For 2022, it was the iPhone 14 Pro models that saw all the love, while the iPhone 14 got a little left behind. Not only did it not get a new design, but it didn’t even really get a processor bump, sticking with similar to what we saw on the iPhone 13 models. That’s all changed for 2023.
The underdog is fighting back. The iPhone 15 Pro takes a back seat (only a little bit, mind), not only allowing the new super flagship iPhone 15 Pro Max to shine but saving the rest of the limelight for the humble iPhone 15 and its larger sibling, the iPhone 15 Plus. This is the year that the regular models make complete sense. I had a lot of love for the smaller iPhone 15 when I reviewed it, but I love the iPhone 15 Plus even more. Let me tell you why.
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
The Apple iPhone 15 Plus delivers brilliance in a number of areas. There’s a familiar but fresh design, new colours, an absolutely delightful new matte and contoured finish and Dynamic Island delivers a different experience for this regular marvel. Add to that the upgrade in processor, huge upgrades in the camera experience and a superb battery life and you really do have a fantastic device overall in the iPhone 15 Plus. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is still the 2023 iPhone to beat (as you might expect) but if that’s outside of your budget – which for many it is likely to be – the regular iPhone 15 Plus is hands down the next best iPhone I would recommend.
- Lovely refined design
- Brilliant display
- Superb battery life
- Great camera and hardware performance
- Only 60Hz refresh rate
- No Always-On Display
Familiar but fresh design
When the Apple iPhone 14 Plus arrived in 2022, it did so with a new form factor and it made what was otherwise quite a boring year for the regular models, a little more exciting. It was – and remains – a brilliant device for battery and display. The iPhone 15 Plus builds on this larger form factor, taking a well-liked design, and making several refinements to make it even better.
The changes might seem incremental at first, but together they deliver a really lovely device overall. The flat, squared-off edges of the iPhone 14 Plus remain, as do the dual camera lenses on the rear, arranged in a diagonal position. Elsewhere, however, the iPhone 15 Plus makes a move away from the notch we have seen on the iPhone since the iPhone X launched in 2017 – and it’s a move I welcome with the widest possible arms.
For the iPhone 15 Plus (like the smaller iPhone 15), the notch is replaced with the Dynamic Island we first saw introduced on the iPhone 14 Pro models. The pill-shaped cut-out not only houses the front camera and Face ID sensors, but it’s interactive, adapting to whatever is happening on your device, whether that’s Live Activities, Apple Pay, Apple Music, a timer, or another app. I loved Dynamic Island on the Pro models last year, so it’s great to see it on the iPhone 15 models this year. It’s a clever feature that completely changes how you use your iPhone and is executed brilliantly. Its name is a little cheesy sure, but it is smart, reactive, fun, and useful. The only thing to watch out for is the fingerprints over the front camera – just make sure you’re giving that a wipe before you take those selfies.
On the back of the iPhone 15 Plus, you’ll still find a glass rear and front sandwiching the aluminium frame, but rather than a glossy finish; there’s now a matte finish with the colour threaded into the glass, plus some really lovely colour options. The iPhone 15 Plus comes in Black, White, Pink, Yellow, Green and Blue, and they are very muted, pastel shades rather than the brighter options we saw on the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s difficult to say which is the nicest – normally I have a clear favourite – but while I like the subtlety of the pink, the green is lovely in the flesh, and the black is very nice too, thanks to that matte finish.
The rear is also almost soft-to-touch, and it’s glorious to hold. That’s not all that can be said about the rear however – it’s also now contoured for this year. Now, this might seem minor, but pick the iPhone 15 Plus up without a case on and it’s something you’ll notice instantly if you’re coming from an older iPhone model. The edges are smoother and a lot less sharp than the iPhone 14 so it’s significantly more comfortable in the hand.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the iPhone 15 Plus, the same changes as the iPhone 15 Pro can be found – a move to USB-C over Lightning – though there’s support for different standards compared to the Pro models, so that’s worth keeping in mind. This isn’t a change many will notice on a surface level – the USB-C and Lightning ports are pretty similar in terms of size, but it does make a difference in terms of day-to-day use and how much easier life becomes when you need just one cable.
The rest of the iPhone 15 Plus’ design is pretty much on par with the iPhone 14 Plus. While the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max get a customisable Action Button in place of the silence toggle, the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus stick with the toggle we’ve come to know and love since the iPhone’s beginning. It would have been great to see this button on the regular models too – it’s more useful than you would initially think – but it’s also unsurprising that it’s not – there has to be something to differentiate the Pro models after all.
I mentioned that the iPhone 15 Plus has switched up its display to include the Dynamic Island, and that marks one of the biggest changes to the iPhone 15 Plus’ screen. It’s not the only one, however. The other changes are just less noticeable, though as important, if not more so.
You get slightly slimmer bezels on the iPhone 15 Plus compared to its predecessor, and while they aren’t as slim as the iPhone 15 Pro Max, there’s still a difference. It also reduces the width of the iPhone 15 Plus by 1mm compared to the iPhone 14 Plus. I know, sounds incredibly insignificant, right? But, the iPhone 15 Plus isn’t a small device and gaining that extra 1mm back makes a difference when it’s in your hand.
Elsewhere, you don’t get ProMotion on the iPhone 15 Plus, so there’s a standard 60Hz refresh rate here. This will cause outrage for some no doubt, and sure, you’ll get a smoother scrolling and gaming experience on the iPhone 15 Pro models and their 120Hz screens. That said, it’s difficult to tell the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz in practice and while you might notice the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz, you’d only truly notice in certain scenarios as I mentioned. For general day-to-day use, it’s very unlikely you would be able to tell. I’ve been moving between the iPhone 15 Pro models and the iPhone 15 models and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much in this respect.
The lack of ProMotion does mean one thing however – no Always-On Display for the regular models still. This is a little disappointing as just as Dynamic Island is fun and useful, the Always-On Display is good too. Still, you get a glorious 6.7-inch OLED display with the iPhone 15 Plus model with the same resolution and technology as the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Colours are lovely and bright with plenty of pop, while the blacks are deep and whites are bright thanks to that OLED technology. Details are lovely and crisp as well, from reading the news to the app icons on your Home Screen.
Brightness has increased too – now topping out at 2000nits for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. That means the regular models are as bright as the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max in terms of peak outdoor brightness, and they are also some of the brightest in the flagship smartphone field. This really comes into play when outdoors in sunny conditions, and it’s a great upgrade overall. Viewing angles are excellent too, as is responsiveness, and the iPhone 15 Plus now also supports Dolby Vision so you get a great experience when viewing compatible content on this bigger screen. In a nutshell, there is very little to complain about in this department.
Performance and battery
Let’s talk about what’s under the hood. The iPhone 15 Plus borrows from the iPhone 14 Pro Max, just like the iPhone 14 Plus borrowed from the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It means the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a more advanced processor than the iPhone 15 Plus models – more so this year than last year too – but that is also something you wouldn’t know what you were missing out on unless you had the two devices running side-by-side.
Overall, the iPhone 15 Plus delivers excellent performance from the A16 Bionic chip. It’s a 4nm chip with a 6-core CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores, and a 5-core GPU. There’s also a 16-core Neural Engine. What that translates to is a silky smooth in every aspect. Switching between tasks is no problem at all for the iPhone 15 Plus, while load times of both apps and games are super speedy. With the regular iPhone 15, I noticed some shutter lag in low light conditions, which fixed itself with a reboot, but this wasn’t present even in the first instance with the iPhone 15 Plus. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a little snappier, but this really was only noticeable because I often had the two devices side-by-side and moved between them regularly.
I played Mario Kart Tour on both the iPhone 15 Plus and the iPhone 15 Pro Max and while the experience is superior overall on the Pro device, the iPhone 15 Plus still delivers a smooth and lag-free run. It’s smoother on the iPhone 15 Pro Max but the iPhone 15 Plus is lighter to hold so there are pros and cons to both models.
Where the iPhone 15 Plus really delivers in terms of performance however, is battery life. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a better performer than the iPhone 15 Pro, as you would expect given the size difference. The iPhone 15 Plus is superior to all four iPhone 15 models however, following in the footsteps on the iPhone 14 Plus that held the same accolade for 2022. On a typical day, I would finish with just under 40 per cent battery remaining on the iPhone 15 Plus. When out and about all day, I still got home with over 30 per cent, and these days involved camera testing, Slack, emails, various social media apps like Instagram and messaging apps like WhatsApp, as well as navigational apps on and off like Citymapper and Google Maps and entertainment apps like Apple Music and Netflix all open at some point. The iPhone 15 Plus was put through its paces and it barely broke a sweat in my experience. If you want the iPhone 15 model with the best battery life, this is the one you want.
I mentioned USB-C earlier and I’ll talk about it briefly again. There’s a separate USB-C feature for everything you need to know about what it means for the iPhone 15 models if you want more detail, but in a nutshell, the iPhone 15 Plus’ port supports USB 2 rather than USB 3. You can still charge another phone or an Apple Watch or AirPods if you have the right cable, but you can’t directly save to an external drive for example. Charging speeds also haven’t improved sadly, but there’s still support for wireless charging and MagSafe charging, even if MagSafe only works one way rather than allowing you to attach the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen case to the back of your iPhone 15 Plus for some juice.
What’s the iPhone 15 Plus camera like?
Getting to the good stuff here. The Apple iPhone 15 Plus has a dual rear camera setup like its predecessor, the iPhone 14 Plus, but there has been one upgrade and it isn’t small. The main sensor of the iPhone 15 Plus moves to a 48-megapixel sensor in a similar move to the iPhone 14 Pro, though it’s a slightly different sensor in that it’s not as large.
The higher resolution of the main sensor means you get better quality images from the iPhone 15 Plus compared to the 14 Plus, and you also get 2x optical zoom, which is something you didn’t get before on the regular models. That 2x optical zoom comes without the need for a telephoto sensor too, and while you don’t get the 3x offered by the iPhone 15 Pro or the 5x offered by the iPhone 15 Pro Max – both of which do have a telephoto sensor – the iPhone 15 Plus delivers some excellent results from its 2x offering.
The iPhone 15 Plus produces 24-megapixel shots by default – like the rest of the iPhone 15 range. This is double the default of the iPhone 14 models but don’t worry too much, only 50 per cent more storage is used rather than double. Something to keep in mind when selecting your storage model though. In a similar approach to the Sony Xperia 5 V, Apple reframes the shot using the extra data it has thanks to the 24-megapixel image, enabling it to deliver the 2x optical zoom with the same detail as 1x. It’s clever and it works brilliantly. You can also digitally zoom up to 10x, but I really wouldn’t recommend that. If you want long-range zoom, you want to be looking at Samsung or another brand like Huawei. Images produced by 10x zoom on the iPhone 15 Plus are mottled and noisy and there’s very little in terms of stabilisation, so it’s not an overly enjoyable experience to shoot at either.
The iPhone 15 Plus does a sterling job at what it does claim to be good at however, and that’s its ability to deliver great results from you just pointing and shooting without doing too much else. The iPhone 15 Pro models saw a couple of changes to their interface – allowing you to switch between 24mm, 28mm and 35mm lenses by pressing the 1x button being one. That isn’t something you get on the regular iPhone 15 models, but that’s fine. Instead, the interface remains simple and concise, whilst delivering great results from both the main sensor and the 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor. Colour representation is good across the board, there’s plenty of detail in clarity in good lighting conditions and low light shots are good too. You do have to hold still for a few seconds to get the low light shots – it’s not as speedy as the likes of the Huawei P60 Pro for example – but the end results are free from too much noise and you get a good representation of what you see.
Additionally, there are also some improvements on the software side of things, specifically in portrait mode. When a person, dog or cat is detected in a shot, you can switch to portrait after the shot was taken and adjust the background blur, or switch the focus altogether. It’s clever and while it’s something Google has done for a while, it’s still a great feature to have. There isn’t always time before you capture a moment to switch into portrait mode for that arty bokeh effect so being able to add it after the fact is perfect. It’s worth mentioning that this feature is backwards compatible to iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 models running iOS 17 with any photos they took after downloading iOS 16, so you don’t necessary need the iPhone 15 Plus to take advantage of it.
Like the rest of the iPhone 15 models, the iPhone 15 Plus runs on iOS 17. The software brings a number of improvements and features, from Check In and NameDrop to Contact Posters and Messages enhancements. There’s plenty to get involved with, and some are genuinely very useful updates.
You’ll get many of the features on older compatible iPhones so you don’t need necessarily need the new hardware to take advantage of the new software, though the processor updates help the software run smoothly and the overall experience on the iPhone 15 Plus is a great one.
There are a couple of additional features specifically for the iPhone 15 models like Roadside Assistance for example, but the iPhone 15 Plus (and it’s smaller sibling) don’t have as many extras as the Pro models as they don’t have the Action Button.
There is still plenty to take advantage of in iOS 17. I won’t list all the new features here as there’s a separate iOS 17 feature you can dive into for all the new things to play with. NameDrop, Standby mode and Contact Posters are among my personal favourites, but there are some good hidden tricks worth checking out too.
The Apple iPhone 15 Plus delivers brilliance in a number of areas. There’s a familiar but fresh design, new colours, an absolutely delightful new matte and contoured finish and Dynamic Island delivers a different experience for this regular marvel.
That’s just surface level too. Add to that the upgrade in processor, huge upgrades in the camera experience and a superb battery life and you really do have a fantastic device overall in the iPhone 15 Plus.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is still the 2023 iPhone to beat (as you might expect) but if that’s outside of your budget – which for many it is likely to be, the regular iPhone 15 Plus is hands down the next best iPhone I would recommend. It ticks almost all of the boxes including design, display, camera and performance, and at a great price too.
Apple iPhone 15 Plus