My iPhone 15 Pro Max lacks the one thing that made my old iPhone 13 Pro so attractive

An image of the sides of the iPhone 13 Pro
(Image credit: Future)

The word ‘Patina’ is pleasant to say, but It’s not a word I thought I’d associate with an iPhone. Patina is the attractive mellowing effect of materials, especially metals, that discolor through age and exposure. It’s the green layer over copper that gives the Statue of Liberty a distinct look, and it gives the brass top plate on a Leica camera a satisfying appearance of natural wear. 

After swapping to the rather impressive iPhone 15 Pro Max earlier this year, time was called on my venerable iPhone 13 Pro as I packed it up to be sent to my colleagues in the suitably-patinated historical city of Bath. During this process, my iPhone caught the light spilling in from the office windows on one of the rare sunny days that London can enjoy. 

That electromagnetic radiation beamed 93 million miles from Earth’s nearest star played on the stainless steel sides of my old iPhone. A cacophony of metallic hues and colors bloomed into view on the iPhone 13 Pro’s sides – a pleasing blend of purple, blue, silver and an almost bronze tinge. 

an image of the iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

This wasn’t the first time I’d noticed the rainbow discoloration on the aging stainless steel iPhone chassis, but it hit differently after six months of using the titanium-embraced iPhone 15 Pro Max. While lovely and light with a soft touch, there’s a lack of patina potential to Apple’s best premium iPhone.

Now, there are probably many among you reading this article who are turning your collective noses up at hastily shot photos of a discolored iPhone. People dedicated to keeping tech in pristine order and swaddling the best phones in robust cases find the idea of such metallic aging a travesty.

To my eyes, such patina is special. It takes a soulless, albeit slick smartphone and makes it seem fallible. Fallible equals soul.

an image of the iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Maybe this appreciation comes from an interest in mechanical watches; seemingly outdated devices for this millennium, also objects that chip, scratch and age with grace. There’s nostalgia looking at a well-loved object – a timepiece, a beaten-up leather jacket – and appreciating the imperfections. The wear and tear holds within one’s story and relationship with the object.

If that materialist metaphor muddles minds, then think of patina as the wrinkles we develop over a long-term relationship. I'm not as sharp and slick as I once was, but my face tells a story of time well-spent and lessons learned.

Am I putting too much weight on (ironically) stained stainless steel? Of course, but it's Friday evening and there's time for such fancy, flippant frivolity.

Do I think we'd benefit if the iPhone 16 returns to stainless steel? Of course not – I’ve already waxed lyrically about titanium on phones.

There is a small part of me that’ll miss the patination found on my iPhone 13 Pro. It marked a pleasant smartphone journey, punctuating a switch from Android to iPhone. Perhaps it could act as a touchpoint for Apple to inject some new colors into the rumored iPhone 16 Pro; I can dream.

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Managing Editor, Mobile Computing

Roland Moore-Colyer is Managing Editor at TechRadar with a focus on phones and tablets, but a general interest in all things tech, especially those with a good story behind them. He can also be found writing about games, computers, and cars when the occasion arrives, and supports with the day-to-day running of TechRadar. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face and a nose for food markets.