I never thought I'd end up publicly defending the iPhone.
In fact, for a long time, I never thought I'd even use an iPhone.
But eventually, I had to concede I wouldn't be much of a tech reviewer if I was ignoring over 40% of the market out of hand.
What's more, once I actually tried a few iPhones out, I had to concede some of them were pretty damn good.
I'm not denying there are still things about the Apple ecosystem that frustrate the hell out of me but I'm no longer one of those people who hate on Apple as a matter of principle. When I write these reviews and trial these products my opinions are based on honest experience with each device.
That's why I've found the latest furore around the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max so confounding.
First things first; you know those frustrations about Apple products I just mentioned I still have? This year's Pro-model iPhones are significant upgrades if for no other reason than they address some of my personal pet peeves head-on.
Perhaps most well-publicised is the move to a USB-C charging port for the first time. While Apple's MacBooks and iPads have been using the same USB-C standard as everyone else for some time, the iPhone range has been mysteriously holding out, their old-school lightning ports stubbornly incompatible with any convenient USB-C cables lying around the place and also depriving users of the opportunity of shorter charging times and much faster data transfer speeds.
Who knows if the EU regulations to standardise charging formats were the catalyst or if Apple would have made the change of its own accord? I don't care. I'm just happy one cable now charges anything. Although... While all four iPhone 15 models now sport USB-C ports, only the Pro and Pro Max are capable of USB 3.0 speeds. And yet the very nice braided cable included in the box is only USB 2.0. A faster cable will cost you extra. Oh well.
Another feature I've been missing on iPhone over the years is a proper telephoto lens. Again, this year Apple has well and truly stepped up with a 5 X zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and 3 X on the Pro I'm reviewing. This seems to be a matter of simple physics; the Pro Max is just plain bigger, so it can accommodate a larger telephoto sensor. Either way, it now means an extra quick setting in the camera app; .5 for Ultra Wide shots, 1 X, 2 X and now 3 X (or presumably 5 X on the Max? Not sure). This is fantastic news and makes a massive difference for both video and stills - crisp clear shots from distance and also, a new macro setting for extreme close-ups.
Technically, for you pro shooters out there, the rear camera array has had quite the overhaul, now boasting the equivalent of seven pro lenses depending on which focal length, zoom setting and resolution you opt for. While you can manually choose to capture large 48MP HEIF or ProRAW images (perhaps better for post-production editing) when you let the camera do its thing automatically, it will combine a the best of several different shots to bring you the ultimate pic. I've certainly been impressed by how "real" the photos are and I particularly appreciate the uniform colour and quality across all lens options.
You don't even need to be in Portrait mode to shoot portraits either - you can manually select your focus point and blur the background, even after you've taken the shot. Yes, you read that right; it's now possible you've taken the perfect portrait without even meaning to. This works with the selfie camera too - you can change the depth-of-field effect after you've taken the photo.
Another fun trick is the ability to copy your edits from one photo to a selection of others in your library simultaneously. For example, if you want to change every photo you took today to black-and-white, you don't have to filter each one separately, you can do a bulk edit within the Photos app.
This kind of wizardry works seamlessly thanks to the almighty power of the A17 Pro chip and the significantly revamped iOS 17.
We'll get back to that chip shortly but first, a few fun things about the new operating system - starting with knocking off yet another of my historical peeves; proper widgets. At long last iOS 17 means instead of a handful of lame, static tiles on your home screen, app developers can now make their widgets much more interactive; like being able to play and pause podcasts directly from the widget without having to open the app. Hey Apple users, just so you know, this is not new - not by a long shot - but it's certainly welcome.
Another nifty iOS 17 trick you may have seen publicised is the new StandBy mode. This kicks in automatically when you're charging your iPhone positioned on its side, typically on a MagSafe charging stand. Not only will this convert your screen into an always-on bedside clock and calendar, it can also show other apps and notifications in landscape mode. When I'm driving, I keep my phone on a MagSafe charging cradle and now it shows me the podcast I'm listening to complete with episode art and a progress bar.
In further major upgrade news, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro have replaced the traditional mute switch on the side with the new Action Button. This is a customisable way to fire off actions like Focus Mode or Torch, open the Camera app or access an action you've already set up in the Shortcuts app. And yes, you can mute the phone with it if you like. Unfortunately, not all apps are compatible with Apple Shortcuts but happily for me, I can resume playing my preferred podcast app with a long press.
Now... about this overheating thing. If indeed it is a thing. From the day the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max started shipping to consumers (and reviewers) it was widely reported the new handsets were prone to running hot when put under stress. Apparently playing games with demanding graphics settings or other high-resource tasks like video editing or continuous HD streaming were causing some devices to become uncomfortably hot in the hand.
I read several articles about this phenomenon, from sources I trust and yet, try as I might, I've been unable to replicate the problem or anything close to it. I've tried to push the iPhone 15 Pro to its limits in a number of ways and not once have I detected even a mild rise in temperature.
As I publish this, there has been another iOS 17 update overnight, which is partly supposed to address these issues. All I can tell you is I haven't experienced any overheating whatsoever - either before or after the update. Unfortunately, I believe Apple has fallen victim to an out-of-proportion social media response to a few isolated cases.
The negative Nancies out there have also been quick to criticise Apple's new "FineWoven" cases and MagSave wallets, replacing leather in a more carbon-neutral fashion. Again, I don't get what their problem is. I think FineWoven looks great and feels very luxurious.
All I know for sure is the handset I've been trying out for the last week or so is easily the best iPhone I've used to date. Physical upgrades like the telephoto lens and USB-C charging port combine with software tweaks like StandBy mode and interactive widgets to alleviate the few final frustrations I still harboured when switching between Android and iOS.
For once, don't believe the hype - well, not the negative hype anyway. As far as I'm concerned, this is a very cool phone.
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