Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Update, May 26, 2023 (4.32 PM ET): This hub has been updated to include a leak that suggests the entire iPhone 15 series could have a frosted glass back panel.
Original article: We've become so accustomed to Apple's iterative smartphone launches each year that the iPhone 14 event represented one of the most exciting in recent memory. Sure, the base model was practically identical to its predecessor, but Apple gave us a Plus instead of a Mini, and the Pro devices introduced a brand-new punch hole display.
The instantly memeable Dynamic Island (Apple's fancy name for the screen cutout and its corresponding software enhancements) is the biggest shakeup to the iPhone design in years. In many ways, it made up for a lack of innovation elsewhere in Apple's flagship phone lineup, with plenty of consumers deciding there was no need to upgrade just yet. Will 2023's iPhone 15 series offer more than just superficial improvements and convince more people to make the jump? Let's find out.
Will there definitely be an iPhone 15 series?
Yearly iPhone updates are about as certain as the changing of the seasons. Even if the phones don't really change all that much, we can be sure that Apple will launch new versions accompanied by a slick launch event and flashy marketing. 2023 will be no different, as evidenced by the rumors and leaks already swirling about the iPhone 15 series.
We're expecting four new iPhone models in 2023 with the same basic outline once more. Just like the iPhone 14 lineup, there will likely be a regular iPhone 15 with a larger Plus offering (even if sales haven't been stellar for the iPhone 14 Plus), as well as two more expensive, higher-end phones. The naming scheme may well be the same, but we've heard whispers that Apple might be considering turning the Pro Max into an iPhone Ultra. This would be in line with the branding the company recently introduced for its top-of-the-line Apple Watch and could allow it to charge an even heftier price tag. It would need to be differentiated from the smaller iPhone Pro, however, with new materials or enhanced capabilities.
When will the iPhone 15 release date be?
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
The last two generations of iPhone were announced in the middle of September and went on sale soon after. There's nothing to suggest Apple will break from this cycle in 2023. Barring any unforeseen circumstances or supply chain issues, we'd bet on a September 2023 launch event for the iPhone 15 range.
If Apple does decide to mix things up and unveil a beefed-up iPhone 15 Ultra, there's a chance it may do so at a separate event. With what we know at this point, a single announcement show still seems the most likely.
What features and specs will the iPhone 15 series have?
With the introduction of Dynamic Island changing up the design of the iPhone 14 Pro models, you might expect 2023's devices to be entirely iterative propositions. On the contrary, some headline new features could be coming our way.
It goes without saying that Apple will launch a brand-new processor, and according to Nikkei, the expected A17 Bionic could be the first built on TSMC's new 3nm process. Hopefully, this will be used in all iPhone 15 models — Apple reserved its new A16 Bionic for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max while the cheaper models were stuck with previous-gen silicon.
The iPhone 15 series could be in for a RAM upgrade in 2023. A report from research firm TrendForce claimed that “Apple will bump up the capacity and specifications” of RAM on the iPhone 15 series. And before that report, the firm claimed the iPhone 15 Pro could “feature a memory capacity upgrade to 8GB to match its new processor.” This RAM boost may skip over the standard model and the Plus, but these devices could still at least be upgraded to LPDDR5 RAM.
USB-C or not USB-C?
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Apple has admitted it must comply with EU law and ditch its proprietary Lighting port in favor of a USB-C connector. The mandate doesn't come into effect until 2024, but Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, among others, believes Apple may rip the band-aid off sooner and stick a USB-C port in the iPhone 15 series. If it turns out to be correct, this will be a seismic event in the Apple hardware world — millions of Lighting cables will no longer be useful to anyone buying a new iPhone. Like many other smartphone makers, Apple no longer includes a charging adapter in the box. So even though you'll get a USB-C to USB-C cable with an iPhone 15 purchase, you may need to upgrade your brick anyway.
The iPhone 15 Pro's new port may bring a significant speed boost to the data transfer rate. According to anonymous analyst 941 — who accurately leaked Dynamic Island before the iPhone 14 launch — the port could use Thunderbolt 3. The Lightning port on current iPhone models operates at USB 2.0 speeds, which go up to 480 megabits per second (0.48Gbps). Thunderbolt 3, on the other hand, goes up to 40 gigabits per second. The same leak also revealed that the new port might allow for some unique features to appear in iOS 17. One such feature could be the ability to output to monitors at up to 4K.
But Thunderbolt 3 may not be applied across the series. According to Forbes, Apple may stick to USB 2.0 speeds for the base model and the Plus. While Thunderbolt 3 could be reserved for the Pro and Pro Max.
Despite the inconvenience for consumers who own many Lighting accessories, this will be a positive for most. MacBooks and iPads have been using USB-C for years, as have most other modern tech devices, so this will mean one less cable to pack when you go on trips. While it's not clear that Apple definitely will bring in USB-C for the iPhone 15, it's also not clear if it would apply to all models if it did. It could choose to only update the port on the Pro models or only certain SKUs in certain regions. It's also possible that Apple will limit the transfer speeds for the cheaper iPhone models in order to differentiate between them. Time will tell, and it could be short-lived anyway, with an entirely portless iPhone rumored to be coming in the next few years.
With the inclusion of a USB-C port, more accessories will be usable on the iPhone. Apple could potentially restrict the functions of non-licensed accessories. Rumors have suggested that the company may limit the performance of third-party cables. However, the company has been warned about this. EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton sent a letter to the tech giant that the iPhone could be banned in the EU if it tries this stunt.
Dynamic Islands all round
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
The cutout display of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max was the most hotly anticipated feature of the current-gen devices, but the regular iPhone 14 and new Plus model had to make do with the dated notch. Rumor has it (via Ross Young) that all iPhone 15 variants will ship with the newer pill-shaped hole and Dynamic Island software experience. An even more advanced version of this with invisible under-display Face ID sensors and a smaller camera cutout is touted for the iPhone 15 Pro, but we'll have to wait and see about that.
Even better photos
Apple always manages to do something new with its smartphone cameras each year, whether with improved hardware or software smarts. In 2023, we're expecting the latest and greatest Sony imaging sensor for enhanced primary camera performance (possibly reserved for the Pro models). It's said to be a “state-of-the-art” sensor that can take in more light and double the saturation signal level in each pixel.
Something else that could further enhance the photos you take is an improved LiDAR scanner. According to a leak from MacRumors, it's believed that Sony will provide a majority, if not all, of the new LiDAR scanner components for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.
A periscope zoom lens is a tantalizing prospect that could represent the biggest iPhone camera upgrade in years.
More interesting than that is the rumor that Apple is finally going to opt for a periscope lens capable of 5x or 6x optical zoom, although this could be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max/Ultra. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo further supports this possibility stating that the periscope lens is expected to be only for the 15 Pro Max but will eventually trickle down to the iPhone 16 Pro in 2024. Folded zoom cameras have graced high-end Android flagships for a few years now, so this is another example of Apple catching up. It's still a tantalizing prospect, though, and could represent the biggest iPhone camera upgrade in years.
Embracing curves once again?
Apple moved away from curved iPhones and back to the flat edge aesthetic with the iPhone 12. With the iPhone 15 series, the company could be set to mix things up again and go for rounded edges on at least one side of the device. According to leaker ShrimpApplePro, we may see something similar to the iPhone 5C, where the front is flat, but the rear is curved. This may seem like an odd design direction to go in, but this could be similar to the bottom case of the latest MacBooks. Apple also often likes to introduce complementary design motifs across its product lines.
The same leak also mentions titanium as a frame material (for the Ultra only, perhaps), which we've heard before. All of this may end up being subject to supply chain capacity, so don't be surprised if none of it comes to fruition in time for the iPhone 15 and we get the same design again.
Thanks to a couple of leaks, we now have some renders that give us a better idea of what to expect for the design.
Based on the images, Apple seems to be sticking with the same dual-camera setup at the back of the iPhone 15. The third camera is likely reserved for the Pro models. At the front, the renders show a 6.2-inch display, which would be slightly larger than the 6.1-inch screen of the iPhone 14. The iPhone 15 Pro's lenses also appear thicker than before, suggesting an upgrade to larger sensors.
Not long after those CAD images leaked, we got our first look at a new colorway. The hex code for the color is 410D0D, and the name for this color code is Dark Sienna. However, Apple may choose to give the colorway a different name.
Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo claimed the company could swap out the physical buttons with solid-state buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro. It was also rumored that Apple would replace the mute button with a programmable “Action” button. While we still expect there to be an action button, it looks like plans for solid-state buttons have fallen through. A company believed to be responsible for developing the components for the buttons announced the cancellation of the project in a shareholder letter.
In May 2023, some outlets managed to get their hands on what's reported to be mock-up models of the iPhone 15. One of those outlets was Apple Insider, which procured all metal dummy units meant to be used for testing accessories and cases. The metal units are said to represent the whole iPhone 15 family and feature working buttons.
Based on the outlet's observations, the design appears to be fairly close to its predecessor. The most notable differences in regard to the entire series are the bigger USB-C port and the rounded edges we mentioned before. Individually, it appears most of the changes only come to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. These changes include:
- A long singular volume rocker
- A new button where the mute toggle used to be
- An expanded camera module
- A bigger base for the camera bump
Additionally, the new button could be the rumored Action Button we've heard so much about. The dummy molds also seem to confirm that there won't be solid-state buttons. Apple Insider also claims that the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are thicker than their older counterparts, but they are also narrower and shorter.
The other outlet that reportedly got a dummy unit was the YouTube channel Unbox Therapy. In the 20-minute video, host Lewis Hilsenteger shows off a mock-up that seems closer to what the iPhone 15 may actually look like compared to the earlier all-metal dummy units. Hilsenteger does add this caveat, “I can't guarantee this is what [it will] look like. I've been told this is what it's going to look like.”
Near the end of May, MacRumors also managed to get their hands on dummy iPhone 15 units. The outlet noted that the backs of the models had frosted glass, something that was exclusive to the Pro models. However, the publication says the frosted glass could appear across all models in this next generation.
Other smaller rumor tidbits include 8K video recording and battery life improvements of up to four hours for the most expensive model. Regarding the battery life, a report from Economic Daily News claims that the iPhone 15's display driver chip — which controls the OLED screen — will be more energy efficient. Since the screen tends to be one of the biggest drains on the battery, this should make a noticeable improvement. Adding to the increased battery life rumors, MacRumors reports that the energy efficiency improvements in the A17 Bionic chip could lead to 35% reduced power consumption.
There's also speculation that Touch ID could come back this year. Apple was granted a new patent for an optical imaging system that uses shortwave infrared technology. Jason England of Laptop Mag said that he predicts this patent could herald the return of Touch ID, but only for the iPhone 15 Pro.
Speaking of IDs, a leaked roadmap revealed that Apple may have been planning to implement an under-display Face ID module in the 15 Pro, but that might have gone up in smoke. This leak also revealed that the base model could have gotten a ProMotion high refresh rate display, but that has been canceled as well.
In May, the outlet GizChina reported that Wi-Fi 6E may only be available to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Earlier leaks suggested Wi-Fi 6E was coming, but it was expected to arrive on all models.
Although there are reports that Apple is building its own modems (Bloomberg), it doesn't look like these will be ready for the next iPhones. Qualcomm modems will have to suffice for one more year.
As for features, Gurman leaked details about an AI-driven virtual trainer called Quartz. According to Gurman, Quartz “will essentially be a trainer built into your iPhone and Apple Watch. It will use AI and data from your devices to build personalized wellness plans.” Gurman claims this feature will launch next year.
How much will the iPhone 15 series cost?
US consumers were spared a price hike with the iPhone 14 lineup, but those across the pond were not quite so lucky. Prices increased by as much as £150 in the UK and up to €200 in various European markets. That means that the flagship iPhone 14 Pro Max started at £1,200/€1,449 (UK and Germany). In contrast, you could get a Pixel 7 Pro with the same 128GB storage for just £849/€899 at launch — Apple's pricing in Europe looks preposterous by comparison.
If Apple keeps the same prices for the iPhone 15 lineup in the US, we'd expect to see starting prices along these lines (for 128GB):
- iPhone 15 — $799
- iPhone 15 Plus — $899
- iPhone 15 Pro — $999
- iPhone 15 Pro Max — $1,099
That said, if the iPhone 15 Pro Max morphs into a super premium iPhone 15 Ultra, expect a price tag to match. More expensive materials like titanium and enhanced features could arrive with a starting price of $1,299 (LeaksApplePro via Forbes) — that's $200 more than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. We don't know if similar hikes will come to the other iPhone models, but reports suggest that the iPhone 14 series was around 20% more expensive to produce, so we could finally see this additional cost passed on to consumers in the US as well as everywhere else.