At this point, the iPhone 14 Max seems like a foregone conclusion. And for those who haven’t been following all the iPhone 14 rumors, this model would replace the iPhone mini in Apple’s lineup, giving buyers a big-screen phone without having to pay Pro-tier prices.
On paper, it sounds good. The rumored price of the iPhone 14 Max is $899, and it should offer almost everything you could want, including a large 6.7-inch OLED display, excellent photo quality, and A16 Bionic power (we think ). I recently argued that the iPhone 14 Max should make Samsung nervous, but there’s also reason to be concerned about this rumored Apple phone.
On the plus side, the iPhone 14 Max should continue to lead the pack in performance, as no chip has come close to beating Apple’s silicon in the Android camp for years. I would also expect the iPhone 14 Max to last a long time on a charge, as the iPhone 13 Pro Max held up for an excellent 12:16 in our battery test. Anything over 10 hours is great and above 11.5 hours is plenty enough to make our best phone battery life list.
Right now, there are a number of flagship phones in the $899 range, including the Google Pixel 6 Pro and OnePlus 10 Pro. Samsung’s closest bid for a possible iPhone 14 Max would be the $999 Galaxy S22 Plus. The Google Pixel 7, which you’d assume would feature a Pro version, is also on the horizon for this fall, although not much is known about this device other than a design teaser at Google I /O 2022.
So what am I worried about? The main weakness the iPhone 14 Max might have over the competition is the lack of optical zoom. Yes, this flagship is expected to offer improved image quality, but Apple is rumored to continue to reserve telephoto zoom for its iPhone 14 Pro models, including the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
By comparison, the OnePlus 10 Pro has 3.3x optical zoom with up to 30x digital zoom, while the Pixel 6 Pro packs 4x telephoto zoom and 20x digital zoom. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Plus features 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom.
The current iPhone 13 maxes out at 5x digital zoom, so Apple really needs to up its game on the digital zoom side at least if it wants to stay competitive with these other camera phones. To be fair, a bigger zoom range doesn’t necessarily equate to better photos, but I really appreciate having the flexibility on my iPhone 12 Pro Max to zoom in on subjects when taking photos, like when from my recent trip to Virginia Beach. I could focus on my son and daughter walking on the sand and getting closer to a bird on the other side of the pool.
I don’t expect a powerful 10x zoom like what can be found on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which also has a ridiculous 120x (digital) Space Zoom. And Apple itself isn’t expected to add periscope zoom to its lineup until the iPhone 15. But I don’t see optical zoom as a Pro-level feature anymore. These are table stakes for an $899+ flagship.
There are other ways the iPhone 14 Max can keep up with competing phones. And that includes the screen refresh rate. Samsung and OnePlus all offer 120Hz panels on their phones, as does Google on the Pixel 6 Pro. The faster refresh rate means smoother scrolling and overall performance, especially when playing games.
Based on rumours, however, it appears that only the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will offer 120Hz ProMotion panels. There is a rumor that Apple may offer a 90Hz display on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max, which is better than nothing. (The Pixel 6 makes that tradeoff, but at $599 it’s $200 cheaper than the iPhone 13 and its 60Hz display.)
Do I think Apple will sell fewer iPhone 14 Max units because of these potential downsides? No. But I’d still love to see a better big-screen deal from Apple this fall.