12 Pro
No doubt, most iPhone buyers in the coming months will look past these differences and go with the less expensive iPhone 12 mini or iPhone 12. And yet, after some thought, they were enough to change my mind and stick with a Pro model.
It took some further research before I decided to go with the iPhone 12 Pro Max over the smaller iPhone 12 Pro. Leading up to Apple's iPhone event on October 13, I had already started to receive cases for all four new handsets. Don't get me wrong; display size is a big reason I have always selected an iPhone Max in recent years. And yet, it struck me after putting my 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max into a case for the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max just how little of a size difference there is between the two.
This slight difference in screen size at the Max level is what almost convinced me to save some cash this year and select the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro instead. After all, previous Pro vs. Pro Max models were mostly the same on the inside. Leave it to Apple to mix things up in 2020.
Reasons I chose the iPhone 12 Pro Max
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are identical except for the size on the surface. However, look deeper, and you quickly realize key differences beyond the display size. It's those differences that convinced me to go with the iPhone 12 Pro Max (again) this year. Here are five of those differences.
Optical zoom range and more
It's a subtle difference, but the larger model includes a 5x optical zoom range versus the 4x optical zoom range found on the iPhone 12 Pro. The higher the optical, the better, of course. You'll also receive photo digital zoom up to 12x on the 12 Max compared to 10x. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also uses sensor-shift optical image stabilization instead of dual optical image stabilization. This type of system uses a floating sensor to counterbalance any movement within the camera.
More video playback across the board
Three more hours of video playback per charge is what you'll get with the iPhone 12 Pro Max over the smaller model. You'll also find one more hour of video playback (streamed) (12 vs. 11 hours).
More audio playback
Looking for more? The Max offers a whopping 15 hours more of audio playback (80 vs. 65 hours).
Better video capture
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also takes better video than the iPhone 12 Pro by offering 2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, and digital zoom up to 7x. By comparison, the iPhone 12 Pro offers 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, and digital zoom up to 6x.
What say you?
Apple doesn't expect most folks to select the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and neither do I. The best iPhone of the year for most folks is the iPhone 12. And yet, if you're someone considering an iPhone 12 Pro versus an iPhone 12 Pro Max, consider the key differences before making a decision. Because I'd like to take my photo- and video-taking to fun new levels, I'm selecting the Max. Your choice may differ.
Regardless, it will be a few weeks before I get my hands on a new Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max. It and the iPhone 12 mini don't go on sale until November 6, unlike the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, which are available beginning today, Oct. 23.
Which iPhone are you selecting this year? Let us know below.
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.