Every year, Apple introduces a new iPhone line, and its introduction is the most important event in the Apple calendar. As much as Mac sales are growing and Apple’s push into services is increasing, iPhone sales are at the heart of the company’s portfolio and serve as the driver for accessories like Apple Watch and AirPods.
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro haven’t been out for very long, but rumors are already heating up about what to expect with next year’s iPhone 15 line. Here’s what we’ve heard so far, and what we expect based on Apple’s recent history.
Updated 03/20/23: A new set of purported iPhone 15 CAD files give us a closer look at the single volume button and mute button, which will appear on the Pro models only.
iPhone 15 release date
Apple usually introduces the new iPhones on a Tuesday or Wednesday around the second week of September.
Therefore, we suspect the iPhone 15 will be unveiled on September 12 or 13, 2023. At least some of the models will likely go on sale for preorder that Friday (September 15) and be available in stores the following Friday (September 22).
Here’s when the last few generations arrived in stores:
iPhone 14: September 16, 2022
iPhone 13: September 24, 2021
iPhone 12: October 23, 2020
iPhone 11: September 20, 2019
iPhone XS: September 21, 2018
iPhone 15 price
With the iPhone 14 models, Apple kept the price the same in the U.S., but thanks to exchange rates and inflation, had to raise prices in the U.K. and many other countries. For reference, here’s the pricing on the iPhone 14 line:
iPhone 14: $799/£849
iPhone 14 Plus: $899/£949
iPhone 14 Pro: $999/£1099
iPhone 14 Pro Max: $1099/£1199
If Apple does indeed re-brand the iPhone 15 Pro Max as the iPhone 15 Ultra (see below) and give it some exclusive new features, we think that will prove enough of an excuse to raise prices on that model, perhaps $100/£100. A tweet by LeaksApplePro in November 2022 said it expects the iPhone 15 Ultra to “cost substantially more to manufacture than iPhone 14 Pro Max.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost more, but it’s a good indication that it might.
A rumor in December claimed that Apple is “seriously” considering a price cut to the iPhone 15 Plus following disappointing sales of the iPhone 14 Plus this year.
That’s really about all there is to those rumors so far. The assumption is that the iPhone 15 Ultra would be the branding used for the “Pro Max” variant, and there would be some sort of new features to differentiate it. Apple did this once before with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which had a slightly better camera than the iPhone 12 Pro.
So most people expect that the camera will once again be the feature that sets apart the new Ultra phone, possibly with a better periscope telephoto camera (see below). The rumor mill has lots of other ideas for how Apple could make the Ultra version stand out, such as faster charging or more storage, but most of them aren’t substantiated by any evidence. Wishlist features, if you will.
This hypothetical iPhone 15 Ultra could otherwise be thought of as an iPhone 15 Pro Max–it is assumed to use the same processor, display, and design as the iPhone 15 Pro (though LeaksApplePro reports that it could have a titanium body like the Apple Watch Ultra).
iPhone 15 design
While Apple has kept the same general design since the iPhone 12, rumors suggest that a change may be in store for the iPhone 15. Here’s what we’re hearing about the look of the next iPhone.
According to ShrimpApplePro on Twitter, the iPhone 15 will feature “a new border design.” As the leaker explains, the back edge corners will “be rounded and not square” like the iPhone 14. Based on the images below, it looks a bit like an updated version of the iPhone X.
We expect to see the same four general sizes: about 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch for both the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro. 9to5Mac obtained CAD files reported to be from the iPhone 15 enclosure, which shows a very slightly larger 6.2-inch display thanks to a slimmer bezel. The iPhone 15 Pro CAD files showed a similar slimmer bezel. It’s not yet known if the Max variants will also have a larger display, or if none of these iPhones will, but will have a slightly smaller enclosure instead.
ShrimpApple Pro says the iPhone 15 will use titanium for the first time, a rumor that we’ve heard for several years. If true this time around, it’s possible that it will be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Ultra, much like the Apple Watch Ultra.
According to a rumor by Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple might switch to solid-state buttons for the iPhone 15 Pro and Ultra models, much like the Home button on the iPhone SE. Kuo says Apple will add a pair of Taptic engines on either side of the phone to mimic the feel of a clickable button. A later set of reported CAD files revealed by ShrimpApplePro on Twitter show how the Pro models will have a single unified volume button and the mute switch replaced by a mute button. According to these supposed CAD files, the non-Pro models will continue to have two volume buttons and a mute switch.
The EU is mandating that most portable electronics, including phones, have to standardize around USB-C for charging ports (if any–gadgets that only charge wirelessly like the Apple Watch don’t need to add a USB-C port). Apple will have to transition several products over time, and instead of making special USB-C versions for Europe, will likely just change everything worldwide as we saw recently with the 10th-gen iPad and Siri remote. It’s expected that all iPhone 15 models will come with a USB-C port.
Current iPhones use USB-C power adapters, so that won’t change, just the USB-C to Lightning cable and the port on the iPhone itself. The upside? Potentially faster charging and faster data transfer speeds for those that plug their iPhones into their Macs or PCs.
One significant change to the display on the non-Pro iPhones is that the Dynamic Island— that pill-shaped camera cutout that serves as an important interface element on iPhone 14 Pro–will come to all iPhone 15 models. That means the non-Pro iPhones will have the same look and interface.
Note that this doesn’t mean that the iPhone 15 will get an always-on display or ProMotion, though. Those features are currently rumored to remain exclusive to the Pro models.
iPhone 15 specs and features
Apple tests a lot of new technologies from a lot of suppliers, and over time little leaks can sometimes give us a clue as to what’s coming in the next iPhone. These leaks are sometimes wrong, often misunderstood, and generally miss software innovations that accompany the new hardware (such as Dynamic Island, where we only heard about the “pill and hole” cutout and not how Apple intended to make use of it).
Here’s what we currently expect to find inside the iPhone 15 line.
Periscope camera lens
Rumors have said that Apple has been working on a “periscope lens” to offer a much longer-range optical zoom. It’s the same technology that allows the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra to achieve such a long zoom range. There hasn’t been a lot of movement on this rumor recently, but it was last suggested that this might be an exclusive feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It’s unclear whether this would necessitate a different camera array layout or size, though the S22 Ultra’s cameras are much larger than the other models.
Elsewhere, there are sure to be camera upgrades in the iPhone 15 as there are every year. Between a front camera and three rear cameras, you can bet at least one of them will get an improved sensor or lens. The only specific rumor around the cameras right now is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max may have a periscope telephoto camera, giving an optical zoom likely somewhere in the 5x to 10x range.
The next major processor manufacturing technology bump out of TSMC (the company that makes most of Apple’s chips) wasn’t ready yet for the A16. We think the A17 is likely to be one of the first mass-produced chips to use the chip manufacturer’s 3nm process, which should allow more transistors in the same area, allowing Apple to cram in more features and better performance.
With the iPhone 14 line, Apple reserved its new A16 for the Pro models and used the A15 again on the non-Pro models. We think that’s likely to continue in 2023, with the standard iPhone 15 using the A16 processor and the iPhone 15 Pro using the new A17.
After the iPhone 14 Pro kept the same 6GB of memory as the iPhone 13 Pro, Trendforce reports that the iPhone 15 Pro/Ultra models will get 8GB of RAM. The non-Pro models are expected to have the same 6GB of RAM as this year.
Apple’s 5G modem
Apple has been working on its own cellular modem for years now, having acquired Intel’s modem unit in 2019 for $1B. While it was originally rumored that Apple could have a competitive 5G capable cellular modem ready in time to be part of the iPhone 15, recent rumors suggest that won’t be the case. Back in May, Ming-Chi Kuo reported that the development of the modem had hit a “roadblock,” and Mark Gurman reported in November that Qualcomm is expected to provide “the majority of new modems” for the iPhone 15. We should expect another Qualcomm Snapdragon modem instead, most likely the Snapdragon X70.