The iPhone 15 is a Better Phone Than I Was Expecting

The iPhone 15 is a Better Phone Than I Was Expecting

When the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus were announced last week, I labelled them both as the iPhone 15 Pro by another name, given that most of what they boasted, save for the switch to USB-C, was what buyers of last year’s Pro iPhone had been using for the good part of 12 months. And while yes, that’s the case for features like Dynamic Island and the chip that powers the handset, there’s a little bit more to it and upon review, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus offer more than just last year’s phones in a different body.

I received both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 Plus from Apple to review on Wednesday, and as I spent the first 24 hours reviewing the Max, the second has been spent with the Plus, and while I would opt for the Max any day of the week, I have to say, the 15 Plus isn’t a bad phone.

iPhone 15 Plus review

The iPhone 15 Plus is the larger of the two entry-level phones. It measures 160.9 mm x 77.8 mm x 7.8 mm and weighs 201 grams. The big differences this year are USB-C charging, Dynamic Island, an improved camera system, and a gorgeous finish.

When the iPhone 14 launched last year, my review labelled the entry-level flagship as a device in search of a reason to exist. Even more confusing to me, was the fact the Plus replaced the Mini, offering users nothing more than a bigger screen and a very expensive phone that had nothing “pro” about it. Using the iPhone 14 Plus when Apple brought out the same phones, just in yellow, I reconsidered my position a little, but the overarching issue I had still remained, and it still persists in 2023. The iPhone 15 128GB is $1,499, the 128GB 15 Plus is $1,649. The small 15 Pro is $1,849 – the same price as the 256GB 15 Plus. I know the screen is bigger on the 15 Plus than it is the 15 Pro, but for the same price, and only 50 per cent less storage, you can get a better phone.

But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple opted to provide me with the iPhone 15 Plus instead of the 15 to review based on my previous opinions on the phone. You wanted to change my mind, it worked, you win, Apple. I’ll be publishing a comparison of the two phones early next week, so stay tuned for that, but in the interim, here’s what I think of the new iPhone 15 Plus.

USB-C is all it’s cracked up to be

As I wrote in the iPhone 15 Pro Max review, USB-C was expected to appear on the iPhone 14 range, and when it didn’t, there was almost certainty that it would appear in the 15, plus, there were obvious signs. While the Plus misses out on the super speeds in the USB-C port the Pro Max has, it’s still a fantastic feeling having the one cable to charge everything – I just whacked in the cable I use to charge my Google Pixel 7 Pro and MacBook Pro for this phone. To repeat myself once again, any Samsung users reading this would be yelling at their screen – and I get it, I’ve always got it, I just didn’t have a choice as an iPhone user.

Dynamic island is now refined

The terrible name for the little pill-like bar that replaces the notch on both the iPhone 15 and Plus phones has now made its way down from the Pro phones. Great news, it’s had a year to be developed over and what you’ll get is actually a great feature. Spotify shows the song in the mini bar, Uber uses it to tell you how close your driver is, your alarm sits up there, it’s what controls FaceID unlock, and your calls pop up there. You’ll also see it used in Instagram for holding unwatched Stories. There are a tonne of apps that now integrate with Dynamic Island and while it’s absolutely not life-changing, it’s still super cool.

iphone 15 plus review
Dynamic Island. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

A more than sufficient camera

The iPhone 15 still has two physical cameras (48MP main, 12MP ultra-wide), but you get essentially three different camera lengths. You also get a 12MP TrueDepth selfie camera. Here’s a speed run review of the iPhone 15 Plus camera system, starting with a standard shot out of the box, comparing the iPhone 14 Plus (left) to the iPhone 15 Plus (right).

iPhone 15 plus review
iPhone 14 Plus (left), iPhone 15 Plus (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

There’s really nothing in it when it comes to standard shots. When we look at a shot that requires a bit more depth, as well as shadows, the 15 Plus is better at setting the illusion of space in a photo and showing colour when things are a little dark.

iphone 15 plus review
iPhone 14 Plus (left), iPhone 15 Plus (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Last comparison for this review between the iPhone 14 Plus and the 15 Plus is of a shot that had a very strong glare. There is a very obvious progression here.

iphone 15 plus review
iPhone 14 Plus (left), iPhone 15 Plus (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Heading over to progressively zooming in but using the three aforementioned cameras and not digital zoom, the shots look crisp and although you can’t really zoom in much further, these photos are clean.

iphone 15 plus review
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Maxed out zoom is kinda gross.

iphone 15 plus review
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

When it comes to Macro photography, it’s unfair to compare the iPhone 15 Plus to the 15 Pro Max. The Pro runs circles.

You can still get some nice shots with the iPhone 15 Plus, though. And that’s before you even fiddle with any settings.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

iOS 17 was made for the iPhone 15 Plus

iOS 17 is available for older phones, yes, but every year it becomes increasingly obvious all of the upgrades that come with the new software drop are made with new phones in mind. Mostly because so much of iOS 17 is battery hungry and with each new phone comes a better battery. With the Plus, I’m yet to charge it. I’ve still got 73 per cent battery and I opened it last night. Apple reckons you’ll get up to 26 hours of video playback (up to 20 hours streamed), and I haven’t been given a reason thus far to dispute that. I’ll update this article if something goes awry and I find myself without battery tonight.

What’s missing?

The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max have all of this, but as I’ve repeated at length, they had most of this last year. What the iPhone 15 Pro phones have that the 15 and Plus don’t is the Action Button (allowing you to press a button where the mute toggle is to activate silent mode, but also a few other actions), a better camera system, a better chip, and the ability to, via the USB-C hole, record 4K video at 60 fps in Pro Res directly to an external storage device. As a Pro Max stan, even I won’t use this feature, so I can’t throw shade at the 15 Plus for not having it. And just like with Dynamic Island, the Action Button will come to the base models next year. The only thing important, in my opinion, is the camera system, and the camera system on the iPhone 15 Plus is more than sufficient.

When it comes to the iPhone 15 vs 15 Plus, with the latter you’ll get a bigger screen and bigger battery – otherwise, much of what I’ve said throughout this review, save for the complaints about price and just opting for the 15 Pro, will be the case for the 15.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Should you buy the iPhone 15 Plus?

The iPhone 15 Plus is a great phone, but I just can’t get past the fact that you can buy a 15 Pro with less storage for the same price. Of course, you miss out on the screen size, so once we take that into consideration, the price difference becomes a few hundred dollars. The iPhone 15 Plus serves a purpose: It’s for users who want a bigger screen (such as my dad who would like the larger screen to read text a big clearer), but not all the bells and whistles (nor cost) that comes with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The 15 Plus is last year’s phone in a newer body, but it’s still had the biggest upgrades we’ve seen in a long while and it’s still an incredible phone. The only problem is, if you’ve come from a Pro, it would be hard to go back to the entry-level phones, but if you’re still using your iPhone 12, you’ll definitely be impressed.

Where to buy the iPhone 15 Plus?

Outright, via the Apple website:

  • The 128GB Plus will cost RRP $1,649
  • The 256GB Plus will cost RRP $1,849
  • The 512GB Plus will cost RRP $2,199.

Head over here for our guide to the cheapest 5G SIM-only mobile plans to pair with your new iPhone, but if you’d rather opt for a plan, we’ve got a list of all the iPhone 15 Plus plans you can get on the Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone networks and the cheapest deals on the entire iPhone 15 range.

Stay tuned for our review of the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

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