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5 phones you should buy instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro Max lying on the ground surrounded by leaves.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max is one of the top choices for a premium smartphone. It offers the latest and greatest from Apple, including the new A17 Pro chip, a fantastic camera system, a lightweight titanium body, the Action button, and USB-C charging. It’s a great package.

But there’s no doubt about it — the iPhone 15 Pro Max is also quite expensive, with a starting price of $1,200. It’s also not the only option out there if you want the best smartphone on the market, especially if you aren’t particularly invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Before you go off and buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max, here are five other phones you should consider buying instead.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in Titanium Orange.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in Titanium Orange Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The most obvious alternative to Apple’s top-tier iPhone comes from Samsung with the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

With the S24 Ultra, you have an even larger 6.8-inch LTPO AMOLED 2X display that has every spec imaginable. It has a dynamic refresh rate that ranges from 1Hz to 120Hz, supports HDR10+, a 1440 x 3120-pixel resolution with 505 pixel-per-inch (ppi), and reaches a max brightness of 2,600 nits. Just looking at the display alone, the S24 Ultra is already better than the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which has only 460 ppi and reaches 2,000 nits peak brightness. In practice, the S24 Ultra’s display also looks downright incredible.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra also has one of the most impressive quad-camera systems out there. You have a 200-megapixel main shooter, a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, a 50MP telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultrawide camera. Even though the iPhone 15 Pro Max can do 5x optical zoom, the S24 Ultra still one-ups it with the higher resolution and dual telephoto lenses, which results in more detailed close-up shots. Plus, a 200MP main shooter is simply one of the best on the market.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and S Pen stylus on its screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are other advantages to the S24 Ultra, too. Inside, you have the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy processor, optimized specially for Galaxy devices. This means slightly overclocked processing speeds and better power efficiency. You also have 12GB RAM to go along with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, so performance is blazing fast and never skips a beat.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery can easily last at least a day and a half with moderate to heavy usage. It also charges up at 45W wired speeds and 15W wireless speeds. Plus, there’s 4.5W reverse wireless charging—something the iPhone 15 Pro Max does not have.

Another big advantage of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is its S Pen integration, which is convenient for navigating the device, sketching, and jotting down notes. It can also be used as a remote control, which is super convenient for things like a remote shutter button. The iPhone 15 Pro Max? It doesn’t have anything like the S Pen.

Though it’s not for everyone, Samsung’s Galaxy AI features are a big selling point for the S24 lineup. These features include useful things like Live Translation, Circle to Search, and even generative photo editing tools. Some other features aren’t as useful, like Chat Assist, but having the latest AI-powered tools can make life easier.

You’ll pay a pretty penny for the Galaxy S24 Ultra — $1,300, to be exact — but if you’re OK dipping your toes into the Android world, it’s an incredible iPhone 15 Pro Max alternative.

OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 Flowy Emerald leaning on a park bench.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

If you want something different from the very mainstream Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy devices, OnePlus has some great options for less money. This includes the company’s latest release, the OnePlus 12.

The OnePlus 12 has a gorgeous 6.8-inch LTPO AMOLED display with 510 ppi density and a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate. The display also features curved edges to help provide an even more immersive experience. Of course, this does mean that you may have some accidental touches and actions due to the curved edges, but it just takes some time to get used to.

OnePlus makes phones with impressive specs, and the OnePlus 12 is no exception. Inside, you have the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, as well as either 12GB or 16GB RAM, depending on the storage option you pick. This is definitely more than the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 8GB RAM, so the OnePlus 12 is a clear performance beast.

If you want a great smartphone camera, the OnePlus 12 has that, too. It has a 50MP main camera, a 64MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 48MP ultrawide camera. The selfie camera is also 32MP, which is higher than most of the competition. To top everything off, the OnePlus 12 has Hasselblad color tuning for better overall color profiles and white balance in photos for realistic results.

Lastly, the OnePlus 12 has incredible stamina when it comes to battery life. The 5,400mAh battery can easily last around two days, and it even has fast 80W wired speed charging and 50W wireless charging. The best part? You get all of that for a starting price of $800 — $400 less than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Google Pixel 8 Pro

Someone holding the Bay blue Google Pixel 8 Pro.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

If you want a clean and simple stock Android phone without any extra UI tweaks, then you should consider the Google Pixel 8 Pro.

With Pixel devices, you get a pure stock Android experience, similar to iOS. The Pixel 8 Pro uses Google’s custom Tensor G3 chip for better performance and power efficiency than previous Pixels. Though prior generations of the Tensor chip have had overheating issues, they’ve been drastically reduced on the G3. Plus, with 12GB RAM, it doesn’t have any issues with whatever you happen to throw at it.

The Pixel 8 Pro also has fantastic camera hardware. You get a 50MP main camera, a 48MP ultrawide camera, and a 48MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom capabilities. For selfies, it has a 10.5MP front-facing camera. While it may not be as high as the S24 Ultra, the Pixel 8 Pro excels at capturing realistic, true-to-life photos. It’s hard to take a bad photo with a Pixel device, and that absolutely holds true for the Pixel 8 Pro.

The Pixel 8 Pro is also a good choice for a smartphone with AI smarts. Want to remove unwanted objects in your images or move people around? The Magic Editor has you covered. Need to call your cable company to talk to a customer service rep? The Pixel 8 Pro can make the call for you and hold your spot in line until someone is available to talk to you.

Google launched the Pixel 8 Pro for $999 last October, but it’s often discounted to even less these days — making it a great choice if you want a flagship phone that’ll go easy on your wallet.

iPhone 15 Pro

Blue Titanium (left) and Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pros on a concrete bench.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Okay, look — the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a great phone, and some people will always use Apple devices, but that size is just a little bit … unwieldy. If that’s you, then you may want to take a look at the smaller iPhone 15 Pro.

The iPhone 15 Pro offers mostly the same features as the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It has a 120Hz ProMotion always-on display, an A17 Pro chip, 8GB RAM, an Action button, and USB-C charging. It also has a triple-lens camera system, so you can still take great photos and videos.

The main difference is that the iPhone 15 Pro has a much more manageable 6.1-inch display, which is easier to use one-handed. The iPhone 15 Pro also doesn’t have the new tetraprism telephoto lens in the Pro Max model, so it still only does 3x rather than 5x optical zoom. Also, since the iPhone 15 Pro is more compact, it has a smaller battery, so it won’t last as long as the Pro Max. But if you have a great battery pack with you, then I’m sure you’ll manage just fine.

The Android smartphone world has ample iPhone 15 Pro Max alternatives, but if you want an iPhone, give the regular iPhone 15 Pro a shot. You get most of the same features as the 15 Pro Max, it’ll be easier on your hands, and you’ll save some cash in the process. What’s not to like about that?

iPhone 15 Plus

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you really want a large iPhone like the iPhone 15 Pro Max but want to save some money, consider the iPhone 15 Plus instead.

With the iPhone 15 Plus, you still get the large 6.7-inch display size, though the Plus model is just a regular OLED display that caps out at a 60Hz refresh rate, and it’s not always on. Even so, you still get that large screen estate, and sometimes, that’s what really matters. The iPhone 15 Plus also has a larger battery, so it should last you through the entire day and then some.

Apple gave the regular iPhone 15 models a big boost this year by bringing the Dynamic Island, a 48MP main camera, and USB-C charging as well. The iPhone 15 Plus doesn’t have a telephoto lens, but it still has a great dual camera system. And while it only has the A16 Bionic chip that debuted in the iPhone 14 Pro, it’s still a very fast and powerful chip that should be more than enough to get through your daily tasks.

Though the iPhone 15 Plus doesn’t have a titanium design like the iPhone 15 Pro Max does, Apple did change up the back glass. Instead of being glossy, Apple switched over to a new, color-infused, frosted matte glass finish. It is much more comfortable to hold, doesn’t attract fingerprints as much, and just looks really nice overall. While the colors are mostly muted, the pink one looks fantastic.

The best part, though, is that the iPhone 15 Plus starts at just $899. It’s a lot more affordable than the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and you still get the benefit of a large display, long battery life, a 48MP camera, the Dynamic Island, iOS 17, and USB-C charging — all while saving a few hundred bucks.

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