So, you need a smartphone that is capable, and long-lasting. I mean, you never know when you’ll have to make the Kessel Run, or evade Imperial ships in your Naboo Royal Cruiser in low-power mode, unable to charge your phone for a few cycles.
As a result of one of my trips to Disney's Galaxy’s Edge where I went on a Smuggler’s Run and witnessed the Rise of the Resistance, I’m convinced now more than ever that the iPhone 15 Plus is the best iPhone for most inhabitants of this universe. Yes, even those in the outer systems. This is the way!
These are my experiences after a demanding trip to Disneyland in California, with the iPhone 15 Plus.
If you’ve read Stephen Warwick’s detailed iPhone 15 Plus review, you’re already aware that the iPhone has the big camera sensor from the iPhone 14 Pro. That’s 48 megapixels to get you larger and more detailed photos but most importantly a larger sensor equals better low-light imaging.
We’ll dive into that more in a bit. In addition, you will now have USB-C for charging, cable included. The display is brighter, coming in at 1000 nits max brightness, 1600 nits peak viewing HDR content, and 2000 nits peak outdoor brightness. And, of course, this year the non-pro models get Dynamic Island.
Taking the iPhone to the most magical place on Earth
All of those “on paper” details are important, but what does using the iPhone 15 Plus look like in real life? Well, with those details out of the way, let’s explore Star Wars World, or as it is officially called at Disneyland, Galaxy’s Edge.
My day began around 8AM, but I didn’t take my phone off of the charger until around 10AM. That’s an important piece of information because the iPhone 15 Plus has more stamina than the Energizer Bunny, and is quite capable of cutting through any task you throw at it like a lightsaber, with its 4,383 mAh battery and the A16 Bionic processor found in last year’s 14 Pro. I’ll deal with that a bit more in detail at the end of this article as I wrap up my day and experience using the phone at the Mouse House.
One of the immediate highlights of using the iPhone 15 Plus over last year’s iPhone 14 Plus is the redesigned body. It features more rounded edges, a departure from the sharper edges of last year’s model, making it more pleasing in hand. And the new “color-infused” glass back features a frosted, matte-feeling finish which doesn’t soak up fingerprints like before. A plus when you’re going to be eating some potentially greasy food, including my all-time favorite Disneyland fried fare, CHURROS.
Splash Mountain wasn’t running this year but it’s good to know that I can come back when they’ve renovated the ride to feature Princess Tiana and I don’t have to worry about soaking the phone because it’s IP68 rated.
With a pocketable device as powerful as the Millennium Falcon, it might seem “small” to say that the camera is the most important aspect of a smartphone, but for many people it is. So what do you miss out on if you don’t choose one of Apple’s premium “Pro” models with their three camera systems? For the average user? Not much, to be honest. Let’s get into some photo samples I took on dark rides, and at night while visiting the “
spookiest happiest place on earth” during their Halloween-themed season.
From the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, this is a dark, terribly lit shot. Not one I would post, even to social media. That said, I wanted to show that in extreme low light conditions on the Pirates of the Caribbean, the shots were pretty close in quality. Again, I qualify the poor quality by telling you that I was on a moving boat ride, in very dark conditions.
Difficult for any camera because the lower the light, the more steady you need to be holding the camera. Try doing that on a boat that isn’t just moving forward but is also rocking a bit, side-to-side.
Here we have pirates at the dunking well. Even in the low light, the cameras did a decent job capturing the colors and many details but the iPhone 15 Plus had sharper details than the 15 Pro Max. I chalk that up more to movement than camera quality.
Now, in better lighting conditions you can see how the cameras stack up. Blowing these up on my Mac, when pixel peeping, the differences are obvious in the sharpness and contrast. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is superior. But again, not so much so that sharing these to social media you’re going to see a significant difference.
Here’s how the front cameras do in low light. When I zoom in on the teacups, the 15 Pro Max is sharper and has more detail, but again… you have to pixel peep to see it. Also, contrast is a bit better on the Pro Max but this isn’t frightfully different.
And I’ll end this brief photo comparison with one of my favorite captures from the evening. This shot of the jack-o-lantern outside of the Haunted Mansion. Again, another instance of shots which aren’t that significantly different in quality. Pixel peeping shows the difference, but again, it isn’t night and day and I don’t think anyone would call you Goofy for thinking the 15 Plus looks as good as the 15 Pro Max.
Looking over the iPhone 15 Plus and how it handles daylight photos, you’re going to be just fine. They’re beautiful, the colors and contrast are solid, and the details are great! That’s from both the front and rear cameras.
The main thing you’re going to be missing is the inclusion of the third dedicated telephoto lens that the iPhone 15 Pro devices have. And you have the higher resolution, but most folks will be shooting in the default setting more than likely so no huge loss there in terms of overall quality.
Beyond the camera
Another thing to note since we’re discussing theme parks: Both phones feature the new U2 Ultra Wideband chip so that you can now find other iPhone 15 users in a crowd, with pinpoint accuracy. It's called Precision Finding. This is great if you split up and hit different rides and want to reconnect later.
Now, getting back to that battery life! Because I was busy enjoying the day, I didn’t get as much screen time as usual, but I did take more photos and videos than I usually do in a day. Over 100 to be exact. Additionally, I used Apple Maps to get me there and back home again, so that was a combined 3 hours of GPS navigation streamed to the Bluetooth dongle in my car.
And at the end of that day, which lasted from 10AM to 2AM, I had 8% battery left on the iPhone 15 Plus. Now, I have no comparison to the Pro Max for that day because I didn’t use it equally, but over the last two weeks that I’ve been using the iPhone 15 Plus, the battery life is definitely better than the iPhone 15 Pro Max. At the end of my workday, that’s the time I wake up and take my phone off of the charger, until the time I get home from work, the 15 Pro Max usually has around 20% battery left. In the last two weeks using the iPhone 15 Plus, with the same screen on time, averaging around 5 plus hours a day, I’m sitting at around 40% battery left.
Plus vs Max? 'Good enough' is good enough for most
For me, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a “no-brainer", if you can afford it. Log profiles, camera options, the latest Apple technology in the camera systems, and AI in the photographic mix gives me the best options for content creation, specifically video recording.
But those things come with a steep price tag, especially when considering the larger storage options available. For most people who want long battery life and capable cameras, I think the iPhone 15 Plus is the obvious choice, with relatively minor compromises. For those users, an $899 base cost, and long battery life are the deal makers. You’re going to get a lot for $300 dollars less than the iPhone 15 Pro Max whose base price is $1199, and if you’re a content creator, that price shoots up two to four hundred dollars for the 512GB and 1TB options.
If you can't wish upon a star for that top-tier Pro Max upgrade, the iPhone 15 Plus is more than good enough to make your dreams come true.
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Tshaka Armstrong is a nerd. Co-Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization, Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets, and film industry tech for Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to writing for iMore, he’s a video contributor for Android Central and posts everything else to his own YouTube channel and socials. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.