$800 iPhone 15 seems too good to be real: Apple can be super generous when the bar is set low

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$800 iPhone 15 seems too good to be real: Apple can be super generous when the bar is set low
Here’s something I didn’t think I was going to say… iPhone 15 might be one of the biggest year-over-year upgrades in Apple’s entire smartphone history.

Not too long ago I explained why last year’s vanilla iPhone 14 model was the smallest upgrade Apple’s ever come up with. That’s because the iPhone 14 was essentially an iPhone 13 with a bit more RAM and satellite connectivity.

Without a doubt, iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus were one of the least glamorous moments in Cupertino’s long history of phone-making but there’s a positive twist here (well, certainly not for iPhone 14 users).

Despite the lack of some premium features that some smartphone nerds would consider “fundamental” (like a 120Hz display, or a dedicated zoom camera), the new entry-level iPhone 15 model turns out to be such a huge upgrade compared to last year’s iPhone 14 that it almost seems too good to be true.

In fact, I see the iPhone 15 as the second biggest upgrade in Apple’s recent history, second only to the iPhone 7 - iPhone X leap from 2017. Even better, the iPhone 15 is such a good package that it also seems to make last year’s premium iPhone 14 Pro model look bad, which has never been the case until now.

Step aside, iPhone 15 Pro! This is the year of the affordable iPhone.

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Unbelievable list of iPhone 15 upgrades makes Apple’s affordable flagship Semi-Pro: Is Apple finally becoming more generous?

There are a few different ways to talk about the list of upgrades on iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus this year but I think the most appropriate one would be to put the upgrades into two categories - subjective and objective.

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Spoiler alert: the only “subjective” category here is the new camera.

Crucial design, display, and charging port upgrades make iPhone 15 irresistible compared to previous $800 iPhones

  • Apart from the lack of the 120Hz ProMotion tech and Always-on display function, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus now share the same displays with the more expensive iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max - they get just as bright, and you get the Dynamic Island cutout instead of the notch, as well as slimmer borders; this is a notable moment in Apple’s history - so far, Pro iPhone models have always had noticeably better displays than their vanilla counterparts

  • The design of Apple’s vanilla flagship finally looks somewhat new; the Dynamic Island, contoured edges, matte finish, and slimmer display borders now make iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus feel different than before, as well as a bit more compact and easier to hold; that’s another upgrade we don’t often see from Apple - both a visual and practical design change, in one generation

  • Of course, the USB-C upgrade with reverse charging (allowing you to use your iPhone to charge your AirPods, Apple Watch, etc.) is the cherry on top this year, letting you charge your iPhone, MacBook, iPad, and AirPods with the same cable for the first time ever; sure, the USB-C port in iPhone 15 isn’t exactly fast at transferring data but that’s totally fine, since most people who buy the vanilla iPhone don’t use is for transferring large files/work

  • The brand new UWB 2 chip in iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus now lets you locate your lost/misplaced iPhone faster; that’s because Precision finding now works from a longer distance; take it for what it’s worth but that makes iPhone 15 the most “findable” smartphone in the world

  • While the A16 Bionic chip in iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus is the same one used in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, this SoC is still more powerful than anything else available on the market right now (at least according to benchmarks); this guarantees iPhone 15 should work reliably for years to come

Upgraded camera in iPhone 15 is almost too good to be true: Super detailed 24 and 48MP photos, dramatically improved Portrait mode, optical-quality 2x zoom, better HDR and selfie camera

I must preface this section by reminding everyone that I’ve criticized the iPhone’s camera for years now, and that’s because Apple deserved it. But I must give credit where credit is due.

After going through a bunch of camera samples from various sources, it’s safe to say that the camera in the most affordable iPhone 15 is vastly improved compared to last year’s vanilla model and even better than the one in the iPhone 14 Pro.

The new 24MP camera mode in iPhone 15 is a game-changer

The new, larger 48MP primary sensor in iPhone 15 puts out 24MP photos by default, which turns out to be a game-changing camera feature, since it finally makes iPhone photos look like they have natural detail without the oversharpening we’ve been seeing from iPhone cameras for ages now.

The equally impressive part is that the 24MP photos coming out of the iPhone 15’s camera use less storage than competing 12MP photos (from Samsung, Google), making Apple’s achievement particularly admirable.

And Apple wasn’t kidding during the iPhone 15 launch keynote. Human skin tones do indeed look more accurate in photos taken with the iPhone 15. The updated image processing also seems to be doing better with white balance. iPhone 15’s camera doesn’t turn photos taken in indoor lighting yellow/orange like the iPhone 14 would.

iPhone 15 can now zoom up to 2x without losing quality - three cameras for the price of two

Another perk of having a 48MP camera is that iPhone 15 now essentially has three camera lenses to work with, since you gain a 2x optical-quality zoom in photos and videos. This makes upgrading to a Pro iPhone for the sake of better zoom less relevant than ever now.

Moreover, with iPhone 15, you can take 2x Portrait mode photos, which look more professional than the 1x portraits that you can still take.

iPhone 15’s Portrait mode is almost magical - you’ll use it all the time

Speaking of Portrait mode, the brand new Portrait mode experience in iPhone 15 looks spectacular, and I really can’t wait to use it. In fact, the best thing about Apple’s revamped Portrait mode is that you don’t really need to use it to… use it.

That’s because iPhone 15 automatically detects people, pets, and objects (if you tap on the object) and takes a Portrait mode photo for you. You can also take a normal photo and decide to turn it into a portrait after the fact (if the object was recognized). Apple also lets you change the focus point.

In a nutshell, the upgraded Portrait mode makes iPhone 15 the easiest smartphone camera to use if you want professional-looking photos without having to do any extra work. It also looks like Apple’s new portrait algorithm is more accurate and intelligent.

Apple’s new HDR 5 algorithm finally helps iPhone 15 compete with Android cameras in super challenging conditions

In another long-anticipated upgrade, iPhone 15’s dynamic range has finally improved, and can now be considered good rather than very poor, which was the case with iPhone 14, iPhone 13, iPhone 12, etc.

I doubt Apple’s improved HDR will compete with the likes of Vivo and Oppo but it finally looks reliable enough for taking photos of high-contrast scenes where you need a good balance in the dark and bright parts of the image.

Frankly, this much needed upgrade was long, long overdue, so I don’t even know if I’m supposed to give Apple credit, or call the company out on being super late. Either way… better late than never, I guess?

“Too good to be true” iPhone 15 is one of the best Apple surprises in a long time: Has Apple gone crazy, or are iPhone users so used to getting the bare minimum?

So, yes… iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus turn out to be absolutely massive upgrades compared to iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus, and maybe even some of the best new iPhones in Apple’s entire history. But why is this so hard to believe even for me who’s… writing this story?

I mean I really like that I’d be able to tell my friends to buy the cheapest new iPhone if they ask for smartphone buying advice, but the tech writer in me is trying to be a bit more pragmatic and look at the bigger picture.

The way I see it, it all boils down to this…

  • Throughout the years, and thanks to the company’s strategy of “slow innovation”, Apple has managed to make small, iterative upgrades seem so normal and expected, that the iPhone 15 upgrade seems almost too good to be true; in other words, we come back to the whole “setting the bar low” theory

  • Speaking of which, last year’s vanilla iPhone 14 was quite possibly the smallest upgrade in Apple’s smartphone history, meaning it set the bar for iPhone 15 extremely low to make a huge splash

  • The iPhone 15 looks quite premium and that’s thanks to the design elements it shares with the more expensive iPhone 15 Pro (Dynamic Island, slimmer display borders, curved frame, and matte finish on the back); Apple could’ve added the Dynamic Island to last year’s iPhone 14 but it saved this new feature for its more premium iPhone 14 Pro, thus making sure iPhone 15 now gets another feature previously reserved for premium iPhones

While I would personally pick the lighter iPhone 15 over my iPhone 14 Pro any day, I don’t think people who already have the iPhone 14 Pro should even consider buying the vanilla iPhone 15. But if you’re choosing between the two… Again - iPhone 15 all day for me.

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