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Key Takeaways

  • The iPhone 15 offers an improved design with contoured edges and a matte glass back, but still uses aluminum for its frame to avoid fingerprint smudges like the Pro models.
  • The display of the iPhone 15 features Dynamic Island, which replaces the notch, and a higher peak brightness of 2000 nits when outdoors. However, it still lacks ProMotion with a 60Hz refresh rate.
  • Powered by the A16 Bionic chip, similar to the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 15 delivers excellent performance for everyday tasks. It also has a dual camera system with a 48MP main camera for detailed photos, but lacks some features of the Pro models.

In 2022, the standard iPhone 14 line was lacking value compared to the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, which featured Dynamic Island, a significantly better camera system, and other Pro features. While the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max have been in the spotlight, for better or for worse, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus bring many of the iPhone 14 Pro’s features at a lower cost, effectively tightening the gap between the different models.

Even though we’ve seen many of the features before, does history repeat itself? Should you skip it and go with the pro models? Let’s take a look.

Home screen open on an iPhone 15
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf
Apple iPhone 15
8.5 / 10

The iPhone 15 is the standard iPhone for 2023, featuring Dynamic Island, the A16 Bionic chip, and a 48MP main camera for even better photos.

A16 Bionic
6.1-inch Super Retina XDR
Operating System
iOS 17
Front camera
Rear camera
48MP Main, 12MP Ultra-Wide
Wi-Fi 6, 5G, Bluetooth 5.3
147.6 mm x 71.6 mm x 7.80 mm
Black, Green, Blue, Pink, Yellow
Display type
IP Rating
  • Improved design
  • Solid dual camera system
  • Dynamic Island
  • USB-C
  • Good battery life
  • Only 60Hz refresh rate
  • USB 2.0 speeds for USB-C

The Design

The iPhone 15’s design resembles the new Pro models in many ways. The edges of the iPhone 15 are also contoured, noticeably improving the comfort in the hand compared to the last few iPhones. Additionally, the back of the phone is now a matte glass back, departing from the glossy glass that was on the iPhone 14.

Person holding an iPhone 15
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf

However, the iPhone 15 continues to use aluminum for its frame. One benefit of picking the iPhone 15 over the iPhone 15 Pro is that the aluminum sides don’t show fingerprints like the titanium ones on the Pro models.

As for color choices, the iPhone 15 comes in Black, Green, Yellow, Pink, and Blue. The colors are much lighter this year than previous versions. Surprisingly, there is no red or white version this time, both of which have been present on the regular iPhones since the iPhone XR. I don’t think the iPhone 15's color palette is a bad choice, but it's definitely had its share of criticism from others.

However, I still think the iPhone XR had the best color shades. If I had to pick one model for my daily device, I would choose the blue option for my iPhone 15.

Despite not featuring a more high-end material such as titanium or stainless steel, the iPhone 15 still has an excellent design that feels premium and comfortable to hold without a case or grip. And it’s good to see that it still comes in various colors for people to select from, even if they are somewhat muted.

iPhone 15’s Display: The Big 60Hz Debate

Person holding an iPhone 15 on the lock screen
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf

Similar to last year, the iPhone 15 features a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, with a slightly different resolution (2556×1179). There are two main upgrades for the display this time around. To start, the iPhone 15 gains the Dynamic Island. It replaces the notch, and adapts to what you are doing on the phone.

You can quickly access controls when using Apple Music, see the status of a timer, and more. While it may seem like a gimmick, I find it occasionally helpful and more aesthetically pleasing than the notch. I’m glad it is now featured across all the new iPhones.

The second improvement to the display this year is a higher peak brightness. The iPhone 15 can now hit 2000 nits of peak brightness when outdoors, just like the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. According to Apple, it also has a higher peak brightness when viewing HDR content (1600 nits vs. 1200 nits).

However, one aspect of the display that has been controversial is the refresh rate. The iPhone 15 still lacks ProMotion, meaning that it is limited to a 60Hz refresh rate. For the price of the phone ($800), it's a tough sell for many enthusiasts who notice and appreciate a 120Hz refresh rate.

On the other side of the argument, many consumers likely won’t notice the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz. And that is the target market for the iPhone 15: the average user. Jon Prosser, host of Front Page Tech, made an excellent video that covers the controversy and links this debate back to the iPhone XR’s display resolution in 2018, since it was below 1080p for a $750 phone.

My opinion on this topic aligns with Prosser's. If you don't notice, care, or even know about your smartphone's display's refresh rate, you'll be fine using the iPhone 15. People concerned about the refresh rate should look towards the iPhone 15 Pro, since it includes the best specifications for those enthusiasts.

Still, I would have liked to see at least a 90Hz display on this phone; the lack of 120Hz hurts the perceived value for many. But despite this, it’s still a solid display in terms of brightness, color, and resolution. So, I don’t think people should disregard the phone solely because of the 60Hz refresh rate.

The A16 Bionic Chip

For the regular iPhone models, Apple continues its trend of bringing last year’s new processor down to the standard phones. This means that the iPhone 15 uses the A16 Bionic chip from the iPhone 14 Pro. The chip includes a 6-core CPU and a 5-core GPU, along with 6GB of RAM.

The chip delivered excellent performance in the iPhone 14 Pro series, and as expected, it has been the same experience here on the iPhone 15. This also means that the chip benchmarks similar to the iPhone 14 Pro Max in Geekbench 6.


Single-Core Score

Multi-Core Score

GPU Metal Score

iPhone 15 Pro Max




iPhone 15




iPhone 14 Pro Max




While it might not include the latest SoC, which allows AAA games to run on the iPhone, Apple’s A-series chips still hold up over time, even if they are a year or two old. The A16 Bionic can still handle the everyday tasks that people purchasing non-Pro models typically perform. If that’s you, you will be happy with iPhone 15’s performance. We'll have to see what processor the iPhone 16 will use since Apple gave the A17 chip a Pro moniker this year.

The Dual Camera System

Since the iPhone 11, the regular iPhone models have included a dual camera system that features a main camera and an ultra-wide camera. And the iPhone 15 is no exception. However, it now has a new 48MP main camera, similar to what the iPhone 14 Pro offered. This increase in megapixel count allows for is more detail in your photos compared to the previous 12MP camera that was in the regular iPhone 14.

Green iPhone 15 camera
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf

The iPhone 15 also now shoots 24MP photos by default, providing a bit more detail in the photos you take without needing to go all the way up to 48MP.

iPhone 15 boat sample photo

The photos come out true to life and not over-processed or with oversaturated colors. Similar to the iPhone 15 Pro, the 24MP photos from the regular 15 have a solid amount of detail. With the boat photo sample, I was pleased to see that the iPhone 15’s main camera was able to accurately present the light from the sun coming through the clouds, contributing to, in my opinion, a good photo.

If you want to take 48MP photos, you will have to enable the toggle through settings since it does not appear in the camera app by default. The 48MP photos that the iPhone 15 produces do contain slightly more detail than the 24MP photos, but the difference is not very noticeable on the surface.

Photos from the iPhone 15 are also a bit more zoomed in compared to the iPhone 15 Pro due to the main camera using a 26mm focal length, compared to 24mm on the 15 Pro and Pro Max. Unlike the Pro models, however, you can’t change the focal length in the camera app.

For the ultra-wide camera, the iPhone 15 uses a slightly wider aperture than the Pro iPhones do, but it’s difficult to see the difference in photos.

Just like on the Pro iPhones, the iPhone 15 allows you to add a bokeh effect to certain subjects from within the photos app after you take the picture. Effectively, you don't have to be in Portrait to take a portrait photo. Below shows what a regular photo looks like with and without the bokeh effect.

One of the headlining features of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the new 5x telephoto camera. While the iPhone 15 doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto camera, the 48MP main camera gets a new 2x zoom option, which you can use to take photos like the ones below. However, when you use the 2x zoom, your photos will be 12MP instead of 24MP since the new zoom option is possible by cropping the sensor.

It's important to note that the iPhone 15 is missing some notable features that the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max offer, such as the option to take macro photos, night mode portraits, a dedicated telephoto camera, and more. But overall, the iPhone 15's camera system is good for the most common scenarios. It's not as versatile as the iPhone 15 Pro Max's camera system, but it's still good nonetheless.

The Battery Life

Battery life on the regular iPhones has been exceptional in the past. With a 3349mAh battery (ever so slightly larger than the iPhone 15 Pro’s battery), the iPhone 15 has good battery life for the smaller of the two regular models Apple sells. It can get you through the day with a mix of light to medium use. On a lighter day for me, the phone would have roughly 58-61 percent battery left.

The iPhone 15 also has decent standby time. Overnight, the phone dropped around 6%. The fact that the phone doesn’t include an always-on display surely helps maintain battery life since that feature can drain the battery faster on the Pro iPhones.

USB:C: Not Just for Pros

Type C port on the iPhone 15
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf

Like the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, the regular iPhone 15 features USB-C and eliminates the Lightning connector. The addition of USB-C means you get almost all the same benefits of the port that the Pro models get. You only need one cable for all your devices, charge your Apple Watch or AirPods with your iPhone, and more.

The one specification difference, however, is that the iPhone 15's USB-C port is limited to USB 2.0 speeds, which is a bit of a let-down. Therefore, it will take noticeably longer for you to transfer files from your phone to your computer. Regardless, I'm pleased to see USB-C on the iPhone from now on.

iOS 17

The iPhone 15 series comes with iOS 17, which includes multiple new features and builds on existing ones. We'll cover a few of them.

Starting with the phone app, you can now use Live Voicemail to see a transcript of the message while the caller is leaving it—this is more useful than it sounds. It essentially lets you screen your voicemails and decide if you want to pick up the call without needing to call the person back.

Home screen open on an iPhone 15
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf

Apple’s highly appreciated ecosystem feature, AirDrop, also received some updates with iOS 17. Arguably, NameDrop is the most notable, which allows you to share your contact information with someone else easily by placing your phone near another iPhone or even an Apple Watch. NameDrop is intended to be more convenient than having to create a new contact manually.

iOS 17 Standby Feature Image
Image Credit: Apple

There is also a brand-new feature for iPhones with MagSafe in iOS 17 called StandBy. When your iPhone is connected to a MagSafe charger that props up your phone, you can turn it sideways to see information such as your calendar, weather information, and various other options. It’s great to use either at your desk or on your nightstand and certainly is one of the flagship new features in iOS 17.

Lastly, iOS 17 enhances widgets by making them interactive. Prior to this version of iOS, widgets that you would put on your home screen would show information, but not let you interact with them. Instead, tapping it would bring you to its respective app. Thankfully, you can now trigger actions from widgets, such as resuming a song in Apple Music or checking off a task in TickTick. There are also a handful of other third-party apps that support interactive widgets.

iOS 17 brings some solid features and quality-of-life improvements to iOS. However, it does have its bugs, such as some animation stuttering and widgets still occasionally disappearing from the home screen. It's a relatively new release. Hopefully, those will get fixed soon.

Should You Buy the iPhone 15?

Yes, if you don’t care for the iPhone 15 Pro’s features and don't mind the 60Hz refresh rate. With the gap between the two iPhone lines shrinking, the regular iPhone 15 is now my default recommendation for most people. While the 60Hz display is difficult to look past for me, many people won’t mind it and are possibly upgrading from an iPhone that already has only a 60Hz refresh rate.

The iPhone 15 is a good smartphone, making the standard iPhone worth paying attention to again.

Home screen open on an iPhone 15
Hannah Stryker / MakeUseOf
Apple iPhone 15
8.5 / 10

The iPhone 15 is the standard iPhone for 2023, featuring Dynamic Island, the A16 Bionic chip, and a 48MP main camera for even better photos.