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Apple iPhone 15 Pro review

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The Apple iPhone 15 Pro has received the BTTR Hall of Fame Award.
10Expert Score
Apple iPhone 15 Pro review: Exceptional

Apple created a powerhouse of a phone with something for everybody, from the brilliant camera to the intuitive software.

Design
10
Performance
10
Pros
  • Looks and feels great
  • Exceptional camera
  • Action button works well
  • Incredible performance
Cons
  • USB-C shift will take time to adjust
  • Battery life is good, but not great
  • Action button can only do one thing

If you only look at the surface of the iPhone 15 Pro, the improvements are obvious, yet subtle. 

There’s the shift away from the Lightning connector found in every iPhone since the iPhone 5 to the new universal USB-C standard. 

There’s the removal of the silence switch we’ve had since the first iPhone, in place of the versatile new Action button. 

Plus, the phone is made with titanium. You could probably send it to space and have it work. 

All these small, subtle shifts work towards a much more purposeful device. 

The iPhone 15 Pro is arguably the best smartphone Apple has ever designed. It combines these discreet hardware changes, the annual processor and camera improvements, and some great new iOS 17 features to create an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro review: Design

First impressions don’t have the same impact when the design of the device hasn’t fundamentally shifted in generations. 

Open up the iPhone 15 Pro box and you’ll see a rectangle of glass and metal before you, the same as the last iPhone and the iPhone before that. 

Running through the specs, the iPhone 15 Pro measures in at 146.6 x 70.6 x 8.25 mm and weighs 187 grams. It’s not too different from the iPhone 14 Pro before it, really, losing half a millimetre to a millimetre on each side.

iPhone 15 Pro in the hand outside in full sun

But once you pick the phone up, you will notice the subtle changes between models. The metal frame around the phone is made of titanium, which helps the phone feel a bit lighter, though you probably won’t realise that. 

What you may notice is that the edges of the phone are a bit smoother. Visually it’s not too obvious, but in the hand it just feels better.

There’s the USB-C port at the bottom, which you will only notice when you go to plug in a Lightning cable. I use wireless charging for pretty much everything, so the only time I’ve struggled with the switch is in the car, when I forgot to replace the cable.

The shift from Lightning to USB-C is likely to impact everyone slightly differently. I have drawers full of USB-C cables, so it’s never hard to find the right cable for my needs with the new iPhone. 

But not everybody will be so lucky. The good news is that this will invariably get easier over time. It won’t take long for everyone to make the switch from Lightning to USB-C as phones are upgraded and cables replaced.

CLose up of the USB-C port on the iPhone 15 Pro

Flashlights, Selfie camera, Action Button

The other notable visual change is the Action button, but even that feels remarkably similar to the silence switch. It’s just that it doesn’t move up and down anymore.

The Action Switch has the potential to be a real game changer for individuals, though there’s going to be a bit of work involved. 

Out of the box it will silence your phone just like the switch did, but you can change it to do things like turn on your flashlight or start and stop a voice memo.

Close up of the action button on the iPhone 15 Pro

The real power comes from the ability to control shortcuts. If you’re prepared to program your own little macro using the Shortcuts app, you can use the Action Button to do it effortlessly. 

For example, I created a shortcut that allows me to dictate a Journal Entry into Day One. It tags it as “dictated”, adds the date and then saves it to the journal. All I have to do is press the Action button to activate it, and it works effortlessly every time.

The biggest downside is that you can only have a single action married to the Action Button. 

I want it to do different things based on whether I short press, long press, double tap or triple tap.

My AirPods can already recognise the difference between those controls, so why can’t the Action button?

To be honest, I completely expect additional control patterns to come with the next generation of iPhone. But until that happens, you could always create a shortcut that offers quick access to different shortcuts, I guess.

The dynamic island on the iPhone 15 Pro

Apple iPhone 15 Pro review: Performance

The great unsung hero of Apple’s smartphones is the processor. The iPhone 15 Pro sees the introduction of the A17 Pro chipset inside, which boasts a 64-bit six-core CPU and a six-core GPU, with added hardware accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading support.

That last sentence uses big words that sound impressive. What it actually means while using the phone is that it absolutely smashes anything you want it to do. 

Obviously the biggest and best example here is going to be gaming.

Apple made a big song and dance about the fact that the new iPhone models will be able to play console-quality games thanks to this new processor setup. Unfortunately, none of those games have launched before I wrote this review to break down what the experience was like.

To make up for this I played a heap of Apple Arcade games, from Fantasian to Stardew Valley, and everything looks and plays wonderfully. There is absolutely no stuttering or dropped frames. I didn’t even experience any issues where the phone started to get a bit warm, either.

If we take a look at benchmarks, things look even more impressive. Apple has pulled way out in front of the competition.

Single-core:

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
2892
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
2289
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
2098
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
1999
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
1967
Apple iPhone 14
1738

Multi-core:

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
7196
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
5388
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
5512
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
5286
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
5088
Apple iPhone 14
4741

GPU:

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
27332
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
22784
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
9343
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
9100
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
3568
Apple iPhone 14
12507

And on the battery front, I was getting through a day of use, with a fair amount of time spent gaming and social media use every day.

It’s not as impressive as the Galaxy Fold 5, but it’s a significantly smaller device. While I would love for the battery to last longer, I also found being able to throw it on a wireless charger to be fast and effortless.

Close up of the cameras in the iPhone 15 Pro

Camera

Apple hasn’t put its absolute best camera in the iPhone 15 Pro. The 15 Pro Max takes that honour, with a 5x optical zoom in the larger phone compared to the 3x in this model.

But don’t let that make you think this camera isn’t worth it. This is a fantastic snapper that takes wonderful photos.

The phone boasts a 48MP main, 12MP ultra-wide and a 12MP 3x telephoto sensor. But the real magic isn’t in the sensor sizes, but in the image processing the iPhone 15 does to create images.

Every time you take a photo, the phone blends multiple photos together to create a 24MP image (you can change this in the settings). That image offers impressive dynamic range, contrast and colour, as well as detail.

Night shots are only output at 12MP, but you don’t really notice the difference. The phone does a great job of capturing detail and colour and blacks, without a whole lot of noise or motion blur.

It also allows you to shift the focal point of a shot after the fact, so any photo you take on the phone can be changed to a portrait style after the photo has been taken. You can also set the subject to be in the foreground or the background.

With digital zoom filling in the gaps between each of the three lenses, there are nice haptic feedback when zooming to know when you’re using the lenses without any digital zoom.

Software

New iPhones launch with new versions of iOS, and iOS 17 is a solid update. While many of the features are available on the iPhone 14 as well, I did want to call out the Standby function.

Standby lets you take advantage of the always-on display by realising when the phone is tilted sideways and connected to power. It is the perfect reason to justify buying a MagSafe dock like the Belkin BoostCharge Pro 2-in-1.

While you can customise the screen with a swipe, I had the 15 Pro set up to act as a large digital clock. The phone detected the amount of ambient light and made the numbers bright blue and easy to read during the day, but at night it dropped the brightness and changed the colour to red.

The iPhone 15 Pro in standby mode

When there’s no movement, it’ll switch off the screen entirely. But it will wake up again if you roll over in bed to look at the clock.

This feature turned the iPhone into not only a great phone, but the best bedside alarm clock I’ve ever used.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro review: Verdict

The iPhone 15 Pro offers a lot for any type of phone buyer. If you’re looking at an iPhone and money isn’t an issue, then I’d argue that this is the one to buy.

Sure you get a slightly better camera in the Pro Max, but for in-hand comfort and features, this is exceptional value for money.

Apple does a fantastic job of marrying hardware and software. From little features like the dynamic island to the ability to quickly launch a shortcut via the new action button, things work well and mostly painlessly.

The new A17 Pro chip is a powerhouse. While performance isn’t everything, if developers come to the party en masse and start releasing console titles on the iPhone, it could be the start of a whole new revolution in mobile gaming.

It’s a brilliant camera in its own right too, capable of shooting professional photos and video effortlessly. While you may not need that level of performance, you’ll still be happy that it’s there.

Overall though, this is just an exceptional product with fantastic performance and features. It is comfortably one of the best phones of 2023

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Product disclosure

Apple supplied the product for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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