I didn’t rush into this review 24 hours after the iPhone 15 Pro launched in September 2023, but a lot of very loud people did that. A lot of people quickly shoehorned the model’s upgrades into an Apple vs. Android superiority argument. I wanted to take my time.

The tech and gaming crowd loves Android. But most Americans, myself included, will shell out for an iPhone. Truthfully, I don’t care about that argument, but it appears Apple still does. When the iPhone 15 Pro launched last September, the main marketing push was toward gaming—which Android devices have historically dominated. We got a massive camera upgrade, and the whole thing is made of titanium now, but gaming is the big focus here.

I went into testing it thinking, Is the iPhone 15 Pro the device that will make Apple the top dog in mobile gaming? My answer: not just yet. But I’m not going to ignore that it’s a giant step in the right direction.

If you didn’t come here for the gaming breakdown, my review for the normies is that it’s lightning fast, has the most insane camera system the iPhone has ever seen, and, finally, is more durable than ever. That brings the added comfort of using it without a phone case—something that feels like a luxury. It’s absolutely worth the money.

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A breakdown of gaming on iPhone 15 Pro.

The biggest surprise from Apple’s September 2023 event was the promise that the iPhone 15 Pro would be able to run AAA gaming titles natively. Apple teased three big games—Capcom’s Resident Evil 4, Kojima Production’s Death Stranding, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Those first two games have been available to play for a few months. I have been ever so patiently waiting to play Assassin’s Creed on this iPhone, but the “early 2024” release date has been silently pushed back. There’s no word on when it will actually be released.

So we’re reviewing off two AAA titles here. Let’s start with the hard tech-review stuff. In terms of graphics quality, frame rate, and overall performance, the iPhone 15 Pro performs valiantly. Occasionally, the iPhone 15 Pro will experience frame-rate drops, but it never ruins the overall experience. Beyond that, yes, it gets hot to the touch when you run these giant games. But you’ll want to play these games with a controller, anyway. So I was never really touching my scorching-hot phone. It never bothered me that much.

The real downside, in my mind, is that the way you consume a console-style game isn’t conducive to mobile gaming. Resident Evil kind of works because it’s action based, and Assassin’s Creed will be similar. But Death Stranding is a horrible game for mobile. I absolutely loved playing it on the console, but it’s so narrative driven. I rarely want to sit down and stare at a phone screen for more than 30 minutes, but just the cutscenes run that long in Death Stranding. The only time I really dived into the game on mobile was on flights, and even then, I would rather play something laid-back like Stardew Valley. It’s impressive that an iPhone can even run AAA games, but truthfully this feels more like a debate for AAA on mobile than it does as an Apple-specific problem.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro

iPhone 15 Pro
  • Runs hot when playing heavier games
  • Probably too much power for users that don’t care about photo/video or gaming

The final verdict.

Honestly, there is so much that the iPhone 15 Pro gets right in terms of gaming. The biggest thing to me was the art style. The little A17 Pro chipset can upscale graphics all it wants, but it won’t be able to perfectly match an Xbox or PlayStation in detail—again, a mobile and not Apple issue. What I really commend Apple on is its infrastructure, which lets developers retain their art style. For me, it’s most evident in Death Stranding. Hideo Kojima and Co. made a fucking beautiful game. A lot of it is narrative, but a lot of it is artistic. That soaked-to-the-bone feeling you get when you travel between settlements, the futuristic Acronym-style clothing, and the soundscape are all present in the iPhone version. That’s a triumph, and you have to credit the tools Apple gives its developers.

It is honestly incredible that the iPhone 15 Pro can even run these games. The A17 Pro chipset is as good as anything you’ll find in any other phone out there. There are graphics-heavy action sequences in Resident Evil that the phone powers through flawlessly. Sure, there is the occasional frame-rate drop, but I’m not really picky about that. It’s just a phone. If it can do all high-level computing, it’ll certainly handle all the web surfing and photo and video editing a normal person would put it through.

Lastly, though, I want to bring up a separate gaming point. Earlier, I said the AAA titles on iPhone were just a hardware flex, and I stand by that. No one really asked for Death Stranding on mobile. It’s just cool to see, and it proves how powerful this little computer is. What the iPhone 15 Pro is actually incredible at is the classic mobile gaming experience. Pair that lightning-fast A17 Pro chipset with the Apple Arcade catalog and you’ve got an incredible combo. Instead of watching hours’ worth of Death Stranding cutscenes, I could tend my farm in Stardew Valley or run through Sonic Dream Team levels all day and still have 30 percent battery when I sit down for dinner.

And that’s kind of what I’ve walked away from these past six months thinking. It’s amazing that Apple is making a phone this powerful, and the fact that the company will work more closely with AAA developers in the future spells trouble for the Android phones that gaming nerds tend to love. If you’re a casual gamer, you could get away with a regular iPhone, but if you’re logging serious hours, the iPhone 15 Pro is the device you want. It’s as powerful as its Android competitors, and Apple Arcade ($6.99/month) really is the best deal in mobile gaming. This phone and the subsequent push of Apple Arcade is Cupertino’s first big step into mobile gaming, and it’s put the rest of the market on notice.

iPhone 15 Pro

15 Pro

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