Review: iPhone 15 with Apple Watch and AirPods - what it's like transitioning after a lifetime on Android

The Apple Watch Series 9, iPhone 15 Pro and AirPods Pro.
The Apple Watch Series 9, iPhone 15 Pro and AirPods Pro. Photo credit: Newshub.

At 32, I'm old enough to remember when Apple wasn't the multi-trillion-dollar tech behemoth it is today but young enough to have had its devices be everywhere all my life. 

Back in the mists of time I had an iPhone 4, but at some point made the switch to Android - not because of any particular love for those products, but because it felt hard to have a casual relationship with Apple. 

The company's stance of not playing well with other software and hardware meant it just made sense to either dive completely into the ecosystem, or abstain.  

On a more trivial level, my friends who really liked Apple seemed to like it a little too much. Their eyes were always a little too bright around every iPhone launch and their insistence I make the switch felt like I was talking with recent cult converts. 

So eventually, despite reporting on tech as part of my job, not using Apple became part of my identity, sort of like that one annoying friend who is a little too proud that they've never watched an episode of Game of Thrones.

However, when I got the opportunity to try out the latest iPhone 15 Pro along with the Apple Watch Series 9 and latest AirPods Pro, I figured it was time to visit Apple's walled tech garden so that if I decided to not use its products, I'd at least come by that decision honestly. 

Well, unfortunately for my younger tech hipster self: now I get it. 

Everything from the design, performance, app optimisation and synergy with other devices means there's a user friendliness and elegance to these Apple products I knew by reputation, but experiencing it firsthand was something else. 

The iPhone 15 Pro.
The iPhone 15 Pro. Photo credit: Newshub.

At around $2099 for an entry-level model, the 15 Pro packs an impressive combination of power and performance in an exceptionally streamlined package - for an expensive price. 

While arguably Apple's products package similar tech and capabilities as competitor products, just in a slicker interface, that usability and presentation go a long way.

The iPhone

Transferring everything from my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra to an iPhone 15 Pro was surprisingly easy. I downloaded the helpfully named 'Move to IOS' app, connected to Wi-Fi and away it went.

Except for the usual rigmarole of logging back into everything, my apps, messages, contacts and photos were ready and waiting once I booted up the new device. 

Funnily enough, the biggest change for this generation of iPhone - the switch to USB-C - meant little to me as I already have more USB-C chargers than I know what to do with. For others thinking of making the switch, there's certainly never been a more convenient time, if only because it saves you forking out for extra charging peripherals. 

The first thing that struck me about using the iPhone is the form factor. Sheathed in titanium, the 15 Pro weighs just 187g and feels substantially lighter than other modern smartphones I've used, but with just enough to heft to give a sense of substance. 

Softer edges and a smooth, metallic finish give the overall design a comfortable feel and having shifted from the larger S22 Ultra, easily holding my phone in one hand was lovely. 

Finn Hogan reviews the iPhone 15 Pro for Newshub.
Photo credit: Newshub.

I did occasionally miss the larger screen of the Ultra, but at 6.12 inches the Pro's display strikes a nice balance between size and useability. It packs an XDR OLED with 120Hz and HDR10, Dolby Vision and a max brightness of 2000 nits, which makes it easily legible even in direct sunlight. 

Colours pop, 4K video is smooth on the 1179x2556 pixel display and dynamic lighting adjustments meant I found the screen was always ideally lit for my environment.

On that note, the dynamic island at the top of the screen highlighting my current activity was a real standout, with slick animations for when I connected my AirPods and an aesthetically pleasing waveform while watching YouTube or listening to music on Spotify. 

This is particularly helpful for those trying to cut down on screen time, since the iPhone automatically gives you acess to a detailed and often sobering readout of how you're spending your time while using it.

Even though it freaked me out occasionally, I enjoyed the usage time homescreen widget being included from bootup, along with a curated feed of photos and a connected device tracker. Android essentially gives you an unfurnished homescreen to decorate but Apple includes a little software furniture for when you move in.

Meanwhile, the customisable new 'action button' can shortcut essentially any app or feature to be ready to go at a click. It defaults to switching the phone to silent mode, but you can switch it to activate the torch, a voice memo, or a slew of other options - meaning you don't have to unlock your phone. 

On photos, the primary camera is 48MP with a 12MP front-facing which performs particularly well in low light, can pick different focal lengths, and has an option to convert photos to portraits, even if you haven't selected portrait mode while taking it. 

While I've never been a huge smartphone photographer, I was impressed at how easily the iPhone picked up my slack to produce some quality shots.   

The highest-end iPhone 15 Pro comes loaded with 1TB internal storage and all models feature Apples new A17 Chip with and 8GB RAM. My Galaxy S22 Ultra still has it beat on some specs like a bigger battery life, more RAM and higher MP camera, but there are a number of factors within the devices that mean you can't simply compare the numbers. It's more complicated than that.

Overall, the iPhone felt snappy, slick and responsive even while using power and processing hungry apps like graphically intense games, marking another area the iPhone pleasantly surprised me.  

Apple has traditionally taken a back seat in the gaming space due to the difficulty of optimising games for iOS, but now genuine console heavy-hitters are making their way to mobile in iPhone 15: Hideo Kojima's epic Death Stranding launches later this year along with the latest Assassin's Creed and Resident Evil titles. 

The A17 chip even allows for real-time ray-tracing: ultra-realistic lighting that was new for gaming consoles and PCs only a few years ago. It's an impressive technical achievement which further blurs the line between console and mobile gaming, but I can't help but feel like it's a case of devs thinking more about if they can achieve this than if people actually want it. 

Those games run very well based on what I've seen so far - for mobile - but just aren't the same as a dedicated current-gen console experience. Cinematic games like Death Stranding are designed for big-screen experience and for me, seeing it run on a 6-inch feels more like a novelty than a revolution. 

I'm interested to see what happens when developers use that extra power for games designed to be used exclusively on phones, perhaps taking advantage of the touchscreen and front-facing cameras to create a unique experience unavailable to console.

Overall, my experience with the iPhone 15 Pro was of a product with a singular vision. My biggest gripe with my Samsung phones has been the feeling there are always too many cooks in the product kitchen. 

Google's operating system constantly clashes with Samsung's efforts to do the same thing on the same device. My messages app, browser, emails and music all have awkward double-ups baked into the Galaxy devices.

iOS feels more streamlined and tailored at the price of not having the same wealth of third-party customisation options: the difference between a software buffet on Android and a set menu on Apple.   

While Apple's insistence on its own operating system and apps probably feels restrictive for some, I found iOS a lot simpler to navigate knowing I generally only had one option, which was inevitably the best option.

The eco-system

I paired the iPhone with an Apple Watch Series 9 and set of second-gen AirPods Pro with USB-C, marking my first experience using either of those product lines. 

I'll save my full thoughts of the watch for a separate review, but the AirPods were a standout. The noise cancellation felt on par with even my high-end over-the-ear Sonys and the sound quality was highly impressive for such a small package. 

Apple AirPods Pro second generation with USB-C.
Apple's latest AirPods Pro. Photo credit: Newshub.

The auto detection of a conversation pause was helpful for spontaneous office chats, though it did awkwardly kick in if I ever started singing a song under my breath while listening to music and I was confronted with how bad that sounded for everyone else. 

The homescreen featuring a readout of each of my attached devices' battery percentages was a useful reminder and pairing the accessories with the Find My app was a particular delight. 

As a person who loses most of their belongings multiple times a day, pairing the app with my Apple Watch and being guided to my other device via haptics saved me multiple headaches.  

On the software front, it was almost irritating how well optimised my apps seemed to be across the board for IOS over Android. From Messenger, Spotify and even basic admin stuff like my banking app, each felt less buggy and prone to crashes and overall more elegantly designed. 

My only real gripe is that I can already feel the tug of Apple whispering, "Know what would work really well with these devices? A MacBook. And an iPad. Maybe just get an Apple TV unit while you're at it. Just hand over all the money you have and we'll do the rest." 

There isn’t a single standout feature in Apple that separates it from Android; on a technical level most functionality can be replicated across devices. But the small touches in how that functionality is expressed, from little animation flourishes to the smoothness of flicking an app to the dynamic island to other little things I'm probably not consciously aware of, all cumulatively adds up to make the Apple suite feel better to use than my Android devices. 

So will I make the switch permanently? I don't know if I'll move in for good, but my visit to the house of Apple has made a convincing case that I shouldn't leave in a hurry.

Newshub was supplied an iPhone 15 Pro, Apple Watch Series 9 and AirPods Pro for this article