Anton D. Nagy contributed to this iPhone 12 Pro Max After the Buzz post.
I think this might be the first time I do an After the Buzz when the succeeding product is revealed, but there’s a reason for it.
This is the iPhone 12 Pro Max, 2020’s best iPhone if you were to judge by the numbers, and what marked my return to Apple’s larger variant. I’ve never been a fan of the company’s approach to phablets because they’re mostly just bloated iPhones. The only other time I did was the 7 Plus, and because it was a better phone than the regular. The Xs Max or 11 Pro Max were all just larger size options. iPhones have always been more of a social media crutch to my primary Android phone, so if there is no added value, the extra size is unnecessary.
This 12 Pro Max was a different animal, at least on paper. It brought a larger camera sensor and in-body image stabilization, worthy perks for a creator like me to consider. It’s been with me everywhere for the past year, and during that period of time, let’s just say I have a couple of mixed feelings about my investment, which only makes me debate the 13 series. Let’s dive into our iPhone 12 Pro Max After hhe Buzz.
I think the best way to sum up expectations for this video is to call out the fact that I never completed this review. You’ll find my videos on the 12 Pro, 12, and 12 mini, but the reason why I skipped the 12 Pro Max, is because the more I used it, the more I realized it was only marginally better in things I didn’t care about.
I was so enthusiastic at the time that I actually picked it in Silver as my favorite color. Honestly, Pacific Blue was not as elegant in my opinion. At a glance, you could assume it aged well, but flat and glossy stainless steel is clearly not a good idea. Get up close and be ready for a ton of micro scratches, and judging by my use of Apple’s leather case, I guess there’s no way around it. It’s as if I deliberately scrubbed the bottom of this phone, which is not an issue with its less expensive aluminum siblings.
The last time Apple used flat stainless steel on the iPhone 4, its matte finish allowed you to even use a soap scrub to polish it. My advice is to pick a darker color with the 13 series, as they’re technically the same finish. That said, the frosted glass back remains intact, and so is the screen, proving that Ceramic Shield is really that good.
This is the phone with the least display micro-scratches I’ve used for so long, but that oleophobic coating wore off regardless. As for MagSafe, I say you should care about the chargers because no other puck of this size can charge any phone faster. I definitely did ignore Apple’s wallet accessories after all the horror stories of people losing their valuables. I’d recommend you consider MOFT’s Snap-On Stand and Wallet instead. It’s been with me all year, which pretty much guarantees it’s a better implementation that also becomes a kickstand.
This Pro Display XDR is another example of where I’m mixed. On a positive front, Its flat approach and its great contrast ratio make this one of the most immersive experiences you can get on a phone. Its dual firing speakers definitely don’t disappoint. If all you’ve been is an iPhone user, it’s great, but also very 2019.
Definitely, 120Hz coming to the iPhone 13 Pro is where this phone falls short. The high refresh rate has been a staple of Android phones for at least three years. The other is the notch getting in the way. I know it’s getting smaller with the next generation, but is it really functional while needing to wear a mask? I would’ve seriously preferred a fingerprint scanner on the power button like the iPad Air (and so does Anton), cause even the use of an Apple Watch to unlock the phone with your face covered is not always reliable.
What aged well on the iPhone 12 Pro Max
One thing that did age well was iOS 14. It took Apple way too long to launch widgets or an App Tray, but I have to say their reputation of late but better remains. I do prefer their visual consistency, which can be hit or miss on Android, and elements like Smart Stacks became invaluable for me to keep a minimalistic home screen that was still useful.
Maybe the only thing I was expecting was more widget adoption over time. As it stands, I have nowhere near the 179 apps I have installed, and I expect no judgment on that number, thank you. Still, even with the lack of a high refresh rate, this user interface remains snappy, I can’t say I deal with such a thing as app crashes, and the visual uniformity of apps is something Android should seriously consider. What I can’t praise iOS for, is its disservice to this large canvas. It’s seriously pointless for you to get a larger screen if the grid of icons is just stretched out. There’s no multi-window support. There’s no support for some sort of Apple Pencil input. The picture-in-picture video was a nice promise that under-delivered in support. Again, it’s the reason why I debate a larger phone if the canvas is underutilized.
What didn’t age well on the iPhone 12 Pro Max
One thing that didn’t age well is the battery. Larger iPhones have always had a reputation for more than a day of use, but I barely end a day with mine. Battery health has also degraded faster than ever at 89%, which makes me wonder if the optimized charging has been good enough. I can’t say it’s the 5G because I don’t get any better results with LTE. I can’t say it’s overheating or lag, because this A14 Bionic has definitely lived up to its performance reputation.
As for the only thing you can pick when buying an iPhone, I decided to go for 256 gigs of storage just because I use it as a quick video camera at times, and that aged pretty well. I’d even say the standard user is fine with the base 128 gigs. If anything I notice the added storage only makes me hoard more stuff.
The main reason for the bump in its capacity is because I’ve used an iPhone as my secondary video camera for a few years. I’m seriously not sure what voodoo Apple uses in their video codec, but ever since the iPhone 4, this collection of cameras can prove to be more versatile than even a standard mirrorless camera for quick secondary shots. Most people don’t know that at least a third of my AirPods Max review was filmed with this 12 Pro Max, and that’s as it paired with a Sony A7SIII.
I’m not saying it’s comparable, but so long as you have enough light it’ll sometimes adapt to harsher scenarios better, like on the inside of an airplane because it doesn’t depend on filters, ISO compensation, or other camera tricks to meter adequately for what you touch. That in-body stabilization also proved to be a godsend during quick walking shots of whatever other product I was reviewing.
iPhone 12 Pro Max photography
Now, I can’t say that feature served in helping me get better photos. After trying all four iPhones, I did notice that this Pro Max was slightly faster at taking a photo, but it wasn’t necessarily a better shot.
Regardless if you used the ultra-wide or standard lens that was dramatically larger than the other iPhones, I did some comparison shots even with the regular 12 and well, I can’t say the 12 Pro Max produced $400 worth of better photos. Whether during the day or at night, the Pro Max was just faster. And sure, the added speed can make a difference in reliability, with some shots having some minor elements that have them stand apart, but again, notice I say minor.
iPhone 13 Pro picks up where the iPhone 12 Pro Max left off and improves its hardware with new optics and internals. Its A15 Bionic assures the fastest graphics performance on an iPhone, and the new larger camera sensors will ensure your photos are always adequately lit.
To conclude, I have to say that there’s a part of me that’s happy that the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are just different in their size. A year of phablet use left me with enough decolorized pockets, pinky finger strain, and one-handed nightmares, Which only makes me debate if it was all worth it. Even if there were differences between both Pros in the spec sheet, the results weren’t really what I would call substantial.
I know for a lot of you, having the larger iPhone is useful. I know for some it’s a status symbol. Sadly, I come from the time of the Galaxy Note where the added canvas had to serve a purpose, and I honestly feel the 12 Pro Max didn’t really live up to those expectations. I’m not saying it’s a bad phone, but it’s hard to justify its price, at a time when a device like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 is better in so many ways and costs less money. Expect that comparison once the 13 Pro Max hits store shelves.
Obviously, as an Apple user, I don’t blame you for sticking to the Ecosystem which is still second to none. That said, would I recommend that you look for a 12 Pro Max a year later even with a discount? Not really. If iPhone is your jam, it might be a better idea to even get a regular 13 that sports the same primary camera as this max, but with better optics, plus the same starting storage, or get the regular Pro if you want the added boost for less size and money.