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Apple just announced the iPhone 15 Pro. Was it worth the wait?

Side rail of iPhone 15 Pro

It’s the dawn of a new era for Apple smartphones, and heralding the change are Apple’s latest flagships, the iPhone 15 Pro and its 15 Pro Max variant. These two phones get a blazing-fast processor, a switch to more premium materials, and — most importantly— a USB-C port instead of the usual Lightning connector. The premium phones were updated alongside the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Max, Apple Watch Series 9, and Apple Watch Ultra 2.

It’s disappointing to see that Apple’s September 2023 event didn’t bring a major iPhone redesign, but this time it appears that Apple wants to focus more on internal upgrades than aesthetics.

Titanium is here, and it’s beautiful

Colors of iPhone 15 Pro
Color options for iPhone 15 Pro series Apple

For the Pro models, Apple has ditched stainless steel in favor of titanium, which is lighter, but sturdier and more resistant to corrosive forces. The side rails are polished with a brushed finish and look stunning, while the overall build is IP68-certified for dust and water resistance.

Apple has also trimmed the bezels, while the innards have been moved around to increase repairability, especially when it comes to screens. The mute switch is also gone, and we now get a mute button that can be assigned different shortcuts.

The screen is your usual Super Retina XDR OLED affair with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. The iPhone 15 Pro offers a 6.1‑inch (2556 x 1179 pixels) display, while the Max variant serves up a 6.7-inch (2796 x 1290 pixels) panel. The pill-shaped Dynamic Island is here to stay, and so is the impressive 2,000 nits of peak brightness.

A17 Pro leads the silicon race

Apple A17 Pro silicon.

Leading the wave of major upgrades is the A17 Pro processor ticking under that glass and metal chassis. This is the first smartphone system-on-a-chip (SoC) out there based on TSMC’s latest 3nm fabrication process.

To put it simply, the switch to a smaller 3nm fabrication process means higher silicon density, which ultimately delivers a significant hike in raw performance and energy efficiency. The A17 Pro features two performance cores and four efficiency cores, while the Neural Engine is twice as fast.

The upgraded 6-core GPU is 20% faster and also supports hardware-accelerated ray tracing to boost light and shadow reflections in graphics-intensive tasks. Apple says the A17 Pro’s raw firepower allows console-grade games like The Division: Resurgence and Resident Evil: Village to run on the iPhone 15 Pro.

Interestingly, the USB-C port on the iPhone 15 Pro models embraces the USB 3.0 standard, promising data transfer rates of up to 10 gigabits per second.

Upgraded cameras

Apple iPhone 15 Pro zoom camera.

In terms of cameras, Apple isn’t making any major upgrades when it comes to the megapixel figures, but has focused on making sensor improvements and software-side enhancements. The triple camera array includes a 48-megapixel optically stabilized primary snapper and a 12-megapixel sensor for ultrawide photography.

The big upgrade, however, is reserved for the zoom shooter. Instead of the 12-megapixel telephoto shooter on the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is equipped with a 12-megapixel zoom camera that can deliver 5x optical zoom, up from the peak 3x optical and 15x digital zoom output we had before. Unfortunately that improvement is limited to the 15 Pro Max, though — for whatever reason (probably size concerns) you get the same old 3x optical zoom on the standard-sized 15 Pro.

Apple says it has also merged the autofocus and optical stabilization parts into a single 3D stack that can perform 10,000 micro-adjustments per second, significantly higher than on the iPhone 14 Pro. The result is more stable videos and sharper stills, even if your hands are shaky.

Color options for iPhone 15 series

Another cool trick is support for capturing Spatial Videos, which essentially combines footage from two lenses to create juxtaposed 3D videos ideal for viewing on the Apple Vision Pro headset. It can also record and natively save ProRes videos (4K resolution at 60 frames per second) on an external storage device. Finally, the ultrawide camera now supports macro photography.

Apple says it has also improved the night mode performance and has also given a boost to the HDR output. Another convenience for content creators is that the iPhone 15 Pro duo can capture and seamlessly transfer 48MP ProRAW images to Mac hardware.

iPhone 15 Pro price and availability

Gaming on the iPhone 15 Pro.
YouTube / Apple

The iPhone 15 Pro and its Max variant come in titanium, white titanium, blue titanium, and natural titanium colors. Storage options on the table are 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 for 128GB of storage, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max will set you back $1,199 and defaults to 256GB for its base storage.

Preorders for the iPhone 15 Pro pair begin September 15, while general availability commences on September 22 in the U.S. and a bunch of other markets.

Overall, the iPhone 15 Pro seems like an upgrade that banks more on the firepower of a 3nm chip and a modestly upgraded zoom camera rather than any splashy generation-over-generation changes. It’s not the most thrilling upgrade we’ve ever seen, and a little extra battery life would’ve been a nice touch, but it’s likely to be an important one nonetheless.

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Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
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