A few grams here and a slight design change there, plus an internal specification boost later, and one of last year’s least interesting phones has been transformed into a serious contender for your money in 2023.
I’m talking about the Apple iPhone 15 Plus, which, for various reasons, would have been all too easy to ignore this year. But you absolutely should not do so, as it’s actually quite special.
Apple reintroduced the Plus name with the iPhone 14 series in 2022 after it stopped making its basic models with a large screen for several generations and played around with even smaller screens instead. But the iPhone 14 Plus model just wasn’t right. The angular, sharp shape of the iPhone 14 did not lend itself to giant phone bodies, and the result was a huge, ungainly, uncomfortable device that I was pleased to stop using after I finished my review of it.
The iPhone 15 series couldn’t be more different. It has been very subtly redesigned, and while some people may complain that it still looks basically the same, in reality, the seemingly minuscule changes have made a massive difference. The edges have lost their sharpness, the weight has been ever-so-slightly reduced, and the overall footprint has been sized down by mere tenths of a millimeter. It really shouldn’t make any difference, but you’ll just have to trust me — it does.
It’s the iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max that have really benefitted from Apple’s design and ergonomic alterations. The 221-gram Pro Max is lighter than ever, but still a weighty beast, while the iPhone 15 Plus is much more reasonable at 201 grams. Remember, the iPhone 15 Plus has the same 6.7-inch screen size, making it much easier to live with every day and putting it alongside the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus and the OnePlus 11. The iPhone 14 Plus was too ungainly and too annoying to hold to compete, but the iPhone 15 Plus can no longer be singled out as too hefty or far less pleasant to live with.
It’s understandable if you think I’m exaggerating. I reviewed the iPhone 14 Plus, so it made sense for me to review the iPhone 15 Plus, a task I didn’t relish at the time. I went in expecting it to be more of the same, but I was completely wrong, and I was genuinely surprised to find how much I liked using the iPhone 15 Plus.
I use both an Android phone and an iPhone every day, and it means if a phone is going to annoy me, I quickly realize it. The way the iPhone 14 Plus was designed made it feel chunky and awkward, but the iPhone 15 Plus never reached that stage at all. The camera is better too. When I started using the iPhone 15 Plus, I had come from the iPhone 14 Pro, which had a camera that evolved for the better over time.
The iPhone 15 Plus takes the best of that phone, such as the A16 Bionic processor, and pairs it with the latest upgraded cameras, along with some software alterations, to make it just as capable as last year’s flagship Apple camera phone for general, everyday photography. It’s not the iPhone 15 Pro Max when it comes to camera tech, but it’ll get close enough for many.
Since I finished reviewing the iPhone 15 Plus, I’ve moved on to using the iPhone 15 Pro Max as my everyday iPhone, and I’ve learned something very interesting in the process. Having used both back-to-back for several weeks, I can confidently say that if you want an iPhone with a big screen this year, you really do have a choice of two. Last year, it could be argued that there was no choice at all, and the smaller iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro was the best bet all-around.
You’ll probably be considering either the iPhone 15 Plus or the iPhone 15 Pro Max because you want a big screen, so what about the difference in refresh rate? Apple seems to have worked some magic with the iPhone 15 Plus’s 60Hz refresh rate screen, as although the 120Hz ProMotion screen on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is clearly smoother, the switch between them is far less jarring than you may expect. By comparison, the iPhone 14 Plus’s 60Hz screen was very obvious.
The 15 Plus and 15 Pro Max have the same size screens, offering the same immersive view for games and video, and the switch between 60Hz and 120Hz isn’t as painful as it could be. Add this to the Plus’s good camera and enhanced ergonomics, and it becomes a phone you’ll want to use. Perhaps even more importantly, if you don’t need the extra ability of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but still want a big screen, the iPhone 15 Plus saves you $200.
The iPhone 14 Plus didn’t mark the triumphant return of the Plus name. It was a compromise, a little disappointing, and I couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend it. This year, the iPhone 15 Plus is a totally different device, and Apple has breathed new life into its cheapest big-screen model with just a few seemingly tiny changes. If you want a big iPhone this year, don’t ignore the iPhone 15 Plus.
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