As 2023 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect back on all the smartphones, cars, and games we have tested over the past 12 months. The one category that we’re always excited to talk about is the best smartphone of the year, so let’s start off with that.
There are quite a number of excellent smartphones that were released this year, but one stood out to us as the best overall phone of 2023: the iPhone 15 Pro. While some phones do have the upper hand over the iPhone in certain categories, we think the 15 Pro still strikes the best balance, and we’ll tell you why.
When it comes to performance, there is no doubt the iPhone 15 Pro comes out on top among other flagship smartphones; its Apple A17 Pro chip is by far the best performing silicon we tested this year. So much so that the chip can even run AAA games like Resident Evil Village and Resident Evil 4 – even if it’s not the best way to experience the games.
Outside of gaming, the A17 Pro doesn’t even break a sweat in everyday use. Whether we’re multitasking with different apps of switching between different games, the 15 Pro feels fast and responsive no matter what we throw at it. Of course, this can also be attributed to Apple’s software magic. Not many phone makers can replicate the refinement and efficiency of iOS 17 on the iPhone.
And that’s a good segue to the battery life of the iPhone 15 Pro. Although it is now packing a more powerful A17 Pro chip with only a slightly bigger 3,274mAh, the battery life of the 15 Pro is still good for all-day use. On average, we 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.
Sure, there are definitely other smartphones with better battery life, but these phones don’t offer the same level of performance as the 15 Pro either.
Plus, this battery life is especially impressive given the (relatively) compact form factor of the iPhone 15 Pro. Granted, its 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display – with a fast 120Hz refresh rate – doesn’t make it a particularly small phone. But compared to the majority of other phones in the flagship space, the 15 Pro is still one of the most compact high-end phones you can get now.
Build quality of the iPhone 15 Pro is also worth a mention here. Apple’s range of products always feel great in the hands with tight tolerances, and this remains true for the 15 Pro. Even though the titanium frame on the Black Titanium model pictured here picks up fingerprints easily, we love how the material feels. 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 we’re comparing the two phones side by side.
Of course, the iPhone 15 Pro’s switch to USB-C from Apple’s proprietary Lightning port is also one of the biggest changes to the premium phone. It may seem like a simple port change, but the fact that consumers can now use the same USB-C cable to charge up their different devices is a big quality of life improvement.
And then there’s the camera performance of the iPhone 15 Pro. Although 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 we love the fact that we can get into 1.2x or 1.5x zoom by just tapping on the 1x zoom button. It’s incredibly convenient to get just the right framing for any given subject.
Yes, some flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, have more sophisticated camera arrays with farther-reaching zoom lenses. But when it comes to the responsiveness of the camera interface, the iPhone 15 Pro wins hands down. There’s also the fact that the 15 Pro provides much better video capture performance.
But we do have to mention one odd issue with the focus performance of the iPhone 15 Pro: it has difficulty focusing on smaller subjects, such as the side profile of a smartphone. You can see this with the two images below: the subject 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, we suspect this is a software issue that can be fixed with an update.
Despite that, we still think the iPhone 15 Pro offers the complete package. While its RM5,499 starting price is quite steep – and it is RM200 more than last year’s 14 Pro – you are getting a very refined, high-end premium phone for that kind of money.
From its titanium frame, powerful A17 Pro chip, USB-C port, to the new (customisable) 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 is why it is Nextrift’s best smartphone of 2023!