The iPhone 15 has a small collection of downsides but there’s nothing to cause any major problems. It’s otherwise more of the same from Apple with a solid balance of hardware, software and performance making the iPhone 15 a good-value option.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: Apple iPhone 15
Another year, another set of new iPhone models. But is the iPhone 15 more of the same from Apple or does it stand out from the crowd?
Well, it’s cheaper than the iPhone 14 (in the UK) so that’s a good start and it gets the Dynamic Island from last year’s Pro models, too. And as expected, Apple has made the move from Lightning to USB-C, marking the first change in physical port since 2012’s iPhone 5.
And it has a bigger impact than you might expect.
Design & Build
Still looks like an iPhone
No Action Button
Once an iPhone, always an iPhone? Well that certainly seems to be the case with the iPhone 15 with minimal changes to the design, and I don’t just mean compared to its predecessor. Even looking at the phone side-by-side with the iPhone 12 mini there’s not a lot of difference.
Of course, there are some small alterations with the colour-infused glass back being perhaps the most obvious. You can get the iPhone 15 in Black, Blue, Green, Yellow and Pink and on my Black review sample, it gives the rear cover a frosted matt finish.
I prefer this to the glossy finish of iPhones gone past with the reflective glass around the cameras providing enough contrast to give the design a little bit of flashiness without the whole back being a magnet for fingerprints and dirt.
Chris Martin / Foundry
Elsewhere, the Ceramic Shield front is supposedly tougher than any other smartphone glass and the aerospace grade aluminium frame has a matching finish to the rear. Apple quotes a total of 75% recycled aluminium is used for the enclosure.
Perhaps a lot of this doesn’t matter much considering the percentage of iPhones that get covered by a case within minutes of being taken out of the box. If you don’t go down the case route though, this is a durable phone thanks to those materials and an IP68 dust and waterproof rating (and with a waterproof rating to a depth of 6m which is more than usual).
It feels like a nice size in the hand (7.6mm and 171g), though reaching the top of the screen may be tricky unless you have big hands. My main concern for those not using a case is how slippery the handset is, despite the matt finish.
Of course, one of the big yet subtle changes is the USB-C port on the bottom but I’ll talk about that later. It’s worth noting before we move on that the Action Button that Apple introduced this year is exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro models, as is the titanium frame.
Screen & Speakers
6.1in Super Retina XDR
Limited to 60Hz
Still at 6.1in, the Super Retina XDR display on the iPhone 15 is largely the same as the 14, albeit with a very minor resolution change. The big change is the introduction of Dynamic Island which was previously limited to the Pro models.
This means it’s bye bye to the notch and hello to the pill-shaped area which houses the selfie camera and various sensors. Dynamic Island is essentially a clever way to make this area useful rather than an unwanted blotch on the screen.
Chris Martin / Foundry
Using the screen around it, the feature makes it appear like the area expands to show useful information and even controls. This might mean a small amount of information either side, or you can do things like long press to expand it into a larger widget-like area or tap it as a shortcut to open the app being displayed.
It’s available for all kinds of apps, from Apple’s built-in ones to Spotify, Uber Eats, various sports apps and lots more. It can also split into two in order to give you information from two different apps.
It’s a great way of turning something many might find ugly into something genuinely useful and it’s nice to see it trickle down to the cheapest flagship iPhone.
This year the screen has also been given a brightness boost with Apple claiming it can hit a 1600 nits peak HDR level or 2000 nits outdoors. The most I could get it to read by the window in my office with a SpyderX was 540 nits but I can confirm the screen is easy to use anywhere. The haptic feedback is a little weak for my taste and there’s no way of adjusting it.
As you would expect, the iPhone 15’s display looks great with plenty of detail, colour and contrast. If you want to get into a spec battle with the wider market though, there are a couple of things missing here.
The first, and arguably most important, is the refresh rate is limited to a standard 60Hz. It’s not that the device doesn’t run well but we know from experience that 90- and 120Hz offer a smoother experience and for this price in 2023, we’d expect it to be higher than 60Hz.
There’s also still no sign of a fingerprint scanner when most Android rivals have an in-screen scanner. The flip side to this is that Face ID remains the best facial recognition technology out there so it’s not the end of the world.
Stereo speakers on the iPhone 15 sound good at low volumes with an impressively balanced output but pump things up and things quickly trend towards a trebly sound. As normal, there’s no headphone jack so you’ll need Bluetooth audio devices or a USB-C adapter.
Specs & Performance
A16 Bionic chip
USB-C brings new possibilities
Part of Apple’s trickle-down strategy is that the iPhone 15 gets the processor from last year’s Pro models, the A16 Bionic.
On the one hand, it seems like a bit of a con getting old tech, but this isn’t exclusive to Apple and the fact remains that iPhone performance is about as reliable as it gets. It helps that Apple is in control of all the hardware and software, able to optimise everything.
USB-C opens up a world of new possibilities, though Apple isn’t making a big deal about many of them.
Chris Martin / Foundry
You can connect the iPhone 15 to a monitor or TV with the right cable – USB or HDMI are possible. The phone’s screen is mirrored so you can do just about anything including gaming with a video output of 4K/60fps and using a Bluetooth controller.
This turns the iPhone into a portable console, however, there are caveats such as the iPhone screen remains on making it prone to getting hot, so you’ll need to invest in some cooling equipment. You also can’t choose the iPhone’s speakers for sound, which is frustrating if your monitor doesn’t have its own.
Other than external displays, you can connect a plethora of USB-C accessories: a camera like a GoPro, an SSD (you can save straight to it from the camera app), USB-C headphones, CarPlay-compatible cars, microphones, adapters, card readers and lots more. And no doubt more will arrive over time, designed for this purpose.
So, it’s perfectly plausible that you have devices lying around that you use for iPad or Mac that are now suddenly compatible with the iPhone 15 and in the right situation, they could be a real boon.
Chris Martin / Foundry
What’s worth noting is that the iPhone 15 (and 15 Plus) are limited to USB 2.0 speeds of 480Mbps, the same as Lightning. The supplied cable can handle this speed, but the 15 Pro models can support up to USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds of 10Gbps, though you’ll need to buy a compatible cable to reach that figure if you go Pro.
There’s only 128GB of storage for the entry-level model but this matches Google and Samsung and Apple does offer up to 512GB, though it will cost you.
iPhone 15 benchmarks
Cameras & Video
New 48Mp main camera
Some photography issues
Although the camera setup might look the same as the iPhone 14, Apple has upgraded the main sensor from 12- to 48Mp. That’s a big jump in resolution in modern smartphone terms.
This is accompanied by a 12Mp Ultra Wide camera with a 120-degree field of view. The final camera is at the front and is also 12Mp like last year.
Though the 48Mp main camera might seem like the one from the iPhone 14 Pro, it’s got slightly lesser sub-specs. Still, it enables more possibilities including high resolution photos if that’s your thing.
I just think Apple makes things like this overly complicated, partly by having the camera settings hidden away. While you can take full-resolution 48Mp pictures, you’ve got to the Formats section of the camera settings and switch Resolution Control on. Back in the camera app, you then see the ‘HEIF MAX’ option in the top corner but even that isn’t clear to the average user what it means.
Assuming you’ll be using the camera in the default mode, it pixel bins to 24Mp with the option to shoot in 12Mp if you prefer (perhaps a wise move if you get the 128GB model with photos at around 2MB rather than 3MB).
Chris Martin / Foundry
Another slightly confusing thing is that Apple touts a ‘2x Telephoto’ but this isn’t a third lens like on the iPhone 15 Pro models, it’s just that the new camera supposedly provides optical quality at this zoom level. This pixel bins to 12Mp.
As usual, the quality of the cameras is very good, it’s a flagship Apple handset after all. It’s not without a few issues here and there though, based on my testing and we have to nitpick to some degree at this level.
The new 48Mp sensor results in detailed shots and the camera works very well in low light with the ability to let in more light. You can point and shoot in most situations and get something perfectly sharable on social media.
However, I did find the autofocus a little slow sometimes, particularly in close-up situations where the iPhone isn’t well suited. Often ultra wide cameras make for good macro shots but I didn’t find this to be the case as shown in the coffee bean photos.
It’s better to use the 2x ‘telephoto’ which is decent on the whole, although saying it’s better than actual telephoto is a bit of a stretch. You can digitally zoom up to 10x if you need to, though as shown in the photos of ducks, the quality takes a noticeable dip.
A couple of other small issues I found is that the colour isn’t always consistent between the main and ultra wide cameras. More of a problem is that I find colour on the main sensor over saturated and therefore some images can look a bit unreal, though you may like this style.
Smart HDR 5 is supposed to be better at handling bright or uneven light but check various samples in the gallery and the sky is often blown out.
What Apple calls ‘next-generation portraits’ are here, and this means you don’t need to specifically call up the portrait mode in the camera to take portrait images. If you take a photo of a person, cat or dog, the camera automatically records depth information so you can add the bokeh effect later with ‘Depth Control’.
It works very well in my experience and even took a decent stab at suggesting my dog is an Australian Shepherd (she’s a Border Collie crossed with a Kelpie but that’s still impressive).
Focus control is also possible where you can choose to switch the focus from one subject to another in editing rather than when you’re taking the photo.
For me, there are better phone cameras out there including the cheaper Pixel 8, but Apple still leads the pack when it comes to video. Sensor-shift optical image stabilisation keeps everything incredibly smooth and you can shoot in Action mode (up to 2.8K/60fps) if you know the phone is going to be particularly shaky while filming.
You can shoot in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR up to 4K at 60 fps and there are plenty of other modes to play around with including Cinematic mode which automatically shifts the focus to the most important subject as you film.
Battery Life & Charging
Solid battery life
USB-C with reverse charging
MagSafe and Qi wireless charging
According to GSMArena (since Apple doesn’t list it) the iPhone 15 has a battery capacity of 3349mAh, comparatively tiny compared to almost every Android phone these days. But it’s what you do with it that counts right?
The iPhone 15 will comfortably last the day and I’d expect most people to charge it at night. Lighter users like me will be able to get into a second day, but I doubt it will last all the way through to bedtime.
If you need more battery life, look to the iPhone 15 Plus which Apple rates as offering 26 hours of video playback, which is six more hours than the regular.
In terms of charging Apple says it can reach 50% in half an hour if you use its 20W power adapter or higher. And you’ll need a power brick as Apple only supplies a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, albeit a nice woven one.
I actually managed better than what Apple claims with a Google 18W charger, seeing the phone hit 52% in 30-minutes. While that outpaces the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S23 with respective 41- and 44% results, it’s worth noting that in the wider phone market none of them are particularly fast.
We’ve seen countless mid-range phones hit 100% or close to in the same time and with bigger cells than the iPhone 15.
There’s wireless charging here but you’ll need to use MagSafe to get the most out of it. This way gets you 15W while using a Qi wireless charger only allows for 7.5W.
There’s no reverse wireless charging here but you can use the USB-C port to charge devices such as AirPods or Apple Watch, if you don’t mind giving up the juice from the phone. It’s limited to 4.5W so perfect for these smaller devices.
It’s possible to charge another iPhone (or an Android phone with USB-C PD (power delivery)) and the one with the lower battery level will be topped up. Plug the iPhone 15 into a Lightning port iPhone though, and the latter will always get the charge.
You may love Lightning but the move to USB-C makes sense with the wider tech world and now aligns with Mac and iPad.
Software & Apps
Not much new
Likely long software support
I won’t spend too long on software because, well, it’s an iPhone and iOS hasn’t changed a whole lot over the last few years.
This latest version brings with it a selection of smaller tweaks and features, though some are welcome and will be genuinely useful.
For example, you can use NameDrop to share information with someone by simply bringing two iPhones close together and you can choose what details you want to make available. Interactive widgets are useful, even though they have been on Android for a considerable amount of time.
Chris Martin / Foundry
There are other things like StandBy giving you useful info when charging and you can see our favourite iOS 17 features here.
Apple doesn’t state an official length of software support but is well-known for providing many years of OS updates to iPhones. Typically, each iPhone will see six versions of iOS in its lifetime so the iPhone 15 should make it to iOS 22.
Price & Availability
Starting at $799/£799, the iPhone 15 is actually cheaper than its predecessor – in the UK anyway, but in the US it’s still the same price.
This is for the base 128GB model which is pretty standard but doesn’t have to be. The likes of Motorola are offering 256GB on phones under £250 such as the Moto G84 5G.
Apple’s price sits the iPhone 15 in between the top Android flagships with the Samsung Galaxy S23 starting at $849/£849 and the Google Pixel 8 at $699/£699.
If you want 256- or 512GB, you’ll have to fork out $899/£899 or $1,099/£1,099 respectively and the latter is a storage capacity the aforementioned Samsung and Google handsets don’t come in.
See our list of the best phones for more options.
Should you buy the iPhone 15?
Whether the iPhone 15 is right for you is always a tricky question to answer. Are you holding an iPhone 14 reading this or an iPhone 12 or an Android handset even.
The difference to last year’s iPhone, as usual, isn’t huge but you may be tempted nonetheless with things like Dynamic Island, the new camera (with some small foibles) and USB-C. These are a big upgrade from iPhones a few years old and the 15 represents good value for money at its lower price (than the 14 in the UK) with Apple’s long support.
It’s probably the most well-rounded option of the 15 range, with the Plus likely too big for many and the Pro models potentially too expensive, though they have various tempting exclusive features.
In the wider smartphone market, things get a bit more interesting. Almost all Android phones have a higher refresh rate than the iPhone 15 for starters and faster charging speeds, too. I’d also say you can get a better photography experience on the Pixel 8 for less money if that’s the most important thing to you.
6.1in Super Retina XDR display with Dynamic Island