It's official: the iPhone Pro Max is now the world's most popular smartphone

Three iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max phones on an orange background
(Image credit: Apple)

If you're a fan of iPhones with massive 6.7-inch screens, you're definitely not alone – and some new stats for 2023 show that Apple iPhone Pro models have topped global annual shipments for the first time. 

According to market analysts Canalys, the iPhone 14 Pro Max was the biggest-selling smartphone worldwide during 2023, closely followed by the iPhone 15 Pro Max. As the firm states, this reflects "the market's premium shift" and also the continued dominance of the iPhone, which took seven of the top 10 spots (see below).

But what's particularly interesting is that, in a year when an iPhone Pro model topped global shipments for the first time, it was Apple's two most recent Pro Max models that took the top spots, rather than its smaller, 6.1-inch Pro models. Looking at the growing divide between the Pro and Pro Max lines in terms of features, that's clearly been an intentional tactic from Apple.

As you can see in our iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro Max comparison, Apple's priciest model is no longer just a super-sized version of the standard Pro. With the Pro Max, you get exclusive features like a 5x optical zoom, alongside superior battery life, a larger screen, and more. The base iPhone 15 Pro Max also has 256GB of storage, rather than 128GB on the standard Pro.

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Still, the standard iPhone 13, 14, and 15 aren't too far behind Apple's flagship models in terms of shipments, and there are three Android phones in the list, too. 

These include the Samsung A14 4G and, more surprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G, which is a pricier model and bucks the trend of cheaper Samsung phones dominating the annual shipments list for Android.

Rise of the Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro Max on an orange background

(Image credit: Apple)

We had some strong indications last year that the iPhone Pro Max series was becoming the world's most popular smartphone, with global analysts Omdia revealing that the iPhone 14 Pro Max was topping shipments in the first half of 2023. But this new data from Canalys confirms it – Apple's biggest phone is also the world's most popular one.

There are likely a few reasons for this. First, we're all upgrading our smartphones far less frequently, which has meant a two-year slump in global phone sales (according to a recent Counterpoint study). But when we do upgrade, it seems we're prepared to go for bigger and more premium phones.

As IDC and Canalys recently reported, that trend saw Apple beat Samsung for global smartphone shipments for the first time in 2023. As IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team research director Nabila Popal explained, Apple's success is largely due to "the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market" and this was "fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans".

The slow but steady rise of the iPhone 15 Pro Max led us to brand it the most underrated phone of the year in 2023, for the simple reason that it wasn't widely known just how popular it had become. Well, this new data changes that, and marks a sea change in smartphone popularity.

But will the trend continue this year? The latest rumors suggest that this year's iPhone 16 Pro could inherit some of the Max's key features, like its periscope zoom lens. Some of the most intriguing new features are also likely to be iOS 18's rumored AI upgrades, which will presumably be widely available across all of the iPhone 16 range. It'll be interesting to see if the Max's popularity in 2023 is just a blip or a long-term trend for larger phones that were once called 'phablets'.

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Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.