iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Apple's new flagship explored

The iPhone 13 Pro Max was the ultimate iPhone. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is even better

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Apple)

When it launched last year the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the ultimate iPhone, with a price to match. As we said in our iPhone 13 Pro Max review, it was the “very best iPhone available” – and this year it’s been improved even further with the arrival of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the best iPhone that Apple has ever made. 

Many owners of the iPhone 13 Pro Max will therefore be wondering if they should upgrade to iPhone 14 Pro Max. That's what this feature is designed to help them with, exploring everything that is new on Apple's 2022 flagship.

Here’s what you need to know.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: price and release date

The iPhone 13 Pro Max launched in September 2021 with a starting price of £1,049/$1,099/AU$1,849 for the 128GB model, rising to £1,549/$1,599/AU$2,719 for the 1TB model.

As with the rest of the iPhone 14 range, prices have increased in the UK. The 128GB model is now £1,199, rising to £1,749 for the 1TB model. US customers will pay $1,099 for 128TB, rising to $1,599 for the maxed-out 1TB model.

Pre-orders for the new iPhone begin on 9 September with availability from 16 September.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: design

The external design hasn’t changed much between the 13 Pro Max and the 14 Pro Max – if you look really closely you’ll see the camera bump on the back is very slightly larger – but the iPhone 13 Pro Max notch is gone, replaced by what Apple calls Dynamic Island. This is where the TrueDepth camera and privacy indicators are located, and it will expand to become a notification area for things like connecting your AirPods, seeing what music’s playing, knowing when your taxi is going to arrive and so on. It's fun and effective but might not be ideal for people with motion issues; hopefully there will be an accessibility control to reduce its motion for those who need it.

The other dramatic difference is that in the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the display is always on. It dims without losing skin tones if you’ve used photos of people as your wallpaper, and it enables you to see your Lock Screen widgets as well as any active alerts for travel, sports scores and so on.

Colour options here are fairly sober: Space Black, Silver, Gold and our current favourite, Deep Purple.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: cameras

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a triple-lens, 12MP setup with Telephoto, Wide and Ultra Wide cameras. Apertures are f/2.8 for the telephone lens, f/1.5 for the wide lens and f/1.8 for the ultra-wide. There’s 3x optical zoom in and 2x optical zoom out, with digital zoom up to 15x. Night Mode is powered by a LiDAR scanner and in addition to optical image stabilisation there’s sensor-shift image stabilisation on the wide lens.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max cameras are a significant upgrade. The main camera now has a 48MP quad-pixel sensor that uses pixel binning to create “superpixels”, clusters of pixels that act as one to capture more light. This feature is adaptive so in bright light you’ll get the full benefit of that 48MP resolution but in very low light you’ll get 12MP - albeit 12MP that’s much, much clearer than any previous iPhone. That 48MP is now available for ProRAW shooting too, and its higher resolution means you'll be able to reframe images post-shooting without a significant loss in image quality. There’s also a redesigned LED flash that’s up to two times brighter and that adjusts itself according to the camera’s focal length.

Apertures for the iPhone 14 Pro Max are f/1.78 on the main camera, f/2.2 on the ultrawide and f/1.78 and f/2.8 on the 12MP 2x and 3x telephoto respectively.

For video there’s an improved Cinematic Mode that enables you to use 4K at 30fps, and there’s also 24fps to match moviemaking standards. And the new Action Mode promises gimbal-style tracking of action shots without an actual gimbal; if it’s as good as it looks in the demo it could be quite something – although surprisingly it's not exclusive to the Pro and the Pro Max but available across the iPhone 14 range.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: performance and battery

The processor in the iPhone 13 Pro Max is Apple’s A15 Bionic, a 6‑core CPU with 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores, 5 GPU cores and a 16-core Neural Engine. The iPhone 14 Pro Max gets the A16 Bionic, which once again is 6-core but Apple says is 40% faster than the closest competition. The 5 GPU cores have 50% more memory bandwidth than before, and the high performance cores use 20% less power than in the A15.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: display

The screen in the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a 6.7-inch OLED Super Retina XDR, as is the display in the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The new display is brighter – up to 2,000 nits outdoors and 1600 nits peak HDR – and this time around the refresh rates are adaptive from 1HZ to 120Hz, which enables that always-on display. It has thinner borders than before and the aforementioned Dynamic Island for notifications and status updates. As before there's a 2 million to one contrast ratio, P3 Wide Colour, True Tone, Dolby Vision HDR and ProMotion.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: early verdict

We don't normally recommend annual upgrades because the differences year on year aren't usually very dramatic. But this time out they really are. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is a superb and still class-leading smartphone, but the always-on display, improved notifications and vastly improved camera system mean that the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a very different beast to its predecessor. If you're not going to be shooting lots of photos or video then the reasons to upgrade are largely cosmetic – as nice as the always-on Lock Screen is, it's hardly essential, and iPhone Pro Max models were already more than fast enough for everyday operation –  but if you want the ultimate iPhone for creative pros then the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a fantastic creative tool.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).