Apple iPhone 15 Pro long-term review

GSMArena Team, 19 April 2024.

Software

The iPhone 15 Pro shipped with iOS 17 last year and is running 17.4.1 at the time of this writing.

iOS 17 has been less than ideal at times during our usage. We have seen iOS stability slip a few times in the past and there have been some legendary releases that are now known only for being buggy (we are looking at you, iOS 13). While iOS 17 has been nowhere near as bad, it has been far from reliable. While most of the issues can best be described as minor, the overall frequency of them has been notable and unbecoming of a phone at this price point.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro long-term review

Many of the other gripes are not necessarily with iOS 17 specifically but with iOS in general. It's one thing that the launcher does not let you arrange icons with empty spaces (although we hear that may be changing soon) but it's another how frustrating it is to move icons wherever you want. It often feels impossible to move an icon to where another icon already is and have that icon move to make space. Instead, the OS keeps assuming you want to make a new folder. And if you want to move an icon inside the folder, the folder just refuses to open and instead moves around to make space. It's as if no actual human has ever used this basic feature before shipping it as there is no other explanation why it is so incredibly frustrating and hard to use.

The OS is also filled with animations that take far too long to end. Swiped to a picture in the Photos app and quickly want to double tap to zoom? Too bad, it won't work because the photo is still slowly sliding into place even though it looked like it stopped moving. Only when the animation completely stops will it accept the double tap gesture to zoom and it's hard to tell when exactly it stops.

Then there is the lockscreen. Never mind the fact that the flashlight and camera icons can neither be removed nor replaced, but why does the camera icon exist at all? You can swipe left on the lockscreen to launch the camera, a gesture all iPhone users are familiar with because of how often you accidentally trigger it by simply holding the phone in your hand while walking (it happens less often if you use a case). So why is there a button that needs to be pressed and held to do the exact same thing but slower?

Maybe this is also a good time to mention how a down swipe on the homescreen brings up Spotlight, a gesture that has existed on the iPhone forever but has rarely ever made sense as most people would rather access the Notification Center or the Control Center instead. To this day there is no way to change this gesture so instead we had to resort to using the double and triple-tap accessibility gestures on the back of the phone to access notifications and settings. The only problem is that these gestures trigger far too easily when you don't want to and not easily enough when you want to.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro long-term review

We also had issues with many of the third-party apps for the platform. Just to preface this, Apple has several clearly laid out human interface guidelines for its developer community, and many developers out there are making exceptional apps for the platform that are some of the finest, period. However, a lot of the apps on the platform come from regions where Android is predominant, and the developers there seem to simply not understand that navigation on iOS works fundamentally differently.

iOS relies on the back swipe gesture by the app for navigation. It's also not the same as the back swipe gesture on Android, which simply emulates a back button press and is handled by the OS. On Android, an app doesn't have to have a back navigation gesture because the OS takes care of it. On iOS, the app needs to support the said gesture otherwise there is no easy way to navigate. Many developers just forget this part and think adding a back button at the top is how you implement the back navigation gesture in the app. This results in a poor experience for the user as the back swipe gesture they are used to does not work and they have to stretch their thumb every time to hit the back button on the top.

It's not uncommon to come across comments from users complaining about how navigation on iOS is worse than on Android because the button is hard to reach. In reality, that button is merely a backup solution and any good app following Apple's HIG should have a back swipe gesture built-in. But so many apps these days don't because their developers are clueless or only used to building for Android and the end result is frustration for the user and animosity towards the platform as a whole. Apple needs to do better here by either educating developers used to building for Android or simply having the OS itself detect a back swipe and emulate a back gesture.

Another perplexing thing about iOS is just how many interactions and gestures are completely obscure. You could be using the phone a certain way for years only to find out through a TikTok video that there was an easier way to do it through a gesture that no one knows. Text editing alone has a dozen different gestures you could be using to make your life easier but for some reason, Apple rarely ever talks about them.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro long-term review

We could go on with the complaints and trust us, there is a lot to work with here. iOS has become a quagmire of poor design decisions that have piled on over the years and will likely stay that way as the company cannot afford to give a whiplash to its users with a completely revamped design; we all saw how that went down when iOS 7 was released.

The side effect of this is that anyone moving over from Android often has an immediately worse user experience because so many things just feel counterintuitive. The old adage of iOS being easier to use just doesn't hold true anymore. If you are a long-time user then navigating these quirks and inconveniences may have become second nature but a user completely new to smartphones will likely find stock Android much easier to grasp than iOS with all its idiosyncrasies, not to mention a lot more customizable if something doesn't sit right with them.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. There are some things iOS does better than its competition and many of them are quite aspirational. The focus on security and privacy has been a rallying cry for the company for years and as far as we can tell Apple has always put its money where its mouth is. Never mind the bigger picture things, simply being able to hit 'Ask App Not to Track' every time the pop-up appears is incredibly gratifying knowing full well the app no longer has any idea what's going on the rest of your device. You are unlikely to see that on Android any time soon as it would be pretty hypocritical of Google to stop other apps from tracking your usage when Google itself does it all the time.

Then there is the software update policy. Other companies have now started promising even longer software support but as of now they are simply castles in the air. Apple never put a figure on its support duration but the company's track record speaks for itself and if there's one thing you are guaranteed with an iPhone it's long-term software support.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro long-term review

Then there's the App Store. While it may not please Tim Sweeney and the EU very much, the App Store is home to some of the best apps you can find on any platform. But what truly sets it apart is the quality of games that you can get. While this has always been true, the recent release of top-shelf AAA titles such as Resident Evil 4 and Death Stranding puts iOS in a completely different league compared to Android even though the latter has innumerable gaming-focused devices. And if you want more, Apple Arcade offers access to a wide range of excellent titles without any ads or in-app purchases, some of which are developed specifically for the platform.

So yes, there are still many valid reasons to move to or stick with iOS. Some may even say the presence of iMessage alone justifies that decision, although we aren't American enough to agree. Also, with the EU breathing down Apple's neck, the company may be forced into making several other changes that should bring iOS closer in line with Android. While the company does seem to be fighting this in the end we think it will be good for the consumers and the platform as a whole.

Reader comments

The 120Hz display will make everything you do on your phone feel a lot faster and smoother. It might be just a small quality of life thing but after using a phone with a 120Hz display for 3 years it would feel terrible going back to a 60Hz one. ...

  • DM
  • 16 Jun 2024
  • CJ9

Type C maybe?

  • Sambino
  • 23 May 2024
  • krv

Been running a base iphone 12 64gb since 2021. Replaced the battery once with chinesium-ion last summer. Photo dump once a year to avoid bogging down. That's the only time the phone slows down. Give me some reasons to upgrade, because I can...