Going Phablet with iPhone 15 Pro Max — Bart Busschots

Bart joins me this week on the show to discuss the tradeoffs he made in buying an iPhone 15 Pro Max. Here are some of the thoughts he’ll share.

After decades of resisting big phones, and being ‘that guy’ who was cranky when the iPhone X made the smallest modern phone notably bigger, it’s finally happened, I’ve moved to the iPhone 15 ProMmax!

I got over the bigger size of the iPhone X very quickly — it still fit in all my pockets, and I could still use it single-handedly. But this time my concerns about the bigger size didn’t prove quite so baseless.

As you can probably guess, I chose the bigger phone reluctantly. This year, for only the second time, Apple made people choose between a smaller phone and the best camera.

The last time Apple made us all make that choice I went the other way. Back when the iPhone 6 Plus was released I was not all-in on iPhone photography yet, and the big-only feature was image stabilisation, which is more of a video thing, and even now I don’t care about video.

In all the years between that first phablet and now, Apple have kept the camera the same in the big and small pro phones, and I breathed a sigh of relief each year as I had no difficult choice to make!

This year, not so much! This year Apple made me choose between keeping my beloved smaller size, or getting an impressive-looking 5x optical zoom with a tetraprism no less!

The rumour mill had prepared me. I’d been mulling it over for weeks, and when it came time to click ‘buy’, my cart had a natural titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max in it!

This is an amazing device, but it’s a beautiful, powerful, amazing box of trade-offs for me.

I like to end on a positive note, so let’s start with the problems the bigger form factor is posing for me.

Firstly, I literally pulled muscles I didn’t know I had in my hand the first few days — I was trying to use the big phone one-handed like I’ve been using my phones for years and it just will not work with the hands my genes gave me!

I basically avoid working one-handed as often as I can, but when I really have no choice (usually walking with an umbrella), I’ve learned to get what I need done with Reachability and the narrow keyboard.

Firstly, I now know that Reachability is an accessibility option, and that while it is on by default, I had disabled it years ago. (Back when it was activated by triple-clicking the home button I think!). I learned that once I turned it back on I could activate it by swiping down on the bottom of the screen — the inverse of the gesture to get to the Home Screen.

I also mostly use my phone single-handedly in my left hand (umbrella in my stronger right), so I’ve discovered I can switch to the narrow keyboard one-handed by pressing and holding on the globe button on the keyboard with my left thumb and then swiping to the appropriate keyboard shape and letting go.

I’m also disappointed that the bigger screen doesn’t give me room for more icons/widgets on the Home Screen. And much to my surprise, the bigger screen sometimes makes it HARDER to read text — when the font is small, the lines are longer, and it’s easier to be out by one when you move from line to line (Ars Technica’s site is the worst!).

Having said all that, the big screen is glorious for consuming media, and it makes photo editing much easier in the built-in camera app.

The change to titanium couldn’t have come at a better time, because the titanium big phone feels no heavier than my old stainless steel small phone. If anything, it feels a shade lighter!

The other side of the trade-off has worked well for me thank goodness — the 5x telephoto is impressive. I was afraid the jump between the main lens and the 5x might be too big, that it might leave me wanting, but it hasn’t. Turns out that when you want to zoom right in, you really do want to zoom right in!

I still shoot mostly wide angle, followed by 1x, and still only use the telephoto 5 or 10% of the time. But, when you need to zoom you really need to zoom, and having a good zoom is the difference between getting any usable shot, or nothing at all. The 5x gets more than the 3x ever could.

What really impresses me is that the quality of the 5x is at least as good as I got from the 3x, and I actually think it’s even a little better. I feel like I get less noise, and even when pixel peeping, less weirdness on edges from over-sharpening.

I’m also pleasantly surprised by the difference in battery life. Each time I check if I need to pop the phone on one of my charge pads it turns out to still have way more charge than I expected!

My Dad is also thinking of upgrading his iPhone, and he was wondering what I bought. I explained I’d reluctantly gone big for the better camera and that I really would have preferred to avoid having such a big phone. He didn’t care about the camera, and didn’t think the size would bother him one bit since he always uses two hands. All he wanted to know was if the battery life was longer!

That was all over Signal, and he figured he’d hold off ordering till after the next time I came to visit so he could hold the phone, to be sure to be sure he was fine with the size. I was home on Wednesday — he picked it up, bounced his hand up and down to check the weight popped it in his shirt pocket, and said the size was just fine! His only other comment was that the material felt nice, and the screen looked good. From his point of view, no tradeoff at all!

I’m not sorry I chose the bigger phone, but if Apple lets me have the good camera in the smaller form factor next year, I’m going back. If not, I’ll probably skip the next cycle.

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