Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max goes to Disneyland

apple iphone 15 pro max

Disneyland offers the ability to test the capabilities of the battery, screen, radio and other features in a relatively high-stakes situation. If you’re spending a ton of hard-earned cash to squeeze the most amount of family joy out of a few days of vacation, you need your phone to work flawlessly, deliver high-quality images and video to preserve the memories, and to last as long as possible on its battery charge.

After a hiatus last year, I was able to get back to my favorite testing ground with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro Max. For the most part, I used the larger model, because it has the most clever camera and, I feel, the most obviously clear “this is the one to get” potential since the iPhone lineup expanded to multiple models.

I had two days and some change to drag the phones through the parks capturing video, making purchases, using them as virtual tickets and vacation planners for reservations, coordinating a friends and family group and more.

Each year’s review brings new surprises, even when you’ve got 15 years of hardware review experience. And this year’s iPhone cycle hit me with some of the biggest shocks I’ve ever had in this business. Which is nice, because this is probably my last year doing it.

I’ve had a hell of a fun time getting to test these things a bit early, and have always taken my responsibility as your avatar seriously. I want to get them out into real life and get a real handle on their perks and pitfalls and deliver you a review that gives you the specs in context, as well as a general vibe.

It’s been a privilege. I hope you get some value and enjoyment out of this review and the rad little short film we made for you.


This year’s iPhones bring a lovely blend of the design languages Apple has employed since the first iPhone’s release in 2007. The flat edges are leavened in a really nice way by the large radius bullnose that transitions you from the titanium rim onto the ceramic glass front and back – a blend of the original iPhone’s pill shape and the drama of the iPhone 4’s flat-sided slab. They feel really, really good in the bare state, which makes it a shame that most people will obviously slap cases on them right away.

Though this review focuses on the iPhone 15 Pro models, I think it’s worth mentioning here that – even though the early reception is muted on the palette of colors – the iPhone 15’s frosted glass backs are really well done from an execution and color theory perspective. These do not play well in photographs – especially Apple’s high-contrast photography – but they look great in person. They’re subtle, sophisticated and well done. I know bolder colors would have played better from a distance, but up close I think a lot of folks are going to really love the mint and pink shades especially.

On the iPhone 15 Pro front, the PVD-coated titanium rims are also solidly executed. Yeah, some of the colors will pick up fingerprints quickly, but the finish is a really nicely restrained brushed execution across the lineup. The blue color that I tested is great, and throws off a bunch of different shades between the lens rims, the flat camera housing, the sides of the raised glass, the matte part of the back and the titanium rim. Really impressive execution that feels a lot deeper than the simple painted glass backs of a few years ago.

The USB-C port is mostly a non-event in terms of using them while mobile in the parks or in the hotels. Almost all hotel chargers are either still USB-A or they’ve got USB-C, as well as Lightning dongles built into them.

One factor that most early adopters will run into though is that if your other family members or kids have older phones, you’re constantly going to be trying to slip a Lightning cable into your USB-C slot, at least for a while as the older devices make their way through your family pipeline and into the used market or a recycling program. I carry a couple of portable batteries for the family in my pack and I had more than a handful of wrong-cord situations.

The addition of the Action Button is a really great quality of life improvement. I will personally likely be extremely basic about it and use the camera/shutter button option for the most part, but even that is super nice already. Pulling my phone out of my pocket with one hand while the other one is on a stroller or holding my kid’s hand and being able to activate the camera and shoot a picture without moving any fingers or adjusting my grip is a “sold” situation already.


It was interesting watching the public consensus roll out after Apple’s recent iPhone event that it was “boring” and didn’t deliver anything truly exciting. I think that in many ways this result is unsurprising and sort of a byproduct of the Apple engine being geared in a certain way for so long. They have this huge product at the center of their ecosystem and it demands this kind of launch no matter what.

At the same time, the outer bounds of the product are relatively established. Without an extra widget to strap to the outside, it becomes a game of how clearly Apple can communicate with its audience just how much work was being done inside those bounds to make the thing they use every day that much better.

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