The new iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max handsets feature a lightweight titanium design with contoured edges, a new Action button, powerful camera upgrades and the A17 Pro chip to jack up mobile gaming, Apple said at its Wonderlust event Tuesday.
And surprisingly, only the Pro Max’s price went up.
“This is the most pro lineup we have ever created, with a state-of-the-art titanium design, the best iPhone camera system yet that enables game-changing new workflows, and the A17 Pro chip, which ushers in a new chapter of performance and games never before seen on iPhone,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max
The rollout of the new iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max handsets headlined the Wonderlust event, coming after announcements about Apple Watch and Ultra 2, environmental initiatives and iPhone 15 and 15 Plus handsets.
“iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max represent the best of Apple design and industry-first innovations to help enrich the everyday experiences of our users, while enabling them to unleash their creativity,” Joswiak said.
Predictions that both iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max would see price increases turned out to be partly true. iPhone 15 Pro remains at $999, like like iPhone 14 Pro. But iPhone 15 Max, with its major camera upgrades, goes up from to $1,099 to $1,199.
New titanium design plus Action button
The sleek and lightweight new titanium design and Action button received a lot of attention at the event. The Action button, in place of the ringer mute slider, still does that function but also adds a variety of user customization options.
Here’s how Apple described the new Action button:
The all-new Action button replaces the single-function switch used to toggle between ring and silent, offering additional options so users can choose between quickly accessing the camera or flashlight; activating Voice Memos, Focus modes, Translate, and accessibility features like Magnifier; or using Shortcuts for more options. A press-and-hold gesture with fine-tuned haptic feedback and visual cues in the Dynamic Island ensure the new button launches the intended action.
But, as usual, the Pro models’ camera assemblies got the most attention.
Cool camera upgrades, especially for iPhone 15 Pro Max
While the primary camera on the iPhone 15 Pro models only beefs up its predecessor somewhat, the Ultra-Wide and Telephoto cameras are improved. Here’s how Apple described the updates:
Powerful camera upgrades enable the equivalent of seven pro lenses with incredible image quality, including a more advanced 48MP Main camera system that now supports the new super-high-resolution 24MP default, the next generation of portraits with Focus and Depth Control, improvements to Night mode and Smart HDR, and an all-new 5x Telephoto camera exclusively on iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Jacked up resolution and optical zoom
The main camera allows users to switch between three popular focal lengths — 24 mm, 28 mm, and 35 mm. They can select one as a default, too.
The main camera also shoots 48MP ProRAW and supports 48MP HEIF images with 4x more resolution than iPhone 14 Pro models.
iPhone 15 Pro’s Telephoto camera manages 3x optical zoom, while “iPhone 15 Pro Max provides the longest optical zoom ever on iPhone: 5x at 120 mm.”
A new “Tetraprism design” essentially embodies the anticipated periscope lens that was expected to enhance the camera without making the bump bigger.
“The new Telephoto camera on iPhone 15 Pro Max has an innovative tetraprism design with a combined optical image stabilization and autofocus 3D sensor-shift module, Apple’s most advanced stabilization system yet,” Apple said.
And Apple has sharpened up its Portrait mode as well (for one thing, you don’t have to select Portrait, and you can even change the focus after you take the picture):
When there’s a person, dog, or cat in the frame, or when a user taps to focus, iPhone automatically captures depth information, so users can turn photos into stunning portraits later in the Photos app on iPhone, iPad, or Mac. For greater creative control, users can also adjust the focus point after the photo has been taken.
And the camera-upgrade list goes on
Apple also noted other Pro series camera upgrades:
- Night mode gets better with sharper details and more vivid colors, now powered by the Photonic Engine, including Night mode portraits, enabled by the LiDAR scanner.
- New Smart HDR captures subjects and the background with more true-to-life renderings of skin tones, while ensuring photos have brighter highlights, richer midtones, and deeper shadows when viewed in the Photos app. This advanced HDR rendering is also available to third-party apps, so images can look even better when shared online.
- A17 chip improves low-light video and Action mode.
- New filmmaker workflows. Users can now get up to 20x faster transfer speeds with an optional USB 3 cable. iPhone and third-party solutions like Capture One let pros shoot and instantly transfer 48MP ProRAW images from iPhone to Mac.
- ProRes video can be recorded directly to external storage, enabling higher recording options up to 4K at 60 fps, and greater flexibility on set when using iPhone as the main camera.
- iPhone 15 Pro also introduces a new option for Log encoding and is the first smartphone in the world to support ACES, the Academy Color Encoding System, a global standard for color workflows.
- And later this year, iPhone 15 Pro will add a new dimension to video capture with the ability to record spatial video for Apple Vision Pro.
Thin bezels, long battery life
The non-Pro models have iPhone 14’s form factor, with aluminum sides and glass back. But the iPhone 15 Pro handsets look a bit larger than last year’s models because the bezels around the screen are the thinnest ever on iPhone. But the screens are still measured at 6.1 and 6.7 inches.
And the new brushed titanium chassis makes Apple’s premium handsets tougher and about 10% lighter.
The addition of the new A17 chip, based on a newly developed 3nm production process, means performance enhancements including day-long battery life despite power-draining new enhancements.
A17 chip’s massive boost to gaming performance
And those enhancements really pop with gaming performance, according to Joswiak.
In a first for iPhone, iPhone 15 Pro uses hardware-accelerated ray tracing, which is up to four times faster than software‑based ray tracing. It delivers more fluid graphics and true‑to‑life lighting. Apple said it’s the fastest ray‑tracing performance in a smartphone currently.
In addition, MetalFX Upscaling combines the performance of the GPU and the Neural Engine to produce high‑resolution graphics while using much less power, Apple said.
And the keynote even cut to gaming luminaries appearing as themselves in game environments to say how beautiful and fast the A17 chip’s performance is. As in, enabling gaming performance never before seen on a smartphone.
Goodbye Lightning, hello Thunderbolt
iPhone 15 series handsets are the first iPhones with USB-C rather than a Lightning port. That marks the end for the Lightning connector, as all Apple devices go to USB-C.
One effect of this is an increase in charging speed. And both Pro models get a USB 3-capable version of the connector, adding to its speed, making it up to 20 times as fast as USB 2.
iPhone Pro models come in four finishes — black titanium, white titanium, blue titanium, and natural titanium. Pre-orders begin Friday, September 15, with availability beginning Friday, September 22, Apple said.