Apple just announced its new iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max models. This year, the 15 and 15 Plus models have a lot in common with the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, but there are still some pretty incredible features that the Pro lineup sports that the regular lineup doesn't.
Some of the features listed below are exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, so you won't find them on any other iPhone model. Others are carried over or improved from the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max.
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The four new iPhone 15 series models are available for preorder on Sept. 15 and will be available to buy on Sept. 22. The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 for the 128 GB model, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $1,199 for the 256 GB version. The iPhone 15 starts at $799, and the 15 Plus starts at $899 for the 128 GB models.
The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are stuck with the old-style Ring/Silent switch, which has been on iPhone models since the beginning, but the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max introduce an entirely new button to replace it — the Action button. Instead of a switch you flip, you press or press and hold it to get what you want.
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.
The Action button lets you quickly toggle between ring and silent modes, but it's also customizable, so you can use it as a shortcut for opening the camera, turning on the flashlight, starting Voice Memos, switching between Focus modes, opening Magnifier, and triggering shortcuts and automations. Later this year, the Action button will also support the Translate app.
The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus finally get better optical zoom capabilities. Instead of just the 0.5x and 1x optical zoom of the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, you get a 2x telephoto zoom, which uses the center 12 MP of the ultra-wide camera's upgraded 48 MP resolution.
While that's impressive, the iPhone 15 Pro Max's telephoto lens goes up to 5x optical zoom, which is a 67% increase over the maximum zoom of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. Unfortunately, the iPhone 15 Pro maxes out at 3x optical zoom like last year's Pro models.
The chassis on the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max models is made from aerospace-grade titanium, which makes the devices lighter and stronger than the stainless steel on last year's models. This alloy is the first ever for an iPhone, with "the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any metal," according to Apple.
The new enclosure also features a brushed texture for the contoured edges and allows for thinner borders than any other iPhone display. And its substructure is made from 100% recycled aluminum, which aids in thermal dissipation and makes it easier to replace the back glass if needed.
Apple uses the chip from the iPhone 14 Pro models, the A16 Bionic, on the new iPhone 15 and 15 Plus models. But the new iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max introduce a new chip style — the A17 Pro.
The A17 Pro is the "industry's first 3-nanometer chip," according to Apple. The chip has a 6-core GPU that's up to 20% faster than the five-core A16 Bionic. It includes four-times-as-fast hardware-level ray tracing instead of software-based ray tracing to render smoother graphics with more accurate reflections, refractions, and shadows for lighting in games and augmented reality.
Its CPU is up to 10 times faster, the Neural Engine is up to 2 times faster, and it includes a dedicated AV1 decoder that allows for more efficient, high-quality video experiences when streaming.
All the new iPhone models ditched Lightning for USB-C ports, but the A17 Pro chip on the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max has a USB controller built-in that supports USB 3 instead of the USB 2 that the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus get. That gives you data transfers of up to 10 gigabits per second — up to 20 times faster than USB 2's speed. It also means much higher video output — up to 4K at 60 fps HDR.
While it's unlikely to be a dealbreaker when deciding on which 2023 iPhone model to get, the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max will be able to record spatial video, which is only helpful if you have an Apple Vision Pro, which is currently going for $3,499 but isn't even available to the general public until early 2024.
The ultra-wide and main cameras are used together to create a three-dimensional video that can be shared with any Apple Vision Pro headset. It's unknown how the 3D video footage will look directly on the iPhone. Spatial video recording will be available early next year, likely around the same time the Apple Vision Pro gets its public release.
Like last year's iPhone models, the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max have always-on displays, while the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus do not. The always-on displays will make better use of iOS 17's new Standby mode, which can show you useful information such as photos, the time and date, and app widgets on the screen when the iPhone is placed on its side and charging.
Again, the Pro models come equipped with a lidar scanner in the rear camera system, and the regular models do not. This has been the case since the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max were released with Apple's first lidar scanners. The lidar scanners have many uses, but the most popular is definitely Night Mode portraits in the Camera app. Lidar is also helpful in augmented reality applications.
The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max were the first Apple devices equipped with precision dual-frequency GPS, which uses two separate GPS bands simultaneously for better accuracy and improved indoor guidance. The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max follow in their footsteps but add support for NavIC, or the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System.
The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are the first Thread-enabled smartphones. Thread is Matter's new low-power mesh networking protocol that is more energy efficient, works faster, and fails less than other protocols when communicating with IoT devices connected to the Home app.
Thread doesn't need a central hub, so you may no longer need an iPad, Apple TV, or HomePod as a home hub to take advantage of every HomeKit feature available. Hubs make it possible for you to control your HomeKit accessories remotely, create automations, and invite guests.
The new iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are also the first iPhone models to support Wi-Fi 6E, which has an additional block of electromagnetic spectrum space with its 6 GHz channels. Compared with Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E will result in up to 55% faster wireless speeds, lower latency, and less congestion with compatible products. The only issue with Wi-Fi 6E is that its extra spectrum has a shorter range and that spectrum can only be used with other Wi-Fi 6E devices.
ProMotion technology is again only available for the Pro models this year, just like the last two years. That means the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max displays can reach up to a 120 Hz refresh rate instead of the standard 60 Hz. So your screen can be refreshed up to twice as much per second, resulting in smoother scrolling, better gaming performance, and improved touch responsiveness.
Aside from the big camera-related features mentioned above, the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max also have the following, while the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus do not — which is the same case as last year's iPhone lineup.
- Night mode portrait photos with the rear camera.
- Macro photography with the rear camera to take extreme close-up shots.
- Apple ProRAW photo support for the rear camera.
- 1 TB option for more built-in storage of large photos and videos.
- Second-generation sensor-shift optical image stabilization on the rear camera system for photos and videos.
- Macro video recording with the rear camera, including slo-mo and time-lapse.
- ProRes video recording with the front and rear cameras.
Entirely new features for the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max models include:
- Up to 4K at 60 fps for ProRes video recording (last year's Pro models only went up to 4K at 30 fps).
- ProRes video recording directly to an external storage device.
- Log video recording with the rear camera, which enables more range and flexibility for special effects and color grading in post-production.
- Support on the rear camera for the Academy Color Encoding System, or ACES, a global standard for color workflows in video.
- Shoot and instantly transfer 48 MP ProRAW photos to your Mac with third-party solutions such as Capture One.
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