Tech Review: Apple iPhone 15 – the time is right to upgrade from your older phone

Apple ups its game with new smartphone – and the gap between the regular and Pro models has significantly narrowed

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For the past couple of years, there has been a familiar pattern to Apple launches. Two different models of iPhone, the regular and the Pro, are unveiled, with the Pro model getting the more advanced features and the higher price.

Last year, that was taken a step further when the iPhone 14 Pro got the A16 Bionic chip, Apple’s latest and greatest, and the standard iPhone 14 was powered by a tweaked version of the previous year’s A15.

Then there was the Dynamic Island, which displayed content running in the background, which was also a Pro-exclusive feature, and the existing gulf between the camera technology on the phones.


The gap between the regular iPhone and the Pro models widened further.

Fast-forward to this year and things look a little different. While there are still some notable differences – the extra camera lens, the faster chip, the USB-C 3.0 support – the substantial gulf has narrowed a little.

The iPhone 15 comes with a better camera than before, essentially adding the zoom lens that it had previously omitted, and the Dynamic Island, so you can wave goodbye to the notch on the screen that so many hated.

It has the new USB port too, although it only supports USB 2.0, which offers slower data transfer speeds than its Pro counterpart. And you get all the portrait mode improvements, so you can create portraits out of photographs after the fact.

To be clear, there are still two cameras on the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. The optical zoom comes from the increased megapixel count on the device, which now matches the 48-megapixel quality of the Pro models.

You can effectively get 2x optical zoom by using only the centre 12 megapixels on the main camera. It’s a small change that fills in one of the gaps of the base model iPhone for users.

The photos themselves are sharp, although a side-by-side comparison with the iPhone 15 Pro Max shows some slight differences in quality.

On the whole, though, you will get some great photos out of the iPhone 15, including the new portrait features that allow you to create a portrait picture.

Those photos and videos look great on the Super Retina XDR display – still 6.1 inches for the 15 and 6.7 inches for the 15 Pro – which now hits up to 1600 nits at peak HDR brightness and up to 2,000 nits at peak outdoor brightness, which is about twice as bright as last year’s model.

On the inside, you get the A16 Bionic, last year’s iPhone 14 Pro chip – and also a new second-gen ultra-wideband chip that will help you find your friends more easily. It has three times the range as before but there is a catch: the other person has to have an iPhone 15 to take advantage of this extra distance.

Design-wise, the iPhone 15 doesn’t take any big leaps, although it does make a few changes. There is no titanium here, but the iPhone 15 does have a couple of design changes.

First, it gets the frosted glass back that we have seen on the Pro models previously. Couple that with a slight tweak to the design of the edges – so small you might miss it, if we’re honest – and the phone is easier to keep hold of than its predecessor.

But since most of us will immediately put it into some sort of case to protect the phone from bumps and scratches, this change will likely be lost on many of the phone’s future owners.

There are some omissions. The always-on display is still a Pro-only feature, although if you’ve never had it you won’t miss it. You still get the StandBy feature in IOS 17 that turns your phone into a bedside clock, though.

The bottom line: if you have an older iPhone – an iPhone 12 or older, for example – the iPhone 15 will be a significant upgrade.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist