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iPhone 15 Pro review: Best balance of performance to price yet in an iPhone

iPhone 15 Pro review: blue titanium

iPhone 15 Pro

4.5 / 5

The new iPhone 15 Pro raises the bar once more for the high-end smartphone market, packing a ton of new and tempting features inside its lightweight titanium frame.

After two years of largely stagnant design, Apple opted to change things up for its 2023 crop of iPhones. It didn't reinvent the wheel here though, essentially marrying the iPhone X's rounded sides with the flat sides of the iPhone 12.

What we ended with in 2023 is flat sides, but beveled slightly on the front and the back. It's a very pleasant phone to hold.

Holding the new iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro review: Holding the new iPhone 15 Pro

Those slightly rounded sides make the phone feel smaller in your hand, even if its physical dimensions have stayed nearly the same. Holding our iPhone 14 Pro simultaneously with the iPhone 15 Pro emphasizes how nice of a change this is.

If you've ever sat scrolling through social media for hours and ended up with a sore pinky and an edge indentation, you'll also appreciate these rounded edges. Apple is giving our littlest fingers a break.

The other half of the design is a change in materials. Apple previously employed a single stainless steel chassis with polished edges.

This year, Apple moved to an aluminum internal frame to house the components but with a 1mm titanium band around the outside. In our opinion, the titanium looks stunning.

The titanium, available in white, blue, black, and natural, has a slightly brushed appearance we prefer over the glossy steel. The stainless steel — especially the black and purple hues — were notorious fingerprint magnets.

Sides of the blue titanium iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro review: Sides of the blue titanium iPhone 15 Pro

Titanium will still show oils from your fingers but looks much better. A simple wipe from just about any cloth will restore that like-new appearance.

Our blue titanium is pretty, though we'd have preferred a slightly lighter blue. In most lighting, it looks like a dark grey. Everyone will have their favorites, but we're partial to the natural titanium we picked up for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

iPhone 15 Pro review: Display and back-glass

Apple kept the display this year the same, other than shrinking the bezels by roughly a millimeter. It's still a 2556 by 1179 panel with 460 ppi. All of this measures 6.1 inches on the diagonal.

The Super Retina XDR display supports ProMotion up to 120Hz, TrueTone, and Night Shift. It's an always-on display that supports StandBy mode and has the Dynamic Island.

The iPhone 15 Pro has the same Pro Display XDR as the iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 15 Pro has the same Pro Display XDR as the iPhone 14 Pro

With the change in design, Apple worked to make the new iPhone more repairable. In our experience, the glass back panel has been more prone to breaking, especially if going without a case.

Apple touts its super-strong Ceramic Shield front glass but doesn't reveal the durability of the rear glass. We don't think it's unchanged, and some YouTube videos have suggested that it shatters more easily.

But don't believe the hype — it is not paper-thin, nor is it "just a touch" that causes it. It still takes a great deal of force to do so.

A damaged back panel can be easily removed without swapping the whole device, which has dramatically cut Apple's repair cost.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro in Blue Titanium

iPhone 15 Pro

The iPhone 15 Pro has a 6.1-inch (diagonal) OLED display and is powered by Apple's A17 Pro chip.

Once upon a time, companies made replacement back-panels to customize your iPhone. It'll be interesting to see with the easier repair process if they come back again.

iPhone 15 Pro review: USB-C

In what was possibly the worst kept secret of 2023, Apple finally made the jump to USB-C in the iPhone.

There's already been plenty of words spilled on the migration to the Lightning successor, so we'll keep this at least slightly abbreviated. The move to USB-C was inevitable, especially on the pro models — regardless of any EU regulation.

The new USB-C port
iPhone 15 Pro review: The new USB Type-C port

Apple had said Lightning was to be the iPhone's port for the next decade, and it lasted slightly longer than that. Eventually, Apple was going to change ports and unless it created a new proprietary port — which there were no rumors of — it had to be USB-C.

Apple has always been a USB-C champion and has been a designer of the spec. It moved its Macs to it exclusively years ago before transitioning the iPad line.

As we said before, it takes about three years for Apple to conceptualize an iPhone to ultimate arrival in the hands of customers. Design for the iPhone 15 line began before the European Union was pushing for USB-C across the board, so we're not sure how much of a factor the mandate was.

And, even if it was "forced" by the EU to do so, it didn't have to do it this year. Devices designed and shipped before 2024 can use whatever for a cabled connector. The iPhone 16 would have needed it, but not the iPhone 15.

On the "pro" phones, Apple uses a USB 3.2 port that supports data speeds of up to 10Gbps. There is a laundry list of devices that can connect via the new port — from Ethernet adapters to displays to SSDs or microphones.

Included is a braided USB-C cable
iPhone 15 Pro review: Braided USB-C cable

Apple included a braided USB-C to USB-C in the box — to pair with the new Type-C port, which supports USB 2.0 data speeds like its other charging cables.

iPhone 15 Pro review: Wireless connectivity

Apple has made a few improvements to connectivity, including finally moving to Wi-Fi 6E and its second-generation Ultra Wideband chip.

Wi-Fi 6E builds upon Wi-Fi 6 by adding support for the 6GHz spectrum on top of the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The new band can improve performance in highly congested areas or boost your mesh system's backhaul.

There isn't a promise of new speed with Wi-Fi 6E, but in our time with our other Wi-Fi 6E devices, it helps. Apple has already moved iPads and Macs to Wi-Fi 6E, so it was time for the iPhone to move too.

Connectivity options on iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro review: Connectivity options

The U2 — sorry, the second-generation Ultra Wideband chip — is another worthy upgrade. Apple says the new chip has three times the range as its predecessor.

With more range, it is easier to find your missing AirTags. If your friends or family have a new iPhone 15, you can use precision finding to locate them.

When you're in a crowded area like a festival, a bustling market, or an amusement park, a dot in Maps may not help you. You can now use your iPhone to get a directional arrow and a distance from the person you're tracking down.

If you have a new Apple Watch, it has another trick up its sleeve. You can do more than make your phone ring when lost.

It's another version of precision finding that gives you directional, audible, visual, and haptic feedback as you approach your iPhone's location.

iPhone 15 Pro review: Action button

We think the Action Button is the best addition to the iPhone 15 line. It isn't a wholly new concept, as other smartphones have had similar programmable buttons — but Apple has done an exceptional job with its implementation.

Action Buttons on iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max
Action Buttons on iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

The Action Button replaces the mute toggle and occupies the same space, just above the volume buttons. With a press and hold, you can trigger any number of different actions.

Apple built an entire UI experience around just programming this button in the Settings app. By default, it will still toggle mute, but you can set it to start a voice memo, turn on the flashlight, open the magnifier, open the camera, or enable a focus mode.

Our preferred action is to tie it to a Shortcuts folder. With a Shortcuts folder, you can add eight different shortcut actions.

At that point, when you press the button, a modal appears with all of your chosen actions. We have one that feeds our cat, a few to trigger HomeKit scenes, one to run a Shortcut, and a pair to open apps.

Of course, you could tie this to any other actions you'd like, such as logging in to the Health app, starting your car, or running your smart vacuum.

Setting up the Action Button and our preferred Shortcuts folder action
iPhone 15 Pro review: Setting up the Action Button and our preferred Shortcuts folder action

We've been using this nonstop and have slowly tweaked our use case. Some other actions seem superfluous, like setting a Focus mode or opening the camera.

Focus modes can be triggered based on a schedule, location, or other trigger, and the camera opens quickly from the Lock Screen. That rumored haptic capture button sounds promising on the iPhone 16 Pro if rumors hold next year.

iPhone 15 Pro review: A17 Pro

Powering Apple's new high-end phones is its A17 Pro processor, built around a 3nm process. It's Apple's first "pro" chip in an iPhone, and we had some high expectations to go with it.

While the A17 Pro has some good gains and system-wide improvements, it is a little bit of a letdown in terms of raw performance.

In Geekbench 6, the single-core score went from 2616 to 2858, and the multi-core went from 6595 to 7038. That's only a 10% improvement for the single core and around 7% better on the multi-core.

There's been a lot of talk about thermal throttling on the new iPhones, from the usual sources. It's still early, and the tale still fully remains to be told if it is abnormal or not, but every chip in mobile or desktop in every regard made in the last 20 years has some routine to slow down if it is in danger of overheat, or similar.

The issue really boils down to a matter of consumer tolerance. This isn't helped by the fact that we've seen a wide variance between users in iPhone temperatures, which probably comes down to the phones still indexing for some and not others, differences in charging habits, app usage, and even if an app is a good citizen as it pertains to iPhone resource use.

Apple hasn't said much about it, and probably won't. We'll be keeping an eye on it with time, though.

Regardless, no matter what your stance is on the thermal condition of a tightly-designed smartphone wrapped in metal and glass, the iPhone 15 Pro is faster than the iPhone 14 Pro it replaces, plus has other benefits. Its GPU now packs an additional core, providing 20% better graphics performance.

3DMark benchmark results for iPhone 14 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro (right)
iPhone 15 Pro review: 3DMark benchmark results for iPhone 14 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro (right)

In the 3DMark gaming benchmark, we got a score of 2085 on our iPhone 14 Pro and a score of 3371 on our iPhone 15 Pro. The iPhone 14 Pro only averaged 12.5 frames per second while the newer iPhone 15 Pro averaged 20.2 FPS.

It also has hardware-assisted ray tracing, making games look great. We played a few of our usual titles but didn't notice any real differences in performance.

Developers haven't had time to optimize their games yet, so we may see better performance down the line. And, this optimization will help with thermals too.

Apple did tout some new AAA titles during its announcement. Both the new Assassins's Creed and Resident Evil 4 will be launching on iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max exclusively.

Resident Evil 4 launching soon on iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro review: Resident Evil 4 launching soon

Resident Evil 4 will be landing before the end of the year while Assassin's Creed won't drop until 2024. They may be our first real look at what the A17 Pro can do.

iPhone 15 Pro review: Cameras

The camera hardware on the iPhone 15 Pro remains largely unchanged from the prior generation.

iPhone 15 Pro cameras
iPhone 15 Pro review: cameras

There's a trio of cameras; a 48MP Main Camera with an f/1.78 aperture, an f/2.2 12MP Ultra Wide camera, and an f/2.8 12MP telephoto camera.

Progressive Field as shot on iPhone 15 Pro's main camera
Progressive Field as shot on iPhone 15 Pro's main camera

Many of the new capabilities come from the A17 Pro silicon and accompanying software. Apple has made improvements to the Photonic Engine and upgraded the dynamic range to Smart HDR 5.

In the camera app, Apple is leveraging that large 48MP primary sensor to allow you to set the focal length for the primary sensor between 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm.

Vivid colors of the iPhone 15 Pro camera
Vivid colors of the iPhone 15 Pro camera

You also no longer have to move between photo mode and portrait mode. If a person, cat, or dog is detected in the frame, depth data is automatically collected so you can choose later if you want a Live Photo or a portrait photo.

A lot of discussion has been made around the 5X tetraprism telephoto lens found on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but we also wanted to highlight the very specific times when the regular pro still wins out.

Because Apple moved the iPhone 15 Pro Max to 5X optical zoom, anything below that is nothing more than digital zoom that results in a loss of quality.

3X zoom photo looks much better on the iPhone 15 Pro than the iPhone 15 Pro Max
iPhone 15 Pro review: 3X zoom photo looks much better on the iPhone 15 Pro than the iPhone 15 Pro Max

When you shoot a 3X or 4X zoom photo, they look better on the iPhone 15 Pro hands-down because it can better leverage its 3X telephoto lens.

This past two weeks, we've been taking stock of what kind of photos we shoot, and surprisingly, we rarely went above 4X zoom. Outside shots we'd kept wide and inside, we took a lot of 3X photos.

If we'd been using the iPhone 15 Pro Max, our photos wouldn't have looked as good as they did. That said, when you do need more zoom the iPhone 15 Pro Max looked better.

Once you zoom more, the iPhone 15 Pro Max looks much better
Once you zoom more, the iPhone 15 Pro Max looks much better

The point is, to be aware of each phone's strengths. If you don't find yourself zooming in that much, the iPhone 15 Pro may be the better choice for you when shopping for a new phone.

Another difference is with portrait photos. The iPhone 15 Pro Max no longer has 3X portrait shots.

Yes, the 5X portrait shots look great, but in our living room, it was too much and we had to try to back up or get closer. 5X was just a bit too much and we missed the 3X zoom when testing the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

For video, Cinematic mode now can be recorded at 4K@24, joining 30FPS and 60FPS options.

iPhone 15 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro Max (right)
iPhone 15 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro Max (right)

Both pro versions of iPhone 15 can record footage at up to 4K 60Hz ProRes but also Log that can be color corrected more accurately in post.

Thanks to the USB-C port, you no longer need to rely on your internal storage. You can connect an SD card, thumb drive, or SSD to that USB Type-C port and record directly to that media.

We'd recommend sticking with higher-performing media though. In our testing, slow media can cause dropped frames or can error out completely after a period of filming. We'll be talking more about this from a practical standpoint soon.

With the appropriate cables and adapters, a filmmaker can now connect an iPhone 15 Pro to a USB-C hub that has power input, an HDMI output that can connect to an iPad as an external monitor, and a USB-C output to record to an SSD.

There isn't a huge audience for this level of intense filming, but Apple is sure committed to supporting those users.

iPhone 15 Pro review: Small changes add up

If the titanium body, Action button, USB-C, the A17 Pro, and camera improvements weren't enough to sway would-be buyers, Apple has packed the new devices with little features to try to up the perceived value.

StandBy mode arrived with iOS 17 and works great with MagSafe or Qi2 chargers
StandBy mode arrived with iOS 17 and works great with MagSafe or Qi2 chargers

The new phone supports Qi2, making it the first fully available device to support the standard — though it comes with an asterisk. Technically Qi2 hasn't launched yet and there are no devices yet certified.

This upcoming wireless charging standard is based around MagSafe and is purported to offer the same 15W of charging with a ring of alignment magnets.

It's slated for a more robust launch in October, where we're sure the iPhone 15 Pro will be wholly signed off on. A plethora of Qi2 chargers were announced at IFA23 and will be more affordable than most MagSafe alternatives.

Thread comes baked into the iPhone 15 Pro, offering a new way to control smart home devices. Apple was one of the first to support Thread, which is a new wireless protocol that creates a self-healing mesh network across your home.

To communicate to a Thread device though, you'd historically need a hub, such as a HomePod or Apple TV that would bridge your phone to the device. Now, the iPhone 15 Pro can talk directly to those devices which can only improve response times.

These features get more niche but are important to varying circles of iPhone users. Qi2, for example, won't matter if you prefer to charge via USB-C and Thread is negligible if you have no smart home devices.

Should you buy the iPhone 15 Pro?

If you have the iPhone 14 Pro, you don't need the iPhone 15 Pro. There's some cool stuff here, but you may be better served waiting for the 2024 model and saving your hard-earned money this cycle.

iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro

For some, like folks on Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program, an annual update is essentially a requirement. Otherwise, the replacement cycle is stretching out, so even the Pro iPhone line is best looked at in a lens that stretches out over a year.

And, obviously, in a larger than one-year window, there is a much bigger gap between the iPhone 15 Pro, and the iPhone 13 Pro, or older.

If you are in the market you can feel confident in the iPhone 15 Pro. This is one of the most solid iPhone year-over-year that Apple has ever provided, ranging from what iOS 17 provides to the new model, to the titanium design, through the extensive list of new hardware features.

This phone hits the sweet spot with arguably the best form factor in years. It feels most comfortable in the hand with the same power as its bigger brother.

Unless you absolutely have to have that 5X zoom lens, the iPhone 15 Pro knocks it out of the park as the most balanced, and well-rounded iPhone to date.

iPhone 15 Pro review: Pros

  • Titanium body looks and feels amazing
  • New faster A17 Pro chipset
  • Lots of quality of life enhancements
  • Action Button is a game-changing feature
  • USB-C opens up lots of possibilities

iPhone 15 Pro revie: Cons

  • Lacks 5X tetraprism lens of the iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Sporadic talk of high temperatures

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the iPhone 15 Pro

Apple's iPhone 15 Pro has a starting retail price of $1,099, but wireless carriers are offering aggressive incentives, bringing the cost down to as low as free via bill credits.

The best iPhone deals are at your fingertips in our roundup, but you can also jump straight to the individual carriers below.