First iPhone 15/Plus reviews: Pro features get more affordable


iPhone 15 in hand
iPhone 15 includes the Dynamic Island and other features that were formerly for Pro only.
Screenshot: Apple

Initial reviews of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus praise the addition of the Dynamic Island and 48MP camera, saying they make the new handsets feel like a significant upgrade for users of older models. They also applaud the switch to USB-C and the new ultra-wideband chip.

The two iOS 17 devices reach store shelves this Friday.

iPhone 15 and 15 Plus borrow heavily from iPhone 14 Pro

The best new features of the two “standard” iPhone 15 models are ones previously reserved for the Pro models.

Last year, customers had to pay at least $999 to replace the screen notch with the Dynamic Island and upgrade the main camera from 12MP to 48MP. Now those features come standard in a $799 handset.

Visit the Dynamic Island

Both the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus have an elongated pill-shaped cutout for the front-facing camera and Face ID sensors. Apple made a benefit out of necessity and this space now shows alerts and other information from applications — both Apple’s and third-party apps. The feature expands as needed.

“It makes the iPhone better at multitasking,” says the Cnet review.

The Verge review says, “It’s full of whimsical and informative animations that inject some life into a spot of the phone that most people are accustomed to ignoring entirely.”

And TechRadar‘s review says it “replaces the notch with something more attractive and versatile.”

Upgrade to a 48-megapixel camera

iPhone 15 telephoto camera
The 48MP camera is a highlight of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus.
Screenshot: Apple

Apple built a 12MP camera into iOS handsets for many years, before the iPhone 14 Pro models jumped up to 48MP. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus now include a high-resolution shooter, too.

“All photos from the main camera also look better because they’re all 24MP by default. Apple’s new photo processing takes binned 12MPs (four pixels at a time from the 48MP sensor) and then combines that with a full-frame 48MP image,” said TechRadar. “The result is pictures that look better than what I could get with the iPhone 14.”

Software is just as important as hardware. “Apple has tweaked its HDR algorithms to allow brighter highlights than in years past. That has the effect of making images feel less ‘flattened’ and more dynamic than with older iPhones. Colors are also vibrant and saturated,” noted The Verge.

Lightning is out, USB-C is in

After more than a decade, Apple is finally closing the book on its Lightning connector. The new models use USB-C instead.

“For iPhone 15 owners, the biggest benefit you’ll get is a charging experience that’s more convenient, and in some cases faster. The standard iPhone 15 can replenish its battery up to 50% in 30 minutes with a 20-watt adapter, but it’ll charge at an even faster 27W if you plug it into the charger that comes with your Mac,” Cnet pointed out.

“When it’s time to recharge, you’ll now use the included USB-C cable, which, unlike previous iPhone cables, features a woven covering instead of rubber and plastic. I like it,” said TechRadar.

Improvements to Find My

While those three are the highlights, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus have more to offer, including a new ultra-wideband chip that opens up new possibilities for the Find My application.

“After sharing their location with you in the Find My app, your iPhone 15 will be able to show how far away the person is from your current location and point you in the right direction,” said Cnet. “It’s like using your phone to find an AirTag.”

Let’s talk displays

The iPhone 15 keeps the same screen size as its predecessor: 6.1 inches.  And the iPhone 15 Plus display is again 6.7 inches, just like last year’s model. Comments are somewhat mixed.

“There’s no denying that Apple improves the iPhone 15’s display over its predecessor,” said Tom’s Guide. “It has all the hallmark qualities I look for in an OLED screen: strong brightness level for outdoor use, punchy colors and plenty of detail.”

But there’s criticism too. “Apple is still using 60Hz screens here, which feels increasingly dated, especially at these prices,” said The Verge. “A faster refreshing screen, like the 120Hz display on the iPhone Pro or countless Android phones, is nicer to interact with and look at.

iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are winners

The early reviewers of iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are very positive about the new models.

“After using the iPhone 15 for a few days, there’s one thing I can say with certainty: It’s a major upgrade for older iPhone users,” said Cnet.

“Compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 15 has been given hearty upgrades that make it vastly superior in every way,” said Tom’s Guide.

iPhone 15 and 15 Plus “are capable, practical, reliable, and accessible enough that a lot of people are going to find these phones very suitable for their needs,” says The Verge. “And they will do a great job as their phone for the next three to four years until they are ready to get a new one.”

Apple is taking preorders

The iPhone 15 starts at $799 and iPhone 15 Plus starts at $899. They can be preordered now on Apple’s online store.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.