Is the iPhone 15 Pro Worth the Upgrade? How It Compares to Older iPhones

With every new iPhone, especially the Pro models, Apple promises faster performance and better cameras. And according to my colleague Patrick Holland, who reviewed the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, Apple delivers on those pledges.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth upgrading to the latest models. Those improvements don’t come cheap, with the iPhone 15 Pro starting at $1,000 and the iPhone 15 Pro Max beginning at $1,199. Those prices become easier to swallow with carrier trade-in deals, but such discounts often require you to meet very specific circumstances, such as opening a new line or exchanging a relatively new phone.

Similar to the regular iPhone 15, the Pro model is best suited for those coming from an older model, like the iPhone 12 or earlier. There’s plenty that’s new with the iPhone 15 Pro, like the titanium body and new Action button, that make the phone feel fresh and different compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. But if you’re coming from a device that’s several years old, you’ll likely find the longer battery life and performance improvements to be the driving factors behind your decision to upgrade.

Take a look at the comparisons below to decide whether it’s the right time to upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro. If you’re considering the standard iPhone 15 instead, check out our separate upgrade guide.

The iPhone 14 Pro

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The iPhone 15 Pro brings numerous improvements compared to the iPhone 14 Pro, including a lighter titanium build, the Action button for programming shortcuts, a USB-C port for universal charging and a camera that can capture photos at 24 megapixels by default. Apple also claims the new A17 Pro processor can run console-grade games.

As is the case with previous Pro models, the iPhone 15 Pro also includes some extras for mobile photographers and filmmakers. Videographers, for example, may appreciate the option to shoot in the log video format, which makes it easier to match footage from other devices for projects shot on more than one camera. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also has a 5x telephoto zoom, enabling it to capture closer shots than the 3x option on the iPhone 14 Pro.

Since the iPhone 15 Pro has Apple’s second-generation ultra wideband chip, you can use your iPhone to more easily pinpoint another user’s location in the Find My app. But this feature only works with other iPhone 15 owners since it requires Apple’s new hardware. Ultra wideband is the proximity-detecting tech found in the iPhone 11 and later that makes it easier to AirDrop files to other devices and use your phone as a digital car key. 

Most of these changes further separate the iPhone 15 Pro from the regular iPhone 15 and make Apple’s premium phone a more appealing option for those who want faster performance and a more capable camera. That said, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade if you already have an iPhone 14 Pro. 

While these tools are helpful, they’re niche and may not impact the daily experience all that much, especially if you don’t use your phone for film projects. While the Action button is useful, it’s also a bit limiting in its current form since it can only trigger one feature at a time. As mentioned in CNET’s iPhone 15 Pro review, there’s potential for the Action button to bring more to the iPhone experience in the future, particularly if Apple makes it possible to program multiple types of shortcuts. 

The A17 Pro is another example of a new feature that will likely grow more appealing over time as more games are optimized for it. The console versions of Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4 Remake, Death Stranding and Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be available for the iPhone 15 Pro, and I can see the iPhone 15 Pro becoming more appealing for gamers once it supports more than a few titles.

The bottom line: Don’t upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro just yet. Performance and battery life are likely still going strong, meaning there’s plenty of life left in your phone. Some of the iPhone 15 Pro’s most exciting new features, like the A17 Pro processor and Action button, will probably get better over time, meaning it’s fine to wait for the next model, or even the one after that. Unless you can essentially get the iPhone 15 Pro for free through a trade-in deal, it’s worth waiting

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro Max

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The iPhone 12 Pro is very similar to the iPhone 13 Pro, so the same general advice applies. However, there’s a stronger case for upgrading since the iPhone 12 Pro’s processor is older, meaning it might be starting to slow down. 

Battery life will also likely see a dramatic boost considering the iPhone 12 Pro is now 3 years old. One of the iPhone 13 Pro’s biggest changes was longer battery life, and Apple has made further improvements since then. Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro’s estimated 17 hours of video playback, the iPhone 15 Pro is said to get 23 hours. 

The display is brighter on Apple’s new phone, meaning it’ll likely be easier to see outside in bright sunlight. The iPhone 12 Pro also lacks ProMotion, which is Apple’s branding for displays that can boost their refresh rate, which should make scrolling feel smoother on the iPhone 15 Pro. 

Apple has also thrown in some new photography features between generations, such as macro mode and Photographic Styles, which lets you customize a specific look for how the camera should capture photos. There’s also cinematic mode for capturing footage with a shallow depth of field.

But those are just some of the aspects that separate the iPhone 12 Pro from the iPhone 13 Pro. Don’t forget, you’re also getting everything else Apple has added over the years, from the Action button to the Dynamic Island, a lighter titanium build, car crash detection and emergency SOS via satellite. 

The bottom line: The iPhone 15 Pro is a worthwhile upgrade coming from the iPhone 12 Pro, but you should really only upgrade if you’re starting to feel performance and battery life slowing down. 

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 11 Pro

The iPhone XS

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The iPhone has come a long way in the last five years, and that shows when comparing the 2018-era iPhone XS to the iPhone 15 Pro. The iPhone XS lacks a couple of features that are considered standard in many of today’s phones, namely 5G support and an ultrawide camera for taking broader shots. 

By upgrading to the iPhone 15 Pro, you’ll gain all of the features mentioned above in our comparison with the iPhone 11 Pro. That includes 5G support, a much sharper camera, more camera modes, MagSafe compatibility, a depth-sensing lidar sensor, and a larger and brighter screen (5.8 inches versus 6.1 inches for the regular Pro, 6.5 inches versus 6.7 inches for the Pro Max).

But Apple added a handful of new capabilities starting with the iPhone 11 that the iPhone XS family also lacks, making an even stronger case for upgrading. The most notable is night mode for the camera, which means you’ll barely have to use your camera’s flash when taking photos in dark environments. There’s also the previously mentioned ultrawide camera, a sharper front-facing camera (7 megapixels versus 12 megapixels) and the ultra wideband chip. 

This, of course, just scratches the surface, considering there’s a lot more that’s new in the iPhone 15 Pro, from significantly longer battery life to the Dynamic Island and the 48-megapixel camera. 

The bottom line: If you have an iPhone XS or XS Max, it’s time to upgrade. Apple’s 5-year-old phone lacks staple features like 5G, and performance and battery life will likely start to dwindle soon if they haven’t already. The iPhone XS is also the last generation to get new iOS version updates, meaning you’ll be missing out on new features come next year. 

iPhone 15 Pro vs. older iPhones

iPhone 15 ProiPhone 14 ProiPhone 13 ProiPhone 12 ProiPhone 11 ProiPhone XSDisplay size, tech, resolution, refresh rate, brightness 6.1-inch OLED; 2,556×1,179 pixels; 120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.1-inch OLED; 2,556×1,179 pixels; 120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.1-inch OLED; 2,778×1,284 pixels; 120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.1-inch OLED; 2,532×1,170 pixels5.8-inch OLED; 2,436×1,125 pixels5.8-inch OLED; 2,436×1,125 pixelsPixel density 460 ppi460 ppi458 ppi460 ppi458 ppi458 ppiDimensions (inches) 5.77 x 2.78 x 0.32 in5.81 x 2.81 x 0.31 in.6.33 x 3.07 x 0.3 in5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in5.67×2.81×0.32 in5.7×2.8×0.3 inDimensions (millimeters) 70.6 x 146.6 x 8.25 mm147.5 x 71.5 x 7.85mm161 x 78 x 7.65 mm146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm144x71.4×8.1 mm143.6×70.9×7.7 mmWeight (grams, ounces) 187 g (6.6 oz)206 g (7.27 oz)240 g (8.48 oz)189 g (6.66 oz)188 g (6.63 oz)177 g (6.2 oz)Mobile software (at launch) iOS 17iOS 16iOS 15iOS 14iOS 13iOS 12Camera 48-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel telephoto 48-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)Dual 12-megapixel (wide and telephoto)Front-facing camera 12-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel 7-megapixel Video capture 4K4K4K4K4K4KProcessor Apple A17 ProApple A16 BionicApple A15 BionicApple A14 BionicApple A13 BionicApple A12 BionicStorage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB, 256GB, 512GBExpandable storage NoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneBattery Undisclosed; Apple claims up to 23 hours of video playback Undisclosed; Apple claims 23 hours of video playbackUndisclosed; Apple claims 22 hours of video playbackUndisclosed; Apple claims 17 hours of video playbackUndisclosed, Apple claims 18 hours of video playbackUndisclosed, Apple claims 14 hours of video playbackFingerprint sensor None (Face ID)None (Face ID)None (Face ID)None (FaceID)None (Face ID)None (Face ID)Connector USB-C (USB 3.0)LightningLightningLightningLightningLightningHeadphone jack NoNoNoNoNoNoSpecial features 5G; Action button; always-on display; water resistant; MagSafe; Dynamic Island; 5x optical zoom on Max (120mm equivalent); satellite connectivity; crash detection; eSIM; Thread networking technology; 2nd-gen ultrawideband; lidarDynamic Island; always-on display; 5G; satellite connectivity; crash detection; MagSafe; water resistant; e-SIM; ultra wideband; lidar 5G; MagSafe; water resistant; physical and e-SIM; ultra wideband; lidar5G; MagSafe; water resistant; physical and e-SIM; ultra wideband; lidarWater resistant; physical and e-SIM; ultra widebandWater-resistant; physical and e-SIM

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