Rarely has the base iPhone made as little sense as this year. Apple touts the iPhone 15 as a “huge leap” but in reality, you’re not getting that much more over the iPhone 14 which itself was nearly identical to the iPhone 13. With the $200/€250/£200 difference between the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Pro, we think the entry-level iPhone 15 is not a good buy and these are our main reasons.
While the iPhone 15 gets the updated Dynamic Island cutout and higher brightness output, all other aspects of the display are just like before. It’s still a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display with the same resolution and it still refreshes at 60Hz.
If Apple made the switch to 90Hz we’d cancel some of the criticism but the panel on the vanilla 15 is miles behind the 120Hz LTPO OLED on the 15 Pro which also retains the exclusive Always-On Display (AOD) feature. Oh and Apple also shrunk the bezels on the 15 Pro making it that much sleeker than the vanilla 15.
The A16 chipset inside the iPhone 15 is an iterative update over the A15 used in the previous two generation iPhones – a 6‑core CPU with 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores alongside a 5‑core GPU and 16‑core Neural Engine. Sure, it’s manufactured on a 4nm process compared to the older 5nm A15 but as we saw in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro review, the performance gains are subtle at best.
The 15 Pro on the other hand comes with an all-new 3nm Apple A17 Pro chip – the first of its kind on the market. It promises 10% faster CPU performance and 20% improvement on the GPU side. Apple is also pushing the gaming capabilities on the 15 Pro series with PC/console games like Resident Evil Village and Assassin’s Creed Mirage coming to the iPhone 15 Pro series next year with hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing.
We also have to mention the 2GB RAM gap between the vanilla and Pro models – the 15 is equipped with 6GB RAM while the 15 Pro gets 8GB RAM which should result in better long-term support.
Less capable cameras
The iPhone 15 received a boost on its main cam which now features a 48MP sensor but as usual, Apple reserves the best cameras on its Pro models. The 15 Pro gets a bigger main 48MP sensor with 1.22µm pre-binned pixels, an f/1.78 aperture and second-generation sensor-shift stabilization. The Pro also has exclusive rights to ProRAW image capturing, allowing you to make the most out of the sensor and enable all Apple’s computational photography boosts.
There’s an actual telephoto module on the 15 Pro with 3x optical zoom, which is nowhere to be found on the vanilla iPhone 15. The 15 Pro also supports 28mm and 35mm digital zoom modes for more lively portrait shots and you can even pick one of these focal lengths as your default setting. Selfies on the 15 Pro also benefit from OIS on the 12MP front-facing camera.
The new A17 chip also allows the 15 Pro models to capture 4K 60fps in ProRes RAW with support for the ACES color profile as well as 3D spatial videos which will be compatible with the Vision Pro headset.
Slower USB-C speeds
USB-C is a nice addition to the iPhone 15 but it won’t bring a meaningful data transfer speed upgrade over the Lighting connector since it’s still USB 2.0 at its core. This means you’ll be getting the same 480 Mbit/s max transfer speeds while the USB Type-C 3.0 connector on the 15 Pro is rated at up to 10 Gbps – that’s over 20x faster.
One specific area where the faster speeds will shine is in transferring large video files. You’ll also be able to shoot 4K 60fps ProRes videos directly on an external SSD for bigger projects which is a neat addition for videographers. You will have to supply your own Thunderbolt cable though since Apple ships all new iPhone 15 models with USB 2.0 Type-C cables.
P.S. If price is the main deciding factor, you can still pick up an iPhone 13 which will be offered by Apple at a reduced $599/€729/£599 starting price. You won’t be missing out on that much compared to the vanilla iPhone 15.