iPhone 15 Pro Upgrade Guide: See How It Compares to Older iPhones
If you have an iPhone 12 Pro or earlier, there's a lot to gain from upgrading to the iPhone 15 Pro.
Lisa EadiciccoSenior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Apple promises faster performance and better cameras with every new iPhone, especially when it comes to the Pro models. And Apple delivers on those pledges with the iPhone 15 Pro, according to my colleague Patrick Holland who reviewed the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max at launch and continued testing them over the past month.
But that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth upgrading to the latest models. Those improvements don't come cheap, with the iPhone 15 Pro starting at $1,000 and the iPhone 15 Pro Max beginning at $1,199. Those prices become easier to swallow with carrier trade-in deals, but such discounts often require you to meet very specific circumstances, such as opening a new line or exchanging a relatively new phone.
Similar to the regular iPhone 15, the Pro model is best suited for those coming from an older model, like the iPhone 12 or earlier. There's plenty that's new with the iPhone 15 Pro, like the titanium body and new Action button, that make the phone feel fresh and different compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. But if you're coming from a device that's several years old, you'll likely find the longer battery life and performance improvements to be the driving factors behind your decision to upgrade.
Take a look at the comparisons below to decide whether it's the right time to upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro. If you're considering the standard iPhone 15 instead, check out our separate upgrade guide.
Watch this: One Month Check-In: We Tested the iPhone 15 Pro's and Pro Max's Batteries
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 15 Pro brings numerous improvements compared to the iPhone 14 Pro, including a lighter titanium build, the Action button for programming shortcuts, a USB-C port for universal charging and a camera that can capture photos at 24 megapixels by default. Apple also claims the new A17 Pro processor can run console-grade games.
As is the case with previous Pro models, the iPhone 15 Pro also includes some extras for mobile photographers and filmmakers. Videographers, for example, may appreciate the option to shoot in the log video format, which makes it easier to match footage from other devices for projects shot on more than one camera. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also has a 5x telephoto zoom, enabling it to capture closer shots than the 3x option on the iPhone 14 Pro.
Since the iPhone 15 Pro has Apple's second-generation ultra wideband chip, you can use your iPhone to more easily pinpoint another user's location in the Find My app. But this feature only works with other iPhone 15 owners since it requires Apple's new hardware. Ultra wideband is the proximity-detecting tech found in the iPhone 11 and later that makes it easier to AirDrop files to other devices and use your phone as a digital car key.
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites
Most of these changes further separate the iPhone 15 Pro from the regular iPhone 15 and make Apple's premium phone a more appealing option for those who want faster performance and a more capable camera. That said, you don't necessarily need to upgrade if you already have an iPhone 14 Pro.
While these tools are helpful, they're niche and may not impact the daily experience all that much, especially if you don't use your phone for film projects. While the Action button is useful, it's also a bit limiting in its current form since it can only trigger one feature at a time. As mentioned in CNET's iPhone 15 Pro review, there's potential for the Action button to bring more to the iPhone experience in the future, particularly if Apple makes it possible to program multiple types of shortcuts.
The A17 Pro is another example of a new feature that will likely grow more appealing over time as more games are optimized for it. The console versions of Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4 Remake, Death Stranding and Assassin's Creed Mirage will be available for the iPhone 15 Pro, and I can see the iPhone 15 Pro becoming more appealing for gamers once it supports more than a few titles.
The bottom line: Don't upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro just yet. Performance and battery life are likely still going strong, meaning there's plenty of life left in your phone. Some of the iPhone 15 Pro's most exciting new features, like the A17 Pro processor and Action button, will probably get better over time, meaning it's fine to wait for the next model, or even the one after that. Unless you can essentially get the iPhone 15 Pro for free through a trade-in deal, it's worth waiting
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro is only 2 years old, which means it's probably still running smoothly and battery life is long enough to get you through the day without concern. Since it has a relatively recent camera and processor, photos taken with this phone will look sharp and colorful enough for posting on your Instagram feed, sharing with friends and even printing small copies to hang on your wall.
The iPhone 15 Pro isn't a necessary upgrade for iPhone 13 Pro owners, but there are plenty of new features for those who do decide to make the jump. You'll be able to charge the iPhone 15 Pro with the same cable you probably use for other non-Apple products since it has USB-C. The camera has a higher-resolution sensor, which means you can capture more detail at 48-megapixels or 24-megapixels compared to the 12-megapixel sensor on the iPhone 13 Pro. And then of course, there's the new titanium design and Action button.
But keep in mind you're also getting everything that came with last year's iPhone 14 Pro, such as the Dynamic Island and always-on display. Taken together, these changes along with the Action button could make it easier to multitask without jumping between apps. You'll also get car crash detection and the option to contact emergency services via satellite if you're in a remote area, since both features arrived on last year's iPhone 14 Pro.
The bottom line: The iPhone 15 Pro isn't an upgrade that you need, but it might be one that you want coming from an iPhone 13 Pro. Apple's 2-year-old iPhone still has a lot going for it, so don't upgrade yet if you're still happy with it. But if you do splurge on the iPhone 15 Pro, it'll feel like more than just a refreshed version of your current phone. Be sure to see if you're eligible for a trade-in discount.
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro
The iPhone 12 Pro is very similar to the iPhone 13 Pro, so the same general advice applies. However, there's a stronger case for upgrading since the iPhone 12 Pro's processor is older, meaning it might be starting to slow down.
Battery life will also likely see a dramatic boost considering the iPhone 12 Pro is now 3 years old. One of the iPhone 13 Pro's biggest changes was longer battery life, and Apple has made further improvements since then. Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro's estimated 17 hours of video playback, the iPhone 15 Pro is said to get 23 hours.
The display is brighter on Apple's new phone, meaning it'll likely be easier to see outside in bright sunlight. The iPhone 12 Pro also lacks ProMotion, which is Apple's branding for displays that can boost their refresh rate, which should make scrolling feel smoother on the iPhone 15 Pro.
Apple has also thrown in some new photography features between generations, such as macro mode and Photographic Styles, which lets you customize a specific look for how the camera should capture photos. There's also cinematic mode for capturing footage with a shallow depth of field.
But those are just some of the aspects that separate the iPhone 12 Pro from the iPhone 13 Pro. Don't forget, you're also getting everything else Apple has added over the years, from the Action button to the Dynamic Island, a lighter titanium build, car crash detection and emergency SOS via satellite.
The bottom line: The iPhone 15 Pro is a worthwhile upgrade coming from the iPhone 12 Pro, but you should really only upgrade if you're starting to feel performance and battery life slowing down.
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 11 Pro
The iPhone 11 Pro is now 4 years old, meaning it's a good time to upgrade if you're feeling like your phone isn't what it used to be. Aside from jumping from a 4-year-old processor to Apple's brand-new A17 Pro, just about everything else will feel new -- from the screen to the camera.
Perhaps most importantly, the iPhone 11 Pro doesn't support 5G, meaning you may be missing out on faster connection speeds. Apple didn't add 5G compatibility to its phones until the iPhone 12 launched in 2020.
The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max have smaller screens than the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, so you'll get some extra real estate for watching videos, reading the news and browsing email. The 11 Pro has a 5.8-inch display, while the 11 Pro Max has a 6.5-inch display, compared to the iPhone 15 Pro's and Pro Max's respective 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screens. There's a lot more that's new about the iPhone 15 Pro's screen; size is just the start. You'll also gain the Dynamic Island, ProMotion, always-on mode and increased brightness.
Camera quality is another area where you're bound to see a lot of improvements. Since the iPhone 11 Pro's camera is four generations old, you're getting the culmination of all the photo and video improvements Apple has added over the years.
Watch this: I Upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max: Was It Worth It?
Aside from the new 48-megapixel sensor and aforementioned features like cinematic mode and the ability to turn almost any photo into a portrait, you can also take portraits in night mode and capture night mode images with the front camera. You'll also get a closer optical zoom (3x on the 15 Pro, 5x on the 15 Pro Max) compared to the iPhone 11 Pro's 2x zoom. Apple's image processing pipeline has also improved over the years, so you should see a step up in general image quality too.
The iPhone 11 Pro also lacks a lidar sensor, which isn't a deal breaker but could be important depending on what you use your phone for. The lidar sensor's depth-sensing capabilities can help the camera focus faster, improve performance in augmented reality apps and enable accessibility features like People Detection, which can help blind users tell when other people are nearby.
You'll also be able to use MagSafe accessories, like cases and wireless chargers that snap more easily to the back of your phone, with the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max. And don't forget about all the other features Apple has introduced in the last two years, such as the Action button, satellite connectivity for emergencies and car crash detection.
The bottom line: If you have an iPhone 11 Pro, it's definitely worth upgrading. From 5G to a brand-new processor, larger screen, multitasking features like the Action button and Dynamic Island, and a superior camera, everything about this phone will feel new. If you bought the cheapest version of the iPhone 11 Pro at launch, you're also probably struggling to store photos and videos since the entry-level model only came with 64GB of storage compared to the 128GB found on newer iPhones.
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone XS
The iPhone has come a long way in the last five years, and that shows when comparing the 2018-era iPhone XS to the iPhone 15 Pro. The iPhone XS lacks a couple of features that are considered standard in many of today's phones, namely 5G support and an ultrawide camera for taking broader shots.
By upgrading to the iPhone 15 Pro, you'll gain all of the features mentioned above in our comparison with the iPhone 11 Pro. That includes 5G support, a much sharper camera, more camera modes, MagSafe compatibility, a depth-sensing lidar sensor, and a larger and brighter screen (5.8 inches versus 6.1 inches for the regular Pro, 6.5 inches versus 6.7 inches for the Pro Max).
But Apple added a handful of new capabilities starting with the iPhone 11 that the iPhone XS family also lacks, making an even stronger case for upgrading. The most notable is night mode for the camera, which means you'll barely have to use your camera's flash when taking photos in dark environments. There's also the previously mentioned ultrawide camera, a sharper front-facing camera (7 megapixels versus 12 megapixels) and the ultra wideband chip.
This, of course, just scratches the surface, considering there's a lot more that's new in the iPhone 15 Pro, from significantly longer battery life to the Dynamic Island and the 48-megapixel camera.
The bottom line: If you have an iPhone XS or XS Max, it's time to upgrade. Apple's 5-year-old phone lacks staple features like 5G, and performance and battery life will likely start to dwindle soon if they haven't already. The iPhone XS is also the last generation to get new iOS version updates, meaning you'll be missing out on new features come next year.