Thursday, July 25, 2024

Apple iPhone 15 Review: It’s Time to Upgrade

Once every couple of years, Apple brings some big, meaningful changes to its hardware products. And in the years that it doesn’t, we get some hilarious memes. 2023 is not a meme year for the iPhone though as the standard iPhone models are once again exciting. We’ve seen this shift before with some older models too like the iPhone 12, which was the first non-Pro model to get an OLED screen. This year, the iPhone 15 is the most exciting iPhone for me as it finally gets some big-boy upgrades, and all those with an iPhone 12 (or older) holding off for something better can finally take the plunge.

The new model might not look all that different from the past two generations but the new additions borrowed from last year’s 14 Pro makes the iPhone 15 (and by extension, the 15 Plus) worth considering. Here’s why.

Apple iPhone 15 price in India

The iPhone 15 starts at the same price as what the iPhone 14 launched at, which is Rs. 79,900 for the 128GB variant. You can opt for 256GB or 512GB variants and the price goes up by Rs. 10,000 with each tier. There are new pastel colours too, which look really nice, but sadly no Product RED variant this time. The iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 are still officially sold by Apple and they start at Rs. 69,900 and Rs. 59,900 respectively. The bundled accessories are still minimal but this time, it’s a colour-matched braided USB Type-C cable in the box instead of Lightning, as all iPhones have finally ditched Apple’s proprietary connector this year.

Apple sent us the top-end variant in blue which officially costs Rs. 1,09,900. You pay a premium for the number models from Apple as usual, but thankfully, you’ll most likely never really have to pay this sticker price as there’s always bank and credit card offers to avail if you buy online.

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The iPhone 15 looks similar to the 14 and 13 from the back

 

Apple iPhone 15 design

The iPhone 15 has nearly the same dimensions as the 14 except for the height, which is now slightly more. It is a bit lighter at 171g and this regular-sized model has an excellent in-hand feel. The rounded edges and the soft finish of the frame and glass back gives it a soothing effect. Personally, after coming from an iPhone 13 Pro Max, this size and weight of the 15 felt toy-like at first but I soon appreciated the smaller form factor.

The display on the iPhone 15 is still a 6.1-inch OLED panel but it now gets Apple’s Dynamic Island from the 14 Pro series. This in itself makes the 15 look modern and on par with Apple’s more expensive phones. Sadly, ProMotion doesn’t make it to the 15, which means the display still runs at 60Hz and not 120Hz. The always-on feature is also still reserved for just the Pro models. The 15’s display is now brighter than the iPhone 14, with 1,000 nits of typical brightness and up to 2,000 nits of peak brightness when outdoors, under sunlight.

Apple iPhone 15 specifications and software

Another ‘Pro’ feature given to the iPhone 15 is the SoC. It’s Apple’s A16 Bionic which was used in the iPhone 14 Pro models. It has the same number of CPU and GPU cores as last year’s iPhone 14, but it’s built on a 4nm process (vs 5nm), which means it packs in a billion more transistors in the similar surface area. The iPhone 15 still has the same amount of RAM (6GB) as the iPhone 14. Other features includes stereo speakers, IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, second generation Ultra Wideband (UWB) chip, and a TrueDepth camera in the display for Face ID.

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Dynamic Island comes to the non-Pro series for the first time with the iPhone 15 models

 

The iPhone 15 ships with iOS 17 and should easily get new iOS versions for the next five years at least. iOS 17 is also available for many older iPhone models and the experience is largely similar across. Some of the new features include personalised Contact Posters for people in your phonebook, the ability to record and send messages over FaceTime if the person doesn’t not answer, and many more. Apple has even rolled out sub-version updates for iOS in order to address known overheating issues with the 15 Pro models, and most recently, new features for AirDrop and general bug fixes.

Apple iPhone 15 performance and battery life

The daily performance of the iPhone 15 has been nothing short of great. Apps load quickly, the display is rich and vibrant, and I never got any sense of it lacking power. Notifications that bunch around the Dynamic Island are fun to see and interact with. The 15 mostly ran cool, but there were times when using wireless CarPlay where the back would heat up. Games looked great and ran smoothy, especially the ones from Apple Arcade.

HDR videos looked good, especially those shot with Dolby Vision. The stereo speakers get quite loud too and sound quality is enjoyable. Benchmark numbers are solid and are generally higher than most Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Android phones. The iPhone 15 scored 13,77,284 points in AnTuTu, and 2,500 and 6,209 points in Geekbench 6’s single and multicore CPU tests, respectively.

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The iPhone 15 now supports USB Type-C making it compatible with a variety of Type-C accessories

 

iPhones generally deliver good battery life and the iPhone 15 is no different. Apple promises up to 20 hours of video playback, and our HD video test managed to get somewhat close to that number, running for 16.5 hours. Under normal circumstances, I was easily getting one full day’s worth of runtime on one charge, and some days a bit more with lighter use. Fast charging is supported but you’ll have to buy the charger separately. Apple claims the 15 can charge up to 50 percent in half an hour with the optional 20W power adapter. Wireless charging is also present.

Apple iPhone 15 cameras

The iPhone 15 still lacks a telephoto camera and the ultra-wide can’t do macro photos and video, as these features are still reserved for the Pro models. However, the main one now gets a 48-megapixel sensor from the 14 Pro. There’s sensor-shift stabilisation like before, and thanks to the higher resolution the 2X zoom level is said to offer “optical” quality magnification as it simply uses a smaller crop of the sensor. The ultra-wide is still the same 12-megapixel sensor, and the same goes for the front 12-megapixel camera. All cameras can record up to 4K 60fps videos in Dolby Vision, and there’s a new Smart HDR 5 photo processing engine for a better balance of shadows and highlights.

iPhone 15 main camera sample

iPhone 15 ultra-wide camera sample

iPhone 15 close-up samples from main camera

 

By default, the iPhone 15 captures 24-megapixel pixel-binned photos. You can change this to 12-megapixels too from Settings, similar to how most Android phones with 48-megapixel cameras operate. In order to shoot at the full 48 megapixels, you’ll need to enable a toggle in Settings, after which you’ll see a ‘JPEG Max’ option in the viewfinder. Keep in mind that shooting at the native resolution does introduce shutter lag, so you won’t be able to do rapid shooting as effectively.

Image quality in daylight is very good. You get plenty of details and colours are balanced out well, even when shooting under harsh sunlight. The ultra-wide camera is quite competent too under good lighting. Details are decent and barrel distortion is minimal. The camera app can now also recognise animals like dogs and cats, and will automatically suggest the option to enable background blur within the camera app. The Photos app will also detect images of pets you might have previously taken and give you the option to convert it to a portrait shot.

iPhone 15 zoom samples

iPhone 15 low-light camera samples

iPhone 15 selfie camera sample

 

Images taken in low light with the main camera look very good. Noise is handled well, details are ample, and colours look natural. Magnifying the image more than 2X sees a big drop in image quality though. The ultra-wide is decent too, but details are weaker compared to the main camera. The selfie camera does a good job in daylight and in low light.

iPhones have long been the gold standard when it comes to video recording. The iPhone 15 captures rock-steady footage in good light, with no visible jitter and excellent details. Slight jitter is visible when shooting under artificial lighting at night, but only when you walk while recording.

Verdict

The biggest drawback for the iPhone 15 is its pricing in India. At nearly Rs. 80,000 for the base model, it’s quite expensive. Even if you factor in bank offers, we’re still looking at a price upwards of Rs. 70,000, considering most people would opt for the 256GB variant. But, if you are someone who’s willing to put down this sort of money, then you certainly won’t be disappointed. Unlike the iPhone 14, which wasn’t too different from the 13, the iPhone 15 takes a bigger leap forward by incorporating many of the advanced features from the 14 Pro models. A high refresh rate and a telephoto camera are two things I’m personally still waiting to see on the standard models, and we’ll no doubt get there eventually after a few more generations.

Right now, you should buy the iPhone 15 if you want some of the ‘Pro’ features from the iPhone 14 Pro but don’t want to spend a premium. Even though Apple has officially discontinued last year’s Pro models, it’s still ridiculously priced in India. If you you were waiting to trade in your iPhone 12 (or older) for something worthwhile, I would recommend getting the 15. On the other hand, if you just want an iPhone and don’t care about the new features of the 15, this is a great time to buy the iPhone 13 at a heavily discounted price during festive sales.

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