Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are almost Pro-grade on specs and experience
Chances are high that if you’re reading this review, you’ll not be spending Rs.1,34,900 or more on an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max. It is sensible to decipher your use case before splashing the cash. Sometimes, the utility must find a balance with value. Also, this year, the consumer line iPhones are at par with most features and performance metrics, with the just succeeded iPhone 14 Pro phones. In simple terms, that’s a big step forward for the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, compared with the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus.
Think of these non-Pro phones, as comparable with last year’s Pro iPhones. Suddenly, it all starts to make sense. Why we say that is because the power comes from the powerful A16 Bionic chip that has already done duties in the iPhone 14 Pro series, a 48-megapixel camera system upgrade that also draws from a new image processing pipeline, Dynamic Island instead of a thick notch, brighter display and USB-C.
Headline changes, alongside some tweaks including what Apple calls a colour-infused glass back (you’ll notice dual-tonality with the camera module), and yet prices haven’t changed compared with last year. It is not that complicated.
The iPhone 15 prices start at Rs.79,900, while the iPhone 15 Plus is priced at Rs.89,900 onwards. To be able to give these iPhones a significant experiential step forward while not succumbing to inevitable inflation adds value from the outset. But the “Plus”, if you want the larger screen. A significant upgrade if you have an iPhone from a couple of years ago. Or even earlier. In fact, a step forward from even the iPhone 14.
Apple has put in an extra effort to differentiate between the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Pro phones. That extends to the change driven by regulatory forces too. The USB-C on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus is the 2.0 standard, which means speeds are limited to 480 megabits per second. On the iPhone 15 Pro, the 3.0 standard pushed that envelope as high as 10Gbps. This doesn’t change battery charge times – the recommendation is to use a 20-watt charger, for 50% charge in 30 minutes.
Since the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus aren’t meant for you, if the idea is to shoot ProRes videos at 4K at 60 fps with external storage, a lower speed shouldn’t make much difference. A word of caution though – there will be a period of transitional hassle for long-time iPhone users. Having to get used to the idea of a new cable (replace one on your bedside, workstation, travel pouch and even in the car perhaps). And some accessories are rendered irrelevant, such as earphones with the Lightning Port or a memory card reader. But that discomfort will be short-lived when mirrored with long-term gains.
The display you’ll interface with hasn’t changed in size or type specifics. Yet, peak brightness is higher than before (there is always an upside to this), which is something you’ll appreciate when squinting to read something outdoors, on a bright afternoon. Illumination change is subtle. A change you’ll draw more value with depending on which apps you use, is the notch giving way to the Dynamic Island. Tracking food orders, music playback or even the flight schedule, will be available at a glance. For iPhone 15 users, their phone doesn’t look any different from the iPhone 15 Pro. At least from the front.
One point to consider, and perhaps even argue about, is the lack of an upgrade on the refresh rate front. These iPhone 15 series displays are still 60Hz, at a time when Android enthusiasts will tell you 90Hz or 120Hz is better (there is even some criticism of the former, within that space). The way iOS 17 is optimised, it is unlikely you’ll feel any sluggish interface elements. But well, it misses out on a spec sheet. Mind you, ask nicely, and many Android users would admit they drop their phone’s screen down to 60Hz or 90Hz from 120Hz, or even keep it “dynamic”. That’s to save battery life. Why criticise Apple over a spec, just that it hasn’t been ticked off? And perhaps rightly so?
The trend continues with the dual camera module on the back. The ‘Pro’ iPhones have triple cameras. Another differentiator, we were referring to, with the missing macro sensor. That’s where continuity ends. At an end is what seemed like a rather elongated era of 12-megapixel + 12-megapixel combinations, replaced by a second generation 48-megapixel wide and a 12-megapixel ultrawide. We say second generation, because there are learnings from last year’s first tryst with the 48-megapixel sensors, which Apple has used to improve the combination of the sensor and image processing pipeline. Essentially, a non-Pro iPhone has the same specs as an iPhone Pro, albeit a generation earlier. Still a big step forward nonetheless.
To our eyes, photos clicked by an iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are at par with the iPhone 14 Pro. Two things to summarize – that is a big step forward regardless of generation, and performance is incomparable to an iPhone 14. It is not just the imaging pipeline that has led to a significant improvement in detail, colour vividness (still less excitable and more realistic than many Android phones) and dynamic range (that’s long been something of a weakness for the iPhone, in certain lighting scenarios). But also because the default image size can now be 24-megapixels, pulling in data from the 48-megapixel and 12-megapixel sensors.
There are also full-resolution 48-megapixel photos (in JEPG and HEIF formats), but unlikely most iPhone 15 users would want each photo to consume that extra storage space on the phone, or iCloud. It’s an option, nonetheless, one that can be useful, for those occasional shots that deserve the extra detailing. What’ll matter more is the 2x optical zoom.
You may not notice this instantly, but pipeline improvements with the camera make the portrait photography mode more versatile. You click a photo, and if a person’s face or a pet is detected in the photo (we noticed it’s true for flowers and certain objects too, but that’s still a bit of a hit-and-miss), you will find the ability to enable portrait from edit in Photos. Even if you clicked this photo in standard “photo” mode. This can only be good news, in the long term.
Very little has changed on the design front, except a minor reduction in height. There is less significant a reduction in weight too (just a gram or two, depending on which of the phones you compare), since the goodness of Titanium has still not trickled down to the consumer line iPhones.
Alongside all that’s changed (and that is indeed a lot), there are still some elements from the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus that make their way forward. The display size, ultrawide camera and sound profile switch are the ones you’d immediately notice. That’s in sync with Apple’s intent to differentiate the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus from the iPhone 15 Pro phones. All in all, the Apple iPhone 15 is representative of a wholesome step forward, even for iPhone 14 users.