The most underrated phone this year is the iPhone 15 Pro Max... seriously

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in front of stalactite photo
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The problem with being the most popular phone in the world is that the world takes you for granted. Just ask the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Among all the big innovations in phones this year – generative AI, gapless foldables, Magic Editor photo editing – Apple’s best iPhone hasn’t stood out. My iPhone 15 Pro Max isn’t the most exciting phone I saw this year, but if the iPhone seems staid, I say perk up! This year’s Pro Max is actually exciting, and it’s the most underrated phone of the year. 

Is the iPhone 15 Pro Max really the most popular phone in the world? According to Omdia, the iPhone 14 Pro Max was the most popular phone in the year before the iPhone 15 was launched. We know that Apple had strong sales of the two new Pro models this year, and they were even hard to find for a while. If the iPhone 15 Pro Max follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, then yes, it will be the most popular phone in the world. 

Did you not know the Pro Max is Apple’s best seller? Then the iPhone 15 Pro Max is definitely underrated. But I’d also argue that Apple’s innovations this year, while less flashy, were more impactful and innovative than the competition. Apple’s new iPhone 15 Pro and iOS 17 are going to make waves in the mobile world, and within a few years we’re going to see a lot more copycats.

That sweet titanium is where it's at

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in front of stalactite photo

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Starting with titanium. We’ve already heard that Samsung might use titanium on its rumored Galaxy S24 Ultra, but it won’t use enough. The Ultra will likely have a titanium frame, so the sides will be titanium, but the back will still be glass. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a titanium sheet on the back. The colorful models aren’t painted or glass, they are anodized so the color is part of the metal. 

Titanium makes a big difference. The iPhone 15 Pro Max feels amazing to hold. It’s a full 19 grams lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max, even though it’s almost a half millimeter thicker, with a larger battery inside. It’s closer in weight to the iPhone 14 Pro than it is to the 14 Pro Max.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in front of stalactite photo

The new Action Button sits above the volume buttons (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The Action Button is also a nice new addition, and it’s getting better with every major iOS 17 update. Apple recently added a slew of new possibilities for the button, including using it to open a language translator or one of many Accessibility features. I’m sure there’s more to come, but Apple is smart to roll these out slowly. I can imagine Samsung adding an Action Button with a list of options a mile long.

Apple's iOS 17 makes a big difference

In fact, Apple’s software has been 100% on point this year. The new iOS 17 is the most modern, mature, and thoughtful interface I’ve ever used on a mobile device. If the old Apple mantra was “things just work,” with iOS 17 you might say “things just wow!”

Start with NameDrop and the new AirDrop gestures. Bringing two iPhones together, getting the cool wavy screen effect, sharing my music, photos, or even just my phone number, feels like magic. It makes me want to seek out other iPhone owners. No Android phone has ever had that effect on me.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in Standby mode

Standby mode makes your phone useful when it's not in use (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Standby mode is such a simple addition, but I use it every day to wake up. I even got more charging stands to keep around my home office and my city office so I can have my iPhone charging in standby mode in those places, in addition to my bedside. I’ve long used my iPhone as an impromptu bedside clock. Now it’s actually a stylish bedside clock, and the big Pro Max display is perfect. It’s amazing Android doesn’t have this already.

The safety Check In feature in Messages is vital, and I think it should now be a part of every smartphone, the way a back-up camera is now required in every car. Check In is such an obviously useful feature to keep tabs on loved ones with no effort and no intrusion. I use Check In before every long drive, and I have my kiddo Check In when he goes out with friends. It lets me know he’s okay, even if he forgets, because we both forget.

Not the most exciting phone, but maybe the best

These are huge, useful innovations from Apple, while I see very little on the Android side.

Android needs to learn from what Apple is doing

Samsung gave us … more and more of the same. Google’s Pixel 8 Pro gave us new AI tools – a mixed bag at best – and an inexplicable temperature sensor. Even the best upstart phones, the OnePlus Open and Motorola Razr Plus, were so exciting because they did a great job at the products everyone else was doing poorly. 

Don’t sleep on Apple, because Apple has been forging ahead while Android has been spinning in circles and folding in half. Android needs to learn from what Apple is doing in order to grow. Setting that new standard is what makes Apple’s best phone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the most underrated phone of the year. 

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Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 


Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.