It's no surprise that Apple's new iPhone 15 is the year's hottest smartphone, but should you actually upgrade? As an iPhone owner since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 4 way back in 2010, this is a question I wrestle with on an annual basis, as unlike when you buy an Pad, you just can't expect a handset to outlast multiple Presidents. Here's what I've learned over the last decade and why I'm roundly rejecting the iPhone 15 in 2023.
Deciding whether or not to upgrade to a new iPhone is a personal question and depends on your individual circumstances. While I'm about to tell you why buying the iPhone 15 right now is a rotten idea for most people, it isn't for everyone. If you're still rolling with an iPhone 8, for instance, it may be time to pony up for a new model regardless.
However, if like many iPhone owners you tend to upgrade every two or three years, then you're no doubt considering the iPhone 15 right now. As a current iPhone 12 Pro owner, that's the position I find myself in. Sadly, there are just too many issues with the iPhone 15, which is why I categorically won't be upgrading. More than that, I think it's the worst new iPhone upgrade in years, possibly ever. Here's why.
1. iPhone 15 Pro Max Screen Feels the Burn-in
At the top of the iPhone 15 family tree sits the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which will set you back a cool $1,200 if you buy it outright. For that kind of money, you could be forgiven for expecting a pretty flawless product. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be case.
Since its release, owners of the new iPhone 15 Pro Max have flooded social media as well as Reddit and the Apple's own community forums with numerous reports of screen burn-in on the new device. Burn-in is when a display's brightness levels “burn-in” through the panel and cause everything on the screen to appear faded, to the point of being usable.
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Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max is reportedly experiencing screen burn-in issues, adding to a growing list of problems for the company this year.#iPhone15Series #iphone15pro #Apple pic.twitter.com/HDsQ0iccHw
— Tarun Vats (@tarunvats33) October 11, 2023
It's a common problem with OLED display technology, which is what the iPhone 15 Pro Max features. Most electronics manufacturers, including those of OLED TVs that operate at similarly high brightness levels as what Apple's handset promises, have found a way to mitigate screen burn-in as an issue.
Apple clearly has not, even though iPhone screen burn has been a recurring issue for its handsets and I can remember a smattering of similar reports around the iPhone 11 launch.
However, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the worst instance yet. As much as anything, screen burn is a problem you expect to develop over time and with prolonged usage at high brightness levels – not a few weeks after launch. It's a massive red flag for me and one of the biggest reason I'm steering clear of the new models.
2. Overheating Adds to Hot Mess of iPhone 15 Problems
Closely linked to this is another major iPhone 15 problem: overheating.
Anecdotally, new iPhone owners have taken to social media to report that their devices are getting too hot to handle – and not in a good way. Specifically, things like fast-charging and intensive gaming, which are features promised by the iPhone 15 Pro in particular, are apparently leading to the handset overheating.
Jeeez my iPhone 15 Pro Max is almost too hot to touch while fast charging rn…
— Ian Zelbo (@ianzelbo) September 25, 2023
The issue was so bad at launch that Apple rushed out a fix in the form of iOS 17.0.3, which it promised would address the issue. However, the latest thermal testing conducted by outlets such as ZDNet and its sources, shows that the device is still clocking temperatures in excess of 107 degrees (Fahrenheit), even after the update.
Worse still, some iPhone 15 Pro Max owners are reporting that overheating as a problem has only just flared up since they installed the iOS 17.0.3 update.
Pro Max, it’s something todo with the camera, or photos, or videos. It wasn’t happening to me before 17.0.3!
— Sam Harman (@sammio2) October 11, 2023
A certain amount of teething problems are to be expected with the latest devices and, more specifically, the new software they run. However, couple with the screen burn-in reports, reports of persistent iPhone overheating and a potentially botched iOS update, suggest to me that Apple has simply packed too much into this device, at the expense of stability.
My trusty iPhone 12 Pro? I've got the overheating warning once, by a pool over the summer when it was north of 100 degrees out. That's the kind of problem you'd expect. What's going on right now with the iPhone 15 overheating looks much more serious.
3. Is Troublesome Titanium To Blame?
What's really to blame for the messy launch of the iPhone 15? I'm going to address the software side of things shortly, but according to some Apple experts the real culprit might be Apple's decision to adopt a new titanium design with its iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max duo.
On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer: a premium new material for Apple's most premium new phone. However, the problem is that titanium reacts differently to heat. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo notes that Apple made “compromises” in order to give the iPhone 15 Pro a seemingly deluxe new feel, with the reduced weight of titanium coming with a massive trade-off
“The primary cause is more likely the compromises made in the thermal system design to achieve a lighter weight, such as the reduced heat dissipation area and the use of a titanium frame, which negatively impacts thermal efficiency,” Kuo writes on his Medium blog.
For me, this is the biggest proof yet that Apple is valuing style over substance and means Apple fans like myself have to ask themselves an question: have the Android aficionados have been right all along? With rash design decisions like this, that look great on a spec sheet but perform woefully in the real world, they just might be.
4. iOS 17 Issues Are Absolutely Everywhere
You'd think we'd have exhausted the list of iPhone 15 problems by now, but sadly we're only ready to pivot from its hardware to its software woes.
Chief among these is the fact that, while there are some great new iOS 17 features, the latest iOS 17.0.3 release may have introduced a strange new quirk to the iPhone 15: the smartphone turning itself off overnight.
Among those to report this iOS 17 issue were 9To5Mac writer Zac Hall, who noticed that he was asked to input his passcode as well as Face ID. At first, he thought nothing of it – until he noticed numerous other users experiencing the same issue on Reddit.
This prompted him to investigate his iPhone's battery data, which clearly showed a four hour or so gap when his new iPhone 15 Pro Max was charging overnight.
We're all for spooky season, but this one strikes us as especially strange.
It's not the only iOS 17 problem doing the rounds, either: from Wi-Fi issues to an emergency security patch already being rushed out by Apple, the new operating system looks half-baked at best. The security failings are particularly worrying and you might need to use an iPhone VPN or iPhone password manager to fully protect your device and its data.
Anyone of you got an iPhone 15 Pro? Wondering if it's just me but the wifi connectivity is a joke most of the time!? I've returned to Apple from Samsung but I'm not amused right now …
— ganweaving.bsky.social (@GanWeaving) September 29, 2023
For some, the answer is simple enough: don't update to iOS 17. The problem is, if you buy a new iPhone 15, you don't have a choice. Until Apple can prove it has ironed out iOS 17's many creases, it's just another reason to stick with your old iPhone for now.
Verdict: Don't Upgrade To iPhone 15, Get a Better Deal Elsewhere
By now, you probably get the idea: I'm no fan of the iPhone 15 and am content to stick with my slightly archaic iPhone 12 Pro for another year if I have to.
The good news is, that's not my only option and nor is it yours. Whenever a new iPhone launches, prices of Apple's older models drop considerably. To use an iPhone 14 as an example, its official price at Apple has dropped by $100 across the board, so down to $699 (from $799) for the entry-level iPhone 14.
Delve further into the Apple back catalogue and you'll enjoy bigger discounts still. With the spectacle of Black Friday 2023 now looming large, the year's best iPhone deals are firmly on the horizon, so wait just a couple of weeks to get an iPhone 13 or 14 at a fraction of the price of the new version that'll burn a hole in your pocket in more ways than one.
Put simply, right now is one of the best times to buy to a new iPhone – just not the iPhone 15.