Which iPhone 15 model should you purchase? Comparing common, Plus, Pro, and Pro Max

Mike Powers
Which iPhone 15 model should you purchase? Comparing common, Plus, Pro, and Pro Max


Kerry Wan/ZDNET

When Apple unveiled the iPhone 15, it announced not one, not two, not three, but four new iPhones all at once, so there’s basically a model for every type of user, right? Yes, but there are definitely some points to consider.

Also: Apple wants you to know what you’re missing by not upgrading to an iPhone 15

The iPhone 15 series starts at $799 and ranges up to $1,199, so I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s an easy buying decision for budget-minded shoppers. If you do fall into that group however, allow me to direct you to ZDNET’s best iPhone deals guide instead.

But if you’re dead set on the latest generation of Apple handsets, let this decision tree help you make the best purchase for your needs, use cases, and preferences. I guarantee that one of the four iPhone 15 models will resonate with you more than the others.

Specifications

iPhone 15

iPhone 15 Plus

iPhone 15 Pro

iPhone 15 Pro Max

Display

6.1-inch OLED with 60Hz

6.7-inch OLED with 60Hz

6.1-inch OLED with 120Hz

6.7-inch OLED with 120Hz

Weight 6.02 oz (171 grams) 7.09 oz (201 grams) 6.60 oz (187 grams) 7.81 oz (221 grams)

Processor

A16 Bionic

A16 Bionic

A17 Pro Bionic

A17 Pro Bionic

RAM/Storage

4GB RAM with 128GB/256GB/512GB

4GB RAM with 128GB/256GB/512GB

8GB RAM with 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB

8GB RAM with 256GB/512GB/1TB

Camera

48MP Wide, 12MP Ultra-wide, 12MP front 48MP Wide, 12MP Ultra-wide, 12MP front 48MP Wide, 12MP Ultra-wide, 12MP 3X Telephoto, 12MP front 48MP Wide, 12MP Ultra-wide, 12MP 5X Telephoto, 12MP front
Software iOS 17 iOS 17 iOS 17 iOS 17
Battery Up to 20 hours of video playback Up to 26 hours of video playback Up to 23 hours of video playback Up to 29 hours of video playback

Connectivity

4G LTE, 5G, eSIM, Satellite

4G LTE, 5G, eSIM, Satellite

4G LTE, 5G, eSIM, Satellite

4G LTE, 5G, eSIM, Satellite

Durability

IP68

IP68

IP68

IP68

Colors

Pink, Yellow, Blue, Green, Black Pink, Yellow, Blue, Green, Black Natural Titanium, Blue, White, Black Natural Titanium, Blue, White, Black

Price

$799

$899

$999

$1,199


You should buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max if…

iPhone 15 Pro Max White

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You want the best iPhone camera experience, period.

This year, Apple has made its iPhone 15 Pro Max model more fitting of its name by giving it the exclusive benefit of a new periscope zoom lens. How is this different than the telephoto lens found on the smaller Pro model? A periscope lens allows the iPhone to capture distant subjects with a 5x optical zoom as opposed to a digital one, which translates to greater detail and less blurriness.

Also: iPhone 15 Pro review: Coming from iPhone 12 Pro or earlier? This upgrade will wow you

2. You’re a multimedia connoisseur

Besides the superior camera, the iPhone 15 Pro Max also offers the best multimedia experience of the four models released. With a large 6.8-inch AMOLED display that refreshes at 120Hz and powerful dual-channel speakers, the Pro Max variant remains the phone of choice if you often find yourself watching shows, short-form videos, and more, on your mobile device.

It’s rather heavy at 221 grams, but the thinner bezels and lighter Titanium material this year make the Pro Max more ergonomic than ever. The same couldn’t be said about the older 14 Pro Max.

You should buy the iPhone 15 Pro if…

iPhone 15 Pro in Blue Titanium, taken by iPhone 15 Pro Max

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You want the Pro benefits without the Pro Max size

Bigger is not always better, as the smaller iPhone Pro model has proved year after year. For most people, the 6.1-inch form factor of the standard Pro phone is more than enough. I personally find it to be more enjoyable to use than the Pro Max because of its combination of portability and power.

Also: How to capture spatial video with the iPhone 15 Pro (there’s a trick)

Aside from the periscope lens and larger proportions, the iPhone 15 Pro offers just about every other utility that the Pro Max does, including the updated A17 Pro Bionic chip, iOS 17 features, and new Action Button. In fact, the Action Button is much more reachable on the smaller 15 Pro. And for photos and videos, it shares the same 48MP primary sensor, which is what you’ll rely on the most.

2. You can’t justify the $200 Max Tax

Due to the hardware gap, Apple is charging an extra $100 for the Pro Max model this year, making a $200 difference between the bigger device and the regular Pro. That’s a hefty sum, and is enough to cover a case, screen protector, and USB-C charging case — should you want to update your AirPods Pro to Apple’s new port standard. Or, you can just save the $200 and carry on.

You should buy the iPhone 15 Plus if…

Hand holding iPhone 15 Plus

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You want a big-screen iPhone at a more accessible price

While the new iPhone 15 Plus isn’t necessarily cheap at a starting price of $899, it is the most affordable option if you want a big-screen iPhone that doesn’t cost $300 more. Like the Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Plus features a 6.8-inch panel with a similar-behaving Dynamic Island interface.

Also: iPhone 15 review: I spent a month with Apple’s base model and found it more ‘Pro’ than ever

The display doesn’t get quite as smooth with a 60Hz refresh rate, and the speakers are not as punchy as the Pro Max’s, but if you just want an iPhone that gets the basics right, and looks good doing them, then the 15 Plus is the way to go.

You should buy the iPhone 15 if…

iPhone 15 Blue

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

1. You want the latest iPhone for less

If features like ProRes video recording, 120Hz ProMotion display, and an A17 Pro Bionic chip don’t raise your eyebrows, then the standard iPhone 15 may be the best option for you. It’s also the most accessible of the bunch, with a starting price of $799, and most carriers offering buy-one-get-one (BOGO) or “free with trade-in” deals for this model in particular.

2. One of the colors suits your vibe

Smartphones are arguably our most personal piece of technology, so something as basic as color can be a deciding factor when purchasing one. Apple tends to give the non-Pro iPhones the more poppy and adventurous colors, with this year’s crop getting splashes of pastel yellow, pink, blue, white, and black. If one of those colors speaks to you, then it may be your calling to opt for an iPhone 15 instead of an iPhone 15 Pro.

Alternatives to consider

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