Apple iPhone 15 Pro Review: More Than Just a Yearly Upgrade
October 25, 2023 Andrew Cheng

The iPhone 15 Pro, at a glance, doesn’t look all that different from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro. But there are some meaningful changes here that I would argue make a big difference. There’s the sturdier, lighter titanium frame, the blazing fast Apple A17 Pro chip, the new Action button, and of course, the switch to USB-C.

All of these make the iPhone 15 Pro a worthy upgrade over its predecessor, though that also comes at a price hike for the Malaysian market; a RM200 increase, to be specific. That being said, you do get your money’s worth, especially if you want a premium, high-end phone in a (relatively) compact form factor.

What It Is

Display6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED (2556 x 1179), adaptive 120Hz
ChipsetApple A17 Pro (6-core CPU; 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores)
GPUApple A17 Pro 6-core GPU
Storage128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)48MP f/1.78, 100% Focus Pixels, second-gen sensor-shift OIS
12MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide), 100% Focus Pixels
12MP f/2.8 (telephoto), 3x optical zoom, OIS
Camera (front)12MP f/1.9, autofocus with Focus Pixels
Dimensions146.6 x 70.6 x 8.25 mm
OSiOS 17
Bluetooth 5.3
WiFi 802.11ax
USB-C port
PriceRM5,499 (128GB), RM5,999 (256GB), RM6,999 (512GB), RM7,999 (1TB)

Beyond the titanium frame, USB-C, and faster A17 Pro chip, the iPhone 15 Pro actually has a couple of other upgrades over last year’s model. The RAM capacity, for example, has been increased from 6GB to 8GB. The 3,274mAh battery is also a slight improvement over the iPhone 14 Pro’s 3,200mAh cell.

It’s worth noting that the RAM and battery capacities of the iPhone 15 Pro were not revealed by Apple, as per usual. Rather, these details were verified by other parties through various teardowns of the phone. Now, a 3,274mAh battery and 8GB RAM don’t sound all that impressive, but the 15 Pro still offers great battery life and performance with Apple’s solid optimisation.

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with the build of the iPhone 15 Pro, which is great. Even though the titanium frame on this Black Titanium model picks up fingerprints easily, I love how the material feels in my hands. The rounded edges also make the phone comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

Another advantage of the iPhone 15 Pro’s titanium frame is its lightweight nature, reducing the weight of the phone to 187g; this makes it exactly 19g lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro. While this doesn’t sound like a huge difference, the 15 Pro does feel noticeably lighter, especially if you’re comparing the two phones side by side.

Another big change to the iPhone 15 Pro is the aforementioned switch to USB-C from Apple’s proprietary Lightning port, and I’m all for it. Yes, it may just be a simple port change to some, but I really appreciate the fact that I don’t have to consciously keep track of my different charging cables anymore. I can now use the same USB-C cable to charge up my devices.

I’m also a fan of the iPhone 15 Pro’s new Action button, which replaces the ring/silent switch toggle. By default, it still acts as a mute and unmute button. I can switch between the two modes with a long press of the button, which I find to be more convenient that fiddling with the tiny toggle on the iPhone 14 Pro.

Of course, the biggest appeal of the Action button is the fact that it can be customised to do different things, such as launching the camera. While I personally leave it as a mute/unmute button, it’s great that users have the flexibility to customise it.

Next, we have the iPhone 15 Pro’s A17 Pro chip, which proved to be very, very capable. My go-to games to test the performance level of any particular phone are Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact, and the A17 Pro can run these two games at 120fps without much trouble.

Granted, there are dips in frame rate when things get intense, but these instances only happen occasionally. It’s much less frequent than what I encountered on the iPhone 14 Pro, or any other high-end Android phones, for that matter. Thanks to its powerful A17 Pro chip, the iPhone 15 Pro is my absolute favourite phone to game on, and I can’t wait to play Resident Evil 4 and Death Stranding on it.

Display quality of the iPhone 15 Pro remains as good as ever. The 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED panel still has a bright peak brightness of 2,000 nits, and to my eyes, the colour accuracy looks to have been improved too. As this is an OLED screen, it still offers vibrant, punchy colours with deep, true blacks.

Despite packing a more powerful A17 Pro chip with only a slightly bigger 3,274mAh, the battery life of the iPhone 15 Pro is still good for all-day use. On average, I can get between five to six hours of screen time with the phone, and that is with several gaming sessions thrown in throughout the day. Rest assured, the 15 Pro can deliver respectable battery life.

Last but not least is the camera performance of the iPhone 15 Pro. While the triple camera system (48MP primary + 12MP ultra-wide + 12MP telephoto lens) sees no drastic overhaul, there are some changes to the image processing that results in a slight improvement in image quality.

The results? Still a very capable camera that can capture great-looking shots regardless of lighting condition. Naturally, the camera interface remains very responsive too, and I love that I can now just tap on the 1x zoom button to get into 1.2x or 1.5x zoom quickly.

However, as much as I enjoy photographing with the iPhone 15 Pro, it does fall short in certain aspects. Let me elaborate in the next section.

The Bad Stuff

Most, if not all of my product shots are taken with the iPhone 14 Pro, so I was excited to do the same with the iPhone 15 Pro. Unfortunately, the new iPhone seems to have difficulty focusing on smaller subjects, such as the side profile of a smartphone.

You can see this with the two images below. The subject here is the iPhone 15 Plus, and the iPhone 14 Pro can easily focus on the USB-C port of the phone. As for the iPhone 15 Pro, it wants to focus on my hand instead. Tapping to focus on the charging port doesn’t work either.

It’s puzzling that this is an issue with the 15 Pro, given that it has a similar camera setup as the 14 Pro. With that in mind, I suspect this is a software issue that can be fixed with an update.

My only other gripe with the iPhone 15 Pro is the fact that it doesn’t have the same hardware as the iPhone 15 Pro Max anymore. the larger iPhone features a new 12MP telephoto sensor that can do 5x optical zoom – thanks to a unique tetraprism design – while the smaller 15 Pro soldiers on with a 12MP telephoto lens limited to 3x optical zoom.

Previously, there’s no hardware disparity between the Pro and Pro Max iPhones, so it feels a bit like a compromise to opt for the smaller 15 Pro now. Granted, some folks may not even need the 5x telephoto lens, but the hardware disparity is still there.

Is It Worth It?

All in all, despite the fact that it has a less sophisticated camera than its bigger Max sibling – along with its odd camera autofocus issue – I still think the iPhone 15 Pro is a fantastic premium smartphone that’s worth every penny. Yes, the RM5,499 starting price is now RM200 more than last year’s 14 Pro, but for that kind of money, you’re also getting a faster, more refined device.

From its titanium frame, USB-C port, powerful A17 Pro chip, to the new Action button, the iPhone 15 Pro is a very easy phone to recommend for anyone who is looking to upgrade or making the switch from Android. That being said, I do hope the camera autofocus issue will be fixed in a future software update.