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Another year, another iPhone. Love it or hate it, Apple still sets the tech calendar and, to some extent, the tech market - especially smartphones - for the year. And every year, there's a nearly infinite number of things that can be said about it. Wherever you go on the internet, someone has something to say.
Well, I'm no different.
I've had mine for almost two months now, and since the iPhone is THE most talked about product on the planet, I'm not going to spend much time on the things we all already know about it. I'll just touch on what's different and leave you with my thoughts.
Also, I'm only going to talk about the Pro models because the base lineup isn't really worth talking about, in my opinion. And this is CrackBerry - we certainly don't keep our opinions to ourselves.
Say it with me: "If it walks like an iPhone, talks like an iPhone, and looks like an iPhone…". You can see where this is going. Once again, Apple did not make any substantial changes to the design of the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro lineups this year. But the changes they did make are quite welcome for me, personally.
While the squared off stainless steel edges of the iPhone 12, 13, and 14 Pro series were gorgeous and felt quite solid to hold, you still felt the edges every time you picked it up - especially if you're like me and don't use a case on your phone.
Apple rounded off the edges on the iPhone this year, even giving an oh-so-subtle curve to the front and back glass where it meets the side rails. And those side rails are now made of titanium instead of stainless steel. Apple says this makes the phone lighter than before, and I noticed it instantly. I used a 14 Pro off-and-on throughout last year and I immediately noticed how light the 15 Pro is as soon as I picked it up.
The rounded edges and lighter weight mean that the 15 Pro is actually comfortable to hold. As someone who uses a lot of phones, the 14 Pro was the most uncomfortable phone I used last year, while, so far, the 15 Pro has truly been nice to hold.
On a side note, I have seen some concerns from other reviewers about the possibility of the colored Pro models not holding their color as well over time. If you're concerned about that, I'd recommend the natural finish color.
The Action button is awesome and should (and undoubtedly will) be copied by Android OEMs. It's a small clickable button where the mute switch used to be that can be mapped to perform one of a few different features, like turning on the flashlight, opening the camera, recording a voice memo, and more. To be honest, it totally takes me back to the good old Convenience Key from my BlackBerry days - something BlackBerry phones kept around almost entirely up through the Key2. RIP.
I'll be honest and say that, at first, I was upset to find out they were getting rid of the mute switch, especially because it was a big part of why I continued to use iPhones (and a big reason why I use OnePlus phones, too).
One button to rule them all
But after having it and using it, I'm sold. It's extremely well-executed (this is Apple, after all), and what really makes it interesting is that you can also map it to a Siri Shortcut, meaning you can essentially set it to do nearly anything you want. Shortcuts have gotten much more capable over the years, so this opens up a huge plethora of possibilities for anyone who wants to explore it. Even, say, setting it to open Google Assistant.
It's also surprisingly anti-Apple, to be honest. Normally, with a new feature like this, they would severely restrict it to perform only a few specific tasks that they determine (cuz, you know, they know best) and only later open it up to third-party developers. While I don't doubt they'll allow developer access to it down the road, it's still nice to see them offer a pretty significant amount of customization on a brand new feature. Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come.
The new A17 Pro in the iPhone 15 Pro (is that enough 'Pro' for ya?) is an insanely fast new processor that's going to change the course of human history forever - or so Apple would have you believe.
Yes, it's faster than last year, just as it should be. Is it revolutionary? Hell no.
The only reason I even bring it up is because it does appear to have some decent graphics improvements. Apple actually spent most of its time talking about the processor specifically on the graphics performance. And they showed the Pro models playing legit AAA games, so there might actually be some decent improvements here. Like the Resident Evil: Village game they showed off is the actual PS5 game, not a port. So, who knows?
I can't say anything definitive about it yet because many of the games they talked about won't be available until later this year at the earliest, but it does look promising.
Other than that, it's a crazy fast processor that will be insanely more powerful than almost anyone would ever need in a phone. Yay.
The new A17 Pro could offer some impressive gaming performance...if you care
The camera updates this year are…interesting. For starters, on the standard Pro model, the hardware is all exactly the same. No changes at all; 48MP main sensor, 12MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide. The Pro Max gets a tad better telephoto lens, giving it a 5x optical zoom over the 3x on the regular Pro. It's still not going to come close to the crazy zoom capabilities on phones like the S23 Ultra, but it will work in a pinch. I'll let my buddy CBK cover it more in our 15 Pro Max review.
Where there is a decent upgrade is in the software behind the camera. Apple has done some more fancy wizardry in its software to combine a 48MP image for detail with a 12MP image for low-light to create a 24MP image by default.
The idea here is that it creates even sharper images than ever before, with the most noticeable improvements to portrait mode. With so much detail being captured in every picture, this also allows you to now snap a photo without first having to switch to portrait mode and be able to change the focus afterwards.
The Pros this year also have new digital focal lengths of 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, and 48mm, and you can even set the camera to open in 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm by default. For the uninformed, 28mm and 35mm are the most common focal lengths on normal cameras, so setting it to one of those will likely give you the most familiar looking photos.
Ok, so what does all this mean IRL (In Real Life, as the cool kids say these days)?
It means: - You're still going to be able to take consistently amazing photos - Portrait mode is even easier and better to use - You can zoom in a bit farther on the Pro Max
Boom. Camera reviewed. Check out some of my pics.
We come to it at last: the most talked about new feature of the iPhone 15 series - USB-C. Whatever motivation Apple had for making the switch - either the EU ruling or Apple ran out of "innovative" things to include on the iPhones - we FINALLY have USB-C on the iPhone. That means, at long last, you can actually use one cable to charge all your devices.
Unless, of course, you still have a base model iPad, or your partner has a 13 Mini, or your AirPod Pros still charge via lightning (Apple will be happy to sell you some new USB-C powered AirPod Pros, FYI).
Oh, and it still only tops out at 27W charging, so it won't charge any faster than before. You can connect it to external hard drives for quick-ish data transfers, if that's your thing, and a 4K monitor (but still no desktop mode). But considering the vast majority of people don't really ever need to do that, it won't be of much use to most of us.
So yeah, it has a USB-C port. And sure, it's more convenient. But if you're not a Pro user and you still need to have lightning cables around for some of your other Apple devices, then it might not be as big of a deal.
But hey, "innovation."
And...it's still an iPhone
All of these new features are great, and I truly appreciate many of them over the previous models - especially compared to my old 13 Mini (RIP). But, I can't help but think the most important thing to remember is that it's still an iPhone.
And that's both a good and bad thing. Apple's formula is so tried and true by this point that you can rest easy knowing you're getting a beautiful, well-built, top-quality phone that will be incredibly powerful and last you for many years to come.
In short, nothing about the hardware or software will fundamentally change the way you use your phone.
But that also means you're still getting iOS, which is again both a good and bad thing. It's still blazing fast, smooth and easy to use. But even though there's a 17 on the box this year, for all intents and purposes, it functions the exact same way it has for nearly a decade at this point, with all the restrictions and quirks included. In short, nothing about the hardware or software will fundamentally change the way you use your phone.
Of course, you could argue that point if you're switching from Android to iPhone, but if you are thinking of doing that, you probably already have at least some idea of what you're getting into.
In all honesty, I'm torn, because while it's hard to truly say there is anything innovative or even exciting about the new iPhones, I absolutely cannot say that it's a bad product or you shouldn't buy it. Far from it. It's still an incredibly well-built phone, with more than enough power and features for anyone on the planet, and it still feels so smooth and effortless to use. For me personally, who regularly uses both iPhone and Android, as great and fun as Android is to use, there's still something about iOS that just feels smoother, more cohesive, and more comfortable to use. The iPhone 15 Pro is the epitome of that.
So, essentially, my thoughts come down to three things:
Is it ridiculously overpriced?
Is it better or worse than the flagship Android phones out there?
Truthfully, that's almost entirely subjective at this point.
Should you buy it?
If you enjoy the Apple ecosystem and experience and your iPhone is a few years old now - then, unequivocally, yes. It's an incredible phone that is both a familiar and exciting upgrade for Apple users.
If you're trying to compare it to the Android flagships out there, then it just comes down to what you really want from your phone.
For me? I'll be happily enjoying my new iPhone 15 Pro.
Titanium, Action Button, USB-C
Apple made some solid improvements to the iPhone this year, but it's still the same iPhone you've always known.