iPhone 15 Pro: Two-minute preview
Apple's latest crop of iPhones bear familiar titles, but for the first time, its newest Pro and Pro Max devices are separated by more than just display size.
By lacking the 5x optical zoom telephoto camera of its larger sibling (3x optical zoom remains), the iPhone 15 Pro may be better described as Apple's semi-flagship iPhone of 2023 – but that doesn't mean this premium powerhouse is wanting for other flagship specs.
Indeed, the gap between the iPhone 15 Pro and the standard iPhone 15 remains significant. Every model in this year's iPhone lineup has benefited from a design refresh that splits the difference between the curvy iPhone 11 and last year's iPhone 14 Pro, but the iPhone 15 Pro gets a titanium frame that's lighter and more durable than the stainless steel you'll find on other iPhone 15 models (and every iPhone that's come before).
USB-C ports feature across the board, too, and Apple's newest Pro models also boast an Apple Watch Ultra-style Action button in place of the traditional mute switch (a simple but surprisingly useful substitution). This new toggle can trigger various actions through a series of short and long presses, offering a fast way to access your favorite apps and tools without swiping through home screens and menus.
Other upgrades to the iPhone 15 Pro include an exciting A17 Pro chipset, USB-C, a thinner screen bezel, and the new Action button, which should ensure that Apple's latest 6.1-inch wonder dethrones its predecessor on our list of the best phones money can buy. We'll need to spend more time with the device before coming to a full verdict, though.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Price and availability
The iPhone 15 Pro was officially unveiled alongside the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, and iPhone 15 Pro Max at Apple’s September 2023 Event on Tuesday, September 12. Pre-orders commence Friday, September 15, with shipping dates set to follow a week later, on September 22.
The iPhone 15 Pro is available in four storage variants – 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. No other iPhone 15 has this much storage variety. Even the Pro Max dropped the 128GB option, which made that model about $100 more expensive to start.
In the US, the iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 (for the 128BG version), $1,099 for the 256GB option, $1,299 for the 512GB build and $1,499 for the top 1TB capacity model.
After a painful price hike last year, UK pricing has dropped back down slightly, mirroring the US prices numerically, with the four storage variants costing £999, £1,099, £1,299 and £1,499 respectively. Australian pricing is, unfortunatley a little higher this year, at AU$1,849, AU$2,049, AU$2,399 and AU$2,749.
For context, the 256GB model of the iPhone 14 Pro retailed for $1,099 / £1,209 / AU$1,899 at launch, while the base 128GB version retailed for $999 / £1,099 / AU$1,749.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Specs
Check out the iPhone 15 Pro's full specs below:
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Design
Aesthetically speaking, the iPhone 14 Pro was a near-replica of the iPhone 13 Pro, but Apple has opted to reinvent the iPhone design language once again with the iPhone 15 Pro – for reasons in and out of its control.
Chief among the visual changes is the burnishing away of all those edges on the new frame. The iPhone 15 Pro (and all others in the iPhone 15 lineup) still has flat sides which wrap around the phone, but the sharp edges are all gone. More importantly, the Pro line features a new titanium frame that makes the iPhone 15 Pro stronger and lighter than its stainless steel predecessor (Apple’s latest flagship weighs 187g, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro clocks in at 206g).
In my brief time with the new phone, I can confirm that it feels lighter and, dare I say, kinder in the hand. For those who have complained to me about the iPhone 14 Pro edges, you're in for a treat.
Another big change is on the all-important Super Retina XDR OLED screen. The 2556 x 1179 resolution is unchanged from the iPhone 14 Pro, but Apple has managed to shrink the black bezel around the screen. In my view, it appears at least half as thick and is now becoming virtually unnoticeable. Apple’s dream of a bezel-less iPhone is slowly becoming real.
Both the Dynamic Island and brushed glass rear panel return from last year’s device, and the latter is once again protected by Apple’s Ceramic Shield, a transparent material containing ceramic crystals for extra protection.
Beyond these primarily visual, arguably superficial design upgrades, Apple has also introduced a handful of updates that dramatically alter the functionality of the iPhone 15 Pro versus its predecessor.
The first is an Apple Watch Ultra-style Action button, which arrives in place of the traditional, physical mute switch on the iPhone 15 Pro (and iPhone 15 Pro Max). This customizable button lets you trigger up to nine different actions. First of all, even though it's replacing the venerable silence/ring switch, the Action button looks perfectly at home on the iPhone 15 Pro.
I got a chance to try out the button and was immediately smitten. It takes a quick press to see which mode it's in – yes, even to see if you're in silent or ring mode – and a long press to change modes to activate, say, the camera, and then another long press to take the photo, or maybe to activate, for instance, the flash. You can even assign custom Shortcuts to the Action button.
The second is a USB-C port, which replaces Apple’s proprietary Lightning port on every model in the iPhone 15 lineup. USB-C is the latest universal standard for the wired connection of smart devices. If you buy a smart device in 2023 – be it one of the best Android phones, best laptops, or best smart speakers – it’ll likely feature a pill-shaped port to support USB-C charging and data transfer and Apple has opted to adorn its latest crop of iPhones with these ports following a recent EU regulation.
As for how this transition from Lightning to USB-C affects the functionality of the iPhone 15 Pro, it doesn't impact charge speed but does enable USB 3, 10GBps data transfer speeds. Imagine connecting the iPhone 15 Pro directly to your MacBook Pro, taking ProRes photos, and having them appear almost instantly on your Mac.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Display
The iPhone 15 Pro retains its predecessor’s excellent 6.1-inch Super XDR OLED screen, with Apple’s ProMotion technology – which varies the refresh rate between 10Hz and 120Hz, depending on the content displayed – returning, too.
As mentioned, the Dynamic Island digital cutout also returns – though this notch is now a feature of every model in the lineup – and the iPhone 15 Pro’s bezels are largely non-existent.
It is still a gorgeous and responsive screen (also bright, reaching a max 2,000 nits). The tinier bezel instantly makes it a more immersive display and I would say it only suffers when placed next to the larger and equally pretty iPhone 15 Pro Max's 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display.
Put simply, this is the sort of display you’d expect to find strapped to one of the best phones on the market, and Apple hasn’t messed with a winning formula here and actually improved it just a tiny bit.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Cameras
On the subject of cameras, the iPhone 15 Pro doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor’s (admittedly excellent) triple-sensor setup. The phone boasts the following three lenses: a 48MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP 3x telephoto.
By reserving the 5x optical zoom telephoto camera for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple has, for the first time, created a considerable technological gap between its latest Pro and Pro Max iPhones – but that doesn’t mean the iPhone 15 Pro isn’t one of the best camera phones around.
On the front, the iPhone 15 Pro boasts the same 12MP TrueDepth camera as the iPhone 14 Pro.
I didn't get much time to try out this camera array, but I expect performance that is at least in line with what I found with iPhone 14 Pro. However, there are some interesting new image processing tricks – including the new, default 24MP shooting mode that uses a combination of the best fused 12MP and the full 48MP of the main camera to add what appears to be impressive detail and image truth (true environment, fabric, and skin tones). In addition, the iPhone 15 Pro will now recognize image depth on any photo and let you convert it to Portrait Mode. You can even quickly switch the point of focus from one subject to another. Not sure why anyone would shoot directly in Portrait Mode anymore.
I have to wonder, though, how the lack of the more powerful 5x optical zoom I saw (and tried) on the iPhone 15 Pro Max will impact the iPhone 15 Pro's appeal. It's just a shame that Apple couldn't have spread that much-needed tech just a little down the line.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Performance and software
Under the hood, the iPhone 15 Pro is powered by the latest version of Apple’s silicon – the A17 Pro – which makes it one of the fastest phones (if not the fastest phone) money can buy right now.
The A17 Pro is more than a simple upgrade (and upgraded clock speed) of the A16 Bionic (still powerful and now resident on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus). Inside the A17 Pro is a new CPU, new GPU, and a new 2x-faster Neural Engine.
We don't have benchmarks yet, but I expect them to be surprising, especially when it comes to graphics scores. Apple demonstrated how the chip is capable of running console-quality games on the iPhone 15 Pro's 6.1-inch display at a smooth 30FPS. Titles like Resident Evil: Village and the remastered Resident Evil 4 are apparently ported directly over to the iOS platform to run on A17 Pro-equipped iPhones.
I didn't have much time to play with the phone but everything I did see indicates that the iPhone 15 Pro will be a performance winner.
The iPhone 15 Pro also ships with iOS 17 installed as standard.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Battery life
Apple hasn’t publicly revealed the iPhone 15 Pro’s battery capacity, but the company has quoted 23 hours of video playback for the device, which puts it in line with the iPhone 14 Pro
Obviously, the iPhone 15 Pro still supports MagSafe wireless and Qi charging. Its fast charging is unchanged from the previous model, which is to say that it's slower than what you can get with a comparable Android flagship.
As I mentioned earlier, USB-C doesn't bring any charge speed improvements.
Hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review: Early verdict
The iPhone 15 Pro now sits in the unenviable position of being just one step behind its big brother, the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Sure, that phone always had the bigger display but that was usually the extent of the differences. The lack of a refreshed and more powerful zoom lens will mean something to some users.
The good news is that this phone does have Apple's newest and, I assume, most powerful-ever silicon in the A17 Pro chip. For those who don't like their phones big and hefty-ish but want the freshness of ultra-hard titanium with smoother curves, USB-C, flagship-class performance, and that really useful Action button, the iPhone 15 Pro will be a welcome and desirable update from the iPhone 14 Pro.
First tested August 2023