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Thoughts on the new iPhones

Now that Apple has introduced and shipped their new iPhone 15 series, I have some initial impressions. While I don’t own any of the models, I have tried an iPhone 15 Pro Max and currently own a 3 year old iPhone 12 Pro Max.

They both are similar in size and in appearance. While the 15 has a titanium frame (more decorative than structural), with slightly camphered edges, they both look and feel much the same. And once you add a protective case, all differences are hidden.

The main difference of the 15 Pro Max, aside from a faster processor, connector and mute switch, is its 120mm 5X camera lens that replaces the 70mm lens in earlier models, still leaving the camera with 3 lenses. I tried this camera out and it produces some moderately sharp telephoto images that are slightly better than the 12 Pro Max which crops an image from the 70 mm lens to get the same result.

But remember that all cameras in iPhones (and other phones) are very different than images made on conventional cameras. The iPhone camera is a conventional camera combined with an advanced version of Photoshop-like software that applies a huge amount of computation to whatever image you shoot. It changes colors, contrast, focus, how much of and which sensor is used, and dozens of other factors – all nearly instantaneous of touching the shutter button. So, as Apple advances its micropocessor, its software, sensors and lenses, it’s impacting the quality of your pictures. In fact, you may not even be aware of which lens it uses to take the image you compose. It’s all hidden from us. The results are that these images always improve with new camera models, and this is certainly the case of their latest models. The only question is what you have good enough or are you going to appreciate the improvements?

The biggest disappointment -something I’ve said year after year – is the time between charging rarely moves, and this is the case this year. While surveys have shown about 70% of users want a longer battery as their biggest reason to upgrade, Apple stubbornly ignores that request, trading slimness over battery size. If Apple offered a phone slightly thicker that would increase the battery size by 30-50%, I’d be first in line.

As to whether you should upgrade to an iPhone 15 series, it’s more dependent on what you have now. I would not upgrade from a 12 or newer model. Even if your battery is run down, it’s easy to have Apple replace it for about $80. If you’re happy with your current 12 or newer, there’s always the risk of trading it for a potential problem or an unexpected annoyance. For example iPhone 14 owners have complained about their battery degrading much faster than normal. Some report their one year old phone shows a battery with less than 90% capacity left, similar to 2 or 3 years of use on other models. At 80% Apple considers the battery to require replacement. So buying something new doesn’t always buy something better.