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Forget the Pro Max, the iPhone 15 is the most overpriced iPhone

Left to pick up the crumbs, the iPhone 15 has fallen far behind its Android competitors.
By
September 19, 2023
Apple iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro Max backs
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

$1,199 for the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max is undoubtedly expensive. In fact, it’s Apple’s priciest iPhone ever, but at least you’re trading that cash in for the brand’s latest and greatest mobile technology. At the other end of the portfolio lies the poor, neglected iPhone 15. While much more affordable at $799, it lacks the cutting-edge appeal of Apple’s Pro range, often left waiting for older features to trickle down.

That trickle has slowed to a drip. As such, the regular iPhone 15 compares quite poorly on a spec-by-spec basis against the best Android phones in the same price bracket. While the Pro Max might be expensive, it’s the iPhone 15 that’s actually overpriced for what it offers.

iPhone 15 specs are well off the pace

To get our bearings, let’s quickly review the staple features you’ll find across Android flagships in the $799 price bracket.

Starting with the display, high-refresh-rate 120Hz OLED panels are the norm (increasingly in the mid-tier too), and variable refresh rates to save on battery life are also increasingly common. The iPhone 15 is stuck with a dated 60Hz fixed refresh rate that looks and feels comparatively sluggish when scrolling through your favorite websites. Once you’ve sampled 120Hz, going back to 60Hz feels decidedly budget.

Likewise, Apple reserves its Always-on Display (AOD) feature for its Pro model, while several Android manufacturers, including Google and Samsung, offer it on their more affordable phones. Apple is really shortchanging its customers when it comes to display technology.

Sony Xperia 5 IV vs Apple iPhone 14 cameras
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Flip the latest iPhone over, and you’ll spot another area that Apple is scrimping on. Yes, the iPhone 15 now boasts a larger, high-resolution 48MP rear camera (finally closing an old gap with the best camera phones). However, the model is stuck with an old ultrawide lens and still lacks any optical zoom capabilities. And no, Apple’s 2x telephoto fancy crop is not real competition for a dedicated 2x or 3x lens.

Android is flush with crisper camera options at this price, from the OnePlus 11’s 2x lens, the Galaxy S23 3x telephoto shooting option, or the 3.2x optical capabilities of the Xiaomi 13. Tangentially, the $899 dual-camera iPhone 15 Plus is no match for the flexibility of the $849 Pixel 7 Pro’s zoom setup either.

While a lesser offense, Apple’s choice to use older silicon is also a step down from its competitors. The A16 Bionic is certainly no slouch after just a year, but equally affordable Android flagships regularly tout the latest and greatest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Furthermore, next year’s rival flagships are set for a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 upgrade, complete with graphics chops that’ll blow Apple’s last-gen chip out of the water.

A sluggish display, older chip, and less flexible camera hardware doesn't stand up to the competition.

Similarly, battery life has never been particularly stellar with the smaller iPhone, and the 15 model doesn’t seem to be any larger than its predecessor. Perhaps worse, last year’s iPhone models have been criticized for losing peak capacity quicker than other brands, suggesting that Apple is cheaping out on inferior cells. But there is a decent selection of compact smartphones that offer solid all-day battery life and sometimes even more.

Even what’s new is often old with Apple. The budget iPhone 15s don’t even support fast data transfer speeds, despite the long overdue move to USB-C. They’re stuck with the outdated USB 2.0 protocol, which is far slower than you’ll see in modern Android phones.

Between the display, battery, USB-C tech, and middling camera setup, the Apple iPhone 15 has a lot of drawbacks and very few hardware wins to lord over competitors in its price bracket.

The best Android alternatives to the iPhone 15

samsung galaxy s23 quick settings
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

To Apple’s credit, other key design aspects compare well against its Android rivals. NFC, Ultra-wideband, an IP68 rating, Bluetooth 5.3, and long-term update support are accounted for. However, you’ll still find Android alternatives with faster charging, the latest Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 capabilities, and fan favorites like a headphone jack. Perhaps those are less important to general customers, but it goes to show that there are plenty of competitors worth looking at.

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 ($799 at Amazon) is the Apple iPhone 15’s most direct competitor. It has a slicker, 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED display with AOD, an additional camera for distant zoom, faster wired charging, and faster USB 3.2 data speeds, for exactly the same price as the latest iPhone.

Android isn't short of more powerful hardware combinations for iPhone 15 money.

Spend just a fraction more, and the excellent Google Pixel 7 Pro ($526.86 at Amazon) nets you faster wireless charging, a 10-120Hz LTPO display, 5x long-range zoom photography, and a huge 5,000mAh battery. In Europe, the Xiaomi 13 ($790.99 at eBay) is the same price and comes with a big battery, brilliant camera setup with optical zoom, 120Hz display, 8K video recording, blazing fast wired charging, Wi-Fi 7 support, and twice the storage of its competitors.

Of course, the iPhone 15 has an appeal that transcends hardware features, such as the new satellite-powered Roadside Assistance. Those embedded in Apple’s software ecosystem might need more convincing to switch sides, but those looking for solid value for money should consider an alternative to the overpriced iPhone 15.