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The 6 biggest announcements from Apple’s iPhone 15 event

Apple Event - September 12

Every year brings something new, and that’s doubly true for smartphones. Summer is on the way out, and while the retreat of the sun is bad news for many, there’s a bright silver lining on this cloud: The release of the Apple iPhone 15. Apple has brought the basic iPhones into line with the Pro models, giving even the cheapest flagship models access to the Dynamic Island and the design refresh that we loved in last year’s Pro iPhones. But that isn’t all, as the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max were also revealed, with improvements of their own.

But the iPhone 15 wasn’t the only announcement we heard about today. While the new phones were the centerpiece of Apple’s announcements, we were also treated to the new Apple Watch Series 9 smartwatch and the upgraded Apple Watch Ultra 2.

You’ve unfortunately missed the chance to watch the announcements as they unfolded, but don’t worry, because we saw it all. Here’s the list of everything Apple announced at the iPhone 15 event.

USB-C

Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C.
Press image / Apple

But before we dive into the Apple iPhone 15, let’s touch on the change we all knew was coming: USB-C.

There’s a new port in town as Apple is getting ahead of the curve where EU legislation is concerned, and so it’s replacing the Lightning port with the standardized USB-C port. That’s the same port you’ll find on most modern iPads, laptops, and Android smartphones, and it will be a relief for anyone who travels with a number of devices. Unfortunately, it does mean the end of Apple’s Lightning port, but with USB-C being capable of much faster charging and data transfer speeds, it’s a change worth getting used to.

Apple is also releasing new USB-C versions of the AirPods (they support wireless lossless audio now, too!), Earpods, and other accessories that previously used a Lightning port. Apple also took a moment to remind everyone that MagSafe exists, so you don’t need to worry about USB-C if you really don’t want to.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus

iPhone 15 colors
Apple

The release of a new iPhone every year has long stopped being a surprise, but the Apple iPhone 15 took our breath away anyway. The Apple iPhone 15 comes in a series of stunning pastel colors, including black, blue, green, yellow, and pink. The color has been infused into the iPhone 15’s rear glass, giving it the diffuse look of frosted glass. It’s a striking look and is probably the most visually colorful iPhone since the iPhone XR.

But while the new colors are impressive, the biggest changes can be found around the front of the phone. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus now have the redesign that debuted with the iPhone 14 Pro, and that means they also have access to the Dynamic Island. While the Dynamic Island still has a lot to prove, this change now gives the flagship iPhone range a unified look, even if the Pro models are clearly going their own way with color — more on that later.

The OLED Super Retina XDR display has smaller bezels than before and reaches 1600 nits (with a peak brightness of 2000 nits), making it brighter and easier to see in sunlight. The iPhone 15 has a 6.1-inch display, while the 15 Plus has a 6.7-inch display, unchanged from last year. Android fans should note that, unlike the Pro models, the new iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are still limited to a 60Hz refresh rate.

iPhone 15 in pink
Apple

The iPhone 15 sports a dual-lens rear camera setup, and it’s seen some major tweaks. The main camera lens packs 48 megapixels, which offers some additional flexibility. If you want incredible high fidelity, then shoot in 48MP mode. Or, if you’re a bit worried about lighting, the iPhone 15 can instead combine four pixels together with pixel binning to maximize light. This results in combined 12MP images, which also helps to keep file sizes down. The high megapixel count also means the 48MP lens can use its inner 12MP as a 2x optical zoom, bringing you closer to the action without sacrificing quality. Portrait mode is getting better too, and the iPhone 15’s camera app will use machine learning to predict if a shot should be in portrait mode or not. You can even change the point of focus and bokeh blur in postprocessing.

Unfortunately, the iPhone 15 will stay a step behind the Pro model where performance is concerned. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus use last year’s A16 Bionic processor, and while this is still an incredibly powerful chip, it’s slightly disappointing to see Apple keep the basic iPhone model a year behind. However, the battery is bigger than ever, which is always a bonus. The iPhone 15 also has a new Ultra Wideband chip, so you can use it to find your friends — as long as they have a compatible iPhone, too, of course.

Dynamic Island on iPhone 15
Apple

Apple loves machine learning, so it’s no surprise it’s been improved again. Voice Isolation is a new feature for phone calls that identifies your voice and removes all other background noise. So if you’re constantly making calls in a noisy environment, this feature is for you. Remember the satellite support from last year? The iPhone 15 range gets further satellite support, including Roadside Assistance, which will use satellites to get you help while you’re on (or unfortunately off) the road, so you don’t need to worry about being stuck in the sticks without a signal. You’ll get access to these satellites for free for two years with the iPhone 15.

Preorders open on September 15, and the phones release on September 22. The Apple iPhone 15 starts from $799, while the iPhone 15 Plus starts from $899. You’ll be able to trade in an iPhone from the iPhone 11 and newer to get up to $800 off your purchase when purchased through specific carrier deals on monthly payment plans.

Read more about the Apple iPhone 15 and 15 Plus

iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

Color options for iPhone 15 series
Apple

Is the Apple iPhone 15 Pro an afterthought after the huge upgrades to the iPhone 15? You can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t. Where the iPhone 15’s new pastel colors bring whimsy and light, the new Pro is serious and strong. The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are both made from titanium, a material that’s lighter and stronger than standard steel. But this isn’t just any titanium. It’s grade 5 titanium, an alloy which is even stronger than pure titanium — a truly premium material for a premium phone. The brushed finish adds a darker tone to each of its colors, marking a stark contrast with the iPhone 15.

Slimmer bezels also mean the Pro models are slightly smaller in footprint while retaining their 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch displays. Those displays are Super Retina XDR OLED panels, and these continue to be the only iPhones offered with the ProMotion technology that allows for a variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

There’s big news for longtime Apple fans, too: the mute switch is gone. This beloved feature has been replaced by the Action button. But don’t worry, Apple was quick to point out that it still fulfills the same function. Push and hold the button to mute your phone and you’ll feel a distinct haptic vibration, so you can do it in a pocket. The Action button offers more, though, as you can choose from a different number of shortcuts to trigger with a press. This can include opening the camera, starting a timer, turning on the flashlight, and more.

Apple A17 Pro silicon
Apple

We always expect new silicone, and Apple hasn’t let us down this year. The iPhone 15 Pro is powered by the Apple A17 Pro, the industry’s first 3-nanometer chip. It has two high-performance cores, four high-efficiency cores, and a six-core GPU. The neural engine has 16 cores, making machine learning even faster and more powerful. It’s a stupendously powerful processor, and incredibly, it can handle console-level games like Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Village, with Assassin’s Creed Mirage coming to the iPhone 15 Pro as well. It can even handle ray tracing, a jaw-dropping feat for a smartphone.

The iPhone 15 Pro’s 48MP main lens is similar to the one you’ll find in the iPhone 15, but with a few additional tweaks. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the model that’s getting the most love, though, with the introduction of a periscope zoom lens with a 5x optical zoom. While not as long as the periscope zooms offered by Samsung, it will offer a lot of extra variety for photography lovers. It’s a shame it’s only coming to the Pro Max model, though. The iPhone 15 Pro gets the same 3x optical zoom as last year, which, while a strong lens, is still a disappointment for those who might have wanted a long zoom in a more compact phone.

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro starts from $999, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts from $1,199. You’ll be able to trade in an iPhone from the iPhone 11 and newer for up to $1,000 off your new iPhone Pro when purchased through a carrier contract. Preorders launch on September 15, and phones will ship on September 22.

Read more about the Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

Apple Watch Series 9

Apple Watch Series 9 on a person's wrist.
Apple

As everyone expected, there’s a new top smartwatch in town, and it’s called the Apple Watch Series 9. In the last few years, Apple’s smartwatch has gone from a notable notification slinger to a vital health monitor for millions. Apple hasn’t massively expanded on health and safety this year, but it has added some features worth paying attention to.

The biggest new addition is, er, one that technically already existed. Formerly buried in the accessibility settings, Double Tap has been brought to the forefront and expanded in utility. It’s an easy concept to grasp: tap your index finger and thumb together twice to control your Apple Watch. Double Tap interacts with the primary button on any app, so it can be used to pick up or hang up calls, scroll through widgets on your watch face, or even stop and start exercises. You can even use it to snooze an alarm, a worrying development for those of us with overactive muscle memory and a propensity to oversleep.

The Apple Watch Series 9 also includes the improved Ultra Wideband chip and can now be used to find your iPhone or display Now Playing controls for nearby HomePods. The display brightens to 2000 nits, making it easier to see in bright sunlight, and it drops all the way down to 1 nit for dark rooms.

Apple Watch series 9 announcement.
Apple

All those new features need some extra power, so it’s good it came prepared. The new Apple Watch Series 9 is powered by the S9 processor, which Apple claims is 30% faster than the S8 in the Apple Watch Series 8. While your Apple Watch isn’t likely to need to run anything demanding, it makes sure requests through Siri and other everyday tasks are able to be completed faster. Speaking of Siri, Apple’s digital assistant can now interact with your health data. As such, you can ask Siri how long you slept or vocally log your weight to your assistant.

The new Apple Watch Series 9 was also key to Apple’s presentation on sustainability. The new Apple Watch uses as many recycled materials as possible, including recycled cobalt for the first time ever. The Sport Loop band is made from recycled material, and all Apple Watch manufacturing will be powered by renewable electricity. Apple’s not stopping there: user charging represents a big pull on sustainability, so Apple is investing in green electricity across the world to offset those expected emissions.

The new Apple Watch even comes in a smaller box, allowing Apple to ship more watches per shipment. All of this has made the Apple Watch Series 9 Apple’s first fully carbon-neutral product.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is available for preorder from today and will be released on September 22. Prices start from $399.

Read more about the Apple Watch Series 9

Apple Watch Ultra 2

Apple Watch Ultra 2 bands.
Apple

The Apple Watch Series 9 isn’t your only choice in smartwatch, and if you’re really into outdoor pursuits, especially diving and climbing, you should check out the Apple Watch Ultra 2. While it’s still clear that the Ultra 2’s design is primarily meant for divers and explorers, Apple took a moment to highlight that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 works equally well with the new features for jogging and cycling. You certainly won’t struggle to see the screen during any outdoor activity, thanks to a display that can reach 3,000 nits in brightness.

Thanks to also including the same S9 system in a package (SiP) as the Apple Watch Series 9, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 also has access to the new Double Tap feature and improved Siri features. The battery life will really appeal to those who spend hours outdoors, thanks to the 36 hours of battery life and 72 hours in low-power mode. The case is made from 95% recycled material, and if paired with a recycled Sport Loop, it’s also carbon neutral.

Like the Series 9, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 releases on September 22, with preorders opening today. It will cost $799.

Read more about the Apple Watch Ultra 2

Sustainability updates

Apple's solar farm.
Apple

Apple is serious about sustainability, and it took a moment to update us on its vision for carbon neutrality, Apple 2030. All plastic will be eliminated from packaging by the end of 2024, with recycled plastics playing a big part in Apple’s watch straps going forward. Apple is making big use of recycled materials as a whole, using 100% recycled aluminum in MacBooks, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches. The Apple Watch Series 9 makes significant use of recycled materials, such as copper, gold, and even cobalt.

Incredibly, Apple also made a big announcement on leather. Namely, Apple won’t be using leather in any new products. It’s being replaced by FineWoven, a 68% recycled material that feels like suede and should help to cushion the blow for fans of leather. Hermes and Nike’s bands will also include a large amount of recycled materials, removing yet more plastic from the ecosystem.

Apple also runs off 100% clean electricity, including its offices, stores, and data centers, and over 300 suppliers have also agreed to only use renewable electricity. Apple is also serious about reforestation and has planted several new forests in Paraguay and Brazil, as well as grasslands in Kenya, and helped to restore mangroves in Colombia. It has also reduced its water usage by 63 billion gallons.

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Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen is an avid follower of everything that beeps, bloops, or makes pretty lights. He has a degree in Ancient &…
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