The iPhone 15 Pro is Apple latest and – if you believe the press releases– greatest iPhone yet. Its big selling points are an improved 48MP camera with a bigger sensor than before, more Dynamic Island functionality, even more health features (especially when used with the Apple Watch 9), sleek titanium chassis, and a new, more powerful A17 Pro chip to keep the whole thing running smoothly, even when gaming, or so Apple claims.
And while I can confirm that it runs very smooth indeed, integrating beautifully with my test unit of the Apple Watch 9 and showing resilient battery life while doing so, I can also confirm reports from elsewhere online that it also has concerning hot flashes, where it gets extremely hot to the touch, not just when charging, but also when running random apps, ones that shouldn't be putting much of a strain on the phone at all.
But is the iPhone 15 Pro going to reclaim Apple's place at the top among the best camera phones? Let's see...
iPhone 15 Pro review: Design and build
From the front, the only distinguishing feature between the Apple iPhone 15 Pro and its little sibling, the iPhone 15, is that on the former, the screen won't turn off completely by default. It features the same 6.1-inch screen, rounded corners, a similar-looking frame, and yes, that welcome-looking USB-C port at the bottom. Welcome, USB-C. We've been waiting for you.
Unlike the vaguely pastel-like glass back and aluminium casing of the vanilla 15, the Pro is made of titanium, and for us tactile fans, it really feels nice to hold. The back is matte glass, and the colours on offer, in a rather stark contrast to the pastel shades of the regular model, are Black Titanium, White Titanium, Blue Titanium and Natural Titanium (that's fancy speak for grey).
You'll also see a difference on the 15 Pro in the top-left of the back, as a trio of big goggly lenses is staring at you, unlike the two on the base model.
Screen and features
The screen is the same 6.1-inch XDR display you'll get on the iPhone 15. There's also a Pro Max option, with a 6.7-inch screen, which we'll hopefully get in for testing soon too. And like the 15, this one has a 2556x1179-pixel resolution at 460 ppi, with true blacks at a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio and can hit a peak brightness of 2,000 nits in outdoor use (and 1,600 nits in indoor HDR mode). This is a similar sharpness and brightness as the Xiaomi 13 Pro, while the screen itself is quite a bit smaller than that one's 6.73 inches (again, the Pro Max will rectify that for big-screen fans).
Watching video is pleasing, though, even outdoors, thanks to the impressively sharp and bright screen, although I personally don't see myself watching entire films on here, especially on the smaller screen of the Pro
Unlike the base 15, we have an Always On screen, here and it sports ProMotion display tech with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. This last feature feeds into Apple's claim that the 15 Pro is Apple's best gaming phone ever. I will have the Pro for an extended period of time for testing, so will make sure to test that claim thoroughly.
The Dynamic Island is also here to stay. And while yes, it does black out a portion
of the top edge of the screen, I've already grown completely used to it during my few days with the phone so far. It nicely illustrates and emphasises what's happening in the phone at any time with its animations, shows key symbols like whether the phone is locked or not, gives me confirmation of actions I perform, and more. It also neatly conceals the selfie camera, so you're not always constantly aware of its presence.
The A17 Pro chip is said to be a step up from the A16 Bionic, and after just a few days of working with them side-by-side, I do feel like there is a noticeable difference in the swiftness of the 15 Pro (A17) and 15 (A16), but benchmarking will take away any doubts.
The USB-C port is USB 3 compatible here, so wired data transfer is a lot faster on the 15 Pro than the 15, although most of my actions so far have been wireless, thanks to the well-engineered and easy-to-use wireless connectivity Apple has developed between devices. I can control the appearance of my Apple Watch Series 9 very easily from the phone, transfer files via iCloud between devices and more, and it's all been painless so far.
Also stepping up from the base model is the camera. Both have a 48MP main camera and 12MP ultra-wide, but the Pro also sports a 12MP telephoto lens and offers the option of macro images (one of my favourite ways of photographing, thanks to my love for flowers, fungi, insects and spiders), and video capture is more advanced too, with the ability to shoot 4K video at up to 60 fps in normal video mode, and a Cinematic mode too, with 4K up to 30 fps or Action mode at 4K up to 60 fps.
The 'pro-level' camera also offers RAW image (Apple ProRAW, they call it), and while it certainly takes good-looking images, close to on par with Samsung and Xiaomi's range-toppers, I don't see many actual pro photographers flocking to the iPhone over their trusty DSLRs.
We have a tale of two contrasts here.
First, the good. The iPhone 15 Pro sports, by all early indications, an excellent battery life, which has lasted me for up to two days of semi-serious use between charges. And that's without turning off the Always On screen or Bluetooth while having it constantly 'talking to' my Apple Watch.
It has gotten perilously hot on several occasions. It does so quite regularly when I'm charging the phone, and has also gone supernova when I'm doing fairly lightweight stuff on it, such as browsing some social-media or news apps, and working in settings menus. Apple has addressed these reports of overheating saying that some of it is down to an issue Instagram has on the phone (it's not installed on my phone) and some other undisclosed problems that will be updated with the iOS 17.1 patch, which is coming soon. Let's hope it does because the heat I'm feeling can't be too excellent for the internal components' long-term health.
It seems as strange and random as my MacBook Pro's semi-regular impressions of a solar flare when the space between the keyboard and screen gets so hot for no discernible reason that I'm surprised the metal isn't buckling yet. That's still an ongoing issue despite dozens of OS updates, so let's say the jury's out on this issue so far...
Also, it charges up painfully slowly, especially compared to most Android rivals which by this point offer much, much faster fast-charging modes if you need to juice the phone up in a hurry...
The iPhone 15 Pro retails at $/£999 and the Pro Max will cost you $/£1,199. This is very comparable to both the previous 14 Pro and Pro Max as well as competitors like Samsung, Sony and Xiaomi. Your choice will come down to taste more than the price tag.
Should I buy the iPhone 15 Pro?
I've only had the iPhone 15 Pro for a few days, so I can't cast that verdict yet. I'm having a mostly positive start to my life with it (apart from the overheating, and getting used to a smaller screen) and as expected from Apple, the ergonomics are mostly excellent. It's also a very nice performer so far, with a camera that's impressed me quite a bit so far, and initial claims of improved gaming offering hope (but before I get serious with my testing there). Do check back for our full review soon, and throughout the year for my periodic updates on an upcoming year with the iPhone 15 Pro...