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iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus review: It's time to upgrade


iPhone 15 review

The new iPhone 15 is big upgrade (Image: APPLE)

If you’ve not upgraded in a while then this is, without doubt, a very good year to take the plunge

What we love

  • Faster A16 Bionic chip
  • Useful Dynamic Island
  • Solid camera upgrade
  • USB-C is a great addition
  • No price increase in 2023

What we don’t

  • No ProMotin 120Hz screen
  • USB-C port not as fast as Pro models
  • Andoid phones still charge quicker

The new iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus really are a tremendous pair of smartphones. Apple has packed these handsets with a raft of features that were only previously reserved for the pricier Pro models.

A subtle tweak to the flat-edged design, introduced with the iPhone 12 back in 2020, adds a smooth contoured edge design making things feel a lot nicer in the hand.

The new colour-infused glass – with its refreshed pastel colours – has a soft sheen feel to it and looks sophisticated. Tucked behind this toughened glass is the supremely capable A16 Bionic processor, which leaves Android rivals in the dust. The introduction of this chip has also allowed Apple to add features such as the ever-changing Dynamic Island that transforms the notch into an interactive mini display.

The dual-lens camera also gets a boost thanks to an improved 48-megapixel sensor, which now offers a lossless 2x zoom by cropping into the image for a 24-megapixel shot. The bigger sensor offers better night-time shots and the ability to change the focal point in Portrait Mode after your photos have been taken.

All new iPhone 15 models arrive with USB-C, which might annoy those with Lightning cables in every room of their home – but before you get angry about the switch to a new charging port (the second in the 16-year history of the iPhone) it does have its advantages.

This port not only means you’ll only have to pack a single charging cable in your bag to charge an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook but it can also be used to refill other accessories such as your AirPods from the battery inside your smartphone. Yes, you can plug those wireless buds into the iPhone and the ‘buds will get an instant boost.

USB-C is widely used by other tech firms too, so you’ll be able to charge your iPhone 15 with the same cable and plug supplied with a friend’s Samsung phone, a Nintendo Switch, or a Chromebook.

Having used the iPhone 15 since its announcement, there’s very little to loathe about this device.

Our biggest gripe is the display. While it’s brighter and colourful, Apple still hasn’t boosted the refresh rate on the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, which is stuck at 60Hz. That means it feels laggy and not something we’d expect from a phone that costs £800 (you’ll need to spend at least £999 for an iPhone 15 Pro to get that smooth 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate from Apple). The USB-C port also doesn’t offer the same data transfer speeds as found on the 15 Pro and there’s also been no boost to the charging speeds.

Still, these are relatively minor quibbles. Overall, we’ve been dazzled by the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, which are both a significant step up from previous models.

If you’ve not upgraded in a few years, this is – without a doubt – a very good year to take the plunge. Best of all? Despite all of the upgrades, Apple hasn’t hiked its prices.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus: Full review

It’s a major year for those not fussed by having the Pro-level iPhone in their pocket, with the standard iPhone 15 and 15 Plus enjoying some incredible upgrades in 2023.

There’s a refined case design, a faster chip tucked inside, and an improved dual-rear camera that promises to boost your family photos. USB-C charging, an interactive Dynamic Island notch, and speedier connectivity round-out the packed list. ofnew features.

So, with so much squeezed into the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus this year – is it time to ditch your current iPhone and make the switch to something new?

Express.co.uk has been putting the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus to the test and here’s our in-depth review and verdict.

Apple iPhone 15 review

The iPhone 15 now gets the Dynamic Island first introduced on the Pro models (Image: APPLE)

Design and display

Apple’s design team has spruced up the appearance of the iPhone 15 this year, and we really like what they’ve achieved. The rear case is now built from colour-infused glass that offers a soft sheen matte finish with an embossed Apple logo.

The fun but sophisticated shades – Green, Blue, Pink and Black – have all been created using a colour that’s embedded directly into a single piece of durable back glass. It’s a genuinely nice update and also means the camera bump blends in so much better than on previous models.

Get them in your hand and the curved contoured edges make these devices feel way more comfortable to hold. The new iPhone models continue to use a toughened Ceramic Shield finish, which should help avoid those horrifying cracks when things slip out of your fingers and crash on the floor.

SPOILER ALERT – a case is still advisable as while Ceramic Shield is good, it won’t stop screen smashes if dropped from a height onto a concrete pavement.

The standard iPhone 15 is definitely easier to handle than the bigger Plus device but you do, of course, get much more screen real estate (and a bigger battery) if you plump for that super-sized upgrade. The Plus features an expansive 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display compared to the 6.1-inch panel found on the iPhone 15.

Apple iPhone 15 review

Apple iPhone 15 review (Image: APPLE)

Both screens are vibrant and colourful (they are also brighter this year), plus they now include the clever Dynamic Island notch. We’ve been using that mini interactive display on the Pro models for the past year and it’s got plenty of useful functions that iPhone 15 users will now be able to access.

For example, start a timer and the countdown will appear inside the ever-changing black bar, hop on a flight and you’ll see how long is left without opening apps or websites. Music, football scores, live F1 race positions and more can all be swiped into this notch which magically changes shape as you interact with it.

Many app developers now offer Dynamic Island support and this feature continues to improve and get more useful by the month – it’s great to see it arrive on the iPhone 15 range.

There are few faults with the design of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, but one glaring omission is the refresh rate of that display. Apple still hasn’t boosted the OLED screen from a measly 60Hz, and it’s really noticeable especially if you’ve used a 120Hz ProMotion screen found on the Pro-level iPhone models, select iPad and MacBook models, and almost all mid/top-end Android phones.

Swiping through the grid of apps and widgets on your homescreen and scrolling through lists, everything feels laggy and slow.

Of course, if you’re switching from a current iPhone 12, 13 or 14 you won’t notice the difference but this really did feel like the right year for Apple to finally bring its brilliant ProMotion tech to its standard models. We’ve no doubt that eventually, ProMotion will come to all iPhone models, but you’ll need to plump for the £999 iPhone 15 Pro to get that gorgeous screen technology.

Apple iPhone 15 review

There’s a new camera on the iPhone 15 (Image: APPLE)

Camera

Apple has stuck with a dual-lens set-up on the iPhone 15, but this year you’ll find an improved 48-megapixel main lens on the rear case. It’s capable of taking some excellent images with minimal fuss.

This year’s camera also offers a bunch of upgrades including a useful 2x lossless zoom and the option to shoot and then adjust the focus in Portrait Mode after the image is taken. Being able to tweak things later is a great addition to the iPhone and it works seamlessly with just a couple of taps on the screen allowing you to adjust focal points.

Night shots get better as does the Portrait Mode and indoor performance of these devices.

Apple still includes its 4K Cinematic Mode for Hollywood-style movies and the mind-boggling Action Mode allows you to run with the camera and get almost wobble-free footage.

You can check out our test shots below but this is a nice camera boost from Apple that should please those who simply want a device that can point and shoot.

It is worth noting that the Pro range (especially the Pro Max) takes smartphone photography up another notch with even more impressive zoom capabilities and the option to shoot in ProRaw formats.

If you want the very best snapper on an iPhone you’re going to need to save up and go Pro.

Apple iPhone 15 review

Apple iPhone 15 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple iPhone 15 review

Camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple iPhone 15 review

Apple iPhone 15 camera sample (Image: APPLE)

Apple iPhone 15 review

iPhone 15 review camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple iPhone 15 review

iPhone 15 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

iPhone 15 focus change iPhone 15 focus change

USB-C charging and battery life

The A16 Bionic was first introduced on last year’s iPhone 14 Pro and now it arrives on Apple’s cheaper range of devices.

That’s really good news with this processor able to blast through tasks such as 4K video editing with undeniable ease.

This was the firm’s first chip built on a 4-nanometer process, which basically allows the phone to be more efficient while boosting the power. The A16 Bionic chipset is what has allowed Apple to introduce that Dynamic Island feature without drastically impacting battery life.

There are no Android phones that come close to beating the A16 Bionic in speed tests

Even though this processor is now a year old, there are no Android phones that come close to beating it in speed tests which is pretty impressive.

There is just one thing to note before getting too excited about the A16 Bionic coming to the iPhone 15. Just like last year, Apple’s new Pro models are getting something even better with these devices now powered by the A17 Pro chipset.

This takes things up another notch with these premium smartphones now offering PS5-style gaming and laser-fast image capture.

If you want the ultimate power then it seems Pro is still the way to go.

A16 Bionic

The iPhone gets the A16 Bionic processor (Image: APPLE)

A16 Bionic

The A16 Bionic was first introduced on last year’s iPhone 14 Pro and now it arrives on Apple’s cheaper range of devices.

That’s really good news with this processor able to blast through tasks such as 4K video editing with undeniable ease.

This was the firm’s first chip built on a 4-nanometer process, which basically allows the phone to be more efficient while boosting the power. The A16 Bionic chipset is what has allowed Apple to introduce that Dynamic Island feature without drastically impacting battery life.

Even though this processor is now a year old, there are no Android phones that come close to beating it in speed tests which is pretty impressive.

There is just one thing to note before getting too excited about the A16 Bionic coming to the iPhone 15. Just like last year, Apple’s new Pro models are getting something even better with these devices now powered by the A17 Pro chipset.

This takes things up another notch with these premium smartphones now offering PS5-style gaming and laser-fast image capture.

If you want the ultimate power then it seems Pro is still the way to go.

Apple iPhone 15

Apple iPhone 15 gets a new brighter screen (Image: APPLE)

Extras and is anything missing?

Both the iPhone 15 and Plus start with 128GB of storage which can be boosted to 512GB for a price. For example, the 128GB iPhone 15 costs £799 but this rises to £1,099 if you max things out. It’s worth considering how many movies, apps and photos you’re going to be storing on your phone before hitting the buy button as there’s no way to increase things at a later date.

If you think you’ll need more than 512GB then you’ll have to switch to the Pro models with these more expensive phones pushing things to 1TB.

Other extras on the iPhone 15 range include Crash Detection, Satellite text messaging and full access to 5G data speeds plus there’s the addition of a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip.

This allows you to find things, including friends who also have an iPhone 15, from a further distance away which could be handy if you lose your mates at a concert and want to track them down.

Apple has also added some clever Voice Isolation technology which means you’ll be heard even if you’re chatting from the middle of Piccadilly Circus. It’s really clever and ends the nightmare of calls in busy cafes or street corners.

As we mentioned before one of the main things that’s really missing from these devices is the ProMotion display.

There’s also only a standard USB-C port rather than the faster version found on the Pro models which makes data transfers much quicker. Apple also announced a neat Roadside Assistance via satellite upgrade which means you can still call for help even if you don’t have a mobile signal – sadly, that’s a USA exclusive for now.

Other than that, you get a very feature-packed experience from these phones and there are plenty of reasons to consider upgrading.

Price

Despite the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus models getting swathe of upgrades, Apple hasn’t hiked prices in 2023. That means you can pick up the standard model for £799 or switch to the bigger Plus screen for £899.

Trade-in deals are also available to help bring the price down if you already own an iPhone and are happy to hand it over to Apple.

For example, give the firm your iPhone 12 and you’ll get up to £230 off the latest call makers.

All of the major networks are also offering monthly deals and you can find the best iPhone 15 deals here.

Apple iPhone 15 review

Apple iPhone 15 review (Image: APPLE)

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus: Final verdict

If you haven’t upgraded your iPhone in a few years, this should be the year to invest. This next-generation device offers an abundance of features that make it almost as good as the iPhone 14 Pro – but at a much cheaper price.

For £799, you’ll pocket a device with the blisteringly-fast A16 Bionic processor, improved 48-megapixel camera, Dynamic Island notch redesign, and a sophisticated tweak to the design that offers a splash of pastel colour and a softer feel in your hand.

Battery life is good, plus there’s now a more versatile USB-C charging port. There are useful extras, such as that second-generation Ultra Wideband chip and Voice Isolation technology for much clearer calls.

Clearly, the iPhone 15 Pro range is even better, thanks to its 3x (or 5x on the Pro Max) lossless telephoto camera, A17 Pro chipset, titanium frame, and ProMotio screens. But these flagship handsets cost at least £200 more than the standard iPhone 15 models. And for our money, the iPhone 15 arrives with the upgrades that most people will find useful day-to-day.

If we had one major gripe it would be the 60Hz screen which really does feel well past its sell-by date – come on Apple, it’s time to scrap that screen!

Some faster wired charging speeds from the USB-C port would’ve been nice and we’d probably recommend opting for the 256GB model, which will cost you more but means you’re unlikely to run out of space over the next two or three years.

We’re really impressed by this year’s iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. They are fast, feature-packed, super stylish, and really easy to recommend.

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