When doling out features for this year's iPhone 15 update, Apple clearly favored the iPhone 15 Pro. The more powerful 3nm chipset? The lighter, more durable material? The customizable Action button? All of these found their way into Apple's premium flagship. And the iPhone 15 Pro brings all of these features to the table for $200 less than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
That's not to say that everyone considering a new iPhone needs to go Pro. As impressive as the iPhone 15 Pro is on paper, not every feature is going to be essential to every user. And even if they are, $999 is still a lot to pay for any smartphone.
We've had a chance to go hands-on with the iPhone 15 Pro, so we can talk about its strengths as a smartphone (though a full review will have to wait until we get more time to test Apple's latest flagship). We can also talk about some of the reasons you may want to consider other options besides the iPhone 15 Pro.
Here's a closer look at reasons to buy the iPhone 15 Pro and reasons to shy away from this particular model.
iPhone 15 Pro: Reasons to buy
A17 Pro power
Like the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Pro runs on the A17 Pro chipset, and this is not your usual upgraded silicon. The chip is built on a 3nm process, the first of its kind for a mobile phone, and that would normally translate to big performance gains.
The CPU gets a 10% improvement over the A16 Bionic in last year's Pro models while the Neural Engine is twice as fast. But the real gains are in the GPU, which is not only 20% faster, according to Apple, but also capable of support hardware-accelerated ray-tracing for more realistic-looking games.
Until we can run some benchmarks, we won't be able to quantify these promised performance gains. But it sounds like A17 Pro-powered phones won't have any trouble out-muscling the competition.
A lighter titanium design
Apple's Pro phones have traded in stainless steel for titanium, and it's a change you'll notice the moment you pick up an iPhone 15 Pro. The new phone weighs in at 6.6 ounces compared to 7.3 ounces for the iPhone 14 Pro.
There's more than just a lighter weight at play here. Apple's iPhone 15 Pro design also incorporates aluminum into the phone's frame, helping with heat dissipation. And the durability of aluminum complements the Ceramic Display up front and the phone's back glass to make this one tough handset.
USB-C and fast data transfer speeds
Every phone in Apple's newly unveiled lineup gets a USB-C port to replace Lightning connectivity. But the Pro models take some advantage of the change by supporting faster transfer speeds through USB 3.
Specifically, Apple says the iPhone 15 Pro is capable of 10 Gbps, which is 20x faster than before. If you need to transfer a lot of photos and video from your phone, you're going to appreciate that boost.
Computational photography improvements
Yes, the iPhone 15 got a 48MP main camera sensor (matching the change Apple made to the iPhone 14 Pro lineup last year), and yes, the most significant hardware change — that tetraprism telephoto lens — is an iPhone 15 Pro Max-exclusive. But the iPhone 15 Pro still figures to rank among the best camera phones once our testing is done, thanks some computational photography improvements.
Apple is promising improvements to colors and details of Portrait shots, even in low light — a change that probably stems from the larger main sensor included in the iPhone 15 Pro. But the phone is now smart enough to detect when you're about to photography a person, switching into portrait mode. (The feature works with cats and dogs, too.)
Night mode taps into Apple's Photonic Engine and an included LiDAR scanner on the iPhone 15 Pro so shots at night should look better. And as on other iPhone 15 models, the Pro benefits from improvements to Smart HDR so that shadows look more detailed and highlights are brighter.
A customizable Action button
The mute switch is gone on the iPhone 15 Pro, but we doubt you're going to miss it. That's because it's been replaced by an Action button that can still silence your phone but also do so much more.
You're able to customize the Action button to carry out commands like turning on the phone's flashlight, camera, voice recorder and magnification app. You can also use the Shortcuts app on your phone to further customize what pressing the action button will trigger. So essentially, Apple has taken a button on the iPhone that once performed just one task and expanded its capabilities.
iPhone 15 Pro: Reasons to Skip
Action button is limited
Not to look a gift feature in the mouth, but the Action button would be much more useful if you could program it to do more than one thing. Apparently, though, that's not the case — you're limited to a single action. That doesn't sound very "Pro" to us.
Yes, Apple is probably trying to keep things simple given how new the Action button is. But this is still a limitation that will keep people rom experiencing the full power of the Action button.
There's no change in charging speeds
While we're criticizing features we also find praiseworthy, don't expect the iPhone 15 Pro to be like certain Android phones and ride its USB-C connectivity to faster charging speeds. Near as we can tell, the iPhone 15 Pro charges at the same 20W speeds Apple has used seemingly since the dawn of time.
We'd understand it (though we wouldn't appreciate it) if Apple didn't want to enable fast charging on the iPhone 15. But this is Apple's Pro model — at least try and match the 45W charging speeds that Galaxy S23 Plus and Galaxy S23 Ultra enjoy.
Apple's mum on battery improvements
If you followed the iPhone 15 launch event, you heard Apple talk up many additions and enhancements for its phones, particularly when it came to the iPhone 15 Pro models. But promises about the phone's battery life wasn't one of them.
Our concern grew when we looked at the spec sheet for the iPhone 15 Pro and found that the promised battery times — 23 hours of video playback, 20 hours of streaming video and 75 hours of audio playback are no different from the iPhone 14 Pro's listed times. With the iPhone 14 Pro finishing a little bit ahead of the average smartphone's time on our battery test, color us concerned.
It's possible that the improved power efficiency of the A17 Pro chip may help the iPhone 15 Pro last longer than its predecessor. And there's a rumor that Apple may have stuck a larger battery inside the iPhone 15 Pro, something we won't be able to confirm until there's a teardown of the new device. (Apple never publicizes battery sizes.) But we're not going to breathe easy until we start getting those battery test results for the iPhone 15 Pro.
iPhone 15 Pro outlook
It suggests good things about a phone when two of our biggest complaints revolve around we alos happen to like. That would seem to suggest that Apple is on the right track and just needs to take things a little farther. Still, when you're paying $999 for a Pro device, you may be wondering why Apple didn't think things farther in the first place.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.