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iPhone 15: Apple's most expensive phone revealed

Chris Keall,
Publish Date
Wed, 13 Sep 2023, 9:37AM

iPhone 15: Apple's most expensive phone revealed

Chris Keall,
Publish Date
Wed, 13 Sep 2023, 9:37AM

Apple’s “Wonderlust” event, featuring new iPhone and Watch models, has just wrapped up in the US. 

Watch it below. 

There were new features, but also price bumps. The event was preceded by a welter of leaks. Here are the rumours that proved correct, and those that didn’t. 

USB-C rumour: True

With its reveal of the entry-level model of the new series, the iPhone 15, Apple confirmed one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets: It’s shifting from its proprietary Lightning connector to the industry-standard USB-C - putting it on the right side of new EU regulations, and making it compatible with the chargers used by most Android phones, and most other gadgets full stop.

The new USB-C connector.

The new USB-C connector.

Again as expected, only the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max get the faster Version 3 USB-C, which offers up to 10 gigabit per second data transfer. It should support faster charging, ,too.

The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus have Version 2 USB-C, which transfers data at the same half-a-gigabit rate as Lightning.

Apple is also releasing a USB-C charging case for its AirPods Pro buds (a number of Apple products, including some iPads and its AirPods Max, already use USB-C).

If you’re worried about non-wireless accessories, USB-C to Lightning converters cost around $7.

Various MagSafe wireless charging accessories aren’t affected by the move from Lighting to USB-C.

Digital Island rumour: True

Talk about the “Digital Island” being extended across the whole iPhone line also proved true. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus feature the “pill”, or animations covering the camera and sensor notch at the top of the screen. The feature got good reviews with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max - although it only offers full functionality with Apple’s own apps.

It was part of a broader trend of the entry-level 15 models getting the Pros’ features from last year. All the 15 models support wireless charging.

Titanium rumour: True

It was widely leaked that the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max models would ditch the 14 Pro model’s heavy stainless steel for lighter, stronger Titanium frames, They did, complete with a “brushed” look. Apple says that makes for its lightest ever phones at this screen size (6.1 inches and 6.7 inches).

The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus retain their predecessor’s aluminium frames with glass blacking - but with new colour-infusion for the glass.

‘Periscope lens’ rumour: Partly true

The rumour mill had it that the iPhone 15 Pro Max would feature a “periscope” lens. It’s not submarine-like, but it does boost optical zoom from 3x to 4x for the Pro, and all the way to 5x for the Pro Max.

There’s also a new macro feature, for extra closeup shots.

And the Pro Max will also be able to capture 3D “spacial video” for Apple’s pending Vision Pro virtual reality/augmented reality headset.

The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus get a main camera upgrade to 48 megapixels (with 2x optical zoom), new low-light features and an automatic switch to portrait mode if it senses you’re taking a selfie. The Plus also gets 2x optical zoom, which Apple says is the equivalent to getting a third camera.

‘Action button’ rumour: True

The Pro and Pro Max get a new, customisable action button.

It replaces the mute switch and can pressed to use the phone’s camera or start an audio recording.

Curvier design rumour: False

The cases on the new models are very close to their predecessors, bar the above-mentioned new action button, the switch to titanium on the Pro and Pro Max and the flip to a USB-C jack. The new models also have a noticeably thinner bezel (the rim between the display and the case).

If you use a case or wallet for your iPhone 14, it looks like the new models will fit it. The display sizes (6.1-inches or 6.7-inches) remain the same.

The Pro and Pro Max also get faster Apple silicon, as expected, with the new A17 Pro chip under their bonnets.

Price increase rumour: True

Pundits were picking that Apple would test the limits of what people were willing to pay for the Pro and Pro Max models with price hikes to both the new models.

It’s not quite testing the limits, but it’s getting up there. The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $2099 (with 128GB of storage) in New Zealand. Ahead of today’s event, the iPhone 14 Pro was listed from $1999 with 128GB.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $2499 (with 256GB of storage) - a bump on its predecessor’s cheapest version, which cost $2199 with 256GB. (The 15 Pro Max version has no 128GB version; the iPhone 14 Pro Mzx cost $2399 with 256GB).

The top-of-the-line iPhone 15 Pro Max with 1 terabyte of storage will set you back $3299. The iPhone 14 Pro Max topped out at $3199.

The iPhone 15 starts at $1649 with 128GB. Its predecessor started at $1599.

If that’s too rich for your blood, Apple still has the iPhone 13 available from $1249, and the smaller SE from $849.

The iPhone 15 (right) and iPhone 15 Plus. Photo / AP

The iPhone 15 (right) and iPhone 15 Plus. Photo / AP

Apple’s price increases will test customer resolve at a time when smartphone sales are slowing.

In figures released September 5, market tracker IDC said the New Zealand smartphone market declined by 12.1 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, shipping 312,000 units.

It was the third straight quarter of softening consumer demand, which IDC pinned on “tough economic conditions”.

Orders will open on September 16, with availability from September 22.

Unexpected development: Roadside Assistance via satellite

None of the rumour-mongers picked another new feature: Apple is extending its text-via-satellite service from SOS messages to a new Roadside Assist service. At launch, it’s only available in the US, in partnership with the AAA (the American equivalent of our AA). Like the SOS feature - which uses satellites launched by American firm Globalstar - which has emerged as Rocket Lab’s largest single customer. Globalstar has benefited from Apple’s US$450m infrastructure investment for its text-via-satellite services.

The event started with stories from those saved by the current iPhone 14′s SOS text-via-satellite feature (which last week saved two trampers in Arthur’s Pass - the first time the feature had been used in New Zealand).

Chief executive Tim Cook also updated on the $2500 “mixed reality” Apple Vision Pro which would be available “early next year.

The new Apple Watch Ultra.

The new Apple Watch Ultra.

New Apple Watches

The event also featured the new Apple Watch Series 9 (from $749, available from September 22) and Apple Watch Ultra 2 (from $1599, available from September 22).

Hero features include a new double-tap for taking calls and doing other actions when you’re carrying a cup of coffee or are otherwise operating one-handed.

The Series 9 lets a wearer answer a call by tapping their thumb and index finger together twice.

The Apple Watch Series 9. Photo / AP

The Apple Watch Series 9. Photo / AP

Apple also bills the new watch as its first carbon-neutral product. The company says it’s made with 100 per cent clean energy, carbon offsets and smaller packaging to cut the emissions associated with shipping the product. Apple is also ditching leather straps. The firm’s various leather accessories are being replaced by a material called “FineWoven” - billed as a micro-twill made from 68 per cent recycled materials that will have a suede-like feel.

The Apple Watch Ultra, which is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts, features a brighter screen and a greater altitude range. It also offers new capabilities for cyclists who want to connect it to other devices that measure performance.

Chris Keall is an Auckland-based member of the Herald’s business team. He joined the Herald in 2018 and is the technology editor and a senior business writer.

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