There was a moment during Apple’s Wonderlust event last week where I wondered if maybe the iPhone 15 Plus was enough for me. Then the iPhone 15 Pro Max segment began and the lust set in. I have to give the standard iPhone 15 line kudos for being extremely compelling, all the same.
Optical zoom is a must-have for me
The iPhone 7 Plus in 2016 spoiled me. It was the first to feature a telephoto lens, bringing 2x optical zoom to the iPhone. The iPhone X (and, for some, 8 Plus) followed in 2017, and each successor since has had 2x, 2.5x, 3x, and now 5x.
The telephoto lens has stayed a “Pro” feature all this time. iPhone 11 added a second lens to the non-Pro model, but Apple opted for an ultra wide lens instead of telephoto.
I really think this decision has helped sell Pro models over the years. 2x shots have way more utility, at least for me, than 0.5x shots. The counter argument, I guess, is that you can digitally zoom to 2x, but you can’t digitally zoom out to 0.5x.
Anyway, the only iPhone purchase I’ve regretted is the iPhone 13. I changed carriers mid-cycle and opted for the cheaper model. That cemented the need for 2x or greater optical zoom for me.
What I look for in an iPhone
So what I look for in a new iPhone is the most modern display design, optical zoom, and the best battery life.
iPhone 15 Plus ditches the notch in favor of the Dynamic Island just like the 14 Pro and 15 Pro. I missed variable refresh rate ProMotion during my time with the 13, but that and Always-On Display aren’t essential for me.
In the audio playback battery life test, iPhone 15 Plus bests iPhone 15 Pro Max with 100 hours versus 95 hours. The Max still wins on video and streaming video playback, though.
Apple has tweaked the optical zoom level on Pro and Pro Max phones over the years. The difference between 2x to 2.5x to 3x has been interesting. 2x or higher is all I feel like I need, though.
48MP 2x zoom trick
iPhone 15 and 15 Plus manage to pull off 2x without an added telephoto lens, however. That’s thanks to the new 48MP sensor behaving as a cropped sensor. It still preserves plenty of resolution, and the aperture lets in more light than Apple’s telephoto lenses.
2x zoom on the main camera has actually been my favorite feature on the iPhone 14 Pro. I use it more than the dedicated 3x zoom telephoto lens.
I anticipate 5x optical zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max will be another story given the delta between 2x and 5x versus 2x and 3x. That, and the interesting new titanium frame, has me fully in the iPhone 15 Pro Max camp this year.
That doesn’t diminish how great the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus models are this year. If the Max didn’t exist, I really think I’d buy the iPhone 15 Plus over the iPhone 15 Pro.
I adore the new “Is that really blue?” color on the iPhone 15 line. It just screams chill to me. I really love this shot from The Verge. If my 15 Pro Max hops in the ocean after six months, I would seriously consider replacing it with a blue 15 Plus to hold me over until the next generation.
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