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The iPhone Pro Max Should Take Cues From the iPad

Commentary: I want more ways to make better use of the iPhone Pro Max's large screen.

Apple's iPhone 13 Pro Max with Apple logo
The iPhone 13 Pro Max should inherit some iPad features for its big screen.
James Martin/CNET

The 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max are the biggest devices in Apple's smartphone lineup. Although both phones are considerably larger than the standard 6.1-inch iPhone 13, 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini and 4.7-inch iPhone SE, they still run the same software as Apple's smaller phones. If only there were more ways to make use of the Pro Max's giant screen. 

Luckily, there are. Apple should draw inspiration from the iPhone's larger cousin, the iPad. Apple's tablets are loaded with extra features that make apps easier to use on a larger screen. The company even renamed the iPad's operating system iPadOS in 2019 to distinguish it from the iPhone's iOS. The iPad's interface had evolved so much by that point, it no longer made sense to lump both sets of software together.

I'm not suggesting something as drastic as a rebranding to "Pro Max OS." But I do think both Apple and its customers could benefit from new features that are designed specifically for larger iPhones. That could be all the more important as Apple is rumored to be expanding its Pro Max line with a bigger version of the iPhone 14 later this year. 

Doing so wouldn't be simple. Modifications would need to be made to bring iPad-specific features like multitasking to the iPhone Pro Max. But Apple already has a history of tailoring apps and software to specific products, as it proved with the original iPad and Apple Watch. So I'd trust it to do the same in this case. 

Here are the iPad features I think would translate well to the iPhone Pro Max. 

Multitasking

Slide Over lets you open another iPad app in a column along the side of the screen.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

The iPhone Pro Max's large screen is great for focusing on a single app, like reading or watching TV. But I'd love to see a version of the iPad's multitasking capabilities on the iPhone Pro Max, too. Being able to view more than one app at a time could prevent me from needing to switch between apps so often. 

Apple offers two main options for running multiple apps on the iPad's display: Split View and Slide Over. The first is self-explanatory; it lets you divide the screen between two apps. Android phones have offered a split-screen mode for years. Slide Over is a bit different. Instead of splitting the screen, you can open an app in a floating panel that can be positioned on either side of the screen.

If Apple were to bring any of these features to the iPhone Pro Max, I think Slide Over would be the most useful. Compared with Split View mode, it's a better way to make use of a smartphone-size screen. You'd be able to dedicate most of the screen to one app while quickly checking another. I'd love to glance at my Slack messages in a column along the side of my screen while using most of the iPhone's display to catch up on emails. 

This is an example of an iPad feature that Apple would likely have to tweak significantly for the iPhone rather than bringing over the current version. The iPhone Pro Max is big for a phone, but it's still small compared with an iPad -- even the iPad Mini. 

iPhone screen showing widgets

Widgets on the iPhone can show a lot of information at a glance. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

One way Apple could make this work is by formatting Slide Over apps like interactive widgets that you can view while running another app. Widgets are already designed to display a lot of information in a space that only occupies a fraction of your phone's screen. As such, it's easy to imagine widget-like Slide Over apps that you can pin to any corner of the iPhone Pro Max's display.

Still, getting the iPad's multitasking features on the iPhone Pro Max is a longshot. Part of the iPhone's appeal is that the software is consistent no matter which model you own, so I doubt Apple will jeopardize that. In the meantime, we are stuck with the handful of existing iPhone Pro Max-specific features that were actually introduced for the iPhone 6 Plus. For example, default apps like Mail and Messages take advantage of the iPhone Pro Max's larger display in landscape mode to show a column of message previews alongside the currently viewed message.

We won't be getting any new iPhone Pro Max-specific multitasking features in iOS 16, Apple's new iPhone software update arriving this fall. But the update will introduce a revamped lock screen with widgets for seeing more information at a glance. While the new lock screen is available across all supported models, I imagine it will add some extra utility to the Pro Max's larger display. 

A mini Apple Pencil

Someone drawing on an iPad Pro 2018 with an Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil isn't compatible with the iPhone, but it should be. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, I know Steve Jobs famously ridiculed the idea of using a stylus with a mobile device. But hear me out. The Apple Pencil has proven itself to be a valuable iPad companion over the last several years. Now, it's time to bring it to the iPhone Pro Max as an optional accessory. 

I'm not alone in wishing for an iPhone-compatible Apple Pencil. My colleague Patrick Holland has been begging for an Apple Pencil since he reviewed the iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2020, saying a MagSafe Apple Pencil would be "a killer accessory."

First, consider the iPhone Pro Max's audience. It's for people who are willing to pay top dollar for the biggest screen and best camera available on an iPhone. The Apple Pencil seems like a natural addition to the Pro Max, both for photographers and those who just want a giant screen. 

I imagine those who frequently touch up photos on their phone would benefit from editing with a stylus that's more precise than their finger, especially since popular apps like Adobe Lightroom and Pixelmator have Apple Pencil support. An iPhone-friendly Apple Pencil could also appeal to those who often take notes or mark up documents using their phones. The rumored iPhone 14 Max, which would be a 6.7-inch version of the standard iPhone, would benefit as well from an optional pencil accessory. 

The success of Samsung's Galaxy Note line (which has now been consolidated into the Galaxy S Ultra family) also suggests there's an audience for styluses. I have to admit I don't find myself using the Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen very often. But it has come in handy for jotting down notes during meetings or quickly capturing thoughts when I'm writing a review and happen to be away from my computer. 

Again, it wouldn't make sense to just expand the current Apple Pencil's compatibility to the iPhone Pro Max. Instead, Apple should design a smaller version of the Pencil with a smaller tip that's better suited for a phone-size screen. 

A win for Apple and its customers

The iPhone 13 Pro Max, Pro 13 and 13 Mini lined up left to right

The iPhone 13 Pro Max (far left) is Apple's biggest iPhone. 

Patrick Holland/CNET

With or without these features, the iPhone Pro Max is already a hit. The iPhone 12 Pro Max was the world's second-best-selling phone in 2021, according to data from Counterpoint Research

There's clearly a demand for larger iPhones, as evidenced by rumors that Apple will replace the iPhone Mini with another 6.7-inch iPhone this year. 

But why not do more with the Pro Max? It would be a great way for Apple to further distinguish the Pro Max from its smaller and less expensive iPhones. The additional software features would also give owners more for the price, while a Pencil would provide Apple with another opportunity to make money from current iPhone Pro Max owners. It seems like a win-win scenario.

The iPhone Pro Max's lack of multitasking and Apple Pencil support aren't necessarily shortcomings. But it feels like Apple is missing an opportunity.