Thursday, May 30, 2024
Smart Phones

iPhone 15 Pro Review: enter the era of USB-C

iPhone 15 Pro Intro

Apple has done two very important things with the iPhone 15 Pro: first and foremost, it’s made the phone so much lighter and easier to use with new features like a USB-C port and Action button, and secondly, it has made a number of important camera changes that will up your photo game.

At the same time, some of the most important new features like the brand new A17 Pro chip are under scrutiny for heating up, and another key area – the battery life – has remained roughly the same as before and charging speeds have not improved either.

The one exciting new feature that you don’t get on this new iPhone 15 Pro is a longer range zoom camera. That one is only available on the larger Pro Max model, and you can learn more about it in our iPhone 15 Pro Max review.

What’s new about iPhone 15 Pro

  • Lighter titanium body
  • USB-C port instead of Lightning
  • New A17 Pro chip, same storage options
  • Same screen size, smaller bezels
  • Improved camera, improved portrait mode
  • New Action Button instead of Mute switch
  • Same-ish battery life
  • Same charging speeds
  • New colors

Table of Contents:

iPhone 15 Pro Unboxing

The iPhone 15 Pro box is nice and slim, but that also means that you don’t get a charger in the box.

You get a braided USB-C cable in white, but do keep in mind that this cable supports USB 2 speeds only, while the iPhone itself supports the USB 3 standard. So, if you want to connect this to an SSD and transfer files at faster rates, you’d need to buy a USB 3 cable.

iPhone 15 Pro Specs

The main highlights include the 3nm A17 Pro chip and the new USB-C port

iPhone 15 Pro Design & Colors

Subtle changes add up, but the big news are the reduced weight and the more durable titanium frame

The iPhone 15 Pro keeps the familiar compact 6.1-inch form factor, but while the overall shape and size remain similar, it is not quite the same as the previous 14 Pro model.

The first and most notable change Apple makes is a switch to titanium: a new more durable and lighter-weight material used for the railing of the phone (the internal frame is still aluminum). Titanium replaces the shiny stainless steel rails we had before, and the weight alone makes it worth it. The darker models still catch fingerprint smudges, but the lighter models do not, so keep that in mind.

The other big change is the new USB-C port on the bottom. To that we say: finally!

Apple has already been using USB-C for years on Macbooks and iPads, and Android phones also use a USB-C port, so this will definitely make our lives easier. No more cable clutter!
You also get faster transfer rates via USB-C at 10Gbps speeds, an improvement of 20X over the slow Lightning connector. Keep in mind though that the USB-C cable included in the box does not support these faster transfer rates, but here is a selection of the best USB-C cables for iPhone 15 Pro if you need these faster speeds.

In terms of buttons, we have the familiar power (on the right) and volume (on the left) physical keys, but instead of the Mute Switch above the volume buttons, we now have the new Action Button.

It is programmable and while there are a few suggestions that Apple gives you such as using it to launch the camera or immediately start a voice memo, you can literally set the Action button to anything via the Shortcuts app. Some clever suggestions what to do with the Action button are to set it to start Google Assistant, or to start your Spotify music playback. Let us know in the comments what have you set the Action button for.

iPhone 15 Pro Display

The iPhone 15 Pro sticks with a 6.1-inch screen size just as previous models, but the borders around the screen are now slimmer by one third. This is subtle but it helps achieve a more modern, edge-to-edge look.

The screen technology has not changed much: it’s OLED, it’s Retina, and it supports 120Hz ProMotion for buttery smooth scrolling. And yes, the Always-On feature from the previous model is of course also available.

Display Benchmarks

You can see that the maximum brightness level on the iPhone 15 Pro remains about the same as on the previous model, but the one improvement we hoped to see – a lower minimum brightness for more comfortable night use – has not made it.

Interestingly, in our measurements, the color balance is a bit worse on this new model, the difference is not huge but we were surprised to see this.

And for biometrics, no change: we still have Face ID built in the Dynamic Island.

iPhone 15 Pro Camera

A familiar triple camera system with tweaks and tune-ups!

The iPhone 15 Pro comes with a very familiar looking triple rear camera system with a main 1X shooter, an ultra-wide camera and a 3X telephoto lens.

In terms of hardware and sensor sizes, all three cameras appear to have the same specs as the iPhone 14 Pro.

28mm and 35mm

However, thanks to the new A17 Pro chip and a new processing pipeline, the iPhone 15 Pro now supports sensor crop at 1.2X and 1.5X zoom, aka 28mm and 35mm focal lengths. Apple says these are practically two new “lenses”, and we can indeed confirm that the quality is very similar to that of a dedicated physical camera lens. Best of all, these new “lenses” are perfect for everyday photography. The standard 24mm 1X camera is just a bit too wide and we have immediately changed the default setting on the iPhone 15 Pro to 1.5X which is so much better.

24MP photos with more detail

Another new processing trick that makes a huge difference for quality is what Apple calls Super High Res picture mode. Essentially, this is a new default resolution: the iPhone 15 Pro now shoots pictures in 24-megapixel size, up from 12MP on previous models. This is a great middle ground between low-detail 12MP shots and high-detail but very large 48MP files.

With this new image format, the excessive over-sharpening from the 14 Pro is now also fixed. This is great news and it elevates the camera quality of the iPhone 15 Pro so much higher than before.

Zoom Quality

The iPhone 15 Pro keeps the familiar 3X zoom lens. Some people are really excited about the 5X zoom lens on the Pro Max model, which you don’t get here, but that one comes at the expense of quality in the 3X to 4.9X zoom range, and even at 5X zoom level, the iPhone 15 Pro model has a good amount of detail and is not too far behind the 15 Pro Max.

If you often take pictures at 10X zoom or further, then sure, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will take noticeably better shots, but if you rarely go that far, you will still be very happy with the 3X zoom lens and you can also use it for portrait mode photos.

There are no big changes to the ultra-wide camera and it still takes photos at the same 12-megapixel resolution as before. This is one lens we expect Apple to upgrade next year on the iPhone 16 Pro series.

There are subtle tweaks to front camera images with improved skin tones and HDR, and most of the cases you will not notice any difference in quality, but every once in a while you get to see the new iPhone 15 Pro capture a much better looking selfie when the 14 Pro fails.

Low Light Camera Quality

In low light, the iPhone 15 Pro automatically captures 12MP images and the new 24MP resolution is not available. The reason for that is that Apple combines four pixels into one with the quad pixel binning process to reduce noise at night. But despite the 15 Pro having the same 12MP resolution as the previous model, in low light images look a bit cleaner. It’s not a huge difference, but if you look closer you will spot less noise and less oversharpening which is a good thing. You really need to pixel peep for that though.

Unfortunately, despite improvements in the lens coating, you still get lots of flaring when you point the iPhone 15 Pro towards a bright light at night.

The ultra-wide camera captures good looking shots at night too.

Video Quality

Video Thumbnail

Video quality on the iPhone 15 Pro is improved in some very minor ways, but it remains ahead of the competition, so Apple is in no rush to improve here.

The main camera records up to 4K60 footage with clean, crisp detail and excellent video stabilization. You also have smooth transition between the various cameras.

Video Thumbnail

But if you are a professional you know the one feature you are coming for: ProRes video. And yes, you can record to an external SSD super easy, just plug it in and you see a USB-C signage appear that indicates that the footage goes directly to the SSD. Keep in mind that those files are gigantic, but the quality is really something else and it gives all the freedom to edit in post.

The iPhone 15 Pro will also support Spatial Video, which is captured with both the ultra-wide and main cameras shooting simultaneously to capture depth. You can then re-live those video moments in a very immersive way on the Apple Vision Pro headset. That feature, however, is only coming later this year and is not immediately available.

iPhone 15 Pro Performance & Benchmarks

World’s first and finest 3nm chip inside
Apple launches new chips with every iPhone release, but this year is special: the new Apple A17 Pro processor inside the iPhone 15 Pro makes the jump to a more advanced 3nm technology, which is a bigger leap than your average yearly upgrade.

Better yet: Apple has booked practically the full manufacturing capacity of TSMC, the only foundry capable of making these super advanced chips, so it theoretically has a big advantage over the competition.

This new manufacturing technology is cutting edge, and here are the exact improvements that Apple says we get:

  • 10% faster performance cores, fastest mobile CPU
  • 4-efficiency cores with unmatched with three times the performance per watt compared to competition
  • Neural engine 2X faster with 35 trillion ops per second
  • Dedicated engines for Pro features – ProRes codec, Pro Display engine, AV1 decoder for more efficient video experience

Performance Benchmarks:

As you can see, the iPhone 15 Pro really delivers with big improvements in CPU speeds. The GPU also does better for long-term use and scores nearly 30% higher in our testing.

Unfortunately, further measurements show that the gain in performance comes with a big gain in power consumption and this new chip also eats battery for breakfast.

We are also hearing various reports about iPhone 15 models getting scorching hot while charging or even with just regular use. Our unit seems to be fine, and Apple is still mum about this issue, but it might be wise for you to wait out and see whether this is a serious issue or just a few isolated cases.

The iPhone 15 Pro now also comes with 8GB RAM, more than the 6GB RAM used in previous models, but the same LPDDR5 technology.

Apple is not saying much about connectivity, but we now know it uses the new Qualcomm X70 modem, which helps it get better and more consistent signal. You also have Wi-Fi 6E for the first time on an iPhone.

Another thing to remember is that the iPhone 15 Pro only work with eSIM in the United States, so you won’t be able to just pop in your physical SIM card. International models, however, still use a regular, physical SIM card.

iPhone 15 Pro Software: iOS 17

The iPhone 15 Pro launches with the new iOS 17 software, which all previous supported iPhones get as well.

And remember, iOS 17 is making its way to even older models, going back to the iPhone XR.

iOS 17 brings significant improvements to the Phone, Messages and FaceTime apps, plus a few smaller quality of life changes including better autocorrect (finally!), as well as a new way to trigger Siri by just saying “Siri” instead of “Hey Siri”.The changes to the Phone app will probably end up most noticeable as you can now now set a Contact Poster for yourself which will be displayed full-screen on other iPhones when they receive a call from you. NameDrop is another new trick where you just bring your iPhone close to another one to exchange contact info. And in the messages app, you will be able to reply with animated stickers created from your Live Photos, a nice personal touch to the experience.

We also love the new Standby Mode where your phone will act like a mini home hub displaying useful information while it’s charging.

Other new features include interactive widgets, mood tracking in the Health app, as well as a brand new journaling app.

The best part of owning an iPhone is the software update support. Apple typically deliver five or even six years of software updates, so this means an iPhone 15 Pro will get the following:

  • iOS 18 — 2024
  • iOS 19 — 2025
  • iOS 20 — 2026
  • iOS 21 — 2027
  • iOS 22 — 2028

Talk about a future-proof device!

iPhone 15 Pro Battery

No changes and you may even see a downgrade

The iPhone 15 Pro comes with a 3,274 mAh battery, which is ever so slightly larger (+2.3% larger) than the previous model.

However, the actual iPhone 15 Pro battery life remains the same as on the previous model, at least according to the official iPhone 15 Pro battery life numbers by Apple:

But let’s put this phone to the test and see if this is indeed the battery life you will see in real life.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

In our testing, the iPhone 15 Pro scored lower than the previous model, and chances are that this is because of the higher clock speed of the processor that puts an extra strain and you can feel the phone getting a bit warmer than usual. For just regular use, without much multitasking, you should see similar battery numbers on the 15 Pro as on the 14 Pro, but with more intense use, the newer 15 Pro would probably last you a bit less than before.

iPhone 15 Pro Charging Speeds

Speaking of the charging situation… USB-C is in!

This is a bigger deal than it may sound. USB-C on iPhones means we get closer to that one-cable-for-everything future, and we get far less cable clutter. But it also opens a world of possibilities. You can now easier connect an external drive directly to your iPhone or an SD card reader to transfer pictures from your DSLR or mirrorless camera to name just a few prospects.

The iPhone 15 Pro unfortunately does NOT support faster charging speeds.

One bright spot however are the faster USB 3 transfer rates that go up to 10Gbps, nearly 20 times faster than before. Keep in mind, though, that you need a special cable for that and that cable is not included in the box.

iPhone 15 Pro Audio Quality and Haptics

Apple tweaks the loudspeaker quality of iPhones a little bit every year, and the last bigger change happened with the iPhone 13 Pro. The iPhone 15 Pro introduces some very slight tweaks to audio quality, but essentially it sounds very similar to the previous model. 

For haptics, for years Apple has treated us to the Taptic Engine, which has been a gold standard with its nice and tight vibration feedback. No changes on that front in the iPhone 15 Pro.

iPhone 15 Pro Summary

The iPhone 15 Pro is a bigger change than it might seem on the surface.

The lighter weight is a bigger upgrade than you might think, and Apple has upgraded the camera in all the right places. The camera tweaks are also very welcome and you get more detailed shots and new “lenses” that might just become your new default shooting modes.

Other changes like the new USB-C port make life so much easier, and so does the new Action button. All of that also comes at the same starting price in the US, while in the UK and Europe Apple is even slashing the prices.

However, there is one thing that bothers us still: the A17 Pro chip while fast is reported to get quite hot for some users, and we’d wait to see how serious this issue is and whether you should be worried. 

At the end of the day, the iPhone 15 Pro is a nice upgrade, but with some very specific features that you may or may not care about, and it doesn’t changes the battery life which most people would care about.


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