iPHONE 15: What you need to know
For the last few years, Apple has made the iPhone launch a tale of two phones: the normal iPhone, and the Pro/Pro Max. The Pro models are where you’ll find the latest tech, the fastest components, and inevitably, the highest prices.
This year, though, the Pro is stuck in the middle between two significant hardware upgrades: one in the iPhone 15, and one in the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The former gets the same 48MP camera capabilities as the Pro, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max gets an even better camera setup with the long-rumored periscope lens – a lens that’s currently too big to fit into the Pro’s smaller case, according to reports. So does the Pro have enough improvements this year to justify the extra cost over the iPhone? These are the most important new features.
The aluminum of the iPhone 14 Pro has been replaced with brushed Grade 5 titanium, which is tougher than pure titanium and lighter than aluminum; it was previously used on the Mars Rover. That’s enabled Apple to slim down the bezels and gently curve the edges without reducing the structural strength.
The screen is the same 6.1-inch OLED as before but it feels slightly more compact in the hand because the overall size is slightly smaller. It’s designed to feel more expensive than the standard iPhone, and these are the lightest iPhone Pros ever made thanks to titanium’s super-lightweight.
There are three titanium colors to choose from – black, white, and blue. The white looks very like the Starlight of previous iPhones and Apple Watches. But all of these have a brushed look, something that we’ll need to look at further once they’re in our hands.
2. Much more powerful processing
This year’s Pro gets an upgrade in the form of the Apple A17 Bionic processor, the most powerful iPhone processor yet. The A17 is a 6-core CPU with two high-performance cores that run up to 10% faster than before, and 4 high-efficiency cores delivering « 3x the performance per watt of the competition ».
Apple did its usual thing of showing impressive-looking but context-free numbers, but the short version is that the new A17 is the first A-series chip to use the new and much more efficient 3nm manufacturing process, which is an industry first. By cramming ever more transistors – 19 billion this time – into the same amount of space, means significantly improved energy usage and performance.
There’s also a brand new six-core GPU with significantly improved performance: up to 20% faster, according to Apple. It also brings hardware-accelerated ray tracing to the iPhone for the very first time. That should deliver much smoother gaming at higher frame rates alongside a new software feature, MetalX Upscaling, which combines GPU and Neural Engine to deliver significant gaming performance improvements.
Apple says the iPhone is now the best mobile gaming platform in the world. And the neural engine is twice as fast, which should boost computationally intensive tasks such as video editing and photography. Speaking of which…
3. Even better photo and video
The iPhone 15 Pro isn’t getting any more megapixels on its main 48MP camera, but there is a new coating to reduce lens flare plus better image stabilization and better low-light performance in both portrait and night modes. It now supports 48MP HEIF, offers more focal length options, has improved Smart HDR, and defaults to 24MP rather than the previous 12MP. Apple promises 2x better low-light performance.
The ultrawide camera has an f/2.2 aperture and the telephoto is f/2.8 with 2x capability via the quad-pixel sensor. There’s an improved LiDAR scanner for distance and depth, which should deliver noticeable improvements in both control and controllability in portrait photo mode.
One of the new features is all about the Apple Vision Pro: Spatial Video. We may just have seen the killer app for Apple’s VR headset: when the feature launches later this year you’ll be able to shoot dual-lens video for viewing in mixed reality, and you’ll be able to share spatial video with others too. The thought of making home movies to watch in mixed reality is enormously appealing. So if Apple could just do something about the Vision Pro price tag…
4. Add your own Action
The mute switch is no more. Instead, the iPhone 15 Pro gets a new Action button, just like the Apple Watch Ultra, which you can use to trigger favorite tasks such as activating the flashlight or summoning shortcuts. We’re going to use it as a one-press way to bring up the camera, which is far and away our most-used app on the Pro iPhones.
You can still use the button as a ring/silent switch: just press and hold the button. But you can now assign additional actions such as taking a photo, recording a voice memo, or activating accessibility features. This is one of those features that might not seem like a big deal but you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed without it.
5. Up to 20x times faster data transfer
The move to USB-C isn’t just about keeping regulators happy (the EU mandates USB-C on new smartphones sold in Europe). For Pro users, it’s also about making you happy. Lightning’s data speeds were titchy, and that’s a real problem if you’re transferring big files such as 4K video to a Mac for editing.
The USB here is USB 3, with up to 10 gigabits per second. That’s potentially 20 times faster than USB 2. And it means you can record video directly to an external drive. Real-world performance of 10x faster data seems realistic, so if you’re a photo or video pro whose time is money that feature alone will more than justify the upgrade.
We’re covering all the Apple iPhone 15 event announcements live as they happen. Don’t miss all our iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra 2, iOS 17and watchOS 10 coverage so far.