Big phones aren’t for everyone, and that’s A-OK. If you’re in the market for a normal-sized phone, the iPhone 15 Pro could well deliver, even if it’s a touch different from the Pro Max.
Ok, let’s do this again one more time. Almost like the introduction for a Spider-verse movie, we’re going to talk about an iPhone. We’ve reviewed the entire range of iPhones since the iPhone 12, and we’re going to do it again.
Apple offers a good assortment of phones, and in 2023, you’re being given a choice between regular and big sized phones made for everyone — the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Plus — and more premium models of each of those. That’s the way it was last year in the 14 range, and it’s the way it is in 2023, as well.
Is the iPhone 15 Pro still one of the best phones despite this distinction, and should it be a consideration for folks who want the best iPhone around?
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Another 6.1 inch iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro is more like a combination of last year’s iPhone 14 Pro and this year’s iPhone 15 Pro Max, giving you the same size and design as the former, but with the titanium frame and action button of the latter.
For most people, it’ll mean a great looking very polished design with some lightweight and yet durable titanium framing, that also happens to include some aluminium for good measure. In case you’re curious, the shift in materials from stainless steel to the titanium/aluminium combo has seen Apple able to shave 19 grams off the weight, dropping from the 206g iPhone 14 Pro to the 187g iPhone 15 Pro.
The look is practically the same, and the screen is, too, supporting the same always-on screen tech, 120Hz ProMotion display that can stop the screen down to 1Hz on standby, the Dynamic Island and its snazzy way of turning the camera punch hole into something of a controller, and a resolution of 2556×1179, slightly more than Full HD.
Elsewhere inside the phone, Apple’s updates can seem minor in the grand scheme of things.
Yes, there’s a new chip, the A17 Pro with a 6-core CPU and 6-core GPU, as well as a 16-core Neural Engine, and the cameras have been updated slightly, as well. You’ll find a new 48 megapixel F1.78 main wide camera on the 15 Pro, accompanied by a 12 megapixel 0.5X ultra-wide set to F2.2 and a 12 megapixel 3X telephoto set to F2.8, which will sound like last year’s 14 Pro, even if the main sensor is new.
Apple has added some focus and depth control tech to every photo where a subject is detected, though, so you get a little more, plus version 5 of Apple’s Smart HDR, some new HDR video recording features, support for video recording over the USB port at the bottom (handy for pros), and a way to capture images at either 24 or 48 megapixels, if you so choose. The 12 megapixel F1.9 selfie camera remains largely the same.
In fact, so does much of the rest of the hardware in the Australian iPhone 15 Pro, covering Bluetooth, 5G, IP68 water resistance, crash detection, Emergency SOS via satellite (which was switched on this year), and NFC for Apple Pay.
There are a couple of minor updates, with WiFi 6E on-board for faster WiFi and a second-gen Ultra-Wideband chip for more accurate FindMy item finding, plus of course that change to USB Type C at the bottom, which means a universal standard for easily charging an iPhone, though you also have support for wireless charging over Qi, Qi2, and MagSafe.
|Apple iPhone 15 Pro
|Apple A17 Pro
|128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
|5G (sub-6), WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, GPS, NFC, USB-C
|Starting from $1849 AUD
Using an iPhone won’t be new to many people, but the good news is that using this iPhone shouldn’t be difficult to anyone, whether they’re new to the fray or experienced iPhoners.
In the past few years, Apple’s easy approach has been tightened to still keep things easy, but also make things fun for the power users, and iOS 17 helps do just that.
Open up the iPhone with your face using Face ID and the handset springs to life, ready to let you do what you need.
The major change in the iPhone 15 Pro’s usability is simply the Action Button, which sits on the side and replaces the silent call switch. Much like the action button on the Apple Watch Ultra, you can map it to a variety of functions, but for the most part, we wouldn’t be shocked if you left it on its default: holding it down to silence your phone, which works well.
The rest of the handset is about has fast as you could expect, with the A17 Pro inside the 15 Pro delivering solid benchmarks across the board, and hinting that Apple has plenty of performance for the next few years.
It goes without saying that an iPhone typically receives updates to keep the phone working for a good five years or so, much longer than the three Android devices typically max out at, though Google has updated its Pixel range to seven years, so we’ll see how that goes.
Back to the iPhone 15 Pro, though, where the hardware just performs and you’ll have little to worry about.
There’s a similar vibe in 5G performance, which saw our tests seeing speeds as high as 198Mbps when tested on the Telstra 5G network in Sydney, Australia by way of Mate which limits 5G speeds on its plans.
Your mileage may vary, of course, thanks in part to how 5G speeds can depend on a variety of factors, but fast performance should be found across the phone in all the right ways.
Apple has also provided an updated camera that gives owners of a normal-sized iPhone more of that solid camera experience they want, but it’s not quite the same as its 15 Pro Max sibling. In fact, the camera is one of the few areas where the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max differ.
While the 15 Pro Max saw an update to its telephoto camera jumping from 3X to 5X this year, the 15 Pro stays largely the same. Granted, there’s a new 48 megapixel sensor on that wide camera, but the iPhone 15 Pro’s 3X telephoto from last year is still a 3X telephoto this year.
There aren’t any major updates in focal length in the iPhone 15 Pro. And that is a bit of a shame.
The phone still takes some of the best shots in the business, delivering excellent, sharp, and crisp pictures, with some lovely colour balance, plus top notch low-light images if you need them.
You’ll still get the combination of 0.5X, 1X, 2X, and 3X — that hasn’t changed — but now you can convert a standard photo to a portrait if a subject is detected, just like you can on the standard iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Plus.
There’s a little more juice in the iPhone 15 Pro camera, mind you, so expect better quality images than the standard models, and the 3X gets you that little bit closer, as well. Macro support is also featured in the 15 Pro, distinct from the standard iPhone 15 which doesn’t offer the feature, and means you can get super close.
We’d say most of the positive camera hardware changes are going to the pro video capability, which now supports more HDR tech thanks to the inclusion of different profiles and log support, and you can also record more video using the USB 3 port at the bottom, which basically means grabbing an external drive and recording to it as opposed to the internal storage.
In short, you’ll still find a great camera system on the iPhone 15 Pro, even if it’s not quite as much of an upgrade as the 15 Pro Max gets.
The battery life is mostly the same, however, because while the new chip should be able to wrench a good extra hour or so, you’ll probably need to charge the 15 Pro nightly.
In our tests, we found you could hit a good 24 hours if you needed to, with a little left in the tank the next morning, but not necessarily enough to count. We’d charge the iPhone 15 Pro nightly if we used it as our daily driver. For those counting screen time, think of it as roughly four hours of screen time until the iPhone 15 Pro asks you to plug it in.
On the upside, however, the shift to USB Type C means charging the phone is as easy as charging pretty much every other device on the planet.
Now that the EU has basically said every device needs to rely on USB-C as the port of choice, it means charging an iPhone is as easy as charging a pair of headphones, speaker, tablet, laptop, and so on and so on.
If you own a recent MacBook, charging the iPhone 15 Pro is as easy as plugging in your MacBook’s USB-C cable, if you have one. You’ll even get the benefit of the faster charging from the more powerful charging brick. W00t.
Owners of the iPhone 15 Pro will also see support for the standard Qi wireless charging and the more fun magnetic MagSafe charging, but there’s also support for Qi2, with charging devices expected next year.
The price, however, is a little on the high side, largely expected because iPhones tend to be a little more than other phones, but still.
To Apple’s credit, the $1849 starting price is totally in line with the rest of the iPhone Pro lineup, so it’s not as if something is changing, and you are getting one of the best iPhones of the bunch. Granted, it’s $1849 for a 128GB you’ll chew through quickly, with 256GB starting at $2049 before hitting $2399 for 512GB and $2749 for a 1TB that should last you a few years.
But with a clear distinction between the cameras in the Pro and Pro Max, the value of the iPhone 15 Pro can feel a little less solid than its big brother, and there’s virtually no reason to upgrade from last year’s 14 Pro to this 15 Pro at all. The whole thing is just too similar.
What needs work?
Unsurprisingly, most of the package hits it out of the park, with another iPhone that delivers.
Lighter, faster, and slightly better, the iPhone 15 Pro is a better normal-sized iPhone in the right ways. It’s a better iPhone 14 Pro, for sure.
The problem is the 15 Pro Max is just that little bit better again. In a world where smartphone cameras are jumping ahead in leaps and bounds, it’s surprising that we’re still on a 3X in the 15 Pro, rather than the 5X of the 15 Pro Max.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
The good news is that outside of the price and the 3X camera, we’re fans of what the 15 Pro delivers.
One of the best normal-sized phones around, the iPhone 15 Pro improves last year’s 14 Pro in some great ways. Lighter and slightly more versatile, it’s a marginally better iPhone.
It doesn’t quite have the camera chops to compete with its 15 Pro Max sibling, but it’s still a great choice. Recommended.