The iPhone 11 Pro Max isn’t just the best phone around, it’s the phone I’d buy with my own money. And I would still pick it over other great phones like the Samsung Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and OnePlus 8 Pro.
Yes, the regular $699 iPhone 11 is a fantastic value, but the iPhone 11 Pro Max ($1,099) has a more dynamic OLED display compared with the iPhone 11’s LCD. I also like having the third lens on the iPhone 11 Pro Max for telephoto zoom, which the iPhone 11 lacks. And as much as I like the smaller iPhone 11 Pro — which shares all the key features with the Max — I prefer the iPhone 11 Pro Max for its bigger screen and longer battery life.
Apple should have included more storage to start, and I’m getting tired of that notch. But as you’ll see in this in-depth iPhone 11 Pro Max review, it’s the best iPhone period. Although some may want wait until this fall for an iPhone 12 with 5G and a bigger and smoother 120Hz display, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the best phone money can buy today.
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (Silver) at Amazon for US$859.97
iPhone 11 Pro Max review: cheat sheet
- The triple cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro Max now give Apple the best camera phone, thanks to its great Night mode and improved Smart HDR. Check our our iPhone 11 Pro vs Pixel 4 camera face-off.
- The cameras also shoot gorgeous-looking 4K video with extended dynamic range and cinematic video stabilization.
- Apple’s slow-motion selfies are fun at 120 fps, even though the slofie name hasn’t taken off.
- If you want the longest iPhone battery life, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the one to get, as it lasted nearly 12 hours on our web surfing test.
- Apple finally included a fast charger in the box, so you can get to 50 percent in 30 minutes.
- We wish Apple included more than 64GB of storage, so you may want to pay for more if you shoot a lot of video.
iPhone 11 Pro Max price and availability
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is now available and went on sale Sept. 20. The phone starts at a fairly steep $1,099 ($45.79 per month) but can be had for as little as $499 ($20.79) if you trade in an iPhone XS Max. (Older iPhones fetch a smaller trade-in value from Apple.)
The iPhone 11 Pro Max comes with 64GB of storage. A 256GB model sells for $1,249 and the 512GB version costs $1,449. It’s worth noting that the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus come with 256GB standard, which is quadruple the storage.
If you’re buying the iPhone 11 Pro Max in the UK, prices start at £1,149 for 64GB of storage, then £1,299 for 128GB and £1,499 for 256GB. Apple is running a trade-in offer if you’re willing to give them your current phone in part-exchange, meaning that you can get the iPhone 11 Pro Max for as low as £859 depending on your existing phone’s value.
Apple might not have changed the design of the iPhone 11 Pro Max on the front (compared to last year’s XS Max) but on the rear things are much improved: there’s a new matte glass back that feels noticeably different in the hand – it’s much less prone to smudges and fingerprints, and feels like an upgrade.
The rest of the design is very similar to what we’ve seen from Apple in recent years: the notch remains, the sides are curving stainless steel and the bottom of the phone houses a Lightning connector and two speaker grilles (for symmetry – only one actually fires sound outwards).
It’s large in the hand, sure, but not overly so – if you’ve used the Plus or Max phones of recent years from Apple you’ll find the 11 Pro Max more than manageable day to day.
The main new design element is one we’ve already talked about: the camera bump on the rear of the phone. It’s sharp on the edges, as it’s made by milling the glass down and rolling it into the rear of the phone. Be warned: don’t put this phone in your pocket with another device, as the bump can easily scratch another screen.
Ultimately, the design of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is pretty much identical to that of the iPhone XS Max – to the point where we managed to factory-reset the wrong phone during the testing process (much to our loud annoyance).
The iPhone 11 Pro Max colors are attractive: midnight green, space gray, silver and gold. The dark green is easily the most attractive in our mind, and the most obvious statement you can make to announce ‘People of the city, I have BOUGHT A NEW iPHONE!’
Although you’ll probably then want to put it in an iPhone 11 Pro Max case to protect it, because it’s really expensive and you don’t want to be explaining to your other half that you’ve ruined it in a week’s time.
Aside from the camera, the iPhone 11 Pro Max screen (we can’t get over how infuriating that name is to write) is one of the main selling points for this high-end, expensive phone.
What you’re getting is 6.5 inches of screen real estate, with an OLED panel that’s once again been refined by Apple. It features True Tone technology to better match the ambient lighting conditions (altering the white balance depending on the lighting situation you’re in) as well as a fluid screen – although not quite as fluid as the higher refresh rates we’ve seen on the iPad Pro, for instance.
The new OLED screen seems to have more of a yellow tinge when you’re viewing white scenes or looking at photographs – these tints aren’t present when images are viewed on a computer screen, for example, so it appears to be and issue with the calibration of the device.
This tint is also noticeable when the 11 Pro Max is held next to the iPhone XS Max from 2018 – but it’s slight, and images don’t look bad when viewed in isolation.
One of the key upgrades here is the ability to play Dolby Vision content – it might not sound like much of a step up from HDR10 (the normal version of high dynamic range playback most phones use to punch up the dark and light parts of the scene and make everything more visually appealing), but it does make a difference.
Watching films feels more immersive – you can see more detail, and overall the video playback is far more cinematic. That’s because the iPhone can usually only display 800 nits of brightness (the metric for how bright the screen can get), which is still pretty good – but when playing a Dolby Vision film things get even more impressive (up to 1200 nits, according to Apple).
If you’ve not got anyone around you, that cinematic feel can be improved by playing sound out of the speakers – Apple has created a virtual surround sound setup, and while it’s not as good as hearing the same thing through a decent pair of headphones, the sound does feel like it’s moving around your ears.
Again, it’s not a new thing for the smartphone industry, but it does show that Apple is still working to offer the best-possible media experience all these years after the release of the iPod.
Apple made a big claim about the improvements to the iPhone 11 Pro Max battery life, pointing to the fact that it would be able to last for five hours longer than the iPhone XS Max.
The reason for this is curious – that’s a big boost in terms of the size of the power unit, without affecting the thickness of the device. Could it be that Apple was intending to unveil the reverse wireless charging feature that was rumored in the build-up to the iPhone 11 launch, but wasn’t able to get it working to the necessary degree?
Well, whether that conspiracy theory is true or not, the battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is strong indeed, and here’s how we fared on the third day of testing…
Taking the iPhone off charge at 7pm, we watched a Dolby Vision-enabled movie for nearly two hours on auto brightness, before using the phone to navigate us home for around 50 minutes (streaming music over Bluetooth at the same time); we also did some messaging and tried to pair a Garmin watch before going to bed just before midnight, at which point the phone was down to around 62%.
Overnight, things were quiet and the standby mode only lost 5-6% battery over seven hours, meaning we started the day with over 50% battery left.
A hard day of testing, which included playing games, watching streamed video, testing the camera and running benchmarks (the latter option there being particularly hard on the battery life) saw the iPhone 11 eventually expire just before 6pm (we didn’t turn on battery-saving mode).