The initial reviews for Apple's iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are arriving, and most discussion is about the Pro Max's new tetraprism camera and USB-C.
The iPhone 15 Pro line was launched during Apple's "Wonderlust" event on September 12, as part of the company's annual refresh of its most important product line. Preorders opened very quickly, with shipments starting from September 22.
The new models include 48-megapixel rear cameras, though the iPhone 15 Pro Max benefits from an exclusive tetraprism camera lens that extends the Telephoto camera from a 3x optical zoom to a 5x zoom instead.
All this is powered by a new A17 Pro chip, a change in naming convention that befits additions such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing.
Arguably more importantly, there's the switch-out of Lightning in favor of USB-C, enabling charging via more physical connections as well as increasing the speed you can get files off the iPhone in the first place. The video support changes are also anticipated to benefit creative professionals, especially being able to record ProRes video to an external storage device.
As early-bird customers prepare for their orders to arrive, the initial reviews for the model have started to emerge.
CNBC's review of the iPhone 15 Pro models starts off praising the use of titanium for the external frame instead of stainless steel, in part because it makes the phone lighter. "Apple's Pro phones have been getting heavier since 2019, but this phone reverses the trend," the review reads.
"The weight difference is subtle but will be meaningful to many people, making daily use more delightful — and marathon TikTok and YouTube sessions less tiring."
The camera in the Pro Max is also praised for using a "nifty new kind of three-dimensional image stabilization that prevents the zoom shots from getting blurry" along with its increased zoom. That makes it "reason to reach for the bigger iPhone 15 Pro Max over the cheaper but lighter and smaller iPhone 15 Pro."
Gizmodo's offering initially declares that Apple's "doing what Google's Pixel 7 Pro doesn't," referring to the brightness and performance. While other Android devices can do raytracing, Apple's link-up with game producers is praised.
Performance-wise, the A17 Pro "outperformed the best Android flagships, the Pixel 7 Pro— soon to be replaced by a Pixel 8 Pro— and the Galaxy S23 Ultra."
The seven focal lengths of the camera and the new 5x optical zoom on the Pro Max were also raised, with the latter performing "on par" with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's zoom.
The new models are summed up as "not a required upgrade" for existing iPhone users, such as the iPhone 13 Pro user, as they "still have plenty of runway" ahead of them. However, for potential Android switchers, it's reckoned that "Google is going to need to do something extraordinary with the Pixel 8 Pro if it wants to keep its users off the iPhone."
Engadget mentions iPhone 15 Pro Max's weight loss, as the model tier has "always felt too hefty." Something corrected by the use of titanium and marginal size changes.
"Together with the smaller bezels, the overall design changes make the iPhone 15 Pro Max slightly easier to use with one hand," the review continues, with added appreciation of the brushed metal finish.
The new Action button has been deemed "a blessing and a curse," with the multi-functional button being much faster to use to open the camera than navigating there normally. "On the other hand, it wasn't always easier to reach for the Action button, and though it's easy enough to identify it by size, I found myself accidentally pressing the volume keys a few times."
For the camera, the Pro Max "delivered solid landscapes and portraits in daylight, and has shown slight improvement at night." Video quality "remains arguably the best in the industry, with cinematic mode videos still as aesthetically pleasing as before."
USB-C is at the forefront for The Verge, referring to the line as gaining "some much-appreciated modern conveniences. Not all of them were included by choice, per se." Mentioning how Apple "may have been dragged part of the way by the EU," the use of USB-C is praised, though it's noted that you only get USB 2 transfer speeds using the cable in the box.
It did result in one "beautiful thing" for the review, in that "the 15 Pro Max's battery was low, so I unplugged the USB-C charging cable from my MacBook Air and plugged it right into the phone." After a week with a USB-C iPhone, it was deemed "friggin' great."
The 5x zoom "makes sense on the Pro Max," but while the 2x crop zoom returns, it means "a 3x lens feels a little redundant" in the Pro. "A 5x lens will get you meaningfully closer to distant objects so you can play around with compression or frame a shot of that famous bridge without a lot of stuff in the foreground."
Summing up, The Verge points out that "a lot of different forces outside of Cupertino helped shape the iPhone 15 Pro into what it is: competition and regulators included." In the end, it's "a device that's unmistakably an iPhone but shaped into something better by the pressure."
CNET's reviewer claims the "iPhone 15 Pro Max is the first time I've ever been this enamored," with the iPhone 12 mini a "close second."
"This pair of phones is one of the most compelling releases from Apple in years," thanks to the numerous improvements to the camera, its image processing, and a refreshed lighter build that manages to "keep that tried-and-true iPhone aesthetic front and center."
"At the end of the day, I am impressed with the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max," the review concludes. "I recommend both for anyone coming from a 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max or older."
The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are available to order now, priced from $999 and $1,199 respectively, with shipments starting September 22.