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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Apple’s iPhone 15 Marks a New Era

Every new iPhone in the past few years may have felt like an iterative upgrade—slightly better camera here, slightly better performance there. But Apple's new iPhone 15 lineup is getting a few once-in-a-decade changes that make them stand out in a sea of visually similar iPhones. The company announced the new iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max at its annual September event in Cupertino, California. From the addition of USB-C to the removal of the ill-famed notch, here are all the top features of the new iPhone.

New Port City

There's a new port on every new iPhone. After 11 years of the Lightning charging port, its time has come to an end. Replacing it is USB-C, the reversible charging port that's available on Apple MacBooks, iPads, Android phones, Windows laptops, and many more types of devices across various categories. Often dubbed as the “universal connector,” its primary benefit here is that you can finally use the same cable to recharge most of your devices. 

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The new port also adds the capability for faster data transfer. However, for the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, Apple is limiting the data transfer speeds to the current 480 megabits per second. Upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro models and you're able to unlock up to 10 Gigabits per second thanks to USB 3 support. The company is including a braided and color-matching USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, though this cable is limited to the baseline 480 Mbps transfer speeds. If you want to unlock the full potential of the Pro models, you'll need to buy your own capable cable

Unfortunately, while USB-C could have opened the door to faster charging, Apple did not announce any improvement in charging speeds. On the company’s spec page, the official charging speed is still limited to 20 watts. 

Apple has been adding USB-C to many of its own devices since 2015, but it has been collecting licensing fees for the Lightning port, which may partly be why the iPhone has been the longest holdout. However, last year the European Union ruled that USB-C must be on all new phones, tablets, and cameras by the end of 2024, and so here we are. 

Along with USB-C, all four new iPhone models now have the Dynamic Island, which was first introduced and restricted to last year's iPhone 14 Pro models. This is the pill-shaped cutout at the top of the display housing the TrueDepth selfie camera. Gone is the notorious notch that debuted on the iPhone X. But the Dynamic Island, as its name suggests, is adaptive, almost acting like a second screen. If you're waiting for an Uber ride, the driver's arrival time will show up in the Dynamic Island. You can also see passive information from alarms, timers, flight information, and live sports game scores without ever having to hop into an app itself. 

The 6.1-inch iPhone 15 and 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus retain the same size as their predecessors. They come in black, blue, green, yellow, and pink. Outside of the Dynamic Island and USB-C, these two models aren't too different. 

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They still only have 60-Hz OLED screens when nearly every other phone at their price has smoother, more fluid 120-Hz refresh rate screens. They're powered by the A16 chipset, the very same that powered last year's iPhone 14 Pro models, and they're also stealing the 48-megapixel primary camera from the Pro, enabling them to capture more detail than ever before. The 12-megapixel ultrawide camera is largely the same. Apple, as usual, has announced improvements to its Photonic computational photography engine, so you should expect nicer photos overall, but time will tell.

Apple has saved many more of the upgrades for the Pro models to make them more worthy of the moniker. They are powered by the new A17 Pro chipset, which promises 10 percent faster performance cores, and a 2X faster neural engine. 

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Apple says the graphics processor unit is also the “biggest redesign in the history of Apple GPUs,” citing a 20 percent speed bump over its predecessor. Apple says this new GPU can create more detailed environments in mobile games while drawing less power, and it now has hardware-accelerated ray tracing, which is 4X faster. Because of all this, Apple says you can play console games like Resident Evil: Village on the iPhone 15 Pro, and games like the upcoming Assassin's Creed Mirage will have an iPhone version alongside console and PC versions. It'll be interesting to see how the fidelity of these AAA games matches up to their console counterparts.

You still get the 120-Hz ProMotion screen on the Pro, but Apple has refined the design to slim down the bezels around the display and, more importantly, added a titanium frame. Instead of stainless steel, the titanium 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Pro Max are now much lighter and more durable, which should make the latter easier to wield with one hand. 

The big new camera change here is the addition of a periscope zoom camera exclusively for the iPhone 15 Pro Max model. This technology isn't new—Samsung famously has had a 10X optical zoom camera in its Galaxy Ultra phones for a few years, and last year's Google Pixel 7 Pro uses a 5X optical periscope zoom camera. Here, Apple says it enables 5X optical zoom, allowing you to capture subjects at a distance in high quality. The smaller iPhone 15 Pro is, sadly, still stuck at 3X zoom. 

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Another exclusive for the Pro models is the Action Button. If this sounds familiar, it's the same name Apple gave to the extra customizable button on the Apple Watch Ultra, except on the iPhone, it's replacing the classic mute switch that has been on every iPhone since 2007. You can customize this button to trigger certain actions, like muting the phone, turning on the flashlight, or taking a photo with the camera open. 

Apple placed an emphasis on sustainability throughout its September event and announced that it was moving away from leather cases and straps for its devices. It announced a new sustainable fabric material called FineWoven, and it declared that its going to be phasing out leather in favor of recycled and plant-based materials. 

The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus remain at the same price of $799 and $899, respectively. The iPhone 15 Pro stays at the same price of $999, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is getting a price increase to $1,199, a $100 jump from their predecessors. However, you now get 256 GB of storage on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and this is the same price as the 256-GB iPhone 14 Pro Max. These phones will be up for preorder on Friday, September 15, and will officially launch on September 22. Stay tuned for our review soon. 

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