Once a year Tim Cook gets on stage to introduce a brand-new iPhone or two, among other things. This time around it’s the iPhone 15, the iPhone 15 Pro, and a new cursed dongle. Here’s everything new.
Introducing the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro
Apple has stuck with the same naming conventions this time round, with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro both accompanied by Plus and Pro Max bumper-sized options. The dimensions are unchanged from the iPhone 14 family, with the same 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screen sizes in both the base and upgraded models.
Both devices will be available for pre-order on Apple’s website starting on September 15 at 5 a.m. PDT, with all models set for release on September 22. Sadly, this seems to be the end of the line for the iPhone mini which is no longer available for sale on Apple’s website.
USB-C Charging and Connectivity
All models of iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro now feature USB-C ports for both charging and transferring data over a cable. This marks the death of Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable, which was first introduced in 2012 with the release of the iPhone 5.
The new iPhone models will come with a braided white USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, but no power adapter. Though both the standard and Pro models use the same port, the specifications aren’t identical. In particular, iPhone 15 models will be limited to the same architecture used by the Lightning connector.
iPhone 15 owners will only achieve maximum theoretical USB 2.0 speeds of 480 megabits per second, though iPhone 15 Pro users will get much faster USB 3.0 transfer rates of up to 10 gigabits per second. Apple notes that both models can achieve “50% charge in around 30 minutes with 20W adapter or higher” which is the same claim made for last year’s models (so no change in charging speed, it seems).
Arguably the coolest feature is the ability to use your iPhone 15 as a charging bank for your AirPods or Apple Watch. Just plug a compatible cable into each end and siphon some juice from your iPhone to an accessory.
The switch to USB-C has also seen Apple introduce another cursed dongle: the $29 USB-C to Lightning adapter. The good news is that this demonstrates the company’s commitment to ditching the Lightning connector and focusing on USB-C going forward.
Dynamic Island Makes it Into All Models
First introduced with the iPhone 14 Pro, the Dynamic Island has now made it into the base iPhone 15 models and replaces the divisive “notch” with a smaller, pill-shaped cutout. This is where Apple places ambient light sensors, the Face ID sensor array, and of course the front-facing camera.
Most notable is the way that the Dynamic Island integrates notifications and events into its design. You’ll see Face ID and Apple Pay pop-ups appear here, and the cutout also manages to hide within Now Playing controls and turn-by-turn directions.
Faster, More Efficient Chips
Perhaps the most predictable change of all is the arrival of newer and faster systems-on-chip. Most notable is the A17 Pro chip found in the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. This is Apple’s first chip built on a 3-nanometer process, which means that it can fit more transistors on the same chip.
Effectively, this means that there has been an improvement in the way chips are manufactured. This should lead to better power efficiency, but also more transistors within the same space means more calculations per second. Apple has mooted a 20% speed boost over the A16 Bionic thanks to a six-core CPU (two performance, four efficiency cores), a new six-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine for machine learning operations.
The iPhone 15 also gets an upgrade over last year’s base model, but it’s the same A16 Bionic that was featured in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, built on a 4-nanometer process.
Frosted Glass and Titanium
The iPhone 15 now features a color-infused frosted glass back, available in pink, yellow, green, blue, and black. The somewhat muted color palette is nice, and we appreciate Apple moving away from pretentious “starlight” color names, but this probably isn’t a huge deal for most since you’ll probably want to protect your investment with a good iPhone case anyway.
For the iPhone 15 Pro Apple has chosen titanium for the lightest and most durable Pro model iPhone yet. The phone is available in four shades: black, white, blue, and a natural metallic finish.
Roadside Assistance via Satellite
iPhone 15 and 15 Pro models both feature Emergency SOS via satellite, a feature that first made its way into the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro in 2022. The feature, which was credited with rescues only a month out from its launch, is getting bolstered this year for US customers with a Roadside Assistance feature.
Roadside Assistance via satellite is also coming to the iPhone 14, provided you have an active service. Apple states in the small print that the feature is “included for free for two years with the activation of any iPhone 15 model” with nothing yet announced about how much ongoing coverage will cost.
Better Cameras, Longer Zooms
Both models of iPhone get computational photography improvements that should improve the overall image quality from photos and videos taken. The iPhone 15 gets the same 48-megapixel main camera that was introduced into last year’s Pro models, making for a significant upgrade over the iPhone 14 camera system, with a second ultra-wide 12-megapixel camera.
The iPhone 15 Pro gets further improvements to its optical image stabilization, plus the Pro Max gets a new “tetra-prism” telephoto lens that enables up to 5x optical zoom (up from 3x on the standard Pro model) and a 25x digital zoom.
One neat trick featured in both the base and Pro models is the capture of depth information with every image shot. This removes the need to switch to Portrait mode, allowing you to elect to add a depth effect or even shift focus between subjects after you’ve taken the photo.
A Second-Generation Ultrawide-Band Chip
Both the base and Pro models will receive an update in the form of the U2 ultrawide-band chip, replacing the U1 that was first introduced with the iPhone 11 Pro in 2019. This will improve location accuracy, particularly with Apple’s Find My app, to make finding nearby devices (or people) even easier.
A New “Action” Button, Like the Watch Ultra (iPhone 15 Pro)
The iPhone 15 Pro ditches the mute button in favor of what Apple is calling the “Action” button. In its default setting the button does the same as the mute toggle (switching between ring and silent) but it can be configured to do other things like launching the camera, recording a voice memo, triggering a shortcut, and enabling an Accessibility feature.
Apple is moving the ring and silent toggle to Control Center, and reiterating that the feature can be automated using Focus filters.
Wi-Fi 6E and Thread Support (iPhone 15 Pro)
In terms of connectivity, the iPhone 15 Pro shines and is the first iPhone to feature support for Wi-Fi 6E. The faster wireless standard introduces additional channels on the 6GHz band which means better performance in areas where lots of devices are connected to the same hotspot.
There’s also lower latency and the potential for faster speeds thanks to an improvement in bandwidth on the newer channels. Of course, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 6E router to take advantage of this.
Dave McQuilling / Review Geek
On top of this, Apple added a Thread radio to its iPhone 15 Pro models. This is part of Apple’s big smart home plan and allows the iPhone 15 Pro to directly communicate with Thread-enabled devices. In essence, Thread removes the need for all of your smart home devices to be connected to your home Wi-Fi and simplifies controlling and setting up such devices.
Let’s Not Forget iOS 17
Of course, all models of iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will ship with iOS 17 out of the gate. The update includes some nice features like contact posters, a new StandBy nightstand mode, and enhancements to apps like Messages and Safari.
Of course, you don’t need to buy a new iPhone to take advantage of iOS 17. The update will be available for all compatible devices as a free download on September 18.