Apple is just weeks away from introducing the iPhone 15 and next-generation watches. The new lineup will mark another stepping stone toward the company’s dream iPhone, though changes to the Apple Watch will be more modest. Also: Samsung unveils its own new phones, tablets and watches.
Apple Inc. designers have long dreamed of an iPhone that is truly all-screen — with no borders around the display and no cutouts for cameras or sensors. With the iPhone 15 this fall, Apple will take another step toward that goal.
The process began in 2017 with the iPhone X. With that model, the screen extended right to the edge at the top and bottom for the first time (the bezel width was similar to prior phones on the left and right). But it did still have a notch cutout near the top to accommodate Face ID, the speaker, front-facing camera and other sensors.
Another step was taken in 2020 with the launch of the iPhone 12, which had slightly thinner bezels than the X, XS and 11 lines before it. With the iPhone 13 Pro in 2021, Apple reduced the size of the notch. Then last year, that element was replaced by the Dynamic Island, making the area even smaller.
This year, two of the biggest changes to the 15 line will get Apple closer to that dream iPhone. The standard iPhone 15 models will trade in the notch for the Dynamic Island, while the Pro and Pro Max displays will be made with a new technology: low-injection pressure over-molding, or “LIPO” as it’s dubbed inside Apple.
That new process will shrink the border size around the display to 1.5 millimeters (from about 2.2 millimeters on current iPhones). LIPO was first used in the Apple Watch Series 7 to make that device’s borders thinner and increase the size of the display. And Apple plans to eventually bring the feature to the iPad as well, I’m told.
Beyond the new screens, the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro lines will get a series of other new features, marking the biggest update since the device added 5G capability three years ago.
Let’s start with the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. As has been expected, those phones will look similar to the current models but add major camera improvements and the A16 chip from the iPhone 14 Pro line. They’ll also swap out the current Lightning connector for USB-C.
Besides the new display technology, here’s what to expect with the iPhone 15:
- As I wrote in January, the pro models will get a new design, replacing the shiny and fingerprint-prone stainless-steel edges with something stronger, lighter and more premium: titanium. Apple has long sought to bring titanium to the iPhone and using the metal with recent watches was a test for bringing that material to its highest-volume device.
- The design of the Pro models retains the frosted glass back of the prior few phones, but the edges connecting the side and front are now less sharp than before.
- The inside of the iPhone 15 Pro is redesigned to match the revamped aluminum chassis from the regular iPhone 14 (iFixit has a rundown of the changes). That overhaul makes the phone easier to repair.
- As I indicated in May of last year, the iPhone 15 is moving to USB-C. That will enable faster data transfer speeds for those who still sync with a cable, but some consumers will see the change as a costly headache.
- Major rear camera upgrades, including updated lenses and the ability to get a much wider range of optical zoom on the largest model.
- With the regular iPhone 15 models getting last year’s A16 processor, the new pro phones are moving to a 3-nanometer chip that is noticeably snappier.
Apple had planned another major feature for this year’s pro models: touch-sensitive buttons with haptic feedback for the volume controls, the mute/ring switch and the power button. Like trackpads on Macs, the buttons wouldn’t physically press in, allowing new software tricks and reducing the number of breakable components on the device.
The enhancement, codenamed Bongo, was cancelled after a slew of engineering problems. There also were concerns about the cost increase compared with regular buttons. In the end, the company decided to keep standard buttons for volume and power, but turn the mute/ring switch into a so-called Action button — like on the Apple Watch — that users can customize via software.
Developer Steve Moser at MacRumors discovered code in iOS 17 that hints at the possible options for the button. It suggests you’ll be able to choose among several possibilities: the standard mute switch mechanism, a Focus mode like Do Not Disturb, launching the camera, turning on the flashlight, or opening features for accessibility or translating text.
One other note on the next iPhone: I would look out for at least minor price increases across all four models outside of the US. I also wouldn’t rule out a price increase in the US — at least for some of the pro models — given the move to titanium and the costlier camera system on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. For context: Apple charges $100 more for titanium watches than their stainless-steel counterparts.
The new watch lineup is expected to include three tiers: the 41- and 45-millimeter Series 9 models, as well as a second-generation Apple Watch Ultra.
There isn’t a new Apple Watch SE coming this year, which makes sense as that model is on a two-year upgrade cycle and was refreshed in 2022.
All of this year’s models will get a fairly sizable performance bump thanks to the new S9 processor. This marks the first time since the S6 chip launched in 2020 — with the Series 6 watch — that the lineup gets significant speed improvements.
Before the release of last year’s Ultra model, Apple tested a dark titanium color option. It ultimately canceled the option because designers didn’t like the appearance, but it could still theoretically arrive in 2023.