After months of leaks, rumours, and speculation, Apple has officially announced the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. They are the most expensive new iPhones yet, with prices starting at $999 for the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro with 128GB of storage and $1,199 for the iPhone 15 Pro Max with 256GB of storage. Apple hopes its upgrades are significant enough to entice upgraders to spend that kind of money when the phones go up for preorder on Friday and become available in stores on September 22. Here are the biggest changes and new features in this year’s Pro iPhones.
The Action button
The iPhone has had a ring/silence switch since the very beginning, and the iPhone 15 Pro finally changes that. The switch has been replaced with the Action button.
By default, just press and hold the button to toggle between ring and silence, just like the switch used to do. You’ll get a haptic response and animation in the Dynamic Island. But there are a number of other modes available, too. You can set the button to launch the camera, start a voice recording, activate an accessibility feature like launching the Magnifier or flashlight, or running a Shortcut.
That last one is especially exciting, as it means you can quickly perform complex actions, or even just launch any app you want.
The Action Button replaces the mute switch with something far more flexible and useful.
Design changes: Titanium, USB-C, slim display border
Apple has replaced the stainless steel body with Grade 5 Titanium, bonded to an aluminum internal structure. This should be just as durable but is much lighter.
Apple has reduced the border around the display, too. The display is still 6.1 inches for the Pro model and 6.7 inches for the Pro Max, but the body of the phone has shrunk a little due to the smaller bezels.
The smaller body and titanium enclosure make this the lightest Pro iPhone ever. The iPhone 15 Pro weighs 6.6 ounces, while the Pro Max weighs 7.81 ounces. Compare that to 7.27 and 8.47 ounces for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, respectively. In fact, this year’s Pro models weigh only about 10 percent more than the non-Pro models.
As previously reported, Apple is replacing the Lightning port with USB-C on all iPhone 15 models. On the Pro and Pro Max, it’s a faster USB 3 connection offering up to 10 Gbps of bandwidth. That allows you to, for the first time, shoot ProRes video directly to an external drive.
With new materials come new colors: Black Titanium, White titanium, Blue Titanium, and Natural Titanium. All colors have a new brushed texture.
All the new iPhone 15 Pro colors are very titanium-y.
A17 Pro processor
It wouldn’t be a new Pro iPhone without a new A-series processor. While the iPhone 15 will use the A16 Bionic introduced in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max get a new system-on-chip dubbed the A17 Pro.
That’s an interesting name change—adding “Pro” to the name makes one suspect that next year, the non-Pro iPhones will get a non-Pro version of the A17.
The A17 Pro is the first 3nm chip in any major consumer product, which increases efficiency and allows Apple to increase transistor count to 19 billion (vs. 16 billion in the A16 Bionic). There are still two high-performance CPU cores, but they are 10 percent faster; the four high-efficiency cores are also faster, though Apple did not disclose how much.
The GPU is paired with a 6-core GPU that uses an entirely new shader architecture. It offers 20% faster peak performance and better energy efficiency, according to Apple. It also provides new graphics features like mesh shading, and finally, hardware ray tracing acceleration, which Apple claims is the fastest in any smartphone and up to four times faster than software ray tracing.
Media encoding and decoding is more efficient, and Apple has incorporated a hardware AV1 decoder for the first time, finally catching up with some competitors. The Neural Engine, which processes machine learning tasks, still has 16 cores but is up to twice as fast, delivering up to 35 trillion operations per second.
Finally, Apple adds ray tracing support to its GPU, though it will matter most when it comes to the Mac.
On the wireless side, Apple has added Wi-Fi 6E and Thread networking, as well as a new second-generation U2 Ultra Wideband chip that is more accurate at a greater distance.
Camera upgrades: 5x telephoto on iPhone 15 Pro Max
Apple says the new camera system in the iPhone 15 Pro is “the equivalent of 7 camera lenses in their pocket.” We have Macro mode and 13mm ultra-wide as before, though the new ultra-wide camera gets a new anti-glare lens coating and better night mode quality thanks to the A17 Pro.
The new 48MP main camera is a larger than the one on the iPhone 15, and has an f/1.78 aperture. Like the iPhone 15, it shoots a new default 24MP HEIF image, in addition to 48MP in bright light. ProRes is still supported, as well.
That new 24MP mode can use different areas of the image sensor to produce three different zoom levels: equivalent to 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm lenses. A 2x zoom crop mode uses the center 12MP for the 48mm equivalent.
The telephoto camera on the iPhone 15 Pro is an improved 12MP camera, still with a 3x zoom (or 77mm equivalent). But the iPhone 15 Pro Max gets a new “tetra prism” periscope lens that bounces light four times internally for a longer focal length: 120mm, or a 5x zoom.
The new 120mm lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max will be great for sports photography.
Naturally, the new cameras are backed by new computational photography features aimed at improving color and low light clarity. One neat new trick is the ability for the camera to recognize people, dogs, or cats in frame and record depth information along with the standard image, so you can go enable Portrait mode on that image later in the Photos app if you want to.
Later this year, the iPhone 15 Pro will get a software update that enables the recording of Spatial Videos, which use both the wide-angle and main cameras to shoot immersive video meant to be viewed on the upcoming Apple Vision Pro.