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9 months later, I still really like the iPhone 15. But I can’t recommend it

Green iPhone 15.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Apple launched the iPhone 15 series in September 2023, which was already nine months ago. How time flies!

Earlier this month, Apple held WWDC 2024, its annual developer conference, where the company showcases the next round of software updates — including iOS 18. While the amount of compatible iPhones for iOS 18 is plenty, only two will reap the full benefits of the AI-heavy software update: the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

That’s right — even the latest iPhone 15, which came out not even a full year ago, won’t be getting the full iOS 18 experience this fall. This is Apple fragmentation at its finest, so it begs the question: Is the iPhone 15 still good enough at this point in 2024?

I haven’t picked up the iPhone 15 since I originally reviewed it back in October 2023. After WWDC, I decided to pick it up again to examine it with a fresh perspective.

What I still like about the iPhone 15

Green iPhone 15 in hand.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 this year underwent some pretty big upgrades compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 14. Thankfully, these changes still hold up quite well.

Apple changed the back glass to a matte finish rather than glossy like before. Personally, I love this matte glass because if you’re using it naked, the matte finish means fewer fingerprints and smudges all over. This is due to Apple using a “color-infused” glass back, though aside from the pink one, they don’t look too colorful.

I also really love how lightweight the iPhone 15 is. Though my daily driver is the iPhone 15 Pro, which is lighter than its predecessor because it uses titanium instead of stainless steel, I always felt that aluminum feels better to hold over extended amounts of time. And with the more curved edges this time around, it’s definitely more comfortable in the hand.

A green iPhone 15 using the camera in landscape orientation.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The camera improvements on the iPhone 15 were also surprising when Apple revealed it. It’s pretty on par with what I get on my iPhone 15 Pro. So, if you don’t necessarily need a dedicated telephoto lens, then you could probably get by with just the iPhone 15.

Apple also gave the iPhone 15 the new Auto Portrait mode, which automatically captures depth data even in normal photos when a person or pet is detected, allowing you to convert it into a Portrait image after the fact. This is one of my favorite features of the lineup, making it possible to turn any quick snapshot of my daughter into something that looks even better.

The display on the iPhone 15 looks pretty good too. Colors are bright and vibrant, and text is crisp and sharp. However, since I primarily use my iPhone 15 Pro, I do notice the 60Hz refresh rate on the iPhone 15 more than I’d like to. Most people may not notice it, and it’s not something that affects daily use, but it can be a bit jarring to go back to 60Hz if you’re used to 90-120Hz displays.

The iPhone 15 will soon be outdated

Screenshots of Apple Intelligence features in iOS 18.

When Apple revealed iOS 18 at its WWDC 2024 keynote, it was very clear that Apple was going all-in on Apple Intelligence, its suite of AI tools across all platforms. With iOS 18, your iPhone now has some cool new features, including smarter Siri, new writing tools, image generation tools, better overall search in Photos, the Clean Up tool, and more.

But there’s one big catch: Apple Intelligence can only run on iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Yes, even though the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus came out at the same time, these two models won’t be getting any Apple Intelligence features. Basically, Apple’s year-old phone won’t even get the latest software features come this fall.

Of course, there’s still a lot of new stuff coming in iOS 18 that doesn’t need Apple Intelligence. For example, Messages will have RCS support and the ability to schedule messages to be sent later. The home screen will be more customizable by allowing apps and widgets to be placed anywhere, and the icons and widgets will have new looks. Control Center is getting its biggest revamp in years, allowing users to fully customize the layout and even switch out the lock screen shortcuts.

Examples of how iOS 18's home screen can be customized.

Still, there’s no denying that a very large part of iOS 18 depends on Apple Intelligence. An example is Siri — if you’re using an iPhone that gets iOS 18 but doesn’t get Apple Intelligence, will Siri remain, well, dumb? Because it looks like with AI, Siri will finally become usable, but it will still be the same old Siri for everyone who doesn’t have an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max.

I think the iPhone 15 has set the record for the newest iPhone that is the fastest to be outdated. Sure, it’ll work fine, but you’re basically going to be missing half the features of the newest software update. And at that point, is it even worth using?

A short life for the iPhone 15

Green iPhone 15 showing home screen.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Before Apple had its WWDC 2024 conference, I would have said that the iPhone 15 is a good iPhone for most people. After all, Apple gave it some big upgrades like the 48MP main camera, USB-C, and even the Dynamic Island. And for the most part, the A16 Bionic is a good chip for basic tasks that people would use the iPhone 15 for.

But then WWDC happened, and the A16 Bionic is clearly not good enough anymore — at least not good enough to run Apple Intelligence (along with the lack of necessary RAM). Considering that the iPhone 15 starts at $800 and will only have half the features of iOS 18 when it comes out in the fall, it’s just not worth it anymore in 2024.

Though it’s disappointing that Apple is making a year-old phone outdated already, it’s not exactly new. Apple has been leaving features off older iPhones regularly. iOS 17 introduced new FaceTime gestures that would trigger 3D effects in video calls, and only the iPhone 12 and later got this feature. Standby Mode was also only for the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models.

Still, Apple Intelligence is a significant part of iOS 18, and it’s not a small feature. It’s definitely a move that will leave a sour taste in the mouths of many iPhone 15 and earlier users.

So, for now, if you already have an iPhone 15, you can enjoy its full capability until September. If you’re considering buying one now, it’s probably best to wait for the iPhone 16 or at least get an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max if you want to use Apple Intelligence in iOS 18.

Christine Romero-Chan
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade. She graduated from California…
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