iPhone 15 Pro review: Better, but not very exciting – Macworld

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The iPhone 15 Pro makes a few safe, predictable improvements over last year’s model, but none of the features are worth getting very excited over. This is a good upgrade for phones more than three years old, but newer phones can wait for next year.
Apple’s latest iPhone Pro is faster, has a better camera, and has a few nice conveniences. There’s not a lot of innovation here, just some minor but noticeable improvements along mostly predictable lines.
The titanium frame makes the phone significantly lighter, USB-C brings Apple up to the standards of five years ago, and the new Action Button is a simple, sensible replacement for the age-old mute switch. The camera hardware appears to be entirely unchanged from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, though the processing has improved, with a new 24MP default, three “1x” crop options, and some nice “pro” video options like Log color.
For a complete picture of the iPhone 15 Pro, check out our review of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, where we dive into all the changes and features in depth. Other than the size, the iPhone 15 Pro is identical, save for three things: the battery life is shorter (as is common with smaller iPhones), it doesn’t have the new 5x telephoto camera, and it is available with 128GB of storage (the Pro Max starts at 256GB). This review will focus on those differences alone.
Read our comparison of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.
It would appear that the iPhone 15 Pro has the exact same sensors and lenses as the iPhone 14 Pro, though Apple says there are new lens coatings that should help reduce glare (hotspot glare is still a problem on all iPhones, coating or not). The new 24MP main camera default size offers more detail without as much over-sharpening, but Apple’s image processing pipeline still introduces a somewhat unnaturally punchy, saturated, smoothed-out image.
Apple remains unmatched in overall video quality, and the new ability to shoot in a Log color space (unfortunately only with ProRes) will be very welcome to pros and enthusiasts who want to color grade their own footage and get the best results.
The real difference between the 15 Pro Max and 15 Pro is that the larger phone gets a new 5x periscope camera, while the smaller Pro has the same 3x zoom as last year. It doesn’t appear that the 5x zoom takes up so much more internal space that Apple couldn’t have made it fit in the smaller Pro phone—the decision feels like an arbitrary force to push users to the bigger model, and I would be shocked if the smaller model didn’t have the 5x periscope zoom next year.
Still, Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro has one of the best cameras in the business, and if you care more about video than anything else, arguably the best. It’s just a shame that you have to buy the much bigger and more expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max to get a 5x telephoto camera.
Aside from that one telephoto camera, the specs of the iPhone 15 Pro are identical to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. You can expect the same performance, and that’s exactly what we observed. CPU performance is around 10 percent faster, graphics performance is around 20 percent faster.
Of course, a smaller phone means a smaller battery and one can expect the iPhone 15 Pro to have a shorter battery life than the iPhone 15 Pro Max; the larger iPhones always have longer battery life.
But the iPhone 15 Pro is no slouch compared to other 6.1-inch phones. It lasts longer than the iPhone 14 Pro Max by a small margin in our Geekbench rundown test. In daily practical use, you’ll find it’s not very different–Apple has the same battery life specs for the iPhone 14 Pro and 15 Pro, and those expectations are indeed met.
If you want the best iPhone, you get the latest iPhone “Pro” model. And then you choose either the Pro or Pro Max, depending on which size you find more comfortable and usable. The Pro Max model has longer battery life, but that doesn’t matter if you hate how it doesn’t fit in your pocket or requires two hands, for example.
It’s unfortunate that you miss out on the fun 5x telephoto camera if you don’t like really huge phones, but on the upside, you can get the smaller model for “only” $999 instead of the $1,199 starting price of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
While it’s true that the iPhone 15 Pro is the best iPhone yet (other than the Pro Max, thanks to the telephoto camera), the improvements are minor enough so as not to inspire upgrade envy. Most users won’t notice the speed improvement or battery life difference. So it’s a bit lighter, with a slightly better camera system, an Action button instead of a mute switch, and the transition to USB-C that everyone else made many years ago (including Apple on many of its products).
That is in no way bad, but it’s uninspiring, making the iPhone 15 Pro an excellent upgrade for those with an iPhone 12 or earlier, but encouraging those with more recent models to see what comes out of Cupertino next year.
I have written about technology for my entire professional life – over 25 years. I enjoy learning about how complicated technology works and explaining it in a way anyone can understand.
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