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The iPhone 15 is almost here
Apple has scheduled its next event for September 12 where the iPhone 15 will undoubtedly be announced. Here's a breakdown of the rumors.
It’s August, which means one of the most exciting times of year is right around the corner: New Gadget Season. Many refer to it as “Techtember” or “Techtober” due to all the new tech that’s announced right after Labor Day, and it’s the time of year when every tech journalist relies on endless supplies of coffee and eye drops to get them through until the holidays.
The summer has been particularly chaotic as it is. Over the past couple of months, we’ve had three huge smartphone launches: the Moto Razr+, the Nothing Phone (2), and—most notably—the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5 from Samsung. These were all major events that happened in June and July, breaking away from the unofficial tradition of No New Smartphones Until (Maybe) August from years prior.
The new smartphone cycle isn’t stopping anytime soon, either. In just under two weeks, we’ll be talking about the iPhone 15, Apple’s next version of one of the most popular phones on the planet. Like clockwork, Apple has announced its next event—taglined “Wonderlust”— scheduled for September 12th, and also like clockwork, the rumor mill is in full motion, giving us an idea of what Apple has planned for the fall.
I just finished writing numerous 2,500+ word reviews and assignments, my brain’s relying solely on caffeine, and I feel like talking about some good old-fashioned iPhone leaks. Let’s do it together, shall we?
Thinner bezels, titanium, and an action button for the Pros
It seems like the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus will largely look the same as the 14 and 14 Plus which… eh, it is what it is. We’re used to seeing Apple recycle designs for multiple generations, and it doesn’t look that’ll be changing for the baseline iPhone 15 models.
On the other hand, the iPhone 15 Pro is expected to get a design refresh, at least partially. The biggest visual change will be the bezels, which are expected to be around 33 percent thinner than the bezels on the 14 Pro. Slowly but surely, Apple is inching its way to a future where the entire front of the iPhone is nothing but screen, and this is an important step in that direction.
The frame of the 15 Pro is expected to move to titanium instead of stainless steel, helping not just with weight but also durability. This is one of the upgrades I’m most excited about; my iPhone 14 Pro Max is simply way too heavy to hold for long periods of time, sitting at a staggering 240 grams. Here’s to hoping the new titanium frame will knock that down to around 190-210 grams.
There’s another big change happening on the side of the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max: the removal of the mute switch. It’ll certainly be a controversial change since it’s one of the iPhone’s most iconic features, but at least Apple will be replacing it with a reprogrammable action button.
The action button (which we’re all calling it because we have no idea what its real name is) will be solid state and pressure-sensitive, responding accordingly with haptic feedback. Leaks from an iOS 17 beta suggest you’ll be able to assign it to a number of different apps and features like Accessibility, Shortcuts, Silent Mode, Camera (physical shutter button, anyone?), Flashlight, Focus, Magnifier, Translate, and Voice Memos. It’s unclear if third-party apps will be supported, but if I had to bet based on Apple’s desire to limit third-party influence on its products, I’d say no.
Dynamic Island and USB-C across the board
The Dynamic Island, which first debuted on the iPhone 14 Pro series, is expected to make its way to each version of the iPhone 15, including the non-Pro variants. That means the notch will be going away completely from Apple’s flagship iPhones for the first time since 2018.
Over time, the Dynamic Island has gotten better from when it launched last September. It has more third-party app integration, smoother animations, and support for Live Activities which brings a great level of functionality to the feature. I know there are plenty of people with mixed feelings about it, but I’ve always been into it, especially since it can act as a miniature app switcher for multitasking. Bringing it to the cheaper iPhones will introduce it to a whole new swath of consumers, which should help push third-party developers and Apple to flesh it out even further.
Also coming to every iPhone: USB-C. Finally, after years of waiting and speculation, Apple is finally gearing up to ditch Lightning and give the iPhone the same port it’s given the Mac and iPad over the years.
The only mystery behind it is whether they’ll limit charging and data transfer speeds on the non-Pro iPhones; previous rumors indicated the 15 Pro would be able to charge faster and output over Thunderbolt 4, while the standard 15 will basically get a new connector without any extra benefits. We’ll have to wait and see what Apple decides to do.
New cameras on the 15, better zoom on the 15 Pro Max
It goes without saying that some way or another, Apple will be upgrading the cameras on every iPhone 15 model. They do it every year, whether it be with new hardware or improved post-processing tricks. For this generation, it looks like hardware will be taking center stage.
The standard iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are rumored to get a new 48MP main camera, which will reportedly be slightly smaller than the 48MP camera on the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. They’ll use a new lens technique that lets in more light than the current 12MP sensors can on the 14 and 14 Plus. It’s not expected that the standard iPhone 15 models will gain any additional sensors, so if you were hoping for telephoto on a non-Pro iPhone, you’re out of luck.
Speaking of telephoto, the iPhone 15 Pro Max (or iPhone 15 Ultra, as rumors suggest) will get the biggest zoom upgrade the iPhone has ever seen. According to reports, the device will gain a periscope telephoto lens, which allows light to bend through the various elements of the lens to reduce the distance the lens has to stick out from the phone itself. We’ve seen similar lenses in the past, namely from Samsung who ships phones with 100x zoom thanks to this technology. While we’ll likely see a much more tame 5-6x optical zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it’s exciting to see the feature come to Apple’s ecosystem nonetheless.
There’s also a rumor that the device will get the largest main camera in Apple’s history. Rumors suggest it’ll switch to a new Sony IMX903, measuring 1/1.14 inches in size (compared to the 1/1.28-inch sensor on the 14 Pro Max). No doubt in my mind, this will likely look ridiculous on the back of the 15 Pro Max, but I suppose we’re all used to our phones having miniature stove tops on them anyway.
Meanwhile, the regular 15 Pro will keep the same camera hardware as before. It doesn’t seem like there will be any huge upgrades for this phone, for some odd reason. Granted, we don’t know for sure whether the smaller 15 Pro will be exempt from camera upgrades, but judging by the rumor mill, it seems likely that it will.
A 3nm A17 Bionic, bigger batteries, and (potentially) higher prices
Apple will upgrade the processor inside the iPhone once again with the iPhone 15 series, jumping to the A17 Bionic. And compared to previous iterations of the chipset, this one looks to be a very meaningful upgrade.
According to reports, the A17 will be produced on a 3nm process, the first for any Apple A-series chipset. This will allow the processor to run faster while further maximizing efficiency. Rumor has it that the chip will feature a 6-core CPU and 6-core GPU (one extra GPU core over the A16 Bionic) and clock in at 3.70GHz (as opposed to the A16’s 3.46GHz).
It also seems like Apple won’t be upgrading the RAM this year, sticking with the same 6GB as the 14 Pro.
Battery sizes are expected to grow across the board, which is a relief because the iPhone 14 lineup is definitely not known for its lengthy endurance. The largest increases will affect the iPhone 15 Pro Max and 15 Plus, while the 15 Pro and standard 15 will get moderate improvements.
Here’s how the rumored capacities stack up against their predecessors.
iPhone 15: 3,877mAh
iPhone 14: 3,279mAh
iPhone 15 Plus: 4,912mAh
iPhone 14 Plus: 4,325mAh
iPhone 15 Pro: 3,650mAh
iPhone 14 Pro: 3,200mAh
iPhone 15 Pro Max: 4,852mAh
iPhone 14 Pro Max: 4,323mAh
Unfortunately, like the battery sizes, prices are also expected to go up. According to DigiTimes, the iPhone 15 Pro will start at $1,099 (a $100 increase over the 14 Pro), while the 15 Pro Max will go even higher to $1,299 (a $200 increase over the 14 Pro Max). Increases in production costs and the effects of inflation are to blame for the higher price tags. Fortunately, it looks like the regular iPhone 15 will continue to start at $799 while the 15 Plus will start at $899.
What about the Apple Watch?
Apple isn’t forgetting about the Apple Watch at its September 12th event. However, if you’re looking for something totally new, you won’t be getting it this year. Apple is reportedly working on an “Apple Watch Series X” to celebrate the watch’s 10-year anniversary, and it’s not expected to ship until the second half of 2024.
For 2023, there will be the Apple Watch Series 9, which is expected to be an incredibly small update over the Series 8. There might be a new processor called the S8 that’ll give you slightly faster performance, a new pink color, and a set of woven bands with a magnetic buckle.
For the Apple Watch Ultra, rumors say that Apple might give it a matte black finish and an updated processor, and… that’s it.
Apple clearly knows the miles-long lead it has over the smartwatch competition, so they don’t need to do anything revolutionary with the Apple Watch until they feel like it. It looks like they’ll feel like it come 2024, but for this year, they’re sort of just shrugging their shoulders.
New AirPods… kind of
There’s also a rumor that we’ll be getting new AirPods Pro (2nd-generation) at the Apple event, but only with one upgrade: USB-C. That way, you can use the same cable to charge your iPhone 15 and AirPods, which will be nice. I hope they sell new AirPods cases with USB-C ports on them so I don’t have to buy a whole new set just for a different charging port.
Which one am I getting?
I bought the Apple Watch Series 8 last year to replace my aging Series 3, and I don’t expect to upgrade it for at least a couple more years. I’ll continue to use it until the design of the Series X entices me enough to upgrade.
On the flip side, I upgrade my iPhone every year, so I’ll be picking up either the iPhone 15 Pro Max or the standard 15 Pro. I’m kind of over having such a huge phone in my pocket (I use the 14 Pro Max, for reference), and I think the smaller size of the 15 Pro will be a nice change of pace. Will I miss having the rumored periscope lens and bigger battery? Yes, but not only will that force to continue using a gigantic phone, it’ll cost way more than I wanna spend.
And yes, I will figure out how to get USB-C on my AirPods. If I have to buy a new pair and pass off my old Lightning-equipped ones to someone else, I will. I need cable continuity in my life.
September 12th is right around the corner, as well as the rest of the madness of Techtember. Stay tuned to my newsletter and follow me on X for updates on everything on the horizon. It’s about to get nuts.