iPhone 12 Pro Max: Apple's best phone gets better the more you use it

Over the years, I've been hesitant to make the biggest iPhone my daily driver, but after two months with the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, it has proven to be everything I could want in a phone. Long term usage is a great way to validate first impressions, and things get better daily with the big iPhone.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

In November 2020, I purchased and evaluated an iPhone 12, and while I enjoyed the size and performance, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 still had my attention, so I returned the iPhone 12. A month later, things changed, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max bumped the Z Fold 2 out of favor. So, how's that iPhone 12 Pro Max holding up?

Regular readers and Twitter followers know I'm primarily an Android user who regularly uses an iPhone for a month after Apple releases the newest model. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has made it two months as my daily driver, and I even bought the AppleCare Plus coverage because there is a lot to like in this phone and my SIM hasn't left it since December.

Also: iPhone 12 Pro Max review: Easily the best smartphone camera ever

As a writer who covers smartphones, I've had the opportunity to also spend a lot of time with the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, and while that is a stunning device with some unique camera capabilities, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is better for my needs, and I did not purchase an S21 this year. I'm actually a bit surprised by how much I like this big new iPhone. I discover things each week that confirm my decision to go all-in with Apple's latest and greatest.

Based on my usage over the past two months with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I find it extremely compelling for the following reasons:

  1. Design: I absolutely love the square edges and flat display with a matte glass back cover. I also enjoy phones with color, and the Pacific Blue is lovely. There is really only one design feature I would improve and that is mentioned below.
  2. iOS 14: The latest Apple OS is more like Android -- and that's a great thing -- with useful widgets, updated app launcher, and more. It's also the small things like quickly sharing Wi-Fi login detail with a friend who has an iPhone, asking me to turn off my upcoming alarm once the phone recognizes I am up and using the phone and no longer need the alarm, Smart Stack capability with widgets, enhanced Messages experience, and much more.
  3. 5G and Qualcomm modem: In the past, iPhones have always been worse than Samsung phones for cellular reception, but that is no longer the case with the latest iPhones with Qualcomm modems inside. 5G has been fast, and even more importantly, it's provided coverage in areas where I previously had no cellular signal.
  4. Camera experience: I'll dive deeper into the cameras in the future, but it's easy to capture and rely on great shots with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in hand. Today's flagship smartphone cameras are all pretty great, but Apple offers one of the most consistent and simple experiences for the masses while bringing some native advanced functionality as well.
  5. All-day battery life: I never even think about my iPhone battery, even when out and about hiking or traveling all day. The lowest level I recall seeing on it was something like 30% after a day of shooting photos and using the phone quite heavily.
  6. Face ID: Even in this period of time when we wear face masks a lot, I still find the flawless experience of Face ID to unlock my iPhone and get me into secure applications the best security experience on a phone.
  7. MagSafe: I've been trying out some Apple MagSafe cases, and the simple wallet attachment is awesome and practical. I also like that wireless charging seems to be more reliable, and I plan to continue exploring MagSafe accessory options.

Also: Apple iPhone 12 review: 5G, improved reception, and iOS 14 widgets challenge Android phones

As much as I like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, there are some things I would love to see from Apple in the future. Most of these are features found on Android phones now, including:

  • New ringer switch design: Maybe it's my big fingers, but I have a very difficult time manipulating the tiny ringer switch and seeing whether it is flipped to on or off. Maybe a handy slider like we see on OnePlus phones would be a better design element.
  • Reverse wireless charging: This may be a simple convenience, but given the long battery life of the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the fact that I've forgotten to charge my Apple Watch 6 a few times, I would love to see this Samsung capability come to future iPhones. It could also be used to top off AirPods on the go.
  • Apple Pencil support: I love that Samsung added S Pen capability to the S21 Ultra, even if the stylus isn't stored with the phone. It would be great to jot down notes on the big iPhone 12 Pro Max display.
  • Increased telephoto capability: Samsung's new dual telephoto camera system sets the bar for a zoom experience, and I would love to see a more significant optical zoom capability in a future iPhone.

There is a lot to cover in the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and I will continue to dive deep and use it as my daily driver. Stay tuned for articles taking a close look at the cameras, Siri Shortcuts, LiDAR, and more. Let me know if you have any other specific areas you want further discussed or explored on Apple's best iPhone.

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