iPhone 15 Plus review – the Island comes to the big middle child

 Apple iPhone 15 Plus
Apple iPhone 15 Plus

iPhone 15 Plus: Two-minute preview

I've always liked the iPhone's Plus line. The iPhone 14 Plus is a peppy big-screened device with 'good enough' photography and excellent battery life, but no one else seems to like it like I do. The iPhone 15 Plus, though, may have more sway.

Launching alongside the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Plus gets a few updates that make it seem more like part of the club than its predecessor did, changes that also make it more attractive to would-be big-screen smartphone buyers.

(We've also been hands-on with Apple's other new iPhones, so check out our hands-on iPhone 15 review, hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review, and hands-on iPhone 15 Pro Max review.)

Despite retaining the straight sides of the last few generations of iPhone, all of the iPhone 15 series – including the 15 Plus – now have softened, more rounded edges. This may be especially important for the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus, since – in my brief time with it – I found it to be more comfortable to hold than previous 'big' iPhones.

With the iPhone 15 Plus, you still get a 6.7-inch 60Hz OLED display, but now with the Dynamic Island that was exclusive to last year's iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, instead of a notch. It runs on a more powerful Apple-made A16 Bionic chipset (again like 2022's Pro iPhones), while the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have been bumped up to the even more potent A17 Pro. Also, wave farewell to Lightning; like Galaxys, Pixels, and pretty much every other phone out there, the iPhone now charges via USB-C.

As for the all-important camera setup, you'll still find two lenses in a diagonal layout, but the main sensor jumps from 12MP to 48MP; promising better still image quality in a myriad of conditions – including low light and when zooming in or taking portrait shots – while video stabilization has been improved as a result too. The image sensor on the iPhone 15 Plus (and iPhone 15) is not exactly the same as the one found in the Pro editions but it does get all the cool new photo tricks on its more expensive Pro cousin, including making any photo Portrait (even after capture) and 24MP base images.

With Apple nixing a 64GB storage option a couple of generations ago, you can pick the iPhone 15 up in 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB configurations, with five iPhone 15 colors to choose from, all sporting new color-infused glass backs.

Running iOS 17 out of the box, the iPhone 15 Plus gains all the benefits we've been waiting to test out for months (ever since Apple first showed off the experience, back at WWDC 2023 in June). From Contact Posters to Interactive Widgets and even StandBy (previously thought to be a feature exclusive to iPhones with always-on displays); there are a number of quality-of-life improvements that long-time iPhone users will appreciate on the iPhone 15 Plus.

Thankfully, for all that is new, Apple has left pricing well alone this year in the US, while the UK enjoys a notable price drop, and the phone becomes fractionally pricier in Australia compared to last year's model. Available for pre-order this Friday (September 15) and on-sale the week after on Friday, September 22.

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Price and availability

  • Priced from $899 / £899 / AU$1,649

  • Pre-order from September 15

  • On sale from September 22

Although there was a rumor of a range-wide price rise this year, the iPhone 15 Plus (along with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro) stays the course in the US, meaning the standard 128GB model starts at $899, just as the iPhone 14 Plus did, one year earlier.

Apple introduced all four new members of the iPhone 15 family to the world at its 'Wonderlust' event on September 12, with the phone going on pre-order on Friday, September 15. It'll then be available to buy a week later, on September 22.

Of course, if you're already sold on the promise of the iPhone 15 Plus, then head on over to our iPhone 15 deals roundup, where we'll be constantly updating the best offers available on Apple's newest entrant in the mobile market.

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Specs

The main upgrades fall to a new camera system, the Dynamic Island and USB-C, but here's a full breakdown of the hardware on offer.

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Design

iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus
  • Similar dimensions to predecessor

  • Color-infused glass back

  • USB-C instead of Lightning

At a glance, the iPhone 15 Plus looks very much like the iPhone 14 Plus, but closer examination reveals a newly crafted aluminum frame that gently scrubs away the sharp edges making the larger 15 Plus much more comfortable to hold than the iPhone 14 Plus. It's also slightly lighter.

So long as you like pastels, this year's lineup of iPhone 15 Plus (and iPhone 15) colors includes five finishes (black, blue, green, yellow, and a truly mesmerizing pink), all of which showcase new color-infused glass, with the camera bump more seamlessly rising out of the back panel. It's a good look.

That aluminum frame also now plays host to a USB-C port, where there was once a Lightning port; meaning you should be able to charge with just one cable, if you already own a modern MacBook and/or iPad – with the latter finally ditching Lightning on its base iPad 10.9 (2022) model last year.

If you opt for this more affordable iPhone, you will notice that it doesn't have that nifty new Action button. No, the iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 still have the classic ring/silent switch. I'm not against this aging switch but it's definitely not Action button-level useful.

Aside from a tweak to materials and colorways, the Ceramic Shield protecting the back of the phone still plays host to a diagonal dual camera system, while on the front, you'll now find an iPhone 14 Pro-like Dynamic Island, where the notch once lived.

Apple continues to offer some of the best IP-rated protection in the business, quoting figures that actually marginally surpass its IP68 certification against dust ingress and promised water resistance.

The phone is also full of recycled materials from the 75% aluminum frame to precious metals, like 100% recycled cobalt in the battery. Apple has plans to make its phones carbon-neutral too, but the 15 Plus is only a step on this particular journey.

iPhone 15
iPhone 15

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Display

iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus
  • 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED

  • 2796 x 1290 resolution w/ 60Hz refresh rate

  • Dynamic Island replaces notch

I find the larger 6.7-inch screen on the iPhone 15 Plus quite pleasing and expansive (even if the bezels are not as thin as they are on the Pro) but it is frustrating that despite also having a Super Retina XDR OLED screen, the iPhone 15 Plus (and iPhone 15) are still stuck at 60Hz, while the Pro models get buttery-smooth 120Hz ProMotion visuals.

In practice, though, I find it hard to believe most consumers will notice the difference in day-to-day use. However, unlike the iPhone 15 Pro Max, this display's Always On support is limited and will make the experience of using the new iOS 17 Standby mode somewhat different. Instead of it staying (dimly lit) while asleep, you'll still have to tap to wake the screen.

Beyond that, the Super Retina XDR OLED is a joy to behold in person, a little brighter this year – so Apple says (a 1,200-nit peak rises to 2,000 nits) – with the same resolution as its predecessor, producing the same 460ppi pixel density.

While the display sounds like it's unchanged from last year, that's not the case. The iPhone 15 Plus (and iPhone 15) display now features the same Dynamic Island found on the iPhone 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, and the new iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. Believe me, you will not miss the notch.

Everything that the Dynamic Island could already do (keep track of directions, music, your Uber) can now be achieved on the iPhone 15 Plus, and iOS 17 will hopefully continue to add new functionality over time, even if Apple didn't have any functionality to add during the launch event.

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Software

iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus
  • Runs iOS 17 out the box

iOS 17 feels like a comparatively minor upgrade, over the beefier features the company introduced in iOS 16, however, there are a few (which our dedicated iOS 17 feature covers) of note that help enhance the user experience on the iPhone 15 Plus.

Contact Posters and NameDrop, real-time location sharing (called Check In) in Messages, automated blurring of nudity in Messages and AirDrop, Live Voicemail (complete with transcription) Interactive Widgets, and a heap more.

The iPhone 15 Plus will feel completely familiar to most iPhone and iOS 16 users. Most of the major changes are embedded in various features that don't necessarily touch the home screen by default.  Still, the introduction of the Dynamic Island does make everything seem, fresher and brand new.

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Cameras

iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus
  • 48MP main sensor

  • 12MP ultra-wide

  • 12MP front-facing camera

Design-wise, the camera system may look the same as the iPhone 14 and 13 series' before it, but the iPhone 15 Plus's camera setup has a big secret. The main sensor that has – for the longest time – clocked in at 12MP, is taking a leaf out of the iPhone 14 Pro's playbook and making the leap to a whopping 48MP sensor.

This introduces pixel binning to the standard iPhone photographic recipe for the first time and, alongside better shooting in all environments – including low light – should also deliver better quality 2x zoomed and portrait photography. Not to mention better stabilization, across stills and video.

More importantly, the iPhone 15 Plus (and iPhone 15) can now shoot 24MP images that actually combine the best 12MP of information with the full detail of that new 48MP sensor. You also get an effective 2x optical zoom, which is not a zoom lens but takes the middle sub-section out of that full 48MP sensor.

Beyond the megapixel bump, the iPhone 15 Plus's ultra-wide stands at 12MP, as does the front-facing camera (even if it is now concealed within the Dynamic Island).

While I didn't have a chance to take any photos with the iPhone 15 Plus, I did see some original photos on its big 6.7-inch display. They looked really good and the level of detail you get with the combined information of the 48MP sensor and binned 12MP stills is impressive. I'll deliver a verdict on it in my full review.

There are some neat new software tricks in the camera that now allow you to shoot in portrait mode with your standard camera. Basically, you start with a standard photo, the phone recognizes that there are people and that there's depth in the image and saves the info. Later, when you go back, you can transform the photo into a portrait shot, and even select which of your subjects is in focus.

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iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus

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iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Performance & battery

iPhone 15 Plus
iPhone 15 Plus
  • Apple A16 Bionic

  • Up to 512GB of storage

  • Battery life is unchanged from the iPhone 14 Plus

With the iPhone 14 series, Apple created a larger divide than fans were used to, by sticking the base iPhone 14 and 14 Plus with the same A15 Bionic chip that had been range-wide a year prior, while the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max received exclusive access to the more powerful and power efficient A16 Bionic. For 2023, that two-tier processor trend continues, with the iPhone 15 Plus (and iPhone 15) gaining access to last year's A16 Bionic, while this year's 15 Pro models sport the potentially much more capable A17 Pro.

I only spent a short time with the iPhone 15 Plus but it did function well through a small set of tasks that included some photography and photo editing (trying out the new portrait features). I have no doubt that the phone's A16 Bionic can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it and if it behaves the same as it did in last year's Pros, it still has plenty of clout to take on even new Android flagships in benchmark battles.

Storage remains unchanged from last year, with a baseline of 128GB, a 256GB option, and 512GB at the top of the ladder (the iPhone 15 Pro also starts at 128GB while the Pro Max starts at 256GB). The battery might be slightly larger (Apple is not saying) but the battery life is unchanged from last year.

Apple still quotes 50% charge in 30 minutes and the same 15W and 7.5W wireless charging speeds for MagSafe and the Qi-standard respectively, but beyond that, your iPhone 15 Plus should still be able to last all day without issue. And, yes, it should outlast the smaller and cheaper iPhone 15.

Hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review: Early verdict

With last year's chipset and the venerable silent/ring switch, the iPhone 15 Plus might seem like it's getting the short end of the smartphone stick. The reality is that the A16 Bionic is still some wickedly-fast mobile silicon.

Also, let's not forget that the iPhone 15 Plus has a slightly updated and softer design, the USB-C port, and even the fungible (and fun) Dynamic Island.

Best of all, it now has that big 48MP camera and it's backed by all sorts of new iPhone camera tricks, which will let you do many of the same things you can do with the more expensive iPhone 15 Pro (and Pro Max).

For those who want big-screen iPhone fun without the expense, the now more powerful iPhone 15 Plus may turn out to be a winning choice. Plus, it looks stunning in pink.

First tested August 2023

Curious about how it compares to its launch siblings? You can also read our hands-on iPhone 15 review, hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review and hands-on iPhone 15 Pro Max review for more insight.