Good things in small packages

Retaining a lot of what makes for a familiar iPhone experience, the iPhone 15 manages to move the needle in several key areas to make this the iPhone to buy (or upgrade to) this festive season.

Published: 16th October 2023 08:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2023 08:33 AM   |  A+A-

Iphone 15. (Photo | Apple website)

Iphone 15. (Photo | Apple website)

Express News Service

I’m going to say it right away. In recent years, one would look to the Pro line-up for the top-tier iPhone experience, and while that still holds true, the iPhone 15 is undoubtedly the most compelling year-on-year upgrade I’ve seen in a long time.

Retaining a lot of what makes for a familiar iPhone experience, the iPhone 15 manages to move the needle in several key areas to make this the iPhone to buy (or upgrade to) this festive season.

It starts with the inclusion of the erstwhile ‘Pro’ feature — gone is the notch, replaced by the Dynamic Island, a pill-shaped front camera cutout that cleverly incorporates interactive notifications in a genuinely useful fashion. Then there’s the upgrade you can ‘C’ — the move to the USB-C port bodes well for folks looking to cut down on cable clutter at home and while travelling, which is a very underrated benefit, let me remind you.

USB-C also allows direct plugging into monitor/displays or external storage though the data transfer speeds are restricted to the slower USB 2.0 (480 MB/sec) standard. You can now also reverse wired charge your AirPods/accessories in a pinch but charging the phone itself is still glacially slow (at a little over 1.5 hours for a full charge). Other improvements — thinned down bezels, the aluminium edges are softer and contoured, and a new matte-finish ‘colour-infused’ glass black — all give the iPhone 15 a better hand feel than before. If you plan to use it without a case, keep in mind — the colours are paler and more subtle, lacking the vibrancy of previous iPhones.

Moving on, the display is a familiar entity, possibly too familiar — while it is fluid to use and animations are buttery smooth, it still refreshes only at a dated 60 Hz, a clear miss at this price point. Colour accuracy is excellent, and brightness sees an upgrade to 2,000 nits peak brightness for even better HDR playback and outdoor readability on the brightest of days. No ‘always-on display’, though, which I missed more on the new iOS 17 night-clock ‘Standby Mode’. Performance is expectedly good, since the iPhone 15 uses the same A16 Bionic from last year’s Pro models. I’ve used the iPhone as my primary phone for over a week, bouncing between WhatsApp, photos and 4K videos, Instagram, X and a bunch of casual games. Granted, the Pro models have that added grunt for console-quality games, but nothing in my day-to-day really slowed the iPhone 15 down. Battery life was respectable, at a little over six hours screen time or about a day and a half of mixed usage.

The last big upgrade has been the main camera, where Apple has ditched the 12 MP sensor and replaced it with a 48 MP shooter that snaps 24 MP shots by default. Daytime shots were replete with detail and improved dynamic range in trickily lit HDR conditions, where shadows and highlights were handled far better.

Portraits were excellent as well, not to mention the most natural looking — the new iPhones now capture portrait depth data whenever they detect human or animal subjects, which lets you change a normal photo to portrait mode (or change focus points). Colour science consistency is retained with the 12 MP ultrawide as well, and both shooters displayed solid low-light chops as well. Video remains the iPhone’s strong suit, and it continues to run circles around the competition… though I’m eager to test it against the Pixel 8’s revamped video capabilities.

In all, the iPhone 15 combines enough ‘Pro-level’ upgrades all-round for a significant step forward for the mainstream ‘iPhone for everyone’. This is one of the few vanilla iPhones that earns a recommendation even over its immediate predecessor.

— Tushar Kanwar
The writer is a tech columnist and commentator and tweets @2shar

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