Hey friends, Andrew here – hope you’re well.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that we’ve reached peak iPhone and incremental changes have to be expected.
But after 100 hours using the new iPhone 15 Pro, I am pleasantly surprised. There’s definitely more to this new iPhone than meets the eye but yet, there’s quite a few things that make it fall short and really make some Android flagship phones more desirable.
In this review after some serious real life usage with the new iPhone, I’ll share what I’ve disliked, what I’ve liked and if I think it’s worth the upgrade.
If you’ve ever read my reviews you’ll know I like to use the devices for at least a couple of weeks and then start off the honest review with the negatives first.
As the tradition goes, my first gripe with the iPhone 15 Pro is the battery life, which hasn’t improved and that’s unfortunate.
The iPhone 15 Pro gets treated to this amazing new 3 nanometer chip, the A17 Pro, but the chip is optimized 100% for performance and no aspect of it is used to help increase battery life.
And you might ask, how do you expect a chip to improve battery life – it’s a complex topic but the basic explanation is newer chipsets do the same work faster, with less energy and less heat. I thought the major efficiency improvements of the A17 Pro chip would bring battery life improvements and it doesn’t.
I’ve been getting the exact same 10 to 12 hours of use before it needs a charge. It gets me through the day, but barely and that’s even though the milliamp per hour has gone up to 3,274 from 3,200.
In fact, the far more affordable iPhone 15 Plus outperforms even the Pro Max in runtime, which has a 39 milliamp bigger battery, because the Plus uses the older A16 Bionic chip, how disappointing is that? But, the batteries are now made with 100% recycled cobalt so that’s a plus I guess.
Forget about the battery, what about the camera? Well the 15 Pro received only minor changes. You have a 48MP main camera, and then you also have an ultra-wide and a 3X zoom camera.
There is a new anti reflective coating that helps reduce lens flare and the ability to now turn a regular photo into a portrait mode shot afterwards, which previously wasn’t possible on the 14 Pro
I was disappointed to find out that the new focal lengths are really just software adjustments: tap the 1x button and you see the focal lengths which are essentially software improved crop in modes capturing a specific range of the processor. It’s nice to have but hardly innovative.
What is new is exclusive to the 15 Pro Max: the 5x telephoto camera, a feature that would be useful to most users. I personally think it should be a Pro feature and not a “bigger phone only” type feature, but the larger size apparently enables the telephoto camera to be implemented with the internal reflective design.
The camera bump by the way, is as big as ever so just like the iPhone 14, be careful sitting your iPhone 15 on its backside on uneven surfaces.
Next, and I hate to say this: I haven’t found the action button all that useful. I’ve used it the entire couple of weeks and I’m not convinced it’s more than just another button, one that can only be mapped to a single function.
You can program this button in settings to do almost anything with Shortcuts, but I feel like we’d get a ton more use out of this new button if Apple just gave this button 3 custom uses: one with a single button press, one with a double press; and one with a long hold effectively turning this button into 3. If it adapted in functionality to the app that’s open, even better. This could be implemented as a software change so Apple, if you’re reading this, it could be an easy win!
And maybe the biggest gripe and it seems like almost everyone is thinking this too, which is this year’s iteration is just not as innovative.
Dynamic island is still dynamic island – app support still remains limited, battery life remains stagnant and the 5x optical zoom on the Pro Max still isn’t as advanced as the periscope lens of Samsung’s S23 Ultra. Also the included USB-C cable doesn’t support fast data transfer.
To expect significant improvements every year isn’t realistic anymore with Moore’s Law slowing down – which is the “law” that the capability of tech should double every year but semiconductor advancement has slowed since 2010 below the predicted speed.
Speck Phone Case
Now before we move onto the positives, I’ve been hearing a lot about how fragile this new iPhone is.
The titanium frame and new curved edges haven’t proved to give better protection in drop tests – not that they’re a reliable test.
But, it’s clear that a phone case is still one of the most important accessories. Especially if my 14 Pro is anything to go by, it was an absolute scratch magnet.
Speck is a brand that I’m sure many of you know, I’ve used their cases way back in the 2000s on my old iPhones and even iPod Touch, and Speck has now released a new collection of iPhone 15 cases with protection and functionality in mind.
I chose the Presidio2 Grip in blue to match the iPhone’s new color and it’s smooth to the touch with no-slip inverted grip, awesome for one handed usage.
It’s also been treated with Microban, which helps reduce odor and germ build up on the case.
But probably most important, the Armor Cloud Technology on this case makes this a 13-foot drop tank, thanks to pockets of air capsules throughout the case that compress and suspend the iPhone in air to help reduce the impact from any falls.
Also, the new ClickLock Technology comes in clutch to prevent MagSafe accessories from slipping like this handgrip or wallet, with an interlocking bolt function and it’s backwards compatible with the iPhone 13 and 14.
I feel like these are way more innovative than the new FineWoven cases, which have already been heavily criticized and in the growing goal of “carbon neutral”, Speck’s cases are made of 50% recycled plastics too!
If you’re getting a new iPhone and you want to check out this case, Speck is kindly giving my readers 15% off sitewide using the link with the code AEZ15.
Moving onto the positives.
There isn’t one big innovative change that stands out this year, but there are a string of brilliant smaller changes – more than I think we’re giving Apple credit for actually! Here’s the elements of the iPhone 15 Pro I’ve been loving since its launch.
For starters, there’s a critical design flaw in the iPhone 14 Pro that the 15 fixes.
If you happened to break the glass back of the 14 Pro, you either had to dismantle the entire iPhone or just replace it entirely. Usually you’d just replace the phone completely unless you had access to a specialist glass removal machine.
But now, Apple has revamped the internal architecture, adding a new structural frame that allows the back glass to be easily and more affordably replaced which is a big win for iPhone owners. Not so fun fact though: this change is exclusive to the Pro models only.
Moving on with the things I love: gone is the shiny stainless steel chassis and in is the new titanium design I’ve been quite enjoying actually. It’s both tougher and lighter – 10% lighter and in fact, I do feel the weight reduction day to day coming from the stainless steel frame of an iPhone 14 Pro.
Does it make previous non-titanium iPhones feel like a brick in a pocket, absolutely not, but it is lighter and an easier day to day carry.
Though it’s already proven by JerryRigEverything in his teardown, there’s only 1mm of titanium covering the stainless steel chassis, which equates to about $30 worth of grade 5 titanium.
I’m a big fan of the new titanium blue too, it’s extremely similar to my MacBook Air’s midnight color, which was a hue you either love or hate. But hey I love it – it’s a nice pop of subtle color without looking like Haribo candy. What do you guys think about the titanium blue color in these shots?
Though, I haven’t really noticed the new thinner bezels to be honest. You sort of just get used to it right out of the box especially if you don’t have a point of comparison. But when placed side by side here with the 14 Pro, you can see the subtle difference in that the screen stretches ever so slightly more towards its curves. But it’s really not a noticeable difference.
The titanium, new colors and thinner bezels are the superficial upgrades but what I’ve truly enjoyed are the quality of life improvements – and there’s quite a few!
Everyone knows at this point that all iPhones now finally support USB-C but the increased 10 gigabit transfer speeds on the Pro and Max models is a gamechanger.
Using the supported cables, which is not the supplied cable surprise surprise, I’ve been able to transfer large files and backup the phone significantly faster. Plus thanks to USB-C, all iPhones now support 4K HDR video mirroring to a TV with a supported USB-C to DisplayPort cable, better than screen mirroring to the Apple 4K TV.
USB-C also unlocks the ability to charge the AirPods Pro 2 with the new case or an Apple Watch from the iPhone or even connect external storage drives to the iPhone directly.
By the way, Apple has warned not to use Android cables to charge the iPhone 15 due to overheating issues. I gave it a go and didn’t have a problem but it’s worth sticking with Apple’s braided cable.
Now of course, Apple is selling a new dongle that almost everyone will need: the USB-C to lightning adapter for $29.99 – not exactly cheap but a must to get the most out of the new connection type.
Then there’s the awesome bump up in RAM from 6GB to 8GB that Apple didn’t mention and needs to be praised here. Pair the increase in RAM with the new 3 nanometer A17 Pro chip and the iPhone 15 Pro is such a joy to use, particularly on iOS17 and when multitasking – it has computer-like performance. On Geekbench results here with the iPhone 14 Pro on the left, we can see about a 10% increase up to 7,201 in the multicore test so nothing to scoff at.
Things like using Capcut to edit 4K videos or picture in picture mode watching Netflix or Apple TV while I use other apps like Safari is more responsive than ever and this is where the extra RAM and A17 chip shine most.
What is a bigger jump though is the truly incredible GPU performance, they’ve outdone themselves here. On 3D Mark, it scored 3802 on the Wild Life Extreme test and 6268 on the Solar Bay test, which is a dedicated Ray Tracing test.
I’ve been playing games like NBA 2K and Grid Motorsport on the 15 Pro and they run silky smooth. It’s incredible that the new 6 core GPU design now supports mesh shading and even ray tracing, which is a rendering technique to produce photorealistic lighting effects. To have it on a mobile phone is quite remarkable.
We’ve already seen Ubisoft game Studio saying the iPhone 15 Pro will offer mobile gamers higher resolutions, more dynamic lighting and environmental effects so only time will tell what game studios come out with. But The Division and Assassin’s Creed Mirage look promising for the iPhone. Bringing triple A games over to mobile is a good strategy because unlike the Mac, there is a big user base for iOS gaming.
If you’re big on mobile gaming – the 15 Pro gives good reason to upgrade.
To sweeten the upgrade, there’s also faster Wi-Fi 6E supported and faster 5G speeds thanks to the new Snapdragon X70 modem. The second generation Ultra Wideband chip enhances proximity based functionality, which is another nice addition. I found it funny that Apple didn’t refer to it as “U2” for obvious reasons.
You can always count on the new iteration of the iPhone being somewhat “better” than the previous, but all in all, I’ve been surprised by the upgrades in the iPhone 15 Pro
The changes this year may not be groundbreaking but they’re definite improvements: the titanium design, slimmer bezels, USB-C, custom action button and considerable leap in CPU and GPU performance.
And after 100 hours of use, these changes are substantial enough for a better experience, especially if you’re upgrading from anything older than a 13 Pro.
If you want the more affordable alternative, if you’re not ready to give up the lightning cable or if you simply don’t need the performance bump: the 14 Pro remains relevant in the market and if you already own a 14 Pro, I’d be inclined to hang onto it for now.
What I’d love to see in the near future is a battery capable of multi day usage but let me know what you think of the 15 Pro and what new features you’d like to see in future iPhones.