Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max offer the best specifications, but the most expensive iPhone models.
  • While the iPhone 15 Plus offers a big screen and great battery life without being too heavy on your pocket, the regular iPhone 15 provides the best value for its price.
  • The iPhone 13 is the best budget option, with the iPhone SE (2022) as an alternative for those who like the compact form factor.

While Apple fans and enthusiasts are waiting for the iPhone 16, what if you need a mid-year upgrade? Apple’s current lineup—which includes several models from the iPhone SE (2022) to the latest and greatest iPhone 15 Pro Max—has something for everyone. Let’s find out which model is best for you.

Want the Best Specifications? Go for the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max

If you want the absolute best specifications that Apple offers, go with the iPhone 15 Pro or the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Powered by the A17 Pro chip, these are not just the most powerful iPhones but the most powerful smartphones on the market. The Galaxy S24 Ultra featuring the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC comes close, but there’s just no match for TSMC’s 3nm fabrication technology in the A17 Pro (at least for now).

While the iPhone 15 Pro (with its 6.1-inch screen) offers top-tier specifications in a compact form factor, the iPhone 15 Pro Max provides a larger display (6.7-inch) for the best multimedia experience. Both models feature Super Retina XDR screens with Dynamic Island and ProMotion technology. Like the iPhone 14 Pro series, the 15 Pro also supports always-on display.

Person holding the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

While both the Pro and Pro Max share base specifications, such as a USB-C port (up to 10Gbps), MagSafe wireless charging, sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G bands, Face ID, and a Titanium frame, it is the camera and battery that put the Max ahead. The Pro ships with a triple camera system that consists of a 48MP (f/1.78, 24mm) primary sensor, a 12MP (f/2.2, 13mm) ultrawide sensor, and a 12MP (f/2.8, 77mm) telephoto sensor for 3x optical zoom.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max borrows the primary and the ultrawide sensor, but it replaces the 3x zoom lens with a 12MP (f/2.8, 120mm) sensor that provides 5x optical zoom, which takes excellent portraits, by the way.

In terms of battery life, the iPhone 15 Pro provides up to 23 hours of video playback, whereas the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with a larger battery, provides up to 29 hours of video playback. Those are Apple’s numbers, but they’re also fairly typical of real-world usage. Both support the same charging speed as well, as stated on the official specifications page (up to 50% in around 30 minutes with Apple’s 20W adapter).

Another thing worth noting is that the $999 iPhone 15 Pro ships with 128GB of storage. However, the $1199 iPhone 15 Pro Max features 256GB of base storage, which gives you a few more months of uninterrupted usage before you start seeing the annoying “iPhone Storage Full” and look for ways to free up your iPhone’s storage.

Want a Big-Screen iPhone? Go With These Models

If you’re in the market for a big-screen iPhone, the current lineup offers two options. The iPhone 15 Pro Max, which we’ve already discussed, has a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR screen and supports ProMotion and True Tone technology. However, the use of top-tier hardware, other than the big screen, makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max an expensive model, setting you back $1199 for the baseline variant. If you’re fine with the price tag, you can’t go wrong with Apple’s best iPhone.

How-To Geek webpage running on the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

On the other hand, if you’re okay with compromising on a few things, such as the triple camera setup, a ProMotion screen, and a faster USB-C port, the iPhone 15 Plus could be the ideal model for you. For $899, you get a 6.7-inch OLED screen with Dynamic Island and a resolution similar to that on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The other downgrades include a slightly less powerful processor, the A16 Bionic chip, and less RAM, but you still get what you want: a big-screen iPhone.

To save more on these products, you might want to browse through carrier activation deals, which can easily save you $100 or more. For instance, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is available for $1099 at Best Buy if you activate it today with a new line.

Best iPhone Camera for Enthusiasts or Professionals

If you’re a photography enthusiast who likes to experiment with different perspectives or a content creator who shoots for a living, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best camera iPhone money can buy. Without repeating the specifications we’ve mentioned above, the Pro Max carries the best camera array on an iPhone to date. Even though the phone has three physical sensors, it can mimic seven focal lengths.

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro's three lens camera system.
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

For instance, the primary camera rests at 24mm by default, but tapping the 1x icon reveals two more zoom levels: 28mm (1.2x) and 35mm (1.5x). Then, you get the 48m (2x) in-sensor crop mode that lets you get closer to the subject without losing much quality.

While the primary sensor manages all these focal lengths, the Camera app switches to the 12MP telephoto lens for zoomed-in shots (3x on the iPhone 15 Pro and 5x on the iPhone 15 Pro Max). Last but not least, the 12MP ultrawide is not only meant for clicking vast landscapes but also doubles as a macro shooter.

Regarding video, the Pro Max can shoot 4K videos at up to 60 fps, 4K Cinematic Videos at 60 fps, and ultra-stabilized Action Mode videos at up to 2.8K at 60 fps. While the regular iPhone 15 can also match these numbers, only the Pro Max can record ProRes videos at up to 4K at 60 fps with external recording.

Want the Best Battery Life? Here Are Your Choices

Apple’s iPhones didn’t always offer the long-lasting battery life they offer today. However, over the years, the company has changed that by equipping the handsets with larger batteries, increasing the chipset’s efficiency, and optimizing the hardware and software. This is why iPhones can compete with Android phones with physically larger batteries and still come out on top.

iPhone with illustration of an empty battery on the screen.
Shikhar Mehrotra / How-To Geek

For the last two years, the Plus and the Pro Max variants have provided the best battery life. Hence, if you don’t want to carry your charger with you at all times, consider going with the iPhone 15 Plus or the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Simply put, a larger iPhone means more space for a bigger battery.

Obviously, the options belong to two different categories of iPhones. While the iPhone 15 Plus is a stretched-out iPhone 15 with a bigger display and battery, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers an additional camera, a ProMotion screen, and more processing power.

In such a scenario, go with the phone that fits your budget. The iPhone 15 Plus (128GB) starts from $899, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max (256GB) costs $1199. Either way, you can’t go wrong with either of the models when it comes to battery life.

The Best Value iPhone: iPhone 15

The best-value iPhone, in my opinion, should strike a perfect balance between the latest features and price. Currently, only one model does that: the vanilla iPhone 15.

Released in September 2023, the iPhone 15 offers many features previously available on the Pro variants. For instance, you get the Dynamic Island. First introduced with the iPhone 14 Pro series, the Dynamic Island lets you interact with notifications intuitively. It expands the area surrounding the pill-shaped notch to showcase interactive alerts, such as those from the Maps, real-time updates on food deliveries, sports scores, and so on. Once you take the required action, the area retracts into the notch as if it came out of nowhere.

Person holding the Apple iPhone 15.
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

The main camera on the iPhone 15 is a 48MP (f/1.6) sensor, which the model borrows from the iPhone 14 Pro. Besides shooting crisper images with plenty of details, the camera also enables a 2x in-sensor crop, letting users get closer to the subject. The 12MP (f/2.4) ultrawide also does a decent job of capturing landscapes. Another major improvement on the smartphone is the inclusion of the USB-C port.

In addition to the Dynamic Island and the primary camera, the iPhone 15 houses Apple’s A16 Bionic chipset, allowing the phone to provide fast performance while maintaining excellent efficiency levels. It is the same processor that powers the iPhone 14 Pro series. That said, it will also help the iPhone 15 to receive and run the latest software updates for another four to five years.

Yes, the iPhone 15 lacks a few features, such as a smoother screen, higher storage on the base variant, and a higher-resolution ultrawide, something I’ve discussed in my essential iPhone 16 upgrades article. But if there’s a model in Apple’s current lineup that provides the features of the previous Pro models at a more affordable price, it’s the iPhone 15.

The Best Budget iPhone: iPhone 13

Back in January, I wrote an article about why the iPhone 13 is still a great purchase in 2024. The phone has a 6.1-inch OLED screen with excellent color reproduction, runs on the A15 Bionic processor, takes excellent HDR images with its dual 12MP cameras, and lasts an entire day of moderate usage.

iPhone 13 with its box.
Shikhar Mehrotra / How-To Geek

Besides, the iPhone 13 also carries a modern aesthetic. It has the same notch as the newer iPhone 14 and the diagonal rear camera alignment as the iPhone 15. Speaking of the iPhone 14, one might pick it over the iPhone 13 in 2024, but I think it doesn’t offer any significant upgrades. For now, Apple retails the iPhone 13 (128GB) variant for $599. The phone is available in six color options, including blue, pink, black, white, green, and red.

For those who really like their iPhone 8, the iPhone SE (2022) is an even cheaper option. It is a simple, no-fancy-features-included smartphone that gets the job done. While the baseline iPhone SE (2022), with 64GB of storage, is available for $429, I strongly recommend the 128GB version that costs $479.

Looking for a tablet instead? Apple recently upgraded its iPad Pro lineup with a Tandem OLED display and a new M4 Silicon chip. While the display technology can make its way to future Apple products, the M4 chip is expected to arrive on MacBook Pro variants later in 2024.

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By John P.

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