Over the years, I’ve used iPhones of all sizes. My first smartphone was the original 3.5-inch iPhone, and I’ve carried every size screen at some point—the 4-inch iPhone 5s, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s, the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, the 5.8-inch iPhone X, the 6.1-inch iPhone 11, and most recently, the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini.
So when the iPhone 13 launched, I naturally ordered the one missing from that list: the 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. That’s a full 1.3 inches bigger than the iPhone 12 mini that I’ve been using for the past 11 months, so it definitely took some getting used to. But along with the size and the weight—both not insignificant hurdles to overcome—I’ve learned some surprising things about the differences between Apple’s smallest and biggest iPhones.
Phones really can last all day
This one might seem obvious, but until the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I had never used an iPhone that consistently lasted all day. With the iPhone 12 mini, I regularly kept a charger nearby just to ensure that I didn’t run out of juice. That’s not even the slightest concern with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Between the bigger battery, A15 power handling advancements, and the adaptive refresh display, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a battery beast, easily getting through a day of extremely heavy use without dipping into the red. With conservative use, I could probably get through a full weekend without a charger. It’s the single biggest reason why I would recommend the Max to anyone buying an iPhone.
Stainless steel is pretty in renders but impractical
Since the iPhone 13 Pro has an identical design to the iPhone 13, Apple needs to distinguish it in some way, so it opted to wrap it in stainless steel rather than aluminum, which looks incredible in renders but isn’t all that great in practice. It’s heavy, it scratches easily, collects smudges, and quite frankly, doesn’t look much better than the brightly colored aluminum on the iPhone 13. I understand why Apple would use a different material for its higher-end phones, but I’m hoping the rumors of titanium for next year’s Pro models are true.
iOS should cater to larger screens
Obviously, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is substantially bigger than the iPhone 12 mini, but other than the physical size of the screen, you’re not giving up all that much between the two phones. The usual Pro-to-non-Pro differences apply—better camera, better display, better battery—but for normal tasks, the Max doesn’t really offer all that much over the mini. Unlike the Apple Watch Series 7, which offers enhanced UI elements to take advantage of the larger screen, the iPhone Max has the exact same interface as the iPhone mini.
That means to say you’re getting the same icon grid, widgets, dock, and App Library. The iPhone 13 Pro Max could easily fit an extra row of icons, but Apple instead has a large swatch of blank space at the bottom of the Home Screen. The same goes for the Dock, which could fit a fifth icon if Apple wanted. So the only things you’re giving up with the mini are larger photos and a couple of extra lines of text. Apple should take a page from the Apple Watch Series 7 here and retool iOS to take advantage of the extra space.
The Max needs Apple Pencil support
You don’t need me to tell you that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is an extremely large phone. With a 6.7-inch screen, its display is only about an inch smaller than the original iPad mini. A display that big is great for watching movies, but it’s also an excellent productivity device for things like typing long emails and editing photos. But you still have to use your fingers for everything.
The Apple Pencil is a fantastic accessory for the iPad, and it would be just as valuable on the iPhone 13 Max. With a 6.7-inch display, it’s about the size of a small notebook, and a smaller Apple Pencil would be a perfect way to use it as a way to quickly just down thoughts and mark up documents. And what’s more, it would separate the iPhone 13 Max from the rest of the lineup and establish it as more of a pro productivity device, like the iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Note.
The mini iPhone deserves a place in Apple’s lineup
There have been numerous reports to suggest that the iPhone 13 mini will be the last of its kind. Poor sales have seemingly deemed the tiniest iPhone for the chopping block as iPhone buyers gravitate toward handsets with larger screens. While I certainly appreciate the iPhone Max’s 6.7-inch display, I also miss the one-handed use of the iPhone 12 mini.
If the iPhone mini really is going away with the iPhone 14 lineup, I hope Apple keeps it around with a future iPhone SE. After all, Apple currently sells the 12 mini for $599 and will presumably cut it down to $499 next year like the current iPhone 11. While rumors suggest the 2022 iPhone SE will stick with the same retro design, the next next model is almost certain to adopt a Liquid Retina display and the iPhone mini chassis would be a perfect fit.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.