I’ve been testing Apple’s two new Pro iPhones for the past several days. They hit store shelves on Friday.
The two Pro iPhones are significant year-over-year upgrades, with improvements to the camera, an improved physical body, and a new button. Most important for me, the high-end models are much lighter in weight and really make a big difference during daily use. I’d recommend them to any iPhone user who’s ready to upgrade, or anyone who has complained about how big and heavy smartphones have gotten.
They’re not cheap.
The 6.1-inch iPhone Pro model starts at $999 for 128GB of storage and goes up to $1499 for 1TB. I’d recommend the $1099 model with 256GB of storage for most people. The bigger phone, the 6.7-inch iPhone Pro Max, now starts at $1199, $100 more than last year, but the entry-level model has 256GB of storage and maxes out at 1TB for $1599.
In addition to the Pro models, Apple also offers two cheaper options, the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, which cost $799 and $899 and up. They have the chip from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, some camera improvements, and Apple’s “dynamic island” that hides the front-facing cameras. Most people will be perfectly happy with the mainstream iPhone 15 models, which are close to state-of-the-art.
But Apple’s Pro phones have the newest chip, the A17 Pro, a zoom lens, and a display with a faster refresh rate. For people who are picky about their personal technology, the pro models are significantly more desirable than the mainstream models, and their improvements often trickle down Apple’s lineup in the coming years.
Here’s what’s new and exciting about the iPhone 15 Pro phones:
The “natural titanium” finish is the most noticeable new iPhone color. This is also a close look at the new Action Button, which replaces the mute switch.
This year’s Pro iPhones have one visible and welcome change: They use titanium for the exterior frame, instead of stainless steel.
One color, “natural titanium,” shows off the new metal, but withmost other colors, it isn’t as immediately noticeable. But while the iPhone 15 Pro might look the same as last year’s model from a distance, it’s actually the biggest change to the iPhone’s exterior in years.
Titanium is a huge upgrade for daily use because it makes the phone lighter. It feels better in the hand. Apple’s Pro phones have been getting heavier since 2019, but this phone reverses the trend.
Apple says that the 6-inch iPhone 15 Pro is 187 grams, or 9% lighter than last year’s model. The iPhone 15 Pro Max, with a bigger 6.7-inch screen, weighs 8% less. But in practice, it feels like an even bigger reduction. Going back to my old iPhone 14 Pro, it feels like a brick. The weight difference between this year’s Pros and last year’s is noticeable even with a case.
Not only are this year’s Pro phones lighter, but they are also slightly narrower and shorter in length, although they’re marginally thicker than last year’s devices. They have a smaller border (bezel) around the same-sized screen, and it’s noticeable when holding the two devices side-by-side. But this also means last year’s cases won’t work with this year’s phones.
The iPhone 14 Pro is in the back and the iPhone 15 Pro is in the front. This year’s model has slighly smaller bezels. It’s subtle but noticable.
The weight difference is subtle but will be meaningful to many people, making daily use more delightful — and marathon TikTok and YouTube sessions less tiring.
I used the iPhone 15 Pro without a case, and it didn’t feel particularly fragile. But phones drop and break, and the new frame comes with one additional benefit: Significantly cheaper repairs. If the back glass on the iPhone 15 shatters, Apple is charging either $169 or $199 for a replacement, depending on screen size. On the iPhone 14 Pros, that price was either $499 or $549. Apple says it’s because this model is much easier to repair.
Apple has also improved the zoom camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
While the smaller phone still has a 3x zoom, the bigger phone now comes with a 5x zoom lens that mimics some of the better physical zoom lenses on standalone cameras that can be as long as 10 inches. Basically, the new iPhone allows you to get closer to your subject without physically getting closer.
On the left, an iPhone 15 Pro Max photo taken at 5x zoom. On the right, an iPhone 15 Pro photo taken with 3x zoom.
It also comes with a nifty new kind of three-dimensional image stabilization that prevents the zoom shots from getting blurry, which is a problem with actual big zoom lenses. The handheld zoom shots on the iPhone 15 Pro Max were pretty sharp and clear.
The new lens will be very useful for day-to-day usage, as it makes more of the world around you easier to photograph. Parents will use it for kids’ sports, outdoors enthusiasts will use it take photos of birds and wildlife, and tourists will use it to get better vacation shots.
On the left: 2x zoom photo taken with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. On the right: 5x zoom photo taken with the iPhone 15 Pro Max
It’s also a reason to reach for the bigger iPhone 15 Pro Max over the cheaper but lighter and smaller iPhone 15 Pro