iPhone 15 Pro/Max review roundup: In high demand for a reason
One of the best Pro model upgrades in years, some reviewers said.
Photo: Apple

High demand for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is well-deserved, according to the first reviews, thanks to the new models’ lightweight titanium frames, immersive screens, beefed-up cameras and numerous incremental improvements,

Several reviewers noted how smartphone changes are always incremental nowadays. But the upgrades to the iPhone 15 Pro models seem like some of Apple’s best in years.

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max reviews

Apple unveiled the much-anticipated iPhone 15 lineup on September 12 at its Wonderlust event. When preorders commenced last Friday, the popularity of iPhone 15 Pro models tanked Apple’s website for a time. As shipping dates pushed further into the future, it became clear the iPhone 15 Pro models were big hits with buyers.

And they’re big hits with reviewers so far, too (as are the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus models). While some criticisms appeared, most reviewers mainly praised the new handsets.

In a nutshell, critics loved the lightweight titanium chassis, the highly capable Action button and the various camera upgrades — especially the Pro Max’s 5X zoom. Criticisms tended to center on “boring colors” (except blue) and how expensive the phones are — even though only Pro Max went up in price (and only because Apple dropped the cheaper 128GB version).

“The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are defined by their refinements and are one of the most compelling releases from Apple in years,” CNET said. “I’ve reviewed and tested iPhones for years, but Apple’s new iPhone 15 Pro Max is the first time I’ve ever been this enamored.”

Titanium body and USB-C connector

The iPhone 15 Pro models feature a strong and lightweight new titanium design.
The iPhone 15 Pro models feature a strong and lightweight new titanium design.
Photo: Apple

CNET and other reviewers loved the handsets’ lightweight titanium chassis and slightly rounded edges, which makes them easier to hold than recent models. Even the big Pro Max doesn’t seem so big since it’s lighter and a bit rounded.

“Most important for me, the high-end models are much lighter in weight and really make a big difference during daily use,” CNBC said. “I’d recommend them to any iPhone user who’s ready to upgrade, or anyone who has complained about how big and heavy smartphones have gotten.”

Engadget agreed, saying the Pro Max is now an option for the first time. “The iPhone 14 Pro Max felt like it would fracture my skull if it fell on my face, while the new model may only leave a bruise (or maybe a dent),” it said.

The titanium bodies are slightly smaller than last year’s versions while having tighter bezels, allowing for the same screen size on a phone that feels more compact. And the easier removal of the back glass for lower-cost repairs also received praise.

The other major change to the iPhone Pro body — replacement of Apple’s propietary Lightning connector with USB-C — got strong but somewhat mixed reviews. Everyone’s over the moon about it in general (especially Engadget). However, the fact that Apple only includes a regular USB-C cable in the box, not a USB 3 cable for speedy file transfers, irked some people.

“You’ll get faster file transfer speeds if you have a USB 10Gbps cable, which I don’t because the one that comes in the box only supports USB 2 transfer speeds,” The Verge said. “That would be awfully nice to toss in with a $1,200 phone!”

Action button

Reviewers found the action button highly useful, though some said it could be even more-so.
Reviewers found the Pro models’ Action button highly useful, though some said it could be even more so.
Photo: Apple

Apple replaced the mute/unmute ringer slider on the iPhone 15 Pro models with a new Action button. Reviewers generally like it, though its one-action-at-a-time functionality could use expansion.

“It’s so much easier to use for a set of freshly painted nails than the mute switch on every Pro model before this one,” Gizmodo said. “Still, there were a couple of times I accidentally pressed it when I meant to press the Volume Up button instead. By default, you can long-press the Action Button to silence your device. But you can also swap out for another shortcut if the occasion calls for it.”

So the button still mutes the phone, but you can customize it to open the camera and take a picture, or do something else, like turn on the flashlight.

“The button only reacts to two kinds of input: a tap or a press. It can only trigger one feature at a time which seems limiting,” CNET said. “I do hope that Apple opens this up and lets people program multiple presses and taps to trigger different presets.”

CNET also wished for a Control Center button to access Action button settings more quickly.

Camera upgrades: 5x zoom rules

The Pro models' camera upgrades got high praise -- especial Pro Max's 5x zoom.
The Pro models’ camera upgrades got high praise — especial Pro Max’s 5x zoom.
Photo: Apple

The biggest camera change came with iPhone 15 Pro Max’s new 5x optical zoom. (The regular Pro model sticks with 3x optical zoom.) Reviewers approve. In fact, CNET subtitled its review, “Love at First Zoom.”

It noted that Apple’s “tetraprism” design for the 5x zoom differs from periscope lenses on some other smartphones.

“The advantage to Apple’s design is that the lens takes up much less space and allows the image sensor to sit parallel with the lens, eliminating the restriction of having a telephoto image sensor that’s limited in size by the thickness of the phone,” it said.

Reviews found improvements in both Night mode and Portrait mode photography. This year, the Portrait option need not be selected before the shot. It now engages automatically with subjects like human faces and pets.

Some reviews — notably The Verge — went into great detail about the zoom options, other camera settings and how they compare to other smartphones. While the iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn’t always win, it compares well in most cases.

A17 chip and gaming potential

Apple's new A17 Pro chip is amazingly small for its power.
Apple’s new A17 Pro chip is amazingly small for its power.
Photo: Apple

The benefits of Apple’s new A17 Pro chip didn’t go unnoticed by reviewers, either. Notably, its jacked-up processing and graphics performance — even while maintaining solid battery life — might turn the Pro handsets into gaming powerhouses.

Both Pro handsets can support console games like Resident Evil Village, for example.

Preorder iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max now

iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 and iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199. They can be preordered now on Apple’s online store.

[ For more curated Apple news, check out the main news page here]

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