While I loved my iPhone 14 Pro, as it served as my primary phone over the last 12 months (starting September 2022), a few things about it did leave me wanting more from my first Pro-iPhone experience — the battery life and the overall heft of the device.
So when Apple announced the iPhone 15 Pro and confirmed its switch to titanium alongside new curvier edges — which the rumors uncovered several months ahead of the launch — I had to upgrade and see whether the different material and changed design made any difference to the experience.
I received my retail unit on September 22, 2023, and after spending the weekend with it, here is my hands-on experience and initial impressions of the iPhone 15 Pro.
iPhone 15 Pro Design: Comfort, comfort, comfort
To start, let's quickly summarize what's different. Apple has done away with the heavy and glossy stainless steel frame of the iPhone 14 Pro, replacing it with a lighter brushed titanium frame. Alongside this, the edges of the frame and glass panels on both sides feature a subtle curve, which makes the device narrower in comparison to the previous generation.
When I unboxed the iPhone 15 Pro, the lightness of the titanium frame immediately stood out. According to the technical specifications, the iPhone 15 Pro weighs 187 grams, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro measures 206 grams.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max — the larger phone of the two iPhone 15 Pro models — is also lighter this year, weighing 217 grams compared to 240 grams on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The 19-gram drop on the iPhone 15 Pro and 23-gram drop on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is significant, and if you've been hoping for a lighter Pro-iPhone, this year's titanium trotting devices sure are light.
iPhone 15 Pro Display: Improved immersion
Moving past the whole titanium situation, the other improvement you'll notice on the iPhone 15 Pro is the reduced display borders. Apple already made changes with the iPhone 14 Pro in 2022, and the latest phone takes another step forward.
The Dynamic Island's animations now go closer to the edge of the display, adding to the immersion of the experience. Overall, it's not a "substantial" change, but it makes the phone feel more premium, almost as if there were no borders! The curved edges of the display also help with evoking this feeling.
Side note: I actually like the word borders more than bezels. It seems like a more consumer-friendly word.
But it wouldn't be right if I didn't let you know that apart from the design changes to the display, the rest remains identical to the iPhone 14 Pro. It still tops out at 2,000 nits of peak outdoor brightness, features ProMotion that allows the refresh rate to transition between 1Hz and 120Hz, and Ceramic Shield — introduced with iPhone 12 — is still a thing.
iPhone 15 Pro Performance: A toasty processor for now
In the three days I've spent with my iPhone 15 Pro, I haven't been able to push its brand-new 3nm A17 Pro processor too much. I did download Genshin Impact to stress it out, and while the phone warmed up, which device wouldn't on such a heavy game?
But what surprised me was the steady heating up that occurred while using social media applications. Scrolling through X (previously Twitter) warmed up my device significantly on the first night, to the point where I said it was getting uncomfortable and put my phone down.
Heat will negatively impact the battery, and I didn't want that happening to my brand-new phone. But come on! I don't want to experience that sort of stress while using a $1000 flagship phone.
Updating to iOS 17.0.2 seems to have curbed the issue for me, but the fix doesn't seem universal as of publishing this article. Some of my fellow journalists are still reporting on heating issues with their unit, while others are not. It seems Apple has some optimizations to do, and I will report further on this in my full review.
iPhone 15 Pro Battery: Same old, same old
As per teardowns, the iPhone 15 Pro has a slightly larger battery than its predecessor. But, despite the minor increase and switch to a 3nm fabrication method for the processor, battery efficiency seems only slightly better.
To give Apple the benefit of the doubt, it does estimate the iPhone 15 Pro to provide 23 hours of video playback — just like the iPhone 14 Pro — but I'm hoping for some improvements in endurance as I continue to use the device.
So far, I've seen about six hours of screen-on-time (with Always-On display active) on two of the three weekend days I've used the phone, which is good! It's likely I will see better performance with the Always-On display turned off, but I'll leave that part to the full review.
The excessive screen time on Saturday comes from the four hours I spent on calls, which left the screen active due to Contact Posters from iOS 17. Hence, I think 6 to 7 hours of screen-on-time will be the baseline to expect until the battery health degrades over time.
iPhone 15 Pro Camera: Optimized goodness!
When it comes to the camera hardware on the iPhone 15 Pro, I haven't been out of the house too much these past few days, so I haven't tested the camera as much as I'd like. But the small changes Apple has made, like allowing you to choose between three default focal lengths for the 48MP camera and improvements to the dynamic range processing, have had an immediate impact. Color reproduction has been impressive, and blown-out highlights aren't as big of an issue.
The addition of the A17 Pro's processing to the imaging pipeline has also resulted in the same color and dynamic range improvements making their way to the other two cameras — 12MP ultrawide and 12MP telephoto (3x optical zoom).
I'll flesh this portion out further in the full review, but as it stands, everything that Apple learned from its first deployment of a 48MP sensor is seemingly seeing fruitful implementation on the iPhone 15 Pro.
iPhone 15 Pro Additional Features: New I/O
Last on my first impressions checklist is the new input and output hardware on the iPhone 15 Pro. For the first time since Apple launched its smartphone, there is no longer a physical mute switch on the left-hand side. Instead, it trades it for the Action Button, first seen on Apple Watch Ultra.
The new hardware brings the ability to set eight different actions — via the Settings app — that you can invoke with a press-and-hold action on the button. There currently isn't a way to press it twice and perform a different action, but if you use the Shortcuts application, you can come up with some multifunction scenarios.
I'm using a Shortcut created by Stephen Robles, which I further customized to suit my needs. While I hope Apple continues to develop features for this new button, as it stands, it is a pretty great addition.
As for the port, Apple has finally embraced USB-C on the iPhone. Barring the teething troubles where I'll need to rework my desk setup a little, I'm on board with the "one port for all" argument. I'm also a part-time video creator who uses his iPhone to film videos, so the workflows the USB Gen 3.2 port will enable are something I'm looking forward to experiencing.
iPhone 15 Pro Overall First Impressions
Overall, my first hands-on experience and impressions of the iPhone 15 Pro are that it's a well-rounded device. If you're coming from an iPhone 12 series device (or earlier), it's unquestionably the best iPhone to own.
If you're feeling a little uncertainty over the heating-related reports, we say hold tight as the devices are quite new, and it can take some time for the software and performance to stabilize.
I'll delve further into the durability of the titanium frame and my thoughts on how it'll handle wear and tear, alongside an in-depth analysis of the camera and A17 Pro's performance in my full review. In the meantime, let us know if you have other questions you'd like answered, and we'll try our best to answer them in our full review.
iPhone 15 Pro
The iPhone 15 Pro is the new Pro series flagship from Apple. It's equipped with the new Apple A17 Pro chipset and 8GB of RAM. It comes in new colors, and it has an even more powerful camera setup and a refined design.