When it comes to incremental upgrades, the new Apple iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max may well have the most significant changes in a long while, on paper at least.
No changes when it comes to size (6.1″ and 6.7″ on the Max), but no doubt the very most striking difference between this iPhone and previous generations would be the switch to USB-C thanks to a European Union ruling requiring manufacturers to adopt USB-C as a single charger standard–a shame because lightning adapters are hardy buggers despite the other inconveniences.
But there’s also one significant change in the housing–it’s now made with spacecraft-grade titanium (probably Grade 5), making these the lightest Pro models Apple has ever made. With the new material, Apple has gone with contoured edges and a brushed finish; a subtle change but one clearly stands out from previous generations.
The titanium bands are fused to an aluminium substructure made from 100% recycled aluminium, using what Apple calls a thermo-mechanical process–bonding through solid-state diffusion. The core frame remains aluminium so as to aid in thermal dissipation and facilitate easy replacement of the back glass. It comes in four finishes: black titanium, white titanium, blue titanium, and natural titanium.
Also new: a customisable Action button replaces the iconic silent mode switch. The button, which features haptic feedback and press-and-hold capabilities (with visual cues via the Dynamic Island), can be used to access the camera or flashlight quickly, activate Voice Memos, Focus modes, Translate, and accessibility features like Magnifier or Shortcuts.
It’s pretty funny that we have the first three-nanometre chip for a mobile phone, and it’s hardly a headliner–that’s how fast processors are these days. However, the new (probably overpowered) A17 Pro has some significant structural changes. The GPU now sports a 6-core design with hardware-accelerated ray-tracing for gaming and a dedicated AV1 decoder for video streaming. Apple is teasing games like Resident Evil Village and Resident Evil 4 conversions, which are set to be available by the end of the year.
In terms of numbers, Apple shared that the CPU is up to 10% faster, but more significantly, the GPU is 20% faster, and the Neural Engine is almost twice as quick and will lift features like autocorrect and Personal Voice.
There’s also a subtle but significant change in how the new Pro phones handle pictures. Previously, the 48MP sensor would output 12MP images by default (that old pixel binning malarky), but now you have the option to output at 24MP if you need the extra detail.
The main camera, which is typically wide-angle, now offers three popular wide-angle focal lengths: 24mm, 28mm and 35mm, and you can select one as a default–photographers are going to love this one. Also notable is that instead of 48MP ProRAW images, you can save images as 48MP HEIF, which will save a lot of space if you want high resolution pictures.
But here is one central area where the Apple 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max differ–the Pro offers a 3x telephoto while the Pro Max offers a 5x telephot0 (120mm equivalent), which features a tetraprism design combined with optical image stabilisation and an autofocus 3D sensor-shift module. Effectively, the Pro Max can effectively shoot macro, 13mm ultrawide, 24mm, 35mm, 48mm and 120mm (and effectively all points in between).
Also, one new subtle change is that now the camera will automatically capture depth information, so you can retrospectively change photos you took previously into portraits; you no longer need to switch to portrait mode to capture one. In addition, you can adjust the focal point as well.
Another new feature–as a result of USB-C implementation–is that you can also shoot and instantly transfer full-resolution ProRAW to apps like Capture One or record at 4K and 60fps directly to external storage.
Other upgrades include Night mode and Smart HDR improvements, which enhance low-light and dynamic range performance. Low-light performance and Action mode for video have also been improved. There’s also a new option for Log encoding; the iPhone 15 Pro is the first smartphone in the world to support the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), which is a global standard for colour workflows. In addition, an update at the end of the year will also enable you to record spatial video for the Apple Vision Pro.
Both phones feature the new second-generation Ultra Wideband chip. Devices with this chip can connect at three times the range as before, which enables users to share their location and find each other even in crowds with Precision Finding.
With regards to quality of life improvements, there’s a new Voice Isolation feature to snuff out background noise during calls and expanded eSIM support from over 295 carriers. In terms of future-proofing, the phones now support Wi-Fi 6E and Thread and future Qi2 wireless charging.
Apple says that it now supports USB 3 speeds of up to 10Gbps, which implicitly means it’s v3.2 Gen 2×1 (or v3.1 Gen 2). Much simpler when it’s just Lightning, innit? And while you might not want to, it’s good to know that you have the option to charge your AirPods or Apple Watch with the iPhone via the USB port.
The iPhone 15 Pro starts at SGD1,649 (128GB), while the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at SGD1,999 (128GB). Pre-orders start on September 15, and the phones will go on sale on September 22.