The launch of a new iPhone is always an exciting time, but it comes with a huge question attached: do you want to upgrade to Apple’s new “best smartphone ever” – or should you stick with the old one for a year longer?
The new iPhone 15 brings some important and interesting improvements over the iPhone 14, notably the change from Lightning to USB-C for the phone’s charging port, uprated cameras and a a brighter display. It’s the phone other companies will be playing catch-up to for the next year, and we confidently expect it to stay ahead of the pack in terms of performance, with a new generation of the A-series processor powering it to new heights.
iPhone 15 vs iPhone 14: display
Dynamic islands for everyone! The iPhone 14 Pro’s screen-topping expanding lozenge is now being rolled out across the iPhone range, which means the famous Apple ‘notch’ is finally being phased out, having been in place since the iPhone X.
Screen sizes remain the same, with the iPhone 15 sticking with a 6.1in OLED screen exactly as seen on the iPhone 14, and the Max variants getting 6.7in panels with a slightly higher resolution to keep the pixel density about even.
iPhone 15 vs iPhone 14: design
There’s an extra design change for the Pro phones, which will help them stand out from the standard (should we call it the iPhone 15 Amateur now?) models. The screen bezels have thinner edges and a deeper curve to the glass that will accentuate the chassis’ matte edges, which are now made from titanium instead of aluminium to help keep weight down and durability up. Pro models get an extra ‘action’ button too, replacing the mute switch, which can carry out various actions depending on the app you’re running, such as being a camera shutter button or switching on the camera’s LED flash to act as a torch.
The biggest break with the iPhone 14 generation’s design comes on the bottom edge of the phone. The familiar Lightning port, which has been around since the iPhone 5, has become a USB-C port. This means all your Lightning cables are obsolete, unless you have a Magic Mouse 2 or first-generation Apple Pencil to use with a Mac or iPad. This is a big change for Apple, which has kept to its proprietary phone charging tech despite being an early adopter of USB-C on the Mac desktop computers. The port is creeping through the iPad range too, so Lightning’s days are definitely numbered.
Also on the way out are SIM cards. iPhone 14 models sold in North America were eSIM-only, meaning the little tray with the fiddly release mechanism was no more. Apple has taken advantage of the iPhone 15 launch to roll this out to more countries, including the UK, so you’ll no longer be able to physically remove the SIM card from an old phone and put it in your shiny new iPhone.
iPhone 15 vs iPhone 14: features
Elsewhere, there aren’t a great many differences between the basic iPhone 15 and its predecessor, and it still comes in four separate models: the basic iPhone 15 and its larger iPhone 15 Max sibling, and a similar pairing for the higher-end Pro models. Those Pro phones also get a new generation of the Apple-designed chip that powers everything along, the A17, while the non-Pro phones get the A16 Bionic from last year’s Pro line-up. Pro users get a bit of additional RAM too, with 8GB compared to the iPhone 14 Pro’s 6GB.
Further improvements on the inside over the iPhone 14 include the addition of Wi-Fi 6E for those with compatible routers, Thread support for controlling smart home kit, and a new Qualcomm 5G modem chip. There’s also a UWB (ultra wide-band) communications chip that will be used with the Vision Pro headset when it becomes available.
There’s also greater repairability this year, as the iPhone 15’s redesigned casing means it’s easier to open up if you shatter the glass back of the phone and require a replacement.
iPhone 15 vs iPhone 14: camera
The standard iPhone has been stuck at 12MP for its main camera for a while now; you have to go all the way back to the iPhone 6 from 2014 to find one that produces a smaller image. The iPhone 15 breaks with this tradition by upgrading the main, wide-angle camera to a new 48MP model using a Sony-produced sensor.
That figure of 48 just happens to be exactly four times 12, so the camera will still produce 12MP files by default, combining four pixels into one to reduce image noise,. It can also go into high-res mode to offer up the full 48 if you need it. Apple used this approach for the iPhone 14 Pro, and Android rivals have been doing it for years, so it’s great to see the ‘mainstream’ iPhone catch up.
Otherwise, the iPhone’s dual-camera array retains the same 12MP ultrawide camera seen on the iPhone 14, and doesn’t add any telephoto options – you’ll need the triple camera cluster on the Pro models for that.
The Pro Max gets periscope zoom lens good for 5x optical zoom. This clever device uses an arrangement of lenses and mirrors, instead of relying on digital zoom and cropping to provide a tighter view.
iPhone 15 vs iPhone 14: initial verdict
The iPhone 15 looks like a solid upgrade over the iPhone 14, but whether you want to upgrade or not depends on whether you’re dissatisfied with your current phone, or simply must have the newest and best.
The periscope zoom camera on the Pro Max models will be a big draw for those who use their phones for a lot of photography, as it’s a big improvement on previous fixed-lens solutions, and the convenience of using pre-existing USB-C cables wins out over Lightning for charging.
However, the iterative nature of many of the upgrades may not attract many iPhone 14 owners to upgrade, keeping their phones for another year in the hopes that the iPhone 16 delivers the big changes.