Thoughts on the new iPhones

Now that Apple has introduced and shipped their new iPhone 15 series, I have some initial impressions. While I don’t own any of the models, I’ve tried an iPhone 15 Pro Max and currently own a 3-year old iPhone 12 Pro Max for comparison.

They both are similar in size and in appearance. While the 15 Pro Max has a titanium frame (more decorative than structural) with slightly camphered edges, they both are essentially the same size and shape. And once you add a protective case, it’s hard to tell them apart. That also goes for the 13 and 14 versions. If you decide to avoid a case, you take a big risk, since both faces of the phone are glass slabs that can easily shatter.

The main difference of the 15 Pro Max, aside from a faster processor, connector, and mute switch, is its 120mm 5X camera lens and sensor that replaces the 70mm lens in earlier models, still leaving the camera with three lenses. I tried this particular lens out, and it produces some decent images, but not as crisp as I expected. They were slightly better than the 12/13/14 Pro Max, since these crop their images from the 70 mm lens to get the same magnification. However, if we were to take a 70mm picture, the 15 would be a cropped image, while the others would be uncropped.

But remember that iPhone cameras create their images very differently than conventional cameras. Think of the iPhone camera as a combination of a conventional camera with an advanced version of Photoshop-like software that applies a huge amount of computation to the image. It’s able to adjust colors, contrast, focus, how much of and which sensor is used, and dozens of other factors – all nearly at the instant of touching the shutter button. It’s artifical intelligence at its finest.

So, as Apple’s micropocessors, software, sensors and lenses improve, the quality of the images improve. All of the image manipulation is hidden from us, so you may not even be aware of which lens is used to take the image. It’s safe to say that the images are always improving with each new camera model, and this is certainly the case of their latest models. The only question is whether what you have now is good enough and are the improvements worth the expense.

The biggest disappointment with the iPhone 15 Pro Max is that its battery life is essentially the same as it was last year and the year before that. While surveys have shown about 70% of users want longer life as their number one request for improvement, Apple stubbornly continues to trade slimness over battery size. If Apple offered a phone slightly thicker that would increase the battery size by 30-50%, I, along with millions, would be first in line. It’s even more absurd, because few use their phone uncased to appreciate the slimness.

As to whether you should upgrade to an iPhone 15 series, it’s more dependent on what you have now. I would not upgrade from a 12 or newer model. If your battery is run down, it’s easy to have Apple replace it for about $80. That’s essentially the only thing that wears out over time.

If you’re happy with your current model, there’s always the risk of trading it for a potential problem or an unexpected annoyance. For example iPhone 14 owners have complained about their battery degrading much faster than normal. There have been an alarming number of reports that their one-year old phone shows a battery with less than 90% capacity left*, similar to 2 or 3 years of use on other models. At 80% Apple considers the battery to require replacement. So buying something new doesn’t always mean something better.

If you would like something new, consider buying a new case. I’ve outfitted my iPhone 12 Pro Max with a new MagSafe case from UAG made for an iPhone 14 ProMax. It’s a more up to date model and fits just fine.


*To check your battery health go to Settings/Battery/Battery Health & Charging and look at Maximum Capacity.

by Phil Baker

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on the new iPhones

  1. Boraxo says:

    The problem with not upgrading is that you are losing free money from Verizon, ATT and TMo because you pay the same monthly price for your service as the people who get new phones. . So it makes sense to take the subsidized phone unless you plan to switch to a lower priced reseller (eg Mint) within the next 2-3 years.

    • Phil Baker says:

      That’s a good point and was true in the age of subsidized phones 10 to 15 years ago, but now it’s very different. In the case of Verizon, when I checked, they required upgrading my monthly plan from $45 to about $70 per month that provides no benefits that I need. So, I’m paying an extra $300 per year for 3 years to save $600 on a new phone. The other option is adding a new line. In both cases, Verizon requires a significant payment to get the supposed subsidy.

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