I used to think the iPhone Plus was useless — but I was wrong

Apple iPhone 15 Plus review.
(Image credit: Future)

I have not had kind things to say about the Plus-sized version of the iPhone, starting with the first iPhone 14 Plus back in 2022. It's just an oversized iPhone, I concluded. There's nothing special about it, I insisted. I even went so far as to say that there was "zero point for the Plus to exist."

No, a Plus-sized smartphone didn't menace me or my family growing up, triggering this deep-seated resentment for the Apple's version. I just didn't like the phone.

Well, I'm not too petty a person to admit I was wrong. The Plus model deserves its spot among the best iPhones. It's a really good phone with plenty of reason to exist. And I hope it remains part of Apple's lineup with this fall's iPhone 16 rollout and beyond.

Here's how I learned to stop sneering and love the iPhone Plus.

People like big screens

Apple iPhone 15 Plus review.

(Image credit: Future)

I make no secret that I prefer phones with smaller screens. I find them easier to use with one hand, and I like how more compact phones are easier to carry around. A 6.1-inch screen like the one on the current iPhone 15 is about as big as I like to get.

Which is fine for my personal preferences, of course, but out of step with what the rest of the world apparently prefers.

At the start of 2022, Omida published a report listing the average smartphone screen size at 6.3 inches, a number you imagine must have increased in the past two years given the number of foldable phones with larger screens that have hit the market. The fact of the matter is, the average smartphone user is reaching for bigger displays — kind of like the 6.7-inch panel Apple includes on the iPhone 15 Plus.

To put it another way, I may prefer a compact phone that fits easily in my hand, but a larger number of smartphone shoppers want as much screen as they can afford. You can hardly fault Apple for trying to meet this with the iPhone Plus.

The Plus lasts a long time on a charge

Apple iPhone 15 Plus review.

(Image credit: Future)

Having a bigger frame allows for more than just a larger display. It also means that Apple can pack a bigger battery into its Plus-sized phone. And that gives the Plus an edge when it comes to lasting longer on a charge.

Apple doesn't go around talking about battery size, but thanks to teardowns, we know that the iPhone 15 Plus has a 4,383 mAh battery compared to a 3,349 mAh cell for the iPhone 15. You'd imagine the bigger battery would give the Plus a leg up on battery life, and based on the results of our battery testing, you'd be right.

Specifically, the iPhone 15 Plus lasted 14 hours and 14 minutes on our battery test, where we set a phone's display to 150 nits and let it surf the web continuously over cellular until it runs out of power. Not only was that a little more than 3 hours better than the iPhone 15's time, it was also the best phone battery life of any Apple phone we've ever tested. (True, the iPhone 15 Pro Max was just 12 minutes behind the Plus in our testing, but a win's a win.)

This isn't a one-off for the Plus model, either — the iPhone 14 Plus also had a great result when we ran our battery test on that phone. So when you buy the Plus, you won't ever have to worry about whether you can get through the day on a single charge.

The Plus costs less than the Pro Max

iPhone 14 Plus vs iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

I mentioned the similarities between the iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max in terms of battery life, and those two models share the same screen size. But there are some key differences between Apple's biggest phones as well — while the iPhone 15 Pro Max may offer the more premium features, the Plus has it beat on price.

That's especially true after Apple raised the price of its high-end phone last fall, now charging $1,199 for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. In contrast, the iPhone 15 Plus starts at just $899 — a $300 savings between the two models. With the Plus, you're giving up a telephoto lens as well as Pro-only features like a titanium frame and programable Action button, but for some phone shoppers, the difference in price will give them 300 reasons not to be terribly upset about that.

Apple has spent recent iPhone rollout focusing on ways to separate its Pro models from the rest of the lineup, so you'd figure that the iPhone Plus' status as the phone maker's lower-cost big screen option will only become more prominent. That's especially true should the rumored iPhone 16 Ultra ever materialize, driving up the cost of big-screen iPhones even further.

Embracing the iPhone 16 Plus

Apple's Plus model is never going to be at the top of my wish list, given my screen size preferences. But it will be for other iPhone shoppers, primarily for the reasons I outlined above. And based on rumored changes to the iPhone lineup coming this fall, there's going to be even more to like about the iPhone 16 Plus.

Both the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus are rumored to be getting the Action button that debuted on the recent iPhone 15 Pro models. Even more significantly, Apple could finally drop its practice of splitting up which models get which chipsets. Instead of hand-me-down silicon from the previous year's Pro model, we're expecting the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus to run on a new A18 system-on-chip. It may not be as powerful as the 18 variant featured in the iPhone 16 Pro models, but it should still mean big performance gains for Apple's less expensive phones.

That's all the more reason to make sure that the Plus remains a fixture in Apple's phone lineup, negating my earlier criticism of the larger model. Believe me, this is one time I'm happy to admit I was wrong.

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Philip Michaels

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.