The iPhone 15 goes on sale on Friday in the latest instalment of Apple’s annual upgrade cycle.
Should you buy it? I’ve been given a phone ahead of the launch to review and trial.
The main - and most noticeable - change is a new charging port. But when the most notable change is one that has been enforced by EU regulators, you’d be forgiven for questioning whether it’s worth paying hundreds of pounds for an upgrade.
As far as Apple is concerned, it’s a case of not fixing what isn’t broken. The company sold more than 200m iPhones last year.
What exactly is different with the 15?
Farewell Lightning port
Changes to the charging port have dominated coverage of the new iPhone. After 11 years of the Lightning connector and billions of cables sold, Apple is joining the rest of the market in embracing USB-C.
The change has been enforced by the EU, which argued that adopting a universal standard would be better for consumers. Apple fought against the change but ultimately lost.
While it might sound like a small detail, it has a significant impact.
For example, there are now two cables in our family car: USB-C for the iPhone 15, and Lightning for my wife’s iPhone 13.
There will be teething pains. For the next couple of years, when someone asks to borrow an iPhone charger, the response will be “which one”?
Apple includes a double-ended USB-C cable in the box but not a wall plug, so you’ll have to buy a £20 power adapter. It’s one of a handful of micro-annoyances that we’re all going to bear during the switchover.
Ultimately, in the long run, we’re going to be better off having all of our gadgets charging from one cable. Apple’s MacBooks and iPads already use USB-C, as do most other battery-powered gadgets that we use today.
As an added bonus, adopting the new standard means that the iPhone 15 now acts as an emergency battery pack that can charge your other devices - your wireless headphones or your Apple Watch, for example - on the go.
As usual, there are some substantial camera upgrades. The base iPhone 15 now takes better zoomed in photos, thanks to some upgraded sensors and clever AI going on in the background.
The most expensive model, the 15 Pro Max, now has a whopping 5x optical zoom because of a series of mirrors hidden inside the phone. Conveniently, all the phones are now able to capture portrait photos without you having to activate it in the camera app - you simply take a normal photo and can then retrospectively turn on portrait mode in the photos app.
At this point, the latest iPhones take sublime pictures. During its launch event, Apple showed off some demos comparing video footage from the Pro models to a £10,000 professional camera. To an amateur eye it was basically indistinguishable.
However, the cameras have been as good as most people need for years. Three or four years ago, upgrading your phone meant a game-changing new camera. Now, the incrementally better camera is simply a nice-to-have.
Exterior and upgrades
The Pro models now have a titanium shell and a thinner border around the screen, which makes them noticeably lighter. The cheaper models have some new colours - but please, put a case on your phone.
On that note, Apple’s environmental push means it has ditched leather cases in favour of a fabric it calls “FineWoven”. At £59, it’s hard to recommend buying one: it picks up dirt and scratches easily and feels a couple of grades below the premium price point.
The cheaper iPhone 15 phones have inherited some upgrades that were previously only on the pricier Pro versions, adding the versatile “dynamic island” at the top of the screen that shows things like music controls and sports scores, and an upgraded processor.
The Pro models have ditched the volume slider that switched phones on and off mute, a long overdue move, replacing it with a customisable “action button”. Default options include turning the camera on or activating Do Not Disturb, but Apple’s shortcuts setting means it is infinitely customisable. If you’ve always wanted a dedicated calculator button or instant selfie mode, now you do.
The change is past due - the mute slider has been on the iPhone since the beginning but is rarely used these days - but it’s disappointing to see it reserved for Apple’s more expensive phones as it’s presumably not an expensive part.
Should you buy it?
It’s been true for several years that there’s little point buying the latest iPhone if you have a one or two-year-old model. Most people tend to upgrade when their battery becomes basically unusable, their screen breaks, or its processor has been so thoroughly overworked that it takes 30 seconds to open WhatsApp. That’s the buying advice, and this year is no exception.
But if you’re a wavering buyer wondering if you should hang on another year, there’s enough here to make it worth taking the plunge. USB-C means the phone is effectively future proofed and if you’re upgrading from anything older than 2020’s iPhone 12, the little tweaks that Apple continues to make each year to the screen, camera and processor start to add up.
The entry-level iPhone 15 starts at £799, the 15 Plus costs £899 and up, and the Pro and Pro Max models go for £999 and £1,199 respectively.
I’m unconvinced that the pricier Pro models are worth the extra cost. The base models have had big camera upgrades that bring them closer to the Pro versions, while Pro-exclusive upgrades such as the action button are not must-haves.