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Which iPhone 15 Model Should You Buy?

The iPhone 15 is here and it comes with quite a few drastic changes. The 11-year-old Lightning charging port has been replaced by USB-C, the notorious notch at the top of the screen has disappeared to make way for the Dynamic Island, and on the iPhone 15 Pro models, the long-lived mute switch has been phased out for a programmable Action Button. It's a lot! But which iPhone 15 model is best for you? And does any model have enough enhancements to make an upgrade worth the money? If you've been mulling these questions ever since Apple debuted the new handsets, don't worry—I'm here to help. Below, I break down the differences between all four iPhone 15 models, which one is right for you, and whether you should upgrade at all. 

Check out our Best MagSafe Accessories, Best Apple 3-in-1 Chargers, and Best MagSafe Power Banks for more Apple recommendations. We'll be testing the devices and iPhone 15 cases soon.

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Should I Upgrade to the iPhone 15?

Our common answer to this question is actually a question we ask you: Is your current smartphone doing OK? If it's performing just fine and you're still getting software updates, then the answer is no. This is especially true if you have an iPhone 13 or iPhone 14—they're still pretty recent! If you are having battery life issues but everything else is OK, then you may want to explore a battery replacement for a nominal fee first. We also have a guide to repairing your iPhone you may find helpful.

However, this year our standard answer is also slightly different. Apple has changed the charging port on the iPhone 15 range from Lightning to USB-C. If you have a bunch of USB-C devices and hate having to keep track of a separate Lightning cable, then the convenience might be worth the price of upgrading. Lightning accessories aren't going to disappear overnight, but it's also not worth investing in them anymore, as more and more accessory makers will strictly stick to USB-C.  

If you've decided to upgrade, be sure to read our guide on how to sell your iPhone. You can use Apple’s Trade-In program, but you can likely get more money selling a handset yourself. Always back up your iPhone first, then factory reset it to wipe your data. When you get your new smartphone, read our guide on how to set up your new iPhone for more tips and tricks. 

Choose Your iPhone

The iPhone 15 range includes the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are exactly the same except for their size and battery life. The two Pro models, unfortunately, have one big difference outside of size, but we'll get to that below. All of them come with a braided 60-watt USB-C to USB-C cable in the box. 

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Along with USB-C, all these phones have the Dynamic Island design that uses the area of the screen around the selfie camera to display notifications, officially bringing an end to the era of the notch. The phones all come with two years of Emergency SOS by Satellite and Crash Detection, plus the new Roadside Assistance service Apple just announced, giving you more ways to get help in dire situations. After two years, Apple will charge a fee to access these satellite services, but it has not disclosed how much these subscriptions will cost. 

As usual, the iPhone 15 range supports Face ID, MagSafe accessories, and 5G connectivity. Plus all the phones have a new second-generation ultra-wideband chipset, which offers three times the range than before to precisely detect the location of nearby friends and devices via the Find My app. The screens are protected by Apple's ceramic-based material, and the phones are rated IP68 for dust and water resistance. Apple has also brought the textured matte finish from the Pro iPhones to the entire lineup, and the colors of the phones are infused into the glass skin itself.

For the cameras, Apple says it has beefed up its Photonic Engine image processing system to capture 24-megapixel photos by default across all the new devices, an upgrade from 12 megapixels. That means you get more detail in your shots, but also larger files. (Probably not a coincidence as to why it added larger iCloud+ storage plans.) Since all of these phones have a 48-megapixel camera, they all have a 2X mode that uses the center portion of the sensor to zoom in—essentially, it will produce sharper results than any 2X optical camera Apple has ever shipped. There are all sorts of other camera upgrades, like how Portrait mode finally supports Live Photos, and now you're able to convert a normal photo into a portrait by adjusting the blur strength and focus long after you snapped the shot. 

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Here's how they differ from each other and from their predecessors: 

iPhone 15 ($829): The 6.1-inch display on the iPhone 15 can now get up to 1,600 nits in peak brightness, and a further 2,000 nits in outdoor conditions, meaning you should have no trouble reading the screen on bright sunny days. It's powered by the A16 Bionic processor, which powers last year's iPhone 14 Pro. The USB-C port only supports the USB 2 standard, so you're restricted to the same 480 megabits per second data transfer speeds as the Lightning connector. The 12-megapixel ultrawide camera is still present. If you just want a new iPhone with the updated changes and don't care for the rest of the features, get this model. iPhone 15 Plus ($929): The 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus has all the same features as the iPhone 15 mentioned above, but you get a larger screen and longer battery life. Last year, we found the iPhone 14 Plus offered some of the best battery life in the lineup, so this is a good option if you prioritize a big screen or longevity.iPhone 15 Pro ($999): The 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro model now has a titanium frame that makes it 19 grams lighter, a 10 percent reduction in weight over its predecessor. Titanium material is more durable than the stainless steel of yesteryear too. The bezels around the screen are slimmer than ever, and the phone is powered by Apple's newest mobile chip, the A17 Pro. Apple says the enhanced graphics processor on this chip makes AAA games like Resident Evil Village and Assassin's Creed Mirage look much better, with high fidelity graphics and hardware-accelerated ray tracing. The mute switch on the side of the phone has disappeared in favor of the Action Button. You can customize this button to trigger a variety of actions, and can even launch Shortcuts. It's worth noting that the 48-megapixel camera in this model has a 50 percent larger sensor than the 48-megapixel camera in the non-Pro iPhones, so you're getting a better camera experience by default. This iPhone also has a 3X optical zoom camera in addition to the 12-megapixel ultrawide; the latter of which is what you can use to trigger the macro camera for close-ups. Buy this model if you want the titanium, faster data transfer speeds, the nicer camera, and the action button, but don't want a big iPhone.iPhone 15 Pro Max ($1,199): The 6.7-inch Pro Max has everything I just mentioned for the iPhone 15 Pro. These two models also support the USB 3 standard, so you can expect data transfer speeds of 10 gigabits per second, though you'll need to buy a different USB-C cable that can take advantage of those speeds. (The USB-C cable that comes in the box doesn't support the full speed the Pro is capable of.) Where the Pro Max differentiates is the camera. Instead of a 3X optical zoom, Apple has stuffed in a 5X teleprism camera, allowing you greater zoom capabilities on this iPhone. This telephoto camera uses a new 3D sensor-shift stabilization model for greater stability in your photos and videos. This is also the only iPhone that starts with 256 GB of storage, but it's also the only one that got a price bump of $100. Buy this model if you want the best camera experience. Most PopularGearApple’s $60 iCloud Service Is the Future of Apple

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These aren't the only iPhones Apple is selling right now. You can save money by going for the iPhone 13 ($599), iPhone 14 ($699), or iPhone SE 2022 ($429). Read our Best iPhone guide for more suggestions. All of these are solid buys, though you can find them for less in “used, like new” condition on sites like Swappa, Back Market, and eBay

How to Get the iPhone 15 Unlocked

Preorders for the iPhone 15 start at 5 am Pacific time or 8 am Eastern time on September 15, 2023. They'll ship and be available in stores globally on September 22. 

I strongly recommend you buy your iPhone unlocked. When you want to switch carriers, it's less of a hassle to do it if you have an unlocked phone. You can buy all of these iPhones unlocked at Apple’s website. If you do choose to activate your network through Apple, the company says its carrier models are all unlocked—except for when you purchase an AT&T device on an installment plan.

Remember, there are no physical SIM trays in the iPhone anymore ever since the iPhone 14. It's pretty easy to switch over your phone number during the setup process if you're coming from an iPhone, but Android owners switching over may need to contact their carrier to make it work. 

The iPhone 15 starts at $829 at Apple for 128 GB.The iPhone 15 Plus starts at $929 at Apple for 128 GB.The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 at Apple for 128 GB.The iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199 at Apple for 256 GB.

If you buy the carrier version, you’ll automatically get a $30 discount off the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, bringing the prices down to $799 and $899. 

Deals on Network-Locked iPhone 15

Here are a few promotions that carriers are running on these iPhones. Keep in mind that most of these carriers offering discounts are doing so via monthly bill credits. A “$1,000 off” deal on an iPhone means you'll see your monthly bill lowered over the course of several months.

AT&T is offering the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 for free if you have an eligible trade-in for new and existing customers, you just have to be on any of the Unlimited Your Way plans. You can also get $830 off the iPhone 15 Plus or $1,000 off the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Verizon is offering up to $830 off the iPhone 15 lineup on certain Unlimited plans and if you trade in an eligible device. If you switch to Verizon or add a new line on an Unlimited Ultimate plan, you can get up to $1,000 off the iPhone 15 lineup if you trade in an older iPhone in any condition. Those going with the Unlimited Plus or Unlimited Welcome plans can get $830 or $415 off the lineup with an iPhone trade in. T-Mobile is offering an iPhone 15 Pro (or up to $1,000 off any iPhone 15 series), when you trade in an eligible device on its Go5G Plus or Go5G Next plans. You can also get up to $650 off an iPhone 15 series device on the Magenta Max plan, $350 off on Go5G and Magenta plans, or $200 off on nearly all other T-Mobile plans when you trade in an eligible device. If you pick up an iPhone 15 model, you can get $700 off the second one if you add a new line on almost all T-Mobile plans. 

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