Overpriced or simply premium? I'm trying to decide if iPhones are a rip-off

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max in front of stalactite photo
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

RIght before I get a load of angry emails from Apple fans, I do love using iPhones; currently, I use an iPhone 15 Pro Max and I am rather smitten by it despite it being quite a boring phone all in all. Despite using some of the best Android phones, I’ve fully fallen for the ‘it just works’ nature of Apple’s iterative smartphones. 

But a niggling question that's nipped away at my tech journalist synapse has me wondering if Apple's phones are really worth the premium price they command.

But this has been dead easy, thanks to the simple fact that I’ve been able to use the latest iPhones through my job as a tech journalist, rather than pay for them with cold, hard cash. So while I extolled the virtues of titanium and other upgrades, I am doing so from a position of privilege. 

The ultimate question – at least in the phones arena – is 'would I actually buy a flagship iPhone with my own money?' Which leads to a second question: 'would it be an easy purchase, or would I be buying into a product that comes close to ripping people off just because its brand is so strong?' 

Yes and no, and yes and no. 

Yeah it's worth it

an image of the iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future / Roland Moore-Colyer)

Let’s tackle the first yes and no. I love having a flagship phone, and I feel the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are fantastic examples of a top-of-the-line flagship. 

The combination of a familiar design that's been refined over several generations, masses of power, a great battery life, lovely displays with 120Hz refresh rates, a sort-of-customizable Action button, and a trio of great still and video cameras, all wrapped up in a neat user interface thanks to iOS 17, makes these Pro iPhones and their predecessors some of the best phones around. 

And while the starting price of $999 / £999 / AU$1,849 for the iPhone 15 Pro is hefty, various contracts (and the fact that iPhones retain their value longer than their counterparts) plus the customer care Apple offers, does translate to a decent amount for a solid chunk of cash. 

Deals on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

Sitting between the Samsung Galaxy S24’s price of $859 / £859 / AU$1,399 for the 256GB model and the Galaxy S24 Ultra with its starting price of $1,299.99 / £1,249 / AU$2,199, the iPhone 15 Pro’s pricing and the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s starting price of $1,199 / £1,199 / AU$2,199, seems reasonable; maybe a tad too premium for phones with many specs more closely aligned with the standard S24 than the S24 Ultra.

However, having used both the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, I can't help but err more towards the Apple phone. Sure it’s locked into Apple's ecosystem and lacks the generative AI bells and whistles. But it’s just so usable and lets me get stuff done without features getting in the way; I reckon the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the ultimate tech tool rather than a slick bit of gadgetry. 

With that in mind, I feel if I was no longer a tech journalist, I'd still opt for an iPhone 15 Pro model and not feel ripped off.

Of course, there’s a but.

But also it's not worth it

Galaxy S24 Plus

(Image credit: Peter Hoffmann)

Splashing a grand or more on any bit of tech can feel like a huge outlay, given it’ll have obsolescence built-in by default. As someone who’s recently got into watches, I’m far happier splashing the cash on something that’ll likely outlive me, than a device that has a realistic lifespan of two to four years. 

Furthermore, all you need to do is browse our list of the best cheap phones to find a selection of handsets that are very capable for less than half the price of an iPhone 15 Pro. 

Take the Google Pixel 7a for example – it may not blow minds with performance but it’s more than fast enough for most things and has rear cameras that deliver flagship-grade photography. It’s hard for me not to recommend such Pixel phones or recent well-priced OnePlus models to anyone who isn’t caught in Apple’s iOS walled garden. 

Deals on great iphone alternatives

When it comes to specs, like refresh rates, storage and real-world performance, iPhones can feel like a rip-off, asking people to pay a premium for not much more on paper than what good mid-range phones offer.

And I absolutely think the iPhone 15 is a rip-off and a phone I’d be reticent to swap to let alone buy, as a 60Hz display, a slow USB-C port and a mere two rear cameras for a starting price of $799 / £799 / AU$1,499, isn't acceptable in my eyes.

Sure, my colleagues on the phones team are in agreement that the iPhone 15 is the best iPhone for most people, but I take that to mean it’s really for people who are too deep in the iOS ecosystem and don’t want to fork out for a Pro model.

I’d go so far to say the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are some of the most disappointing Apple phones of recent years, and fly in the face of the once innovative company Steve Jobs built. Yet that's the power of good branding; even a lackluster phone in the eyes of tech fans can still sell like crazy.

Go Pro

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max back angled

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

My conclusion to the question in the headline, is an admittedly mealy-mouthed one with caveats. Yes the iPhones are a rip-off compared to other phones. Yet at the same time the Pro models are so good at being both everyday phones to content creation and gaming devices, that their asking price is reasonable. 

But what I can say for sure, is if I did go out and buy an iPhone, I'd certainly go for a Pro model. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the current darling of the Apple phone lineup and deservedly so, with the price gap between it and the standard models being justified. 

All that being said, I do hope Apple decided to pull out something special for the iPhone 16 range, with big upgrades to the standard models, and exciting features – hardware or software – for the Pro options. Let’s get back some of that generation-to-generation innovation, eh Apple? 

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Managing Editor, Mobile Computing

Roland Moore-Colyer is Managing Editor at TechRadar with a focus on phones and tablets, but a general interest in all things tech, especially those with a good story behind them. He can also be found writing about games, computers, and cars when the occasion arrives, and supports with the day-to-day running of TechRadar. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face and a nose for food markets.