So, you’re a fan of super-sized phones and have got your eyes on the fresh-out-of-the-oven iPhone 12 Pro Max? Well, it’s a great phone, or at least that’s what the reviews say. But, is it worth paying north of $1,099 for the upgrade if you’re already using the iPhone 11 Pro Max? And if you want to buy a big iPhone, but are torn between the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max, which one is the right investment? We analyze what the two ‘Max’ iPhones have to offer in this iPhone 12 Pro Max vs iPhone 11 Pro Max comparison to help you pick the right one:
Design: The new guy is flatter, stronger and more water-resistant
Let’s get this clear first. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the largest and heaviest phone in Apple’s portfolio right now. The only sigh of relief is that it is thinner than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. From there, it is up to your personal aesthetic preference whether you like the curved sides of the iPhone 11 Pro or the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s flat sides with a shiny finish. Both the phones are built using surgical grade stainless steel, but only the iPhone 11 Pro Max comes in green while the pacific blue color is exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Another difference is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max can survive up to a 6 meters depth in water for minutes, while the IP68 certification for the iPhone 11 Pro Max mentions only 2 meters of water immersion capability for half an hour. Notably, the Ceramic Shield on top of the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s display is touted to offer 4x drop resistance, so that is a meaningful difference if you plan on flaunting your iPhone 12 Pro Max without a screen protector or a case.
Display: It’s just a tad bigger, and that’s about it
The iPhone 11 Pro Max features a 6.5-inch (2688×1242 pixels) Super Retina XDR display which is HDR compatible and offers a peak brightness of 1200 nits. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, on the other hand, features a slightly larger 6.7-inch (2778×1284 pixels) OLED display with a slightly higher resolution, but still translates to a 458ppi pixel density, which is the same as the iPhone 11 Pro Max, thanks to the larger screen diagonal. The rest of the features such as True Tone, wide P3 color gamut, and Haptic Touch remain the same.
You really have to decide whether you want a screen with an almost flat design and sharp edges with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, or you like subtly curved glass on its predecessor. Either way, the only meaningful difference would be the added layer of protection offered by the Ceramic Shield on top of the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s display. As far as display quality goes, you can expect the same level of deep blacks, punchy colors, great contrast, and good viewing angles.
Internals: One is fast, the other is future-proof fast!
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is powered by the in-house A13 Bionic processor, which to be honest, will be good enough for at least another year irrespective of the tasks you throw at it. On the other hand, the iPhone 12 Pro Max relies on the latest and greatest A14 Bionic processor, which Apple claims offers a 50% boost in performance and also has a much more powerful 16-core neural engine for handling AI and machine learning-based tasks. Needless to say, the iPhone 12 Pro Max appears to be the more future-proof option if you want to use that phone in the long run.
If you talk about gaming or just generally running a ton of apps in the background, the iPhone 11 Pro Max with its A13 Bionic processor appears to be more than sufficient on paper. But the extra power provided by the A14 bionic comes into play if you plan on purchasing the iPhone 12 Pro Max, especially for its cameras because the more powerful cores and capabilities of the A14 Bionic will really come into play if you are editing Dolby Vision HDR videos natively and taking advantage of the more advanced camera features such as the Apple ProRAW and Deep Fusion, both of which rely on advanced computational photography.
So, coming to the camera part. The imaging department is where the iPhone 12 Pro Max really emerges as the more powerful device in Apple’s lineup. In fact, this year, Apple made an effort to truly distinguish the iPhone 12 Pro Max from its other siblings rather than presenting it as just a super-sized phone with the same internal specifications as the iPhone 12 Pro.
Now talking about the differences between the iPhone 11 Pro Max and its successor, the iPhone 12 Pro Max features three rear cameras, all of which are of 12 megapixels in resolution, which is the same as the iPhone 11 Pro Max. On the front, you will find a True Depth 12MP camera on both the devices.
But that’s where the similarities end and the differences start. The 12-megapixel wide camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a wider F/1.6 aperture which can bring in more light that will lead to more details in the photos and videos you capture with the phone. On the other hand, the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s wide camera has an f/1.8 aperture.
Additionally, Apple has also upgraded the telephoto camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max by using a more powerful 65mm lens, which is claimed to further increase the optical zoom output of the phone for video capture as well as photo capture. In numbers, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers up to 2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out and up to 7x digital zoom. As for the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the optical zoom figures stand at 2x, while the digital zoom only goes up to 6x.
Another major difference between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is how they approach the stabilization technology. The iPhone 11 Pro Max uses trusty Optical Image Stabilization technology, which actually involves the movement of lens elements to compensate for jerks and hand movements.
As for the Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization technology which made its debut on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it is claimed to be more efficient since it involves the movement of the actual sensor body and not the lens elements to make up for movements and deliver more stable videos and blur-free photos. Pocketnow’s Jaime Rivera notes that this new stabilization technology delivers the best results – an almost gimbal-like effect
The biggest differences are actually not just about the hardware, but also at the software level as well.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max introduces the Smart HDR3 technology for clicking photos while the iPhone 11 Pro Max still stuck on an older generation HDR processing algorithm. Second, the iPhone 12 Pro Max enables Night Mode for the rear as well as front cameras, and also brings the Deep Fusion technology to selfie snapper. Plus, another tech that has exclusively made its debut with the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a new image editing format called Apple ProRAW that will give artists more control over the media they capture using the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Another major difference between the two phones is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max can natively record and edit Dolby Vision HDR videos at a frame rate of up to 60 fps. It also can capture night mode time-lapse shots. A lot of the camera features of the rear camera setup on the iPhone 12 Pro Max are also carried over to the front camera, which also supports Smart HDR3 and has now gained support for night mode as well as Deep Fusion algorithm for processing more detailed photos.
Oh, there is another key distinction. The iPhone 12 Pro Max comes equipped with a LiDAR sensor which Apple says will bring night mode portrait shots to life on the device, and this remarkable feature is not available on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The LiDAR sensor will also open the door for a lot of advanced AR applications.
Battery: Except MagSafe, nothing has changed
Now, let’s talk about the battery capacity. Or, let’s rather not talk about the battery, because either way, there are no tangible upgrades here. The iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 11 Pro Max appear to come equipped with the same size battery, or it is just that the endurance figures are almost exactly the same for both the phones. Apple says that the iPhone 12 Pro Max can last up to 12 hours of video playback on a streaming platform, 20 hours of native video playback, or 80 hours of audio playback.
As for fast charging, it is capped at 20W, and both the devices can go from empty to 50% battery in just 30 minutes. The biggest difference, however, is the MagSafe charging system on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is brought to life by the magnetic ring beneath the rear panel. MagSafe doesn’t offer any drastic advantage when it comes to charging speed, but it is just an added convenience that you can easily live without. And in case you’re wondering, both the phones support your regular Qi-certified charging mats.
Both the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max were launched carrying a starting price of $1,099. However, pricing of the former has dwindled ever since, and carriers are offering a few hundred dollars in discount with eligible trade-ins. And even if you snag it at a discount this festive season for around $800-$900, it is still a worthy investment.
But if the camera upgrades offered by the iPhone 12 Pro Max are meaningful enough for you and you look forward to taking full advantage of them, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a worthy upgrade. Yes, the new MagSafe charging system and 5G are notable additions, but they are not as game-changing features at this point in time to warrant paying north of $1,099 for a smartphone.