The iPhone 14 was hard to recommend in 2022 due to the lack of compelling features compared to the 14 Pro. Does the iPhone 15 change the narrative?
- The iPhone 15 offers an improved design with contoured edges and a matte glass back, but still uses aluminum for its frame to avoid fingerprint smudges like the Pro models.
- The display of the iPhone 15 features Dynamic Island, which replaces the notch, and a higher peak brightness of 2000 nits when outdoors. However, it still lacks ProMotion with a 60Hz refresh rate.
- Powered by the A16 Bionic chip, similar to the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 15 delivers excellent performance for everyday tasks. It also has a dual camera system with a 48MP main camera for detailed photos, but lacks some features of the Pro models
In 2022, the standard iPhone 14 line was lacking value compared to the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, which featured Dynamic Island, a significantly better camera system, and other Pro features. While the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max have been in the spotlight, for better or for worse, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus bring many of the iPhone 14 Pro’s features at a lower cost, effectively tightening the gap between the different models.
Even though we’ve seen many of the features before, does history repeat itself? Should you skip it and go with the pro models? Let’s take a look.
The iPhone 15’s design resembles the new Pro models in many ways. The edges of the iPhone 15 are also contoured, noticeably improving the comfort in the hand compared to the last few iPhones. Additionally, the back of the phone is now a matte glass back, departing from the glossy glass that was on the iPhone 14.
However, the iPhone 15 continues to use aluminum for its frame. One benefit of picking the iPhone 15 over the iPhone 15 Pro is that the aluminum sides don’t show fingerprints like the titanium ones on the Pro models.
As for color choices, the iPhone 15 comes in Black, Green, Yellow, Pink, and Blue. The colors are much lighter this year than previous versions. Surprisingly, there is no red or white version this time, both of which have been present on the regular iPhones since the iPhone XR. I don’t think the iPhone 15’s color palette is a bad choice, but it’s definitely had its share of criticism from others.
However, I still think the iPhone XR had the best color shades. If I had to pick one model for my daily device, I would choose the blue option for my iPhone 15.
Despite not featuring a more high-end material such as titanium or stainless steel, the iPhone 15 still has an excellent design that feels premium and comfortable to hold without a case or grip. And it’s good to see that it still comes in various colors for people to select from, even if they are somewhat muted.
iPhone 15’s Display: The Big 60Hz Debate
Similar to last year, the iPhone 15 features a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, with a slightly different resolution (2556×1179). There are two main upgrades for the display this time around. To start, the iPhone 15 gains the Dynamic Island. It replaces the notch, and adapts to what you are doing on the phone.
You can quickly access controls when using Apple Music, see the status of a timer, and more. While it may seem like a gimmick, I find it occasionally helpful and more aesthetically pleasing than the notch. I’m glad it is now featured across all the new iPhones.
The second improvement to the display this year is a higher peak brightness. The iPhone 15 can now hit 2000 nits of peak brightness when outdoors, just like the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. According to Apple, it also has a higher peak brightness when viewing HDR content (1600 nits vs. 1200 nits).
However, one aspect of the display that has been controversial is the refresh rate. The iPhone 15 still lacks ProMotion, meaning that it is limited to a 60Hz refresh rate. For the price of the phone ($800), it’s a tough sell for many enthusiasts who notice and appreciate a 120Hz refresh rate.
On the other side of the argument, many consumers likely won’t notice the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz. And that is the target market for the iPhone 15: the average user. Jon Prosser, host of Front Page Tech, made an excellent video that covers the controversy and links this debate back to the iPhone XR’s display resolution in 2018, since it was below 1080p for a $750 phone.
My opinion on this topic aligns with Prosser’s. If you don’t notice, care, or even know about your smartphone’s display’s refresh rate, you’ll be fine using the iPhone 15. People concerned about the refresh rate should look towards the iPhone 15 Pro, since it includes the best specifications for those enthusiasts.
Still, I would have liked to see at least a 90Hz display on this phone; the lack of 120Hz hurts the perceived value for many. But despite this, it’s still a solid display in terms of brightness, color, and resolution. So, I don’t think people should disregard the phone solely because of the 60Hz refresh rate.
The A16 Bionic Chip
Apple keeps up its practice of trickling down the latest chip from last year to the normal iPhone models. This indicates that the A16 Bionic chip from the iPhone 14 Pro is used in the iPhone 15. Along with 6GB of RAM, the chip has a 6-core CPU and a 5-core GPU.
The chip performed superbly in the iPhone 14 Pro series, and as anticipated, the iPhone 15 has had the same results. This also implies that the chip achieves Geekbench 6 benchmarks comparable to those of the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
|Model||Single-Core Score||Multi-Core Score||GPU Metal Score|
|iPhone 15 Pro Max||2957||7481||27451|
|iPhone 14 Pro Max||2645||6689||22900|
Apple’s A-series chips continue to perform well over time, even if they are a year or two old. This is true even though they may not include the most recent SoC, which enables AAA games to run on the iPhone. The normal daily tasks that people who purchase non-Pro models carry out can still be completed by the A16 Bionic. If so, the performance of the iPhone 15 will satisfy you. Since Apple granted the A17 chip a Pro designation this year, we’ll have to wait and see what processor the iPhone 16 will employ.
The Dual Camera System
Since the release of the iPhone 11, all standard iPhone models have a dual camera system with a primary camera and an ultra-wide camera. The iPhone 15 is also no different. It now features a new 48MP main camera, though, which is comparable to what the iPhone 14 Pro provided. Compared to the previous 12MP camera found in the standard iPhone 14, this boost in megapixel count enables you to capture images with more information.
Additionally, the iPhone 15 now takes 24MP images by default, giving you a little bit more information without having to upgrade to 48MP.
The images are realistic and have not been overly manipulated or colored. The 24MP images from the ordinary 15 feature a good deal of detail, just like the iPhone 15 Pro. I was thrilled to find in the boat photo sample that the iPhone 15’s main camera was able to faithfully depict the sunlight filtering through the clouds, which, in my opinion, made for a good photo.
Since the toggle does not by default display in the camera app, you will need to enable it there in order to shoot 48MP photos. Although the 48MP images the iPhone 15 takes do have a little bit more information than the 24MP photos, the difference is not very obvious at first glance.
Due to the main camera of the iPhone 15 employing a 26mm focal length, as opposed to the 24mm on the 15 Pro and Pro Max, photos from the iPhone 15 are also slightly more zoomed in than photos from the iPhone 15 Pro. However, unlike Pro models, the camera software does not allow you to modify the focal length.
It’s tough to tell the difference in images, but the iPhone 15 employs a slightly wider aperture for the ultra-wide camera than the Pro iPhones do.
The iPhone 15 has a similar feature to the Pro iPhones in that after taking the photo, you can use the pictures app to add a bokeh effect to specific subjects. In reality, you can snap portrait photos without being in Portrait mode. The image below contrasts a standard photograph with and without the bokeh effect.
The new 5x telephoto camera is one of the highlights of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The 48MP main camera on the iPhone 15 now has a new 2x zoom option, allowing you to snap pictures similar to those in the gallery below despite the lack of a separate telephoto camera on the device. However, since the new zoom option requires cropping the sensor, your photographs taken with the 2x zoom will only be 12MP instead of 24MP.
The iPhone 15 lacks a number of key capabilities that the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max offer, like the ability to shoot macro photographs, night mode portraiture, a dedicated telephoto camera, and more. However, the camera technology in the iPhone 15 is effective in most situations. Although the camera technology of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is more adaptable, it still performs admirably.
The Battery Life
Regular iPhones have historically had excellent battery life. The iPhone 15 offers good battery life for the smaller of the two normal models Apple sells thanks to a 3349mAh battery (slightly bigger than the iPhone 15 Pro’s battery). With a combination of light to medium use, it can get you through the day. The phone would have between 58 and 61 percent of its battery left on a lighter day for me.
The iPhone 15 has a respectable standby time as well. The phone declined by about 6% over night. The absence of an always-on display on the phone, which can cause the battery to discharge more quickly on Pro iPhones, undoubtedly helps preserve battery life.
USB:C: Not Just for Pros
The standard iPhone 15 has USB-C and does away with the Lightning port, just like the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. You now have access to nearly all of the port’s advantages that the Pro versions do thanks to the addition of USB-C. You can charge your Apple Watch or AirPods with your iPhone, use one cable to charge all of your devices, and more.
A letdown is that the iPhone 15’s USB-C port can only operate at USB 2.0 speeds, which is the only variation in specifications. As a result, the time it takes to transfer data from your phone to your computer will be significantly longer. Whatever the case, I’m happy to see USB-C on the iPhone going forward.
iOS 17, which is included with the iPhone 15 series and adds a number of new features, is available. We’ll talk about some of them.
You may now use Live Voicemail to get a transcript of the message while the caller is leaving it, starting with the phone app. This feature is more helpful than it may seem. In essence, it enables you to listen to your voicemails and choose whether to pick up the call without having to call the recipient back.
With iOS 17, AirDrop, an immensely popular ecosystem feature from Apple, also received some upgrades. Perhaps the most prominent feature is NameDrop, which makes it simple to exchange your contact information with another person simply placing your phone next to an iPhone or Apple Watch. NameDrop is meant to be more practical than having to manually create a new contact.
Additionally, iOS 17 has a brand-new function called StandBy for iPhones with MagSafe. You can tilt your iPhone sideways to view information such as your calendar, the current weather, and several other options when it is plugged into a MagSafe charger that supports your phone. It’s a fantastic tool to use at your desk or on your nightstand and undoubtedly one of the most notable additions to iOS 17.
As a last improvement, iOS 17 makes widgets interactive. Widgets on your home screen in earlier versions of iOS would display information but not allow you to interact with them. Instead, tapping it would launch the appropriate software. Thankfully, widgets may now be used to initiate actions, such as playing a song again in Apple Music or completing a task in TickTick. A small number of additional third-party programs also enable interactive widgets.
With iOS 17, Apple has included several great features and enhanced user experience. There are still glitches, though, like the sporadic disappearance of widgets from the home screen and some animation stuttering. It was just recently released. I’m hoping they’ll be fixed shortly.
Should You Buy the iPhone 15?
Yes, provided you don’t mind the features of the iPhone 15 Pro and don’t mind a 60Hz refresh rate. The difference between the two iPhone lines closing, the ordinary iPhone 15 is now my go-to suggestion for the majority of customers. Although I find it difficult to look past the 60Hz display, many folks won’t and may even be upgrading from an iPhone that only has a 60Hz refresh rate.
Given how well the iPhone 15 performs, it is worthwhile to once again pay attention to the first iPhone.