Apple iPhone 15 hands-on: New features left me with no Pro model envy at all

Jason Macuray
An afternoon spent with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus revealed that the gap between the non-Pro models and the Pro models is smaller than ever.

June Wan/ZDNET

There’s something to celebrate with the new iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. After a full year of being kept off the Dynamic Island and missing out on the matte back trend, Apple has finally given its non-Pro iPhones the treatment they deserve.

Also: Everything Apple announced: iPhone 15, Apple Watch Ultra 2, AirPods

The result? Two new handsets that look great, feel great, and perform like how premium phones should. In fact, going hands-on with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus first, and then switching over to more expensive iPhone 15 Pro models, made the latter feel a little less impressive. That’s how much Apple has tipped the scales this year.

No matter which iPhone model you buy, you’re getting curved edges, thinner form factors, matte-textured back covers, and all the iOS 17 love that a Dynamic Island display can embrace. That makes the standard models, more than ever, the iPhones that most people should buy.


The latest models feature an improved A16 Bionic chip, sleeker designs, and a slew of fun-filled pastel colors.

View at Apple

Following Apple’s “Wonderlust” keynote on Tuesday, I spent the afternoon sampling the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, and a few minutes with each color. If pastel hues suit your tastes, this year’s iPhone crop is right up your alley. And if you’re a fan of something less poppy, buy the black variant — and only the black variant.

Also: Every iPhone 15 model compared: The key differences you should know

Personally, the yellow iPhone stood out the most; It reminded me of the 24-inch iMac, which shimmers in a similar colorway that is personable without making you feel like a show-off. It’s the first yellow phone I’d be okay with using on a crowded New York subway.

The iPhone 15 Plus (left) and iPhone 15 (right) have the same display sizes as last year. June Wan/ZDNET

What really struck me with the new iPhones was not so much the colors but the sleeker designs, with edges that were contoured just enough to give me a confident grip without digging too deep into my palm. This change is subtle and easy to understate on paper. But in reality, it’s such a departure from the flat edges of previous generations and is one of the main reasons why I’m bullish on the non-Pro models this year.

The new textured matte finish, “optimized by a custom dual ion-exchange process” and “polished with nano-crystalline particles”, as elegantly put by Apple, was another highlight. The ambiance of the Steve Jobs Theatre felt like I had just woken up in an alien spaceship (Read: It was brightly lit), but somehow, the iPhone 15 kept the fingerprint marks of hundreds of restless journalists to a minimum. For product photos, it felt great not needing to microfiber devices before every shot.

June Wan/ZDNET

About the Dynamic Island: I’m still not sold on the name, but the idea of exposing more users to a new way of multitasking and staying aware of their most common apps and services is exciting. For enthusiasts who follow Apple’s every move, this addition will be less meaningful. For folks like my parents and college friends, seeing the music player and alarm app just seamlessly morph into what was previously the notch will be exhilarating.

Also: How to preorder the iPhone 15, Apple Watch Series 9, Watch Ultra 2, and get the best deals

My limited but intimate experience with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus left me with a very positive outlook for both models. For the first time in a while, buying the standard iPhone doesn’t mean you have to settle for an inferior design or the short end of the software feature stick.

There’s plenty more to dive into as we get the devices in for review. If there’s anything that you’re particularly interested in learning about, sound off in the comments below.


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