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Apple desperately wants me to replace my iPhone, so I put the idea to the test

How persuasive is Apple's new attempt to make users of older iPhones upgrade to iPhone 15? I tried to find out.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

So not much of a difference there?

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/ZDNET

Apple is disappointed in me.

I have an iPhone 12 and the company thinks it's time I got with the program and upgraded to an iPhone 15.

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How do I know this? Because Apple just launched a new webpage headlined: "Your iPhone vs. the latest." The idea is to tease owners of older iPhones to trade in and trade up.

I should mention that I'm perfectly happy with my iPhone 12. It has survived without a case and continues to work as I'd expect an iPhone should. I should also mention that I don't upgrade my iPhone every year.

Previous to this iPhone 12 I had an iPhone XR. Previous to that, an iPhone 6. (Shame on me.)

So what could Apple tell me now that would make me instantly conclude I need an iPhone 15? It seems there are quite a few reasons to upgrade. Will any one of them be enough? Will all of them together be enough?

It's the camera, stupid

The company's first gambit is: "iPhone 15 captures up to 4x the resolution of iPhone 12for a new level of detail and color."

I believe this, but the question is: How much does this matter? Have I been concerned about my resolution? Have I been deeply disappointed with my iPhone 12's camera? I haven't, but perhaps I should have been.

So what's next? Well, it's: "Save way more shots with 2x more storage than iPhone 12." That could be something, but do I take so many shots that I should be worried? I'm not sure that I do. I suspect I'm below average on the shot-o-meter. 

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Moreover, there's a tiny number 2 next to this claim. I search at the bottom of the page for an explanation: "Storage comparison based on starting capacity." Which sounds like something of complex qualifier.

Next Apple offers: "Get more room to zoom with a 2x Telephoto. It's like having a third camera." So we're still on the camera and picture-taking? I suppose that's really the main contemporary use for a smartphone. It's a camera with a phone attached.

On which subject, we move to Apple's next tease: "If your subject is a person, dog, or cat, iPhone 15 lets you quickly capture the shot and turn it into a portrait later." This makes it sound like it's a feature only for people, dogs, and cats. Which, again, is nice but is it worth the upgrade?

And it's the movies

The list has only just begun. There's: "When you're shooting video on the go, use Action mode to steady really shaky handheld shots." Good, but not persuasive in itself -- and how often do people shoot on the go?

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How about: "Make movies like the movies with Cinematic mode, which automatically shifts the focus to the most important subject in a scene." I like this. Somewhat. But we all know that when Apple features movies shot on an iPhone, there are a lot of expensive lights and film crew involved.

Apple follows this with the enticing: "USB-C means you can charge your Mac, iPad, or PC with the same cable as iPhone 15." Ah, yes. My iPhone 12 still uses Lightning. But I get around that little issue by using a wireless charger.

Next, Apple tries: "The A16 Bionic chip has a GPU that's up to 40% faster than the GPU in A14 Bionic." I wonder how many people know their GPUs from their CPUs. 

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Apple explains: "Longer battery life lets you watch up to 3 more hours of video than iPhone 12." But there's a tiny number 3 next to it. This footnote offers: "All battery claims depend on network configuration and many other factors; actual results will vary. Battery has limited recharge cycles and may eventually need to be replaced. Battery life and charge cycles vary by use and settings."

That's the thing when people buy phones. They prefer actual results.

Can I buy into the dynamism?

And now to the feature that, to many owners of older phones, might be quite moving: "iPhone 15 gives you Dynamic Island, which bubbles up your flight status, music, and more so you don't miss anything. It expands to get your attention -- hey, your ride is here! -- then tucks away again."

This is a feature Apple plugged enthusiastically as soon as it was invented. I think I want to see what it's like to live with. I've played with it in an Apple store, but it hasn't yet been enough in itself to persuade me to upgrade. Now, that is.

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If you've scrolled this far on Apple's page of persuasion, you might get the feeling that the company is dying trying. Because the next element is: "iPhone 15 is built to last, thanks to a durable design with an aerospace-grade aluminum enclosure and a Ceramic Shield front that's tougher than any smartphone glass." 

But my iPhone 12 -- clearly -- was built to last. It's still doing very well. No screen replacements, no malfunctions. (Thank you, Apple.)

Curiously, then, Apple ends with a side-by-side comparison of my iPhone 12's display and the iPhone 15's.

They're identical, which perhaps shows how true invention in smartphones has rather slowed over time. Certainly for iPhones.

Of course, the decision to upgrade may depend on particular features. Or even an accumulation of features that, in themselves, are relatively small.

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I fancy, though, that upgrading is an emotional decision too. 

You look at each new iPhone that comes out and wonder whether there's anything about it that moves you enough to make a change. (Apple says I'll get up to $220 in credit if I trade in my iPhone 12.) It might even be a new color -- as much as a new camera feature -- that finally talks you up. It might also be that your phone just doesn't work so well anymore and you're just in the mood for a change.

For me, I consider that it's April. I feel sure there's a new iPhone coming in the Fall. Because there always is.

Perhaps that one will have something about it that I just can't resist. I can wait. I've learned to do that over the years.

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