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Home / Features / The iPhone 17 Pro Max will be Apple’s thinnest ever – here’s why I think that would be a mistake

The iPhone 17 Pro Max will be Apple’s thinnest ever – here’s why I think that would be a mistake

The mega thin iPhone 17 Pro Max is currently a rumour. Let’s hope it stays that way

Very thin iPhone that doesn't actually exist

No-one was asking for a thinner iPad Pro! No-one was asking for a lighter iPad Pro! I’ve seen variations on both of those since Apple announced its skinnier tablet – including in mainstream tech media reviews. Either is quite the claim.

First off, such grumbles are plain wrong. Many people had long hoped Apple would make a more svelte tablet. Much as I adore the M2 iPad Pro I use daily, it can be unwieldy. That’s because I use it like a tablet, on the sofa, tapping out music in Korg Gadget and Logic Pro and scribbling away in Procreate. At some point, my iPad-holding arm sends word to my brain (usually by helpfully reigniting my RSI) that, yes, someone really does want a lighter iPad Pro – me.

I imagine many arguing the opposite case (and simultaneously griping that they’d prefer the new iPad’s battery life to match a MacBook’s) should be using a MacBook, because presumably they’re using the iPad like one. That said, my membership of Team Thinner and Lighter has its limits – notably when rumours surface that Apple will apply the same line of thinking to the iPhone 17 Pro Max.

Winner winner iPad thinner

Apple Pippin. Resolutely not the thinnest product the company ever made.

The thinner iPad Pro M4? I get it. I mean, it was weird Apple chose to compare it to an iPad nano. That’s a deep cut. What next? “Our new iPhone has even more buttons than an Apple Pippin”? But, hey, it helped Apple visually showcase that it had unleashed its thinnest product ever. (At least if you ignore the camera bump. And Apple always does.)

But this isn’t just marketing. A lighter iPad is easier to hold and use. And, sure, had its battery life equalled that of a MacBook rather than the 2022 iPad Pro, that would have been nice. But it doesn’t strike me as vital. It’s difficult to make the same argument for a thinner iPhone 17 Pro Max.

Compromising iPhone battery life – or even saying it isn’t worse than it was last year – feels dangerous in a market of competing phones with colossal batteries and increasingly demanding iPhone use cases. RONCH RONCH RONCH goes the battery as the phone gulps down 5G. Or you have the audacity to play a game or scroll on social media apps designed by sociopaths. Or use your Pro Max to the ‘pro max’ by shooting high-end video.

At that point, you’d give anything for a few more hours over a few fewer millimetres. It defeats the object of skinnifying a phone and shaving 42g off its weight if users then need to lug a battery pack around.

Design of the times

We’d be quite happy if this remained the second-thinnest Apple device ever. (Pic: Aconcagua.)

That’s not to say I’ll argue no-one is asking for a thinner – or lighter – iPhone 17 Pro Max. Plenty of people are. But selling one would be a strange decision for Apple, and make me question whether its priorities are in the right place.

A thinner iPhone wouldn’t be inherently more pocketable. An iPhone Pro Max will always be a massive slab of metal and glass. In the hand, only people who moonlight as callipers will notice a reduction from 8ish to 5ish millimetres. There will still be a massive camera bump. (Apple: “Do NOT mention the camera bump!”) And if it – like the new iPad Pro – ends up thinner than a typical charging cable, that’ll make things interesting for case designers.

There was a time when Apple’s obsession with thin gave us MacBooks that could double as weapons for ninjas, but with keyboards people hated. You genuinely wondered if Jony Ive wouldn’t be satisfied until devices were so thin they couldn’t be seen side-on – apart from the camera bump. (Apple: “DO NOT, etc!”) It was a curious metric to focus on, and only makes sense in very specific circumstances. iPad? Yes. iPhone? No.

Natch, this might just be the latest in a never-ending stream of Apple rumours that never amount to anything. I hope so. And at least this one about a thinner iPhone 17 hasn’t revived speculation about an upcoming, genuinely pocketable iPhone. After all, we do know no-one was asking for a smaller iPhone. Or at least no-one that mattered to Apple.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor

About

I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

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