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What have we learned about the iPhone 15?
They're faster, stronger, take better pictures, and charge easier. So... exactly what we were expecting?
A lot of people count down to Apple’s yearly event when the new iPhones come out, but not me: I count down until the embargo lifts on the devices and reviewers can share their thoughts on what it’s like to use them. That’s ultimately what matters to me. Being a tech journalist, I’m always curious to hear what my peers have to say, and I’m far from the biggest fan of marketing copy and talking points that executives like to regurgitate over and over again when talking about their new products.
What matters to me—and what’s the most beneficial to consumers—are the reviews themselves. What are they like to use in real life? Do they have any weird quirks that we should be concerned with? Are any of the new features up to Apple’s promises? What about camera quality, battery life, and performance? Is that of that good, or is it the same as last year?
It’s Review Day, and the subsequent weeks that follow, when we get answers to those questions. And I had a lot going into the iPhone 15 cycle, like whether the cameras would have meaningful upgrades over the iPhone 14 and if battery life has gotten any better. I was also curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on the Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro, as well as the charging experience with USB-C.
In my head, I guessed how reviewers would react to these sectors of the iPhone 15 experience, and while fully acknowledging I can’t prove it in any way, most of my predictions were correct. These are iPhones for iPhone’s sake, not a reinvention of the modern smartphone or a complete overhaul of the form factor.
They’re incremental, while not being incremental at all. They’re vastly different from last year, yet somehow feeling all too familiar at the same time.
I say all this without having used any of the new iPhones in my everyday life; my iPhone 15 Pro doesn’t come until Friday, and I haven’t demoed any at a carrier store or Apple location. I’m simply judging by what my fellow reviewers have stated, and it all makes total sense.
These are the new iPhones for this year, which makes them the best iPhones ever. Surprised?
Here’s what we’ve learned
They feel thinner and smaller, when they really aren’t
Both the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro feel like they’re thinner and slightly smaller than their predecessors, according to reviewers, but they really aren’t.
Okay, well, that might not be totally true. If you look at the dimensions of each phone, Apple has shaved off a 100th of an inch here and there, depending on the phone you’re looking at. But the illusion primarily comes down to the sides and bezels. Apple contoured the edges of every iPhone 15 model so that it sits more comfortably in your hand, while the bezels have been trimmed for a more modern aesthetic.
Reviewers seem to dig these attributes of the iPhone. But if we’re talking about their favorite design changes, it’s probably the titanium build of the 15 Pro and Pro Max: both are dramatically lighter than their predecessors. Weight was an issue on the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max due to their inclusion of stainless steel, and by the looks of it, the 15 Pro’s reduced weight thanks to its transition to Grade 5 titanium is a huge hit.
Plus, it’s more durable and is separate from the rear glass, which helps make it more repairable than the 14 Pro. Cool, right?
Performance is better across the board
Both the standard iPhone 15 and 15 Pro got processor bumps, which means better performance for all.
For the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, it’s the A16 Bionic chip, which debuted last year in the iPhone 14 Pro. It’s a very capable processor, one that can still beat most flagship Android phones in both real-world performance and benchmarks.
In the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, you get Apple’s 3-nanometer A17 Pro chipset, which reviews say gives you the very best performance from an iPhone ever (obviously). It also seemed that gaming performance was up to snuff, just as Apple promised, although we’re still waiting for certain games to come out to really put it through the ringer.
The 5x zoom on the 15 Pro Max seems to be a hit, but not as much as portrait mode
Good news—the camera section of each review seems to be really positive. The new 48MP cameras across both the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro series seem to be excellent performers in every lighting condition, particularly thanks to the new default 24MP resolution which captures more detail than before. The 5x telephoto camera on the 15 Pro Max is also a great addition, with reliable quality and stabilization.
But I’m not sure any of this was as excessively praised as the new portrait mode features, which let you add a blurry background after you’ve taken a standard photo using machine learning. Reviewers loved the ability to turn any picture they wanted into a portrait, as well as the ability to readjust where the blur was positioned. It’s a feature I’ll be paying close attention to when I review the 15 Pro.
The Action button needs to have more… action
On the iPhone 15 Pro, it seemed that people were fine with the Action button replacing the physical mute switch. After all, its default action is to do just that—mute your phone.
But a lot of reviewers pointed out that it could do more. Many asked for something like a double-press to program another function, in conjunction with the long-press gesture. I’m totally in favor of this: I would want my Action button to mute my phone with a long press and open a Shortcut or trigger the flashlight with a double-press.
Maybe Apple will add it to a future iOS 17 update. Who knows.
USB-C is appreciated by all, while battery life seems to be the same
In case you were worried, no, no one actually misses Lightning. Every reviewer had something nice to say about the USB-C ports added to the iPhone 15 series, albeit while listing off some of the shortcomings of the particular ports Apple included.
For instance, you only get USB 2 data speeds on the iPhone 15 and USB 3 speeds on the 15 Pro. You also don’t get faster charging: the iPhone 15 Pro still maxes out at 27W, which is a shame. Still, many point out how convenient it is to carry around one cable to charge all your stuff, and regardless of whether a government entity is forcing Apple to include the port or not, that’s reason in and of itself to make the switch to USB-C.
While on the subject of charging and power, battery life appears to be the same for the regular 15 and 15 Pro, perhaps with a slight improvement depending on your usage. Meanwhile, the 15 Plus and 15 Pro Max are the best for endurance, with the 15 Plus being particularly impressive. In some tests, it could last a couple more hours than the 14 Plus before dying.
Reviewers have only had the phones for a few days, so it’s hard to take any of what’s been published with something more than a grain of salt. That being said, at least the battery life story appears to be relatively positive for Apple’s new phones.
Oh, one more note on battery and charging: you can use the USB-C port to charge other devices like AirPods or your Apple Watch, as well as Android phones. MKBHD did a test with the included USB-C cable and found that any device with USB PD can be recharged using your iPhone, while others will be recognized as an accessory.
Reviews I’ve been reading/watching
Here are some of the reviews I’ve been reading and watching all day which I recommend checking out for the full iPhone 15 and 15 Pro picture.
iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max
iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus
As more reviews are published, I’ll update these lists to highlight my favorites.
My iPhone 15 Pro review
Obviously, I won’t be leaving you hanging with a bunch of other people’s reviews, although I fully encourage reading/watching them. My iPhone 15 Pro should arrive at the end of the week, at which point I’ll begin my review process to see whether the smaller Pro model is worth picking up.
If you want to know why I decided to order the 15 Pro and not the larger 15 Pro Max, I refer you to my previous posts.
Stay tuned, dear reader—iPhone season is officially underway.