Is the Pro model worth its premium price?
If you are in the market for a new iPhone, the newly announced iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro should be high on your shortlist.
But, here’s the $1000 question. The Pro line got the most updates this year, but is it really worth the extra cash?
Here’s a rundown of all the ways that the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max differ from the entry-level iPhone 15.
The screen sizes on the iPhone 15 phones are the same. They both come in 6.1″ and 6.7″ variants. However, the quality of that display does differ.
The Pro models have ProMotion, a screen technology that allows refresh rates of up to 120hz, compared to 60hz on the iPhone 15. This means smoother scrolling and animations.
The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max also have an always-on display, similar to the Apple Watch. The regular iPhone 15 does not.
In terms of size, these phones are very similar. Only a few millimeters separate them, so most people will not notice a difference.
The weight, however, is a different story. The iPhone 15 weighs in at 171g, while the iPhone 15 Pro weighs 187g. The iPhone 15 Plus weighs 210g, while the Pro Max weighs 221g.
So, the iPhone 15 is lighter in the hand, but Apple’s use of titanium means the iPhone 15 Pro is actually 19g lighter compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. The Pro Max is also 19g lighter than last year’s model.
Speaking of titanium, it had a big influence on this year’s color options. The Pro models are available in four finishes: Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium.
In contrast, the iPhone 15 is available in five colors. With the notable exception of black, the non-Pro colors are also much lighter. They include pink, yellow, green, and blue in what can only be described as pastel shades.
Another design difference between these phones is the new Action button. It only appears on the Pro phones. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus have to make do with the mute switch that was found in previous generations.
Apple also shrunk the bezels around the display of the iPhone 15 Pro to make them even thinner than before. The bezels on the iPhone 15, on the other hand, are the same as the iPhone 14.
The base models of the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro both start at 128GB, while the iPhone Pro Max starts at 256GB.
At the other end of the scale, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max offer a 1TB storage option, while the iPhone 15 tops out at 512GB.
If you need a lot of storage, the Pro models are the way to go.
Water & Dust Resistance
This one is quick and easy to compare.
All iPhone 15 models are rated at IP68 (maximum depth of 6 meters up to 30 minutes) under IEC standard 60529.
There is no difference here between the Pro and non-Pro models for water and dust resistance.
Apple Silicon Chip
The chip inside the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus is the A16 from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro. The 15 Pro and Pro Max, on the other hand, get a brand new Apple Silicon chip called the A17 Pro.
The A17 Pro has a 6-core GPU compared to the 5-core GPU in the A16 and is also 10% faster. The GPU was also completely reworked on the A17 Pro to include faster ray tracing, which is great news for gamers!
The most obvious difference between the iPhone 15 Pro and the regular iPhone 15 is the extra telephoto lens that is included on the Pro phones.
This means the iPhone 15 is limited to 2x optical zoom, whereas the iPhone 15 Pro has a 3x zoom, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a new 5x zoom.
The image stabilization also got tweaked this year. The Pro phones have a new second-generation sensor-shift optical image stabilization. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus have the same one as the iPhone 14.
Night mode portraits are only available on Pro phones, and the same goes for macro photography and Apple’s ProRaw file format.
No big changes were made to the selfie camera this year.
It is largely the same across the iPhone 15 lineup, except for ProRes video recording, which is only available on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.
Speaking of video, the Pro phones do get some additional options that are not available on the iPhone 15.
In addition to the new second-generation sensor-shift optical image stabilization, Apple has reserved ProRes video recording at up to 4K at 60 fps (with external recording) for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.
Log video recording, support for the Academy Color Encoding System, and Macro video recording, (including slo‑mo and time‑lapse), are only available on the Pro phones.
This one is a tie. All phones offer Emergency SOS via satellite, Crash Detection, and the new Roadside Assistance via satellite.
There is no difference here between the Pro and non-Pro models for the safety features that Apple includes.
Cellular & Wireless
The iPhone 15 family supports 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3.
However, hidden among the list of technical standards was an interesting tidbit that only applies to the new Pro phones.
The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max support Thread networking technology. This feature already exists in the HomePod Mini and Apple TV, and now it’s available on the iPhone. Thread is a wireless protocol that helps smart home devices work better together.
Apple says the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are “the first Thread-enabled smartphones, opening up future opportunities for Home app integrations.”
This is a curious addition, especially as Apple has yet to detail how this will work on an iPhone, but implementation details will likely follow in time.
Apple has three metrics it uses to demonstrate battery life on an iPhone: video playback, streaming video playback, and audio playback.
At 23 hours, the iPhone 15 Pro offers three additional hours of video playback over the iPhone 15, while the Pro Max boasts nine additional hours. Not too shabby!
For streaming video, the iPhone 15 Pro comes in at 20 hours, (four hours more than the iPhone 15), and the Pro Max lasts for 25 hours.
The iPhone 15 beats the 15 Pro in audio playback with 80 hours, compared to 75 hours on the iPhone 15 Pro. But, as you may expect, the larger battery on the iPhone 15 Pro Max bests them all with 95 hours.
An iPhone isn’t an iPhone if it isn’t packed with sensors.
The new phones all have the same sensors, except for the LiDAR scanner, which is only found in the Pro models.
The LiDAR sensor is used for mapping spaces for AR app and supports some camera functions to better identify foreground and background objects in an image.
Last but not least, it’s time to get to the USB-C connector, a long-awaited and much-coveted feature for the entire iPhone 15 lineup. It is most often used for charging, but can also be used for audio, video, and data transfers.
When transferring data from an iPhone to a computer, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are limited to USB 2 speeds, (480 megabits per second). The 15 Pro and Pro Max support USB 3, which offers much faster data speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second.
Just note that the cable Apple supplies in the box with the Pro phones only supports USB 2 speeds. You must purchase an additional cable to unlock those 10-gigabit transfer speeds.
The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max clearly got the lion’s share of the new iPhone features this year. For many, this alone will justify the extra money.
However, not everyone will need the additional features or even be able to afford them, so I am glad that the iPhone 15 is still an option.