So all the speculation was largely on target.
At its big Tuesday event, not only did Apple unveil its new iPhone 15 and 15 Pro line-ups, but it stressed environmental bona fides and its efforts toward becoming carbon neutral by 2030. It also introduced the Apple Watch Series 9, an Apple Watch Ultra 2, and offered noteworthy commitments regarding its future corporate environmental responsibility.
In other news, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and HomePod 17 will be available as free updates on Sept. 18; macOS Sonoma ships a little later, on Sept. 26.And as expected, Apple’s iPhones, watches, and AirPods Pro will be among the first of its mobile products to be equipped with USB-C, in line with EU regulation. EarPods will also migrate to USB-C.
Before digging into the iPhone details, let's talk sustainability, which Apple chose to highlight.
‘An urgent responsibility’
Not only did Apple confirm that more than 300 manufacturers in its supply chain have committed to using 100% clean energy in Apple product production by 2030, but it also introduced its first fully carbon neutral product in the Apple Watch Series 9.
The company also promised:
- To remove all plastic in packaging by the end of year.
- To use even more recycled aluminium and other elements in all products.
- And to cut transportation emissions by 95% through use of surface transport.
“As we experience record temperatures and devastating storms, we all have an urgent responsibility to reduce emissions and protect against the worst impacts of climate change,” said Sarah Chandler, Apple’s vice president of Environment and Supply Chain Innovation. “At Apple, we’re proud that so many of our suppliers are taking action as we drive progress toward a carbon-neutral future.”
Apple didn’t stop there. Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi noted Apple even dispensed with plastic and introduced recycled materials for the Apple Park event entry badge given to guests at the launch in Cupertino. This may seem a small step, but it’s a significant high-profile nod toward what's coming.
Environment and accessories
Apple went further than the EU required. Not only did it adopt USB-C for the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro to help reduce e-Waste, but it also withdrew some of the less planet-friendly accessories from its range.
In this case, that means no more phone cases in silicon or leather as it moves to a more climate-friendly synthetic material that makes great use of recycled materials it calls FineWoven. The material is made from 68 percent post-consumer recycled content and has significantly lower carbon emissions compared to leather.
Apple is introducing a new FineWoven Case with MagSafe and FineWoven Wallet with MagSafe. In addition:
- FineWoven cases are now available with iPhone 15 and Apple Watch S9.
- Four new straps that use materials other than leather are available with Hermes.
- It's working with Nike on bands that use less fresh material and make a virtue of recycling.
Now, meet the new iPhones
Apple continues to invest in new iPhones and has now placed a processor divide between the iPhone and iPhone Pro range; only the Pro devices gain access to the world’s first mass market 3-nanometer chip. As for the products themselves:
The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus
Highlights of these devices include:
- Chip: A16 Bionic in iPhone and iPhone Plus.
- Display: 6.1-in. iPhone 15, 6.7-in. for iPhone 15 Plus.
- Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB storage. No 2TB model.
- Camera: 48MP quad-pixel sensor with 2x Telephoto and 3x optical zoom levels.
- Connectivity: USB-C, MagSafe, Qi2.
- Colors: pink, yellow, green, blue, and black.
- Glass back with color infused.
- Dynamic Island in all devices.
- Price: $799. But watch out for tempting carrier deals.
- Pre-orders Sept. 15, available on Sept. 22.
The big improvement is the camera. The 48MP camera delivers more than just a CCD improvement; the capacity is buoyed by really intelligent software to optimize the image. This doubles the resolution, balances light and detail, but doesn’t occupy all your storage space with huge file sizes. The camera can also figure out whether you want to take a portrait, and lets you edit that decision later on. You can even switch focus between subjects in the image after you get the picture.
“Using the power of computational photography, the Main camera gives users a new 24MP super-high-resolution default, offering incredible image quality at a practical file size ideal for storing and sharing. By intelligently integrating hardware and software, an additional 2x Telephoto option gives users three optical-quality zoom levels — 0.5x, 1x, 2x — for the first time on an iPhone dual-camera system,” Apple said.
All the same, the company showed it knows bigger pixels in cameras make bigger images and introduced 6TB ($29.99/month) and 12TB ($59.99/month) iCloud storage tiers.
The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max
More expensive and equipped with Apple’s first 3nm mobile processor, the A17 Pro, the new high-end iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are stronger and lighter with new design, an Action button, and even better cameras than the other devices in the range; you can even use these to capture immersive mixed-reality environments for Vision Pro.
- Chip: A17 Pro, faster with better battery life and much better graphics performance.
- Display: 6.1-in. iPhone Pro 15, 6.7-in. for iPhone 15 Pro Max.
- Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB storage. No 2TB model.
- Camera: 48MP quad-pixel sensor with 2x Telephoto and 3x optical zoom levels. (6x optical zoom range for the Pro, 10x optical zoom range for the Pro Max.
- Connectivity: USB-C, MagSafe, Qi2. Wi-Fi 6. USB 3 speeds, thanks to the new USB controller.
- A new Action button.
- Colors: black titanium, white titanium, blue titanium, and natural titanium.
- Thinner bezels around the screen.
- Price: $999, or $1,199 for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. But watch out for those carrier deals, which mean you can pick one of these up for nothing with the right trade-in.
- Pre-order from Sept.15, available Sept. 22.
Most users will see major graphics improvements, including up to 20% faster peak performance, better energy efficiency, and hardware-accelerated ray tracing for a more immersive experience for games. (USB 3 speeds are possible via an optional cable to deliver 20x faster transfers.)
The Action Button on iPhone Pro is a programmable button capable of much more than the one it replaces. Use it to switch between ring and silent mode. You can also use it to run Shortcuts, change volume, and more. Each interaction gives you direct visual feedback.
“This is the most pro line-up we have ever created, with a state-of-the-art titanium design, the best iPhone camera system yet that enables game-changing new workflows, and the A17 Pro chip, which ushers in a new chapter of performance and games never before seen on iPhone,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.
For photographers, the improvements are huge. Along with a 3x telephoto camera, users also gain 5x optical zoom at 120mm focal length telephoto. To achieve this, the company didn’t build a periscopic camera, it created a housing inside the device that delivers a similar result.
With an eye for creating future environments, you can also use the iPhone to capture 4K video in Pro Res mode, and (if you want) use USB-C to pump all that data into your Mac for on-site editing in real time. This naturally means you can capture astonishing images and experiences for Vision Pro, including the capacity to create 3D Spatial Video (promised as an update later this year).
The camera remains the biggest draw for most. Remarking on this, Milanesi said: “I got asked so often leading up to today why would a user upgrade to iPhone15 and the camera remains the biggest purchase driver for most consumers.”
Meet the new Apple Watch
- A new and 30% faster S9 chip.
- Improved battery life.
- Second-generation UWB chip
- 2,000 nits display when needed; 3,000 nits for the Apple Watch Ultra.
- 100% recycled aluminium, much greater use of recycled materials and more use of recycled materials in the watch bands.
Apple also said it has changed the way requests are processed on the device. The new chip is faster, which means you don’t need to reach to the cloud.
Secure on-device processing also lets you access Health data with Siri, so you can ask for health-related information. This ships later this year in English and Mandarin. Apple Watch also lets you use NameDrop.
But the headline feature for both devices seems to be a new gesture control called Double Tap.
This AI-driven tool means you just tap your thumb and index finger together twice to answer and end calls. This also controls the primary button in any app and will launch the Smart Stack in your watch face, just like using the Digital Crown.
Emergency SOS via satellite
Apple’s satellite-based Emergency SOS system is now available in 14 countries, with Spain and Switzerland coming on board later this month. Also new: a service called Roadside Assistance via Satellite. You can now get help when you break down in a place without mobile bandwidth in the US with AAA. (The company also reminded us that these features are available free for two years with a new iPhone.)
Compelling enough updates?
Apple hopes its new smartphones will be compelling enough to encourage existing owners to upgrade, new owners to climb aboard and Android users to switch.
The company seems to have a pretty good chance of success; not only is it the brand with the highest degree of US customer loyalty, but even as smartphone sales decline, the company has built marketshare.
“I believe Apple adopted the right strategy by refraining from increasing the prices of their entry-level iPhones at this time. The risks associated with doing so were simply too significant, especially when considering the impact of foreign exchange rates, particularly if the Federal Reserve decides to maintain higher interest rates for an extended period, thereby strengthening the dollar,” said Thomas Monteiro, senior analyst at Investing.com.
“I believe Tim Cook recognized that the company's focus for the remainder of the year should remain in Asia, especially in China and India, where the risk-to-reward ratio is currently greater."