Tuesday, June 18, 2024

iPhone 15 Pro review: Coming from iPhone 12 Pro or earlier? This upgrade will wow you



professionals and cons


  • Motion button brings new customizability
  • 10% lighter makes it nicer to carry
  • Brighter display for higher outside use
  • 5x digital camera on Professional Max takes high-quality pictures

  • Battery life could possibly be higher
  • Quick-charging can result in overheating
  • The 5x digital camera nonetheless trails 10x of rivals
  • Apple-branded instances should be higher

extra shopping for selections

Apple’s new iPhone 15 Professional and iPhone 15 Professional Max ship one other set of significant, step-by-step upgrades to one of many world’s hottest and iconic merchandise. The place these upgrades actually stand out is while you group them with the brand new options from the final two iPhones, since most individuals now wait at least three years to upgrade to a new phone.

If you happen to’re studying this to determine if it is time to improve and which mannequin to improve to — or whether or not you must maintain out till subsequent yr — you then’ve come to the proper place. This evaluation is not solely centered on what’s new this yr, however as an alternative places the iPhone 15 Professional fashions in perspective for you in the event you’re coming from an iPhone 12 or earlier, since that is the vantage level of the vast majority of upgraders.

If you happen to’re strongly contemplating a professional mannequin, then your alternative is between the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Professional or the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Professional Max, as a result of Apple does not promote final yr’s professional fashions at a reduction prefer it does for the usual fashions.

So if you wish to improve to a professional model of the iPhone for the digital camera enhancements, the premium supplies, and the newest smartphone options that Apple has to supply — to future-proof your iPhone for one more a number of years — then I can extremely advocate the iPhone 15 Professional and particularly this yr’s iPhone 15 Professional Max. As I am going to clarify on the finish of this evaluation, there are a few caveats to pay attention to with this yr’s professional fashions and I would additionally encourage you to significantly contemplate this yr’s black iPhone 15 Plus, which appears like a really premium telephone and might prevent $300 versus the iPhone 15 Professional Max in the event you can reside with out a couple options. 

So let’s dig into it.



Tremendous Retina OLED HDR 120Hz; 2000 nits peak brightness


A17 Professional with 6‑core CPU, 6‑core GPU, 16‑core Neural Engine


8GB / 128GB (Professional), 256GB (Professional Max)

Digital camera

48MP vast, 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP 3x telephoto (Professional) or 5x telephoto (Professional Max)


3,274 mAh (Professional), 4,422mAh (Professional Max) with 20W wired charging and as much as 15W wi-fi


USB-C, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, 5G (mmWave and sub6), NFC, Extremely Wideband, Thread


Pure, Blue, White, Black


$999 (Professional), $1199 (Professional Max)

How I examined iPhone 15 Professional and iPhone 15 Professional Max

I’ve used the iPhone because the authentic mannequin first got here out in 2007 and I’ve upgraded every year since then as a part of my work masking Apple and the iPhone. As such, I am aware of the entire iPhone fashions. Over the previous 16 years I’ve additionally given iPhone improve recommendation to numerous mates, household, colleagues, and neighbors, who’ve usually upgraded their telephones each few years.

To check a brand new iPhone, I exploit it as my primary telephone for a minimum of a full week — ideally two weeks — and put quite a lot of emphasis on monitoring battery life, spending ample time with the brand new options, testing the cameras in several eventualities, measuring charging speeds, utilizing the most well-liked apps, carefully analyzing any design modifications to the {hardware} of the telephone, and observing the velocity and efficiency of on a regular basis duties like navigating menus, downloading apps, enjoying movies, sending messages, making calls, and so forth. This usually leads to my every day display time doubling through the interval once I’m testing a brand new telephone.

On this case, I have been primarily utilizing the iPhone 15 Professional Max for 2 weeks and have been testing the iPhone 15 Professional alongside it.

iPhone 15 Pro (Blue Titanium) in hand, in front of an Apple Store

The iPhone 15 Professional in Blue Titanium, as photographed by the iPhone 15 Professional Max (24mm primary digital camera).

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

What are the iPhone 15 Professional’s greatest options?

The stuff you love in regards to the iPhone are a little bit sooner, smoother, extra environment friendly, extra refined, extra highly effective, or extra succesful within the iPhone 15 Professional and Professional Max. At a excessive degree, these are its greatest options:

Superior titanium end  One of the crucial noticeable modifications within the iPhone 15 Professional fashions is that the shiny stainless casing across the edges has been changed with brushed titanium. Whereas the chrome steel seemed extra like a bit of jewellery, the matte end of the titanium has an industrial, utilitarian look that meshes with the Apple Watch Ultra collection. The titanium additionally makes the professional telephones about 10% lighter and could be very sturdy — though it can get dinged up in the event you drop it on a tough floor like concrete with out a case. Titanium additionally reveals fingerprints differently than chrome steel, however they’re simply wiped away. And once more, I like to recommend most individuals get a case and render the fingerprints a non-issue.

Professional-level digital camera system — The cameras within the iPhone 15 Professional fashions hold getting extra skilled. I shoot skilled photographs on Sony Alpha cameras and yearly there are a number of extra kinds of pictures that I can shoot on an iPhone with out having to tug out the large digital camera. This yr, it is primarily the longer-range pictures with the 5x telephoto lens on the iPhone 15 Professional Max, however the 15 Professional cameras may also get greater element pictures that I would often have to make use of a Sony full-frame digital camera to take (just like the one beneath which reveals fantastic particulars of a chicken’s feathers).

Bird photo taken with iPhone 15 Pro Max

Hen photograph taken with iPhone 15 Professional Max at 120mm (5x zoom), exhibiting glorious element within the feathers

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Easy, vibrant show — An under-appreciated side of most telephones is the standard of the show, though all of us have a look at the display so many occasions a day that it dominates our total expertise of the machine. Apple’s iPhone 15 Professional fashions have OLED HDR shows with 120Hz refresh charges. Which means the colours are vibrant, the textual content is tremendous crisp, and the movement of shifting issues on the display could be very easy. The iPhone 15 Professional fashions additionally get an improve in brightness to 1000 nits (typical), 1600 nits peak brightness (HDR) and 2000 nits peak brightness (open air). Merely put, the display is healthier and brighter than ever, an enormous improve from the 1200 nits most of the iPhone 12 Professional fashions.

Zippy information transfers — With the change to USB-C in iPhone 15, plenty of new capabilities have been unlocked within the professional fashions, which additionally get a devoted USB-C controller that handles USB 3 and its 20x sooner information transfers at 10Gbps. In my testing, I used to be thrilled to expertise this by plugging a USB 3.2 cable from Hyper into my Sony a7R III digital camera after which plugging the opposite finish into the iPhone 15 Professional Max. I immediately transferred 42-megapixel information from the digital camera to the telephone and uploaded them to Adobe Lightroom. It was eye-poppingly fast.

Quick, highly effective efficiency (with a caveat) — The iPhone 15 Professional fashions are a breakthrough from a efficiency standpoint. The A17 Professional chip that runs them is without doubt one of the world’s first 3 nanometer chips, which signifies that the know-how has shrunk to the purpose that it now packs extra capabilities than ever into the identical dimension chip. Apple selected to make use of that additional capability to make the iPhone 15 Professional fashions much more highly effective and succesful than ever, particularly on the subject of video and gaming. That is one place the place I do not agree with Apple’s priorities for the iPhone 15 Professional line. Reasonably than utilizing up capability to make the iPhone a extra highly effective gaming machine to attempt to compete with consoles, extra iPhone customers would have benefited from Apple selecting to make use of the additional capability created by the A17 Professional chip to present the iPhone 15 Professional collection longer battery life as an alternative. That is as a result of the professional telephones nonetheless cannot get via a full day of heavy utilization that entails taking quite a lot of photographs or video and importing them to social media or texting them to family and friends, as many individuals do of their leisure time.

What’s it like coming from iPhone 12 Professional or earlier?

Once more, the common time an individual retains their telephone earlier than upgrading is now three years or extra. If you happen to’re coming from an iPhone 12 Professional or earlier then you might be in for lots of serious upgrades while you get your fingers on an iPhone 15 Professional or Professional Max. Here is a listing of a few of the greatest new options you may stay up for.

  • Longer battery life for as much as two hours extra utilization time (in comparison with iPhone 12 Professional fashions)
  • All the time-on show for getting the time and primary information while you’re not utilizing the telephone
  • Brighter show for higher use open air (2000 nits peak brightness on iPhone 15 Professional versus 1200 nits peak brightness on iPhone 12 Professional)
  • ProMotion show with 120Hz refresh price presents smoother graphics and animations
  • Dynamic Island brings a helpful new notification system
  • Standby Mode to see helpful widgets when your telephone is docked
  • USB-C charging with a extra common cable that connects to many different kinds of units
  • Motion button to get quick entry to the digital camera or one other one in every of your common options
  • Emergency SOS through satellite tv for pc to contact emergency companies when you do not have a mobile sign
  • Crash Detection for alerting emergency companies and your contacts in the event you’re in an accident
  • 48-megapixel photographs for extra detailed pictures and the flexibility to crop in farther 
  • LiDAR Scanner for higher low-light and portrait-mode photographs
  • Macro pictures mode to get higher pictures of issues up shut
  • Cinematic Mode video to shift focus from totally different topics after recording movies
  • ProRes video recording to seize extra professional-level video footage
  • Motion mode for taking pictures easy movies that appear like drone pictures
  • 5x tetraprism telephoto (iPhone 15 Professional Max solely) to get crisp photographs and movies of issues farther away
iPhone 15 Pro and the new Standby Mode feature

The Standby Mode function in iOS 17 seems nice with the iPhone 15 Professional’s vibrant, always-on show.

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Is the iPhone 15 Professional Max’s 5x zoom well worth the improve?

As I’ve written earlier than, the largest factor holding again the usefulness of the iPhone’s professional digital camera system in comparison with its rivals such because the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has been the dearth of a long-distance zoom lens. In truth, Samsung’s Extremely line launched 4 fashions (the S20, S21, S22, and S23) with a real telephoto lens earlier than Apple launched its first one this yr completely within the iPhone 15 Professional Max. But it surely’s lastly right here, and there is a lot to love about it.

After all, Samsung’s 10x “periscope” zoom lens and Apple’s 5x “tetraprism” zoom lens aren’t immediately comparable as a result of the Samsung telephone nonetheless has additional attain that permits you to get pictures that are not attainable with the iPhone (like this one). And Samsung has had 4 years to refine its telephoto cameras. 

However, what the 5x zoom on the iPhone 15 Professional Max lacks in attain, it makes up for in high quality. I put it via its paces in plenty of totally different eventualities, from city scenes like midtown Manhattan to photographing animals at my native zoo. The extent of element, crispness, colour high quality, and lack-of-image-noise make taking photographs with Apple’s new 5x zoom a pleasure. 

Manhattan's 6th Ave before sunrise, taken with iPhone 15 Pro Max

This photograph of New York’s sixth Ave earlier than dawn reveals the standard of the iPhone 15 Professional Max’s 5x telephoto digital camera. 

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Polar bear photo taken at a zoo shows animal portrait mode in iPhone 15 Pro Max camera

This photograph of polar bear Qannik on the Louisville Zoo reveals the standard of animal portrait mode within the iPhone 15 Professional Max.

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

If you happen to see your self taking numerous long-distance photographs and movies, reminiscent of pictures of your children in sports activities or different actions, chicken or wildlife footage, or close-up particulars of locations you go to on trip, then you’ll in all probability discover quite a lot of worth in upgrading to the iPhone 15 Professional Max, even in the event you do not often purchase bigger telephones. The truth that this yr’s Professional Max is 10% lighter than final yr’s, because of the transfer to titanium, might additionally assist ease the blow of getting to deal with a bigger telephone.

What about iPhone 15 Professional overheating and FineWoven equipment?

iPhone 15 Pro Max overheating warning

I received this warning very briefly when taking quite a lot of photographs exterior on a heat day, after switching between a third-party digital camera app and Apple’s digital camera app. 

Screenshot by Jason Hiner/ZDNET

The iPhone 15 lineup has already had a few doses of controversy with stories of overheating and quite a lot of questions swirling across the high quality and sturdiness of the brand new FineWoven equipment that Apple launched this yr to interchange its fashionable leather-based instances and wallets (as a constructive step towards the corporate’s long-term sustainability targets).

When it comes to overheating, in a pair weeks of testing, I’ve run into the difficulty in two distinct eventualities. One occurred once I was doing digital camera testing exterior on a reasonably heat and sunny day (82 levels Fahrenheit) and I used to be taking pictures quite a lot of photographs. The problem got here once I switched from the favored Halide digital camera app again to Apple’s built-in digital camera app. At that time, Apple’s digital camera app would go black and flash a message that mentioned “iPhone wants to chill down.” However it might solely final for 1-2 seconds after which go away and I might resume taking photographs in both app. 

The opposite occasion of overheating got here a few week into my testing once I was fast-charging the iPhone 15 Professional Max utilizing Apple’s USB-C cable included within the field plugged right into a 35W charging block. Earlier than plugging it in, the telephone had drained to about 20%. After I went to select up the telephone after charging it for about 15-20 minutes, I used to be stunned to seek out that it was very popular to the contact.

I used to be later in a position to replicate this state of affairs when quick charging at 35W in a unique location. The telephone by no means received as scorching because it did that first time, but it surely nonetheless received very heat. I used a thermal digital camera to measure the temperature and examine it to different units. The floor of the iPhone 15 Professional Max received as much as 107.1 levels Fahrenheit when quick charging. By comparability, the Samsung Galaxy Fold 5 received as much as 98.7 levels Fahrenheit when quick charging whereas plugged into the identical cable and charger in the identical location. The iPhone 13 Professional usually stayed beneath 90 levels Fahrenheit when its USB-C to Lightning cable was plugged into the identical charger in the identical location. (The conventional temperature of each iPhones and Android telephones once they aren’t plugged in and are not being closely used is round 80-85 levels Fahrenheit.)

Apple has responded to this controversy by saying that the difficulty will not be a design flaw within the new iPhone 15 Professional {hardware}, however as an alternative, it is associated to an iOS 17 software program flaw that might be fastened in a future replace. There have additionally been apps reminiscent of Instagram and Uber which were cited by Apple because the supply of some overheating and they’re releasing app updates to repair the difficulty. 

Thermal imaging of iPhone 15 Pro Max fast-charging

I took this thermal picture whereas fast-charging the iPhone 15 Professional Max, exhibiting it reaching 107.1 levels Fahrenheit. 

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

I would not advocate avoiding the iPhone 15 Professional or Professional Max due to this overheating problem. Nevertheless, I do advocate limiting the quantity of quick charging that you simply do. That is good recommendation at any time — and never simply throughout this era when Apple is issuing a software program repair for iPhone 15 Professional and Professional Max — as a result of quick charging results in extra warmth and we all know that heat has negative long-term effects on lithium ion batteries

For instance, in the event you cost in a single day then I would advocate gradual charging by plugging right into a 20W (or much less) charger or use a MagSafe wi-fi charger, because it expenses at 15W or much less. The MagSafe choice is very interesting with the brand new Standby Mode that may flip your iPhone into a wise nightstand show with a big clock, climate situations, and/or interactive widgets to show off your lights and do different cool issues.

The controversy over the FineWoven equipment for the iPhone 15 fashions might be addressed much more succinctly. FineWoven is the model title that Apple has given to its new line of instances, wallets, and Apple Watch bands to interchange leather-based — since leather-based has a lot of negative impacts on the environment. The FineWoven instances are comprised of 68% recycled supplies.

Apple FineWoven Case for iPhone 15 Pro Max (showing wear and tear)

Apple FineWoven Case for iPhone 15 Professional, exhibiting put on and tear after lower than every week.

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Whereas Apple’s motivations are commendable, the FineWoven instances aren’t. After I first picked one up within the demo space on the Apple Occasion, I did not love the texture of it. The fabric on the again jogged my memory of cheap upholstery material and the fabric on the edges imitates plastic however will not be very grippy. In my testing, the suede-like materials on the again of the FineWoven case didn’t put on very effectively. Whenever you scratch it, it doesn’t heal or rub out the best way leather-based does and so it does not seem that it’s going to age gracefully. I’ve critical considerations about whether or not these instances can stand sufficient every day put on and tear to even final for a full yr, not to mention two or three years. That is not a great search for a $60 case.

Because the patrons of the dearer iPhone professional telephones usually tend to put money into one in every of Apple’s personal high-dollar instances — and the leather-based instances have been fashionable amongst this crowd — which means you might be additionally the almost certainly to purchase the FineWoven instances. Do not do it. As I wrote in my article, Do not buy Apple’s FineWoven iPhone 15 instances. Get one in every of these 4 instances as an alternative, there are different glorious instances that shield the iPhone very effectively, look nice, and are more likely to be sturdy for a number of years. 

ZDNET’s shopping for recommendation

In case you are coming from an iPhone 12 Professional or Professional Max, or earlier — and particularly in case your telephone is beginning to decelerate or is having battery issues — then I can extremely advocate an improve to the iPhone 15 Professional or Professional Max. You may be getting a staggering variety of spectacular updates, as proven within the listing above. Do not fret over the overheating problem, you may handle it and software program updates will probably resolve it quickly. Simply purchase a unique case than FineWoven, as there are glorious options obtainable.

In case you have an iPhone 13 Professional or Professional Max or a 14 Professional or Professional Max, then I would advocate ready till subsequent yr, so long as you are not having any issues along with your telephone. And even if you’re having battery points with a 13 Professional or a 14 Professional, then I would advocate getting an appointment with Apple and changing the battery moderately than upgrading. With subsequent yr’s iPhone 16 Extremely reportedly on the horizon, there are good causes to carry off in your improve plans in the event you can.

I am going to depart you with one final bit of shopping for recommendation in the event you’re trying to get the iPhone 15 Professional Max this yr: do not sleep on the black iPhone 15 Plus. After I first picked it up within the demo space of the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Occasion, I assumed it was one of many professional telephones till I seemed extra carefully on the digital camera bump. The matte black sides and the deep black colour this yr make it feel and appear very premium. And with the usual iPhone 15 telephones getting the Dynamic Island and the 48-megapixel digital camera sensor, these telephones are nearly like professional telephones. 

The 2 massive stuff you surrender with the iPhone 15 Plus are the zoom lens and the smoother 120Hz show. However in the event you do not take many photographs of issues distant and you do not play any high-end video games in your iPhone, then I would advocate severely contemplating the black iPhone 15 Plus moderately than the iPhone 15 Professional Max this yr. You’ll save $300 by shopping for the bottom mannequin iPhone 15 Plus versus the iPhone 15 Professional Max. Perhaps you would even take a few of that financial savings and spend it on a greater case and a few cool new USB-C and wi-fi equipment.

Options to contemplate

iPhone 15 Plus in black


Apple iPhone 15 Plus

The iPhone 15 Plus in black has a very premium feel to it, and it now takes 48MP photos and comes with the Dynamic Island. At $899, you can also buy it for $300 less than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The bottom of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.


Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung’s flagship Android phone offers many of the same features of the iPhone 15 Pro Max but includes a 10x telephoto camera for even longer distance photos. At $1099, it starts $100 less than Apple’s flagship.

Google Pixel 8 Pro in blue


Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google’s flagship Pixel 8 Pro now has high megapixel cameras across all three lenses and the most built-in generative AI features in any phone. At $999, it also starts at less than both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung S23 Ultra.

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