iPhone 15 Pro review: smaller, but still mighty

Blue Titanium (left) and Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pros on a green park bench.

iPhone 15 Pro

MSRP $999.00

“While it lacks the 5x telephoto of its larger sibling, the iPhone 15 Pro is still quite a powerhous,e with plenty of great improvements this year.”

Pros

  • Titanium makes a significant difference
  • Action button is convenient
  • Improved cameras
  • USB-C!
  • Powerful performance with A17 Pro
  • Gorgeous display

Cons

  • Boring colors
  • Slow USB-C charging speeds
  • No 5x optical zoom
  • Action button limited to one gesture

Apple’s iPhone 15 lineup has proven to be one of the most significant refreshes in quite some time. There are some subtle design changes all around and a whole lot to love.

Though this year’s biggest improvements are found in the iPhone 15 Pro Max, not everyone wants to use the biggest phone there is. Fortunately, the regular iPhone 15 Pro is still quite capable in its own right.

iPhone 15 Pro: design

Blue Titanium (left) and Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pros on a concrete bench.
Christine Romero-Chan /

On the surface, the iPhone 15 Pro looks a lot like last year’s iPhone 14 Pro … which looked like the two generations before it. Apple has kept the same design since the iPhone 12 Pro, with the triple-lens camera system, frosted matte back glass, and stainless steel frame. But the stainless steel also made the Pro models heavy – to the point where it became uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time.

Yes, titanium does make a substantial difference.

That all changes with the iPhone 15 Pro. Apple has replaced the stainless steel frame with brushed titanium, and yes, it does make a substantial difference. The iPhone 14 Pro weighed 7.27 ounces (206 grams), while the iPhone 15 Pro is 6.60 ounces (187 grams). I held both my old iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro side by side in each hand, and the iPhone 15 Pro definitely feels much more lightweight. Even in a case, the iPhone 15 Pro has never felt too heavy to hold.

Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing curved edges in a closeup shot.
Christine Romero-Chan /

The titanium frame also has more rounded edges that meet the front and back glass seamlessly. The result is a much more comfortable feel, as there are no longer any sharp edges that dig into your fingers after prolonged use. Though I still prefer to keep my iPhone 15 Pro in a case due to my own tendency to have butterfingers, the overall new design has made it so much more comfortable to use, even without a case.

I was definitely excited to hear that Apple was using titanium for the iPhone frame, but I didn’t realize how good it would be until I unboxed my iPhone 15 Pro. I really hope that Apple continues to use titanium for future iPhone designs because it really does make a world of difference.

iPhone 15 Pro: Action button

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Action button.
Christine Romero-Chan /

Another huge change with the iPhone 15 Pro lineup this year is the Action button. Ever since the original iPhone in 2007, there’s always been a ring/silent switch above the volume buttons. But with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, that has been eliminated in favor of an all-new, customizable Action button.

The default setting for the Action button is a press-and-hold function to enable or disable silent mode. Doing this shows a small pop-up in the Dynamic Island, letting you know that it’s on or off, and you get the same haptics. But leaving it on the default ring/silent action is boring since you can now access that from the Control Center and use the Action button for something else.

iPhone 15 Pro Action button setup for Voice Memo.
Christine Romero-Chan /

To change what the Action button does, go to the Settings app, select Action Button from the menu, and pick what you want to do with it. The other actions, besides enabling silent mode, include:

  • Turn on a Focus mode
  • Open the Camera app
  • Turn on the flashlight
  • Start a Voice Memo recording
  • Enable the Magnifier
  • Run a Shortcut
  • Launch an Accessibility feature
  • No Action (disable the Action button)

The user interface for the Action button customization is absolutely gorgeous and one of the best UI interactions I’ve seen from Apple in a while. Some of the actions also have more options to choose from — such as picking a specific Focus mode or launching the Camera into a normal photo, selfie, video, Portrait mode, or Portrait selfie status.

iPhone 15 Pro Action button setup for Camera.
Christine Romero-Chan /

Personally, I’ve been using my Action button for just launching the Camera app into a normal photo. Especially with the Auto Portrait feature of the entire iPhone 15 lineup, I feel it’s a little repetitive to go into Portrait mode in general, but I suppose it works if you want the 2x or 3x zoomed-in portrait.

But if you really want to go nuts with the Action button, you can with Shortcuts. I haven’t dug too much into these just yet since I really just wanted a faster way to launch the Camera app, but I’ve seen some fantastic Shortcuts that really let you make the most of the button. Some users have even created custom shortcuts that bring up multiple menu options or can even perform a different action if certain criteria are met.

My only complaint with the Action button is that it is still limited to just a press-and-hold gesture. I was hoping that Apple would let us assign different actions to, say, a double press or triple press, as it would let us get more use out of it. Maybe this is something that can happen in the future through a software update, because it really doesn’t make sense to limit it to just a single action.

iPhone 15 Pro: display

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing home screen with widgets.
Christine Romero-Chan /

The display on the iPhone 15 Pro is just as gorgeous as ever. Apple did not make any significant changes to it from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, however, so there isn’t too much to really say about it, as it’s pretty much identical to its predecessor.

On the iPhone 15 Pro, you still have a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display with a 2556 x 1179 pixel resolution at 460 pixels per inch (ppi) density. It’s a ProMotion screen, which means you get adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz and an always-on display. Brightness levels reach 1,000 nits on average, 1,600 nits for HDR content, and 2,000 nits for peak outdoor brightness.

Viewing content on the iPhone 15 Pro screen is fantastic. Colors are realistic and nicely saturated without being over the top like on Samsung phones. Text is crisp and sharp. Scrolling is super smooth with the 120Hz refresh rate, and all animations are seamless.

The Dynamic Island is also back, and this time even on the base model iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. I still don’t make as much use of out if as I would like, but it is still better than the notch.

iPhone 15 Pro: software and performance

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing home screen with custom icons.
Christine Romero-Chan /

I’ve been using the new Pro model every year, and performance has never been an issue. This year, though, Apple kicked things up a notch with the A17 Pro chip for the iPhone 15 Pro (and Pro Max), which uses a 3nm design instead of 4nm.

Yes, you still have six CPU cores, two for performance and four efficiency cores, as well as a 16-core Neural Engine. But the A17 Pro chip now has a six-core GPU instead of the five from last year, the Neural Engine can perform twice as many operations per second, and RAM has increased to 8GB from 6GB.

Combined with iOS 17, the iPhone 15 Pro has been blazing fast in my day-to-day use, and I’ve never had an issue. I never once experienced any lag or stuttering — even when I’m browsing Safari with hundreds of tabs open, endlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, browsing Threads, checking in on Mastodon, playing a ton of rounds of Disney Emoji Blitz, streaming Apple Music and Disney+, responding to work emails and messages, getting turn-by-turn directions in Apple Maps, and connecting to my Nexar dashcam.

iOS 17 StandBy widget feature showing on an iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Bryan M. Wolfe /

While iOS 17 hasn’t really changed the way I use my iPhone since it’s more of an iterative update with some quality-of-life improvements, there are some nice features. those include StandBy mode, which turns your always-on display into a mini smart display when it’s charging on a MagSafe stand. Interactive widgets are also something I’ve been wanting for years, and it’s nice to finally have them. You can check tasks off in your Reminders app without having to open it up, or just start playing music without going into the Music app.

I never once experienced any lag or stuttering.

During the Wonderlust event, Apple did show off what the A17 Pro chip is capable of, and heavily relates to gaming. With the A17 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro can run actual console games like Resident Evil Village, Death Stranding, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage. I’m not a big gamer myself, so I can’t say that I’m super excited about these titles, which won’t even be available until later in the year anyway. But the power that this little chip gives the iPhone 15 Pro is certainly impressive nonetheless.

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing app switcher.
Christine Romero-Chan /

However, in the first few days with my iPhone 15 Pro, I have experienced a bit of the overheating problem that’s been reposrted. I assumed that was because I was restoring 300GB-plus of data from iCloud, and the phone had to index everything. Of course, the overheating thing blew up into a widespread problem, but Apple has since commented that it is due to some third-party apps and is more software-related rather than being due to the phone’s design.

After about a week of use, my iPhone 15 Pro seems to not really have the overheating problem anymore. The iOS 17.0.3 update also addressed the issue, and I updated to it as soon as it was available. But overall, it seems that the iPhone 15 Pro’s temperature has regulated itself after a week. I’m not worried anymore.

I do want to add one more thing here. I was outside in about 90-degree weather in the evening (Southern California weather is always summer) with my iPhone 15 Pro sans case for photos for this very review, I noticed the phone was starting to get a little warm in my hand. I wasn’t even doing anything very resource intensive either — just opening up some apps to have displayed on the screen in a photo. When I put my case back on the phone, it immediately felt cool enough to hold again.

iPhone 15 Pro: cameras

Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pro camera module.
Christine Romero-Chan /

The most significant camera upgrades this year are only available if you choose the bigger iPhone 15 Pro Max, unfortunately. And that significant upgrade involves the tetraprism telephoto lens that grants 5x optical zoom. The reason for this is due to the size of the lens, which wouldn’t be able to fit in the smaller chassis of the iPhone 15 Pro. Maybe next year with the iPhone 16, right?

Anyway, the specs of the triple-lens camera system on the iPhone 15 Pro are pretty much identical to its predecessor. You have a 48MP main shooter, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 12MP telephoto one. Since there’s no tetraprism telephoto design, it only gets up to 3x optical zoom, just like before. The selfie camera also remains at 12MP, like on the iPhone 14 Pro.

However, Apple made some improvements on the software side for the cameras this year, which definitely help. For one, the main camera will now default to 24MP images instead of 12MP like last year. That means more detail in each image, but also that the size and resolution are slightly bigger, so keep that in mind. You can still change it back to the 12MP if you really want to, though, so at least Apple gives you the choice.

Another cool feature that is exclusive to the iPhone 15 line is Auto Portrait. Even when you are capturing a regular photo, as long as the camera focuses on a person or pet, it will automatically capture depth information. This lets you turn the photo into a Portrait mode image after the fact, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite features.

I am always taking photos of my active daughter, so I never really have time to switch to Portrait mode. But now, with Auto Portrait, I can pretty much turn any image with her into a portrait that looks so much nicer.

Apple is also using Smart HDR 5 for image processing, and it’s actually pretty good. One of my biggest complaints with the iPhone 14 Pro camera was the oversharpening and harsh colors of images, but so far, I have not had that problem with the iPhone 15 Pro. The photos I’ve taken seem to have much better color temperatures and are more realistic to what you see in reality. Skies aren’t getting blown or washed-out as much, which is always welcome.

Another thing Apple mentioned this year was that there’s a new coating on the lenses to help reduce lens flare. I have noticed it helps quite a bit for lowlight night shots, but you’ll still have some lens flare artifacts every now and then, depending on the situation.

And speaking of nighttime shots, the lowlight performance of the iPhone 15 Pro has been very impressive. My night shots seem to have more detail than with previous iPhone models, things look sharper and more crisp, and colors really pop.

Since the regular iPhone 15 Pro did not get the tetraprism telephoto lens, I didn’t really take a lot of zoomed-in photos for this review. It’s pretty much the same as last year’s iPhone 14 Pro with the 3x optical zoom, and if you really want the better optical zoom this year, you’d probably be considering the iPhone 15 Pro Max anyway. Still, shots with the 3x zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro don’t look terrible, but anything beyond that will remain digital zoom.

The ultrawide lens and selfie cameras did not change from last year either. But with the software improvements, the colors do look better, and skin tones appear more accurate. The ultrawide is also used for macro photos, and I feel that it is actually getting even better for macros. So, if you love to get super up-close to objects, the iPhone 15 Pro gets the job done.

Overall, I’m actually impressed with the cameras on the iPhone 15 Pro this year. There are more details with the 24MP default, colors are much better, and lowlight and macro photos are also improved. I just wish that Apple would have given the smaller iPhone 15 Pro the tetraprism telephoto, but hey, maybe next year.

iPhone 15 Pro: battery life

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing battery information.
Christine Romero-Chan /

The iPhone 15 Pro has a slightly larger battery at 3,274mAh compared to the 3,200mAh of the iPhone 14 Pro. However, in actual use, it doesn’t seem like it lasts any longer than before. Even on Apple’s website, when you compare the two, you still have the same 23 hours of video playback, or 20 hours of streamed video, and audio playback of 75 hours — those numbers have not changed.

During my first two to three days with the iPhone 15 Pro, battery life seemed much worse than on the iPhone 14 Pro when I started using it. I was ending up around 30% to 40% by midafternoon, around 3 p.m., so I ended up needing to plug in midway through the day. I assume this was due to the fact that it was still restoring data in the background or indexing.

Now, after about two weeks of use, the battery life seems to have improved over those first few days. I typically unplug from the charger around 8 a.m., and lately, I’ve been plugging in around 9 p.m. with about 20% to 30% battery remaining after my typical daily usage.

However, on days when I do need to do a lot of driving — since my phone connects to my dash cam and I need turn-by-turn directions for new places — the battery life does take a significant hit. The other day, I ended up around 50% by noon.

To add to my point earlier about the phone getting quite warm without a case while out in 90-degree temperatures, I also noticed the battery was draining faster than normal at that time. Again, I was not doing anything intensive, simply opening up some apps to have on the display for a photo. But I saw that the battery was dropping about 1% a minute in about 10 minutes of snapping some photos. This may be an anomaly, but I thought it was worth noting here.

iPhone 15 Pro: USB-C and charging

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing USB-C port.
Christine Romero-Chan /

OK here we go — yes, the iPhone 15 Pro, along with the rest of the entire iPhone 15 lineup, has finally ditched Lightning for USB-C. And it’s one of the best moves Apple has ever made.

I have a ton of other gadgets all over the house, and they all use USB-C cables. The only devices I had ever needed a different cable for, besides various wearables, were my previous iPhones. But now, with the iPhone 15 Pro, I can simply grab any of the dozens of USB-C cables I have and plug it in without a problem. It’s a pretty great feeling.

USB-C is one of the best moves Apple has ever made.

But I am a little disappointed with another decision Apple made with the switch to USB-C: It doesn’t actually charge any faster than before. That’s great if you transfer your photos and video files from your iPhone to your computer, but I personally haven’t plugged my iPhone into my computer in years.

Rather than improving the charging speed of the iPhone 15 Pro (and Pro Max), the cap is around 27 watts. That means you get around 50% charge in 30 minutes like before, as long as you use a 20W adapter.

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro with the USB-C cable it comes with.
Christine Romero-Chan /

Ata time when we have some Android phones that can reach charging speeds of over 100W, the iPhone 15 Pro is still one of the slower flagship phones. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has 45W charging, and the OnePlus 11 is even more impressive with 80W charging from its SuperVOOC charging block. That means a full charge only takes 25 minutes!

Still, having USB-C on the iPhone 15 Pro has been wonderful. I no longer need to look for a specific proprietary cable and can just grab any USB-C cable I have on hand.

MagSafe wireless charging is still 15W, with Qi-compatible wireless charging at 7.5W. Oddly enough, Apple does have reverse wired charging, but only wired and at 4.5W. I’m still surprised it hasn’t added reverse wireless charging like other Android brands, such as the Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy S23 — it’s more convenient than having to use a cable.

iPhone 15 Pro: price and availability

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro in hand.
Christine Romero-Chan /

You can get the iPhone 15 Pro now directly from Apple, carrier stores, and big-box retail stores like Best Buy, Target, and others. The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 for 128GB.

If you need more storage, you can get 256GB for $1,099, 512GB for $1,299, or a massive 1TB for $1,499. There are also various deals with carriers that may or may not involve a trade-in to shave some money off that price, so make sure to check for deals.

The iPhone 15 Pro comes in four colors: Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium. Though truth be told, all the colors are still pretty boring.

iPhone 15 Pro: verdict

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro leaning on park lamp post.
Christine Romero-Chan /

While the iPhone 15 Pro Max may be hogging the spotlight this year, its smaller sibling, the iPhone 15 Pro, is still a great choice. After all, not everyone wants to use a giant phone.

The move to titanium was totally the right call to make. Stainless steel, though gorgeous, has proven to be heavy and a magnet for fingerprints. With titanium, the iPhone 15 Pro is much more lightweight than its predecessor, and when combined with the rounder edges, it’s just way more comfortable to hold and use. I know it may seem like I’m overexaggerating, but I’m really not — the difference is night and day if you hold them side by side.

The Action button is also a game changer. I’m still keeping it simple for now, but when you combine the Action button with what the community is able to do through Shortcuts, it’s a whole new ballgame. I still wish I could use the Action button with a double press or triple press, though. And the move to USB-C makes charging so much more convenient, as USB-C cables are plentiful.

And despite not having the tetraprism telephoto lens of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Pro is still impressive in terms of cameras this year. Auto Portrait is fantastic if you have little ones or pets that never seem to stay still, and Smart HDR 5 is a big improvement in the image processing.

If you need a powerful and small iPhone right now, this is the one to get.

But the iPhone 15 Pro could have been better. It’s such a head-scratcher that Apple moved to USB-C, but did not improve charging speeds. AS a result, it remains one of the slower options on the market. Having no reverse wireless charging, instead going with reverse wired only, is also perplexing.

Those complaints aside, the iPhone 15 Pro is still fantastic. Apple has a couple of clear areas to improve even more with the iPhone 16 next year, but if you need a powerful and small iPhone right now, this is the one to get.






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