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iPhone 15 Plus review: the year’s most surprising iPhone

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
MSRP $899.00
“The Apple iPhone 15 Plus's new ergonomic design, upgraded camera, and two-day battery life let you make the most out of its big, colorful screen.”
  • Ergonomic design
  • Big, bright, colorful screen
  • Inspiring camera
  • Two-day battery life
  • USB C and MagSafe for charging
  • 60Hz refresh rate screen
  • No always-on display
  • Not the latest processor

Is the iPhone 15 Plus the awkward middle child? Is it destined to be forgotten, unloved, and passed by because there is a better phone available for a bit less or a bit more money?

I confess I was expecting this to be the case because it absolutely was true for the iPhone 14 Plus. Excitingly though, a year after its rebirth, the Plus model has come into its own — and the iPhone 15 Plus is fantastic.

iPhone 15 Plus: design

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus, showing the camera.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Warm, comfortable, and velvety. This is how the iPhone 15 Plus feels in your hand, and I can tell you it’s a vast improvement over the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s actually dramatically better in almost every conceivable way, from the improved weight distribution and gently curved edges to the matte finish rear panel that avoids the harsh coldness of the iPhone 14 Plus’s reflective glass.

The numbers — 201 grams, 7.8mm thick, and 77mm wide — aren’t all that different from the iPhone 14 Plus, but they are misleading, as the iPhone 15 Plus doesn’t feel ungainly or cumbersome due to the far better ergonomics than before. I’ve used it with an Apple silicone case (and without) and have always found it pleasurable to pick up and never fatiguing to hold. It’s such a stark contrast to the iPhone 14 Plus, which always felt unpleasant in my hand, and, therefore a phone that I didn’t really want to use.

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus, showing the power key.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Despite it being the larger of the two iPhone 15 models, it hasn’t become awkward or annoying. Instead, you get to enjoy the benefits of the big screen — which really is worth spending more on if you watch video or play games — without struggling to hold on to a gigantic, overweight, unbalanced device. The ergonomics mean it’s perfectly manageable, provided you don’t want to use it with one hand. This really isn’t possible; it’s just too wide, and trying to use it with a coffee in your other hand is like trying to park a car with your eyes closed. It’s going to end with an expensive crunch.

The iPhone 15 Plus doesn’t feel ungainly or cumbersome.

The matte, color-infused glass on the back has a velvety texture that makes a soft sound when you run your finger over it, and it leads into an aluminum frame that, although still flat, has a subtle curve around the edges. The camera module hasn’t changed in its design over the iPhone 14, and the phone still has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. The Lightning port on the bottom of the phone has been replaced by a USB-C port, just like on the iPhone 15 Pro models, but unlike those two more expensive phones, the 15 Plus still has the mute switch on the side rather than the new Action button.

It’s astonishing how much better the iPhone 15 Plus is to hold and use, from a design perspective, than the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s now a phone that can sit next to other big-screen devices and not be treated like an awkward outsider.

It’s just as “normal” as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus and the Google Pixel 7 Pro, which share its large screen size. I didn’t really enjoy my time with the iPhone 14 Plus because of its design and was pleased to swap my SIM out of it, but that’s absolutely not the case with the iPhone 15 Plus.

iPhone 15 Plus: what’s different from the iPhone 15

The lock screen on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Why should you choose the iPhone 15 Plus over the iPhone 15? The main difference between the two is the screen size, as it has a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display instead of a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display. Although the resolutions are slightly different, the pixel density (ppi) is the same, so you won’t notice any additional detail on the bigger screen. I’ve had no problem with the brightness and seeing the screen outside, but the weather has probably not prompted it to hit its 2,000-nits peak brightness.

It’s fantastic to see the Dynamic Island come to the non-Pro iPhone models this year, but don’t expect the feature to change your life. It has become a little more active, and I do like some of the little snippets of information it shows, such as Instagram Story upload progress, but how much use you get out of it (and Live Activities, another software feature) depends on the apps you use and whether they integrate it in some way. It’s still underused, even by Apple with its standard apps, and not a specific reason to buy.

A video playing on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Now that the Dynamic Island is not a Pro-exclusive, we must turn to the refresh rate for one of the reasons to pay out for an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max. The iPhone 15 Plus does not have Apple’s ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate screen and makes do with a 60Hz one. Right up front, it’s worth saying that not having a high refresh rate screen on a phone that costs this much is a pretty big downside, as almost every Android phone from $500 up includes the feature. ProMotion on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the smoothness of its display is glorious, and I do consider it a genuine reason to go for a Pro iPhone.

The iPhone 15 Plus’s 60Hz screen is one of the smoothest you’ll see.

However, there’s some magic going on behind the scenes. I don’t know if it’s the A16 Bionic chip, iOS 17, or some other internal alteration, but the iPhone 15 Plus’s 60Hz screen is one of the smoothest you’ll see. You still spot some jerkiness, particularly when first unlocking the phone, and text isn’t as readable when you scroll at any speed compared to a higher refresh rate screen, but it’s less problematic than it was on the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s no excuse for not having a 120Hz screen on all iPhones, but it’s not as bad as it could be, and that’s something.

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus, showing the volume keys
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The other missing screen feature is an always-on display, which is also held back for the Pro versions. Not having always-on functionality is a pain, just as it is on modern Motorola phones, and although the screen reacts quickly to your tap to see notifications, and I also get them on the Apple Watch Series 9, I’d prefer to have the feature available — particularly as Apple’s implementation is so good.

Otherwise, the iPhone 15 Plus screen is a beauty. It’s incredibly bright, super sharp, and displays beautiful, warm colors. Sound from the dual speakers is also excellent, and although the bass is minimal, the clarity is crisp with effective stereo separation. Combined, the screen and speakers make the iPhone 15 Plus fantastic for video and games, and while the 60Hz refresh rate isn’t the disaster it could be on the 15 Plus, it’s still a downside that feels like Apple being deliberately cheap.

iPhone 15 Plus: camera

The Apple iPhone 15 Plus's camera lenses.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are two cameras on the iPhone 15 Plus: a 48-megapixel main camera, a 12MP wide-angle camera, and the ability to take 2x optical zoom telephoto shots. The cameras are driven by a wealth of special software enhancements, including Apple’s Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, and Smart HDR 5 technology. While Apple’s Pro line is the choice of the photographer, the iPhone 15 Plus (and the iPhone 15, which shares the same camera hardware) are far better than you may expect.

The main camera takes photos at 24MP, up from the iPhone 14’s 12MP, as standard. There is a 48MP mode if you want to make use of all the pixels, but unless you want to print your photos, the only thing you’ll notice about 48MP mode is the images take up more storage space on your phone. What’s more, you don’t need to use it to take great photos, the iPhone 15 Plus does that perfectly well at 24MP.

One new feature is the ability to add a portrait effect to photos after you’ve taken them. We tested this feature in our review of the iPhone 15 and found it worked really well. The 2x optical zoom is a great upgrade from older iPhone models, and the photos are clean and sharp. Just be aware they drop down to 12MP, and you can see some grain when you crop the image. The wide-angle camera’s color boost makes photos pop. Get in close, and the camera pulls in plenty of detail, and I’ve been really pleased with some of the shots I’ve taken. If I’m picky, there’s not much consistency between the main and wide-angle cameras, the night mode shots can lack some detail, and the selfie camera isn’t very good in low light.

I’m genuinely impressed with the iPhone 15 Plus’s camera. It takes well-balanced, dynamic, colorful, and fun photos with a lovely depth of field when you want it. I like the warm tone, and there’s plenty of detail when you get in close. Apple has worked hard to fix the inconsistent exposure and aggressive contrast levels I disliked last time out too. The new cameras and features make it a big upgrade over previous standard iPhones, and it’s fantastic to see the iPhone 15 Plus doesn’t just take fun snaps but also that it has more than enough ability to fire your creativity.

iPhone 15 Plus: performance and software

The home screen on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 Plus comes with last year’s top A-series processor, the A16 Bionic, which is the same fitted to the iPhone 14 Pro. The latest top Apple chip, the A17 Pro, is reserved for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. The phone comes with iOS 17 installed, and during my review period, it has been updated several times and is at version 17.0.3 at the time of writing. I have not had any problems with overheating or with abnormal battery drain.

I swapped from an iPhone 14 Pro to the iPhone 15 Plus and have noticed a slight change in performance between the two, with the 15 Plus sometimes being a little more ponderous than the 14 Pro. It’s not in every app or every situation, though. For example, it takes a beat longer to fire up my banking app, and the Threads app takes a short time to load the feed. It’s that moment where you think, ‘Has it stopped working?’ just as the app opens up. In my short time using the iPhone 15 Pro Max, these pauses were not noticeable at all, suggesting it’s more than just an app or iOS 17 issue.

The quick settings screen in iOS 17 on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Apple’s iOS 17 is easy to use once it has been set up, but the process this time around was more arduous than usual. It had trouble connecting with another iPhone to copy data, I had trouble with syncing my Google passwords, and in general, setup took longer than I recall it doing so in the past. It wasn’t as seamless as I expected it to be, but now it’s all done, I have had no reliability problems; using the iPhone 15 Plus has been just like any other iPhone.

I’m not a power user, so my demands are fairly ordinary. I use Apple Music and iTunes, and my AirPods Max and AirPods Pro connect without any fuss. I like the slick, problem-free integration with my Apple Watch Series 9, whether that’s controlling music, using Siri, or keeping my MacBook Air unlocked. It works with Apple CarPlay, but I did need to experiment with a few different USB cables before finding one that did more than just charge the phone, and every app I use on the phone is always well-designed and simple to operate. I like the new StandBy mode, even though it really needs me to buy a special dock, and although I don’t find much use for widgets on the lock screen, you might love them.

Open apps on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Although I do notice the iPhone 15 Plus doesn’t seem quite as fast as the iPhone 14 Pro, it’s still smooth and quick enough for everyday use, and it has never felt slow or frustrating. I’ve played Asphalt 9: Legends and Diablo Immortal, and both feel effortless, seemingly as if the phone isn’t even trying.

The iPhone 15 Plus is a real gaming powerhouse, and as iOS 17 continues to evolve into a highly customizable, feature-packed operating system that will be updated for years to come, that will appeal to tech fans and normal people alike.

iPhone 15 Plus: battery and charging

A person plugging in the USB C charger to the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

With between two and four hours of screen time each day over the past 10 days, the iPhone 15 Plus has easily lasted two full days before it absolutely requires recharging. This is without gaming but with a varied mix of general app use, including using the phone as a hotspot. Pushing the phone harder — with GPS, video streaming with YouTube, 90 minutes of Continuity webcam use (which is excellent), and 30 minutes of gaming — the battery was reduced to 50% after just under four hours of screen time.

This suggests the iPhone 15 Plus hard should still last you a full day even with more than five hours of hard use, and that’s excellent. Play a 1440p YouTube video for 30 minutes, and the battery reduces by just 3%, while 30 minutes of Asphalt 9: Legends takes about 7%, so it appears very efficient. The iPhone 15 series has swapped the Lightning cable connection for a USB-C connection, and a braided USB-C cable comes with the phone, so don’t worry about having to buy a new one. It does not come with a charging block, though.

The Apple iPhone 15 Plus's USB C charging port, and the iPhone 14 Plus's Lightning port.
iPhone 15 Plus (top) and iPhone 14 Plus Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 Plus can be charged using the cable at up to 20W, where 50% comes up in about 30 minutes, and a full charge has taken about 75 minutes for me. The times vary depending on the charging block you use. However, I have been converted over to the joy of MagSafe charging. I use Apple’s original MagSafe puck and simply leave my phone on it overnight, so I avoid having to mess around wondering if I have the fastest cable/block combination or not. MagSafe charges at 15W.

It was disappointing to find Apple did not utilize USB C for true fast charging. It means phones like the OnePlus 11 charge much faster than the iPhone, and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery charges in an hour using a compatible charger and cable. While the iPhone 15 Plus’s battery life is excellent, its charging time is average at best.

iPhone 15 Plus: price and alternatives

A person taking a photo with the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 Plus starts at $899, or $100 more than the iPhone 15. For this, the big differences are the screen size and the battery life. The cheapest model comes with 128GB storage space, but you can pay $999 for a 256GB version or $1,199 for the top 512GB model. There are several colors to choose from — black, green, yellow, pink, or blue. You can purchase directly from Apple or from most carriers. In the U.K., the iPhone 15 Plus starts at 899 British pounds.

What else can you get for the same money? The big consideration is whether to buy a Pro model instead, where prices start at $999 for the iPhone 15 Pro. If you want the big screen, it’ll be at least $1,200 for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The Pro is a technically superior phone; it has an always-on screen and a 120Hz refresh rate, plus the cameras are more versatile. You really do get more for your money, but don’t feel like you’re being shortchanged by not getting a Pro iPhone — because you’re absolutely not.

If you are open to an Android phone, its main rivals are the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus and the new Google Pixel 8 Pro or the older Google Pixel 7 Pro. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a left-field alternative. However, you’re going to pay around $1,000 for one of these, making the iPhone 15 Plus look like decent value here. The OnePlus 11 comes in close behind, as it’s still a great buy despite getting on a bit in age, and can be found for a good price too. The same applies to the Motorola Edge Plus (2023).

iPhone 15 Plus: verdict

The back of the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The iPhone 14 Plus felt out of place. It was ungainly, uncomfortable, a bit ugly, and not the best performer either. It didn’t appeal much during my time with it, and I haven’t rushed to return to it. Due to this, I feared the worst for the iPhone 15 Plus, but I was totally wrong to think it would be more of the same. The ergonomic improvements have made a massive difference, the performance has been dramatically improved, the cameras inspire me to take photos, and even the low refresh rate screen somehow isn’t as irritating as it was before.

Before I started using the iPhone 15 Plus as my daily phone, I swapped between the iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max while I worked on a camera test for the pair. My SIM then went straight into the iPhone 15 Plus, and you may be surprised to read that I haven’t really missed either of them. The iPhone 15 Plus reminds me of the Google Pixel 7a, which despite not being a “flagship,” its all-around ability makes it a great everyday phone for most people. The iPhone 15 Plus’s two-day battery life also stops me hankering after a different phone too.

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The problem with the 15 Plus arises when you look at the missing features and weigh them up against the cost of the phone. It’s not cheap, and there are very strong arguments to be made for spending less to get the iPhone 15 or a bit more to get the iPhone 15 Pro. But unlike last year, if a larger screen and longer battery life appeal to you, and you don’t want to spend $1,200, the iPhone 15 Plus has been so significantly improved that we can heartily and happily recommend you buy it.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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