There's excitement in the air over Apple's next big release — the iPhone 13 lineup, and fans are eager to know more about the upcoming devices. While there are some big changes expected in the 2021 iPhone-series, we revisited last year's biggest iPhone upgrade — the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which was designed and delivered to fulfil the fantasies of every Apple fan out there. The biggest iPhone ever, yet with good ergonomics, the 12 Pro Max simply made it to many wish-lists. With almost a year passed by, if the iPhone 12 Pro Max is still on your wish-list, this review should help you make that big decision.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is nine months old, and here we are revisiting Apple's best, biggest and most expensive iPhone to date, to see if it still makes sense to buy the premium phone in 2021, just ahead of the arrival of new iPhones.
By now, you must be familiar with the "oh-so-great" features of the iPhone 12 Pro Max - right from that elite design to incredible cameras and snappy performance to the lasting battery. iPhone 12 Pro Max presented itself as a Superphone in 2020 and it hangs on to that title even in 2021, even though Android fanboys have gotten some impressive alternatives since. But here's what makes the iPhone 12 Pro Max stand out.
iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at Rs 1,29,900 for 128GB, Rs 1,39,900 for 256GB and Rs 1,59,900 for 512GB. Now, that's the same price as the phones were launched nine months ago as per Apple's official store. Switch to retail partners, you instantly save Rs 10,000 and more if you go for the high-end model. So, a little window shopping wouldn't hurt.
Even with such a price tag, Apple's iPhone 12 lineup has been a huge success globally, dominating the premium smartphone category. If numbers are to go by, the popularity of the new series continues on steroids. In just seven months, Apple sold 100 million of its new devices and the iPhone 12 Pro Max has been the highest-selling device, according to Counterpoint. If this is not proof enough, here's what makes the iPhone 12 Pro Max the undisputed champion.
Smokes the competition
Apple iPhone users wouldn't easily switch to Android and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a testament to the tech giant's commitment to delivering the best. Everything that makes the iPhone 12 Pro so popular is what contributes in an equal share to make that overall experience of the user pleasant.
For the end-user, right from unlocking the iPhone using FaceID to using the power button to lock and everything that happens in between is a seamless experience. Making the process seamless is the most advanced A14 Bionic chip (and yes, even by today's standards), which has billions of transistors (11.8 billion to be precise) and a 16-core Neural Engine capable of delivering 11 trillion operations per second. That's a whole lot of operations, but what's to note here is the fact that the A14 Bionic knocks every other flagship smartphone out of the park.
In the nine months we have been using the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the smartphone hasn't lagged, the UI hasn't frozen and the app hasn't taken longer than it should except for some occasional freezing during an incoming call. But what's truly impressive is that the experience is consistent - the iPhone 12 Pro Max is just as good as it was on day one.
Improvements as you go
Apple's software updates are a crucial part of the iOS ecosystem. There's no partiality in the way Apple releases its iOS updates. With iPhone 12 Pro Max, iOS 14 runs the show and does a fairly great job. Apple has released 14 software updates and the current version stands at iOS 14.7.1, which is extremely crucial from the security standpoint.
With all these software updates, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has only gotten better. The beta releases are used to iron out any kinks and the final version is rolled out to end-users to ensure the user experience is not hampered in any way.
To recall, the iOS 14.5 was a fun update, which added the ability to unlock the iPhone with a paired Apple Watch. In this COVID-era we're living in, this feature came as a boon. And it was the same update that allowed us to control which apps are allowed to track activity across other companies' apps and websites for ads or sharing with data brokers. For privacy advocates, this too came in pretty handy. Other major improvements we loved were Siri got smarter, new face emojis arrived, an option to share our favorite lyrics using Messages, Facebook, and Instagram Stories in Apple Music and more.
There were frequent micro-updates that often rolled in to fix some issues we hadn't noticed. In fact, smaller updates like iOS 14.4 allowed us to scan smaller QR codes with ease using UPI apps. Also, as someone who loves to edit on the go, Apple rolled out iOS 14.3 to support ProRAW photos in the Photos app once you capture them on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The changelogs of some software updates were quite extensive, and we hardly got around to noticing the difference. But overall usage certainly got better after each update.
So one thing iPhone buyers can count on is that Apple will never leave you high and dry after spending over a lakh on the iPhone 12 Pro Max (or any other flagship for that matter). Sometimes, the issues are addressed even before you experience them, and some updates bring some welcoming features you sure didn't know you would need to simplify your life.
Privacy and security at par excellence
It's no secret that Apple's walled-iOS-garden doesn't allow trespassing and with iOS 14 in the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the walls grow taller. With the iOS 14.5 update, Apple put users in control of the things on their iPhones. With revelations about alleged government snooping and software like Pegasus in use, people have grown wary of things personal. There are apps that track users' activity, but Apple prevents that (of sorts).
If your iPhone 12 Pro Max is up to date, apps are required to seek your permission before tracking you across apps and websites. Once you dive into the Settings, we were able to change the preference for any app and revoke access entirely. When we opened the app for the first time after the update, we were prompted to grant permission, which is either allow once or allow while using the app. The third option is to deny access, which would limit the app's functions.
Accessing camera or microphone is a big no-no and cannot be done without user consent. The iOS goes a step further to notify users in the Control Centre when an app recently used the microphone or camera.
We also were able to protect our precise location in certain apps, instead give an approximate location, which is a 26kms radius. This is just next-level privacy. Also, Apple guarantees five years of software support including security fixes and iOS version updates. This is unlike any other OEM on the Android platform.
Besides these controls, your iPhone 12 Pro Max is completely protected with Face ID. Although we wish TouchID makes a comeback (you hear that Apple), the Face ID works perfectly. It's snappy and efficient. With the latest updates, unlocking the iPhone with the face mask on got so much easier. If you have an Apple Watch, the iPhone detects it and unlocks, and then gives the option on the Apple Watch to lock the iPhone in case it wasn't you who unlocked the iPhone. A pretty handy feature, if you ask us. The feature still needs some refinement as it is not as accurate as intended, something Apple improve with future iOS updates.
However, if you do not own an Apple Watch, the iPhone prompts for passcode instantly when it detects a face mask on. We noticed that the iPhone is smart enough to see if you're wearing your face mask properly for this feature to work, hence encouraging users to stay safe in a way.
If you value your privacy and security, Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (any of 12-series models) is your best bet.
An ecosystem that's worth a lot more
When you're buying an iPhone, its value preposition is enhanced when you have other Apple devices. We highly recommend a MacBook, AirPods Pro and an Apple Watch to accompany your iPhone 12 Pro Max if you're a working professional. Otherwise, investing in an Apple Watch (Series 5, preferably or 6 if budget permits) will return its value in terms of ease-of-use.
Per our usage, the cross-platform compatibility is extremely seamless. Be it copying text on your iPhone and pasting directly on your Mac using Ctrl+V or instantly connecting to your iPhone's hotspot from your MacBook, Apple has the best ecosystem at your disposal.
Now for your Apple Watch, we've already spoken about how useful it is to unlock the iPhone with the smartwatch. Next is the most-refined smartwatch OS - WatchOS, which is a mini-iPhone on your wrist. Without having to take out your iPhone, you can perform so many tasks with ease, it's simply impressive.
iPhone 12 Pro Max, as a phone
Now, if you're looking to jump the Apple bandwagon and have the budget for it, Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max is a choice you won't regret. It's a premium offering, not affordable by the masses, but it sure does have a lot of things going in its favour - more than any other flagships offer at the moment.
As we said earlier, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best-performing smartphone you can buy. The design, with its squared-off sides, frosted glass back, Ceramic Shield technology for screen protection, leaves a lasting impression and effortlessly grabs eyeballs. The big screen, measuring 6.7-inch with the sleek bezels on all sides, is both big and ideal.
For gamers, those who consume a lot of multimedia and those who'd like to carry their work on the mobile, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a perfect size. But to handle the Max variant, it can be a bit handful. The iPhone 12 Pro Max tips the scale on the heavier side, weighing 226 grams, which might not be everyone's cup of tea. In such a case, the iPhone 12 Pro jumps in to save the day.
Over time, we found the big screen size grows on you and it only gets comfortable from there. After almost 3 months, we were able to manage single-hand use with much ease and comfort, but reaching to the top area of the phone with a single hand can give your thumb some stretching exercise.
The display itself, a Super Retina XDR OLED, is extremely bright and crisp but lacks the new industry-standard of 120Hz refresh rate or even 90Hz for that matter. The 60Hz on a flagship is a disappointment on paper, but iOS does a decent job at keeping things smooth on eyes and finger swipes. It's comparable to 90Hz, but 120Hz would have been the perfect icing on the cake. The difference is only visible while scrolling through feeds on social media and while gaming.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has stainless steel sides, which picked more fingerprint marks, but just a single swipe with a cloth will make it shine like it's new. In fact, nine months have passed and not a single scratch was picked up on the frame, a major upgrade from the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The power button is the largest we've seen on any phone and it's a gift we never asked for.
The overall design is topped off with IP68 rating, which survived a dip in the pool, rain, shower and running tap water. To say the least, the iPhone 12 Pro Max looks premium, with the exception of the same-old notch. And if the latest rumors are anything to go by, don't expect the notch to go away anytime soon.
One of the most significant aspects of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is its camera, which lives up to the hype. The iPhone 12 Pro Max's triple 12MP rear cameras with LiDAR and 12MP front-facing camera are capable of capturing photos, videos fast and clear. It lacks the zooming capabilities like many other alternatives, but the 2.5x optical zoom on telephoto works well. The portraits are excellent as always, in fact captures more light, colours appear more natural and gives detailed images. Even in low-light settings, the night mode kicks in automatically and the processing is done in real-time, thanks to LiDAR scanner on the back.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best cameras Apple has ever offered in its iPhones, including the iPhone 12 Pro. In comparison with competition, it throws a tough fight and outperforms in some areas, too.
We'll let the pictures do the talking:
Finally, iPhone 12 Pro Max breaks the stigma associated with iPhones. This one is a marathon runner as the battery just won't die easily. With moderate use, we were able to get almost two and half days. On a busy working day, the iPhone easily lasted a whole day and saved some to binge-watch a couple of episodes on OTT. On average, we managed to get 7+ screen-on-time, which is more than one can ask for in a flagship with the specs iPhone 12 Pro Max offers and should easily outlast a lot of competing flagships.
While the battery is a strong USP, you need to buy your own adaptor. It's best to invest in at least 20W charger. With it, you can get 90 percent battery in a little over one hour. We sincerely hope Apple improves the fast charging speed, even if it means spending extra on the faster-charging adaptor. But the 15W MagSafe wireless charging is quite handy.
The perfect phone: Summary
For someone who prefers the iOS ecosystem, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, if you don't mind the size, is the ideal choice and you just cannot go wrong with it. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is not for everyone, but a whole lot of people - an iPhone fan or not - will absolutely enjoy what's on offer.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is an absolute beast when it comes to performance, the battery outlasts the competition, cameras are capable of greatness, mind-blowing stereo, iOS and the software support that comes with it is brilliant, and the water-resistant design is practically safe. With time, the criticizable things like the generous notch, the weight and the lack of a Type-C port won't matter. We are not sure how big of a change the iPhone 13 Pro Max would be, but if you're looking for the best iPhone then the iPhone 12 Pro Max is one hell of a phone. The taste of iOS is best relished on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.