iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max – Which Should You Get?

By Michael Grothaus •  Updated: 10/28/20 •  8 min read

It’s time for the iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison! Apple’s 2020 iPhone series has arrived. The new lineup features four phones: the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro max. For many people, the iPhone 12 will be the phone that most hits the “sweet spot.” It’s got a beautiful, big display and powerful CPU, while also being a reasonable cost–for an Apple flagship, that is.

However, some people who would buy an iPhone 12 without thinking may first want to take a serious look at the biggest iPhone Apple has ever made: the iPhone 12 Pro Max. You’re not only getting a bigger display. The Max has one major advantage over the iPhone 12. But just what is it? And how do the two phones compare overall? Read on…

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Quick Comparison

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max – Which Should You Get?
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What’s sticking is the lack of design differences between the two phones. Yes, they do use different materials in their bodies, but overall their design is very similar. That is, both phones have an all-screen design and feature Face ID, Apple’s advanced biometric authentication system.

As for what is different in design between the two, the iPhone 12 Pro Max features a glass and stainless steel frame, and the iPhone 12 features a glass and aluminum frame. The stainless steel does give the iPhone 12 Pro Max a cool shine, but some people find the look of the aluminum frame on the iPhone 12 more aesthetically pleasing.

Winner? iPhone 12 Pro Max – The stainless steel frame use look more elegant. Plus the color options are more refined. And that “Pacific Blue” of the Max looks way better than the iPhone 12’s “Blue” color.

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It should be obvious, the most noticeable difference between the two iPhones is their size. The iPhone 12 isn’t a tiny device by any means–its display measures in at 6.1in. However, when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it does look tiny.

That’s because the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a beast. It’s the largest iPhone Apple has ever made, coming in at 6.7in. That’s almost tablet-sized. But besides the slightly better resolution of the iPhone 12 Pro Max (due to its larger size), other features of the displays are the same (both are OLED, etc).

Winner? Draw – It’s true the Pro Max has the bigger display, but for all other intents and purposes, the display tech in the two phones are nearly identical.


Another area where the two phones are identical is in their CPU and processing power. That’s because the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 use the EXACT same processor: Apple’s A14. The A14 is a powerhouse, no doubt about it.

However, just know that both phones have it–so don’t think you’re going to get a better CPU with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Winner? Draw – You wouldn’t think they would, but both the Pro Max and the regular iPhone 12 have the exact same processor.

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max – Which Should You Get?
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The biggest difference between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 comes in the camera department. Well, to a degree. You see, both phones have the same front selfie camera. Each iPhone has a 12MP selfie camera.

But the rea cameras are vastly different. That’s because the iPhone 12 features a dual-lens 12MP wide and ultra-wide setup. It also has 2x optical zoom out. However, the iPhone 12 Pro Max one-ups the iPhone 12 by adding a third lens. The iPhone 12 Pro Max’s triple-lens features a 12MP wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto system. It also features 2.5x optical zoom in and 2x optical zoom out. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also includes a LiDAR scanner for better Night mode shots.

Winner? iPhone 12 Pro Max – ThePro Max candidly beats the iPhone 12 here. The triple-lens system is nothing short of amazing. And that LiDAR scanner means your low-light pics will be much clearer.

Storage Options

Unsurprisingly the iPhone 12 Pro Max has better storage options. Each storage option the iPhone 12 comes in is doubled on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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Battery Life

Both iPhones have impressive battery life, however, the iPhone 12 Pro Max gets you a whopping 20 hours of battery life. The iPhone 12? “Just” 17 hours. On the plus side, both iPhones feature wireless MagSafe charging.

Winner? iPhone 12 Pro Max – You get an extra three hours of battery life.

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max – Which Should You Get?
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Both phones are incredible for their respective classes. Each features 5G support, the A14 Bionic chipset, nearly all-day battery life, and wireless charging with MagSafe.

However, the Pro Max has a better industrial design thanks to its stainless steel frame. Its color options are also superior. But the real reason the Pro Max win is because of its amazing rear camera array. The triple-lens system hand idle beats the dual-lens system found on the iPhone 12. That telephoto lens is something travelers are really going to enjoy. And with that new LiDAR scanner, the Pro Max will take vastly superior Night Mode shots.

Of course, the Pro Max cannot beat the iPhone 12 on price. The iPhone 12 is vastly cheaper. But the good news also, is, you don’t have to choose only between the iPhone 12 or the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple also makes the iPhone 12 Pro, which is the same size as the iPhone 12, but features the better camera found on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s something to keep in mind, anyway.

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iPhone 12 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro: Specs

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max – Which Should You Get?
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Here are the specs for the iPhone 12:

And here are the specs for the iPhone 12 Pro Max:

More? Check out how the iPhone 12 compares to the iPhone SE (2020) here.

Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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