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A $1,300 iPhone 15 Ultra is ridiculous — and Apple’s going to get away with it

A hot new iPhone rumor has popped up online. LeaksApplePro tells Forbes that the upcoming iPhone 15 Ultra could cost as much as $1,299. For the base model, to put it precisely. That’s a lot of money to pay for a phone, but I’m not surprised at all.

Apple likes to charge a premium for its iPhones that are a year, or two, behind on innovation. Fast charging, folded lens cameras, massive sensors with way too many megapixels, and some folding magic. These are all trains that Apple has conveniently missed but still made record-breaking money in each quarter.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

People still buy those ‘overpriced’ phones. Hundreds of millions of them, actually. Apple sold nearly 240 million iPhones last year, and the pricier Pro models that start at $999 formed a huge chunk of it. Will the iPhone 15 Ultra prove to be a hard sell for Apple at $1,299? Unlikely.

What’s on the iPhone 15 Ultra luxe yacht?

Leaks suggest that the iPhone 15 Ultra will rock a titanium frame, which is significantly pricier than stainless steel. It also happens to be sturdier and more resistant to corrosion. Titanium also sounds very cool for a material that goes into something as boringly ubiquitous as a smartphone.

The most promising rumor predicts a periscope-style telephoto camera, the kind you see on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Instead of putting the sensor directly behind the lens, a periscope system puts a prism underneath the lens, which then bends the light at 90 degrees and feeds it to the camera sensor.

Alleged render of iPhone 15 Ultra.
This is supposedly what the iPhone 15 Ultra looks like with dual selfie cameras. Apple Insider

The idea is to create a longer tunnel between the light source and the sensor so that the lens elements between them have more space to move and offer a higher zoom range. Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro has a lossless zoom range of 3.3x, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra serves a 10X optical zoom output.

You also get a 30x hybrid and 100x digital zoom range. This wider zoom range creates a world of difference. The iPhone 15 Ultra might also offer dual front cameras, most likely to up the bokeh effect game for selfies.

We are also hearing online chatter about a redesign, with a few ambitious leaks claiming that the iPhone 15 Ultra could go portless. The rest of the ‘cheaper’ iPhone 15 models will be using the USB-C port instead of a Lightning outlet, thanks to the EU.

The iPhone 14 Plus's charging port.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Apple can pull off a portless iPhone 15 Ultra. All it needs to do is supercharge the MagSafe speeds, which is embarrassingly slow compared to the 50W wireless charging output you get on the OnePlus 10 Pro. I’m only concerned about how Apple will handle diagnostics and data recovery on a portless iPhone.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo hints we can expect solid buttons on the iPhone 15 Ultra, which sounds both cool and inconvenient. Nothing beats the clicky feel of a physical button in my opinion. Kuo has also predicted an upgraded 5x or 6x optical zoom range for the phone.

Upgrades worthy of an Ultra pricing

If the leaks are to be believed, the iPhone 15 Ultra is shaping up to be a massive upgrade over the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which is currently the best that Apple has to offer. Given Apple’s history, such upgrades don’t come cheap.

To recall, this is the same company that shipped a phone with nearly unchanged specs this year and still managed to sell it at a higher price in markets outside the U.S. I am looking at you, iPhone 14! Look, it’s not a bad phone for its price, but to call it a successor to the iPhone 13 is nothing but heresy.

The rear cameras on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

With the iPhone 15 Ultra, we are looking at a laundry list of upgrades. A faster A17 Bionic chip based on the next-gen fabrication process, far better camera hardware, a potentially snazzy design makeover, and better build quality. I’d be indebted to the overlords at Apple if the charging speeds also pick up the pace.

I won’t be surprised at all if Apple charges a $200 premium for its first Ultra iPhone. After all, this is the same company that demands $200 for bumping up the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s storage capacity from 256 GB to 512 GB.

In case you’re wondering, the latter costs $1,399. I know at least half a dozen people that nuked their wallets for this storage configuration and still sleep peacefully each night.

I’ve already paid for a $1,700 iPhone

The iPhone 15 Ultra sounds like an expensive phone. Even after you consider the upgrades it is rumored to offer, it is already far more expensive – and still not the best in terms of innovation – compared to Android flagships from Asia. But that likely won’t bother Apple or iPhone buyers.

Apple already sells iPhones that cost as much as $1,599 in its home market. I am talking about the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s 1TB storage configuration, which real human beings actually buy and love. But let’s take a jaunt outside the U.S. shores.

The iPhone 14 Pro held in a mans hand, seen from the back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

In India, I paid around $1,700 dollars for the iPhone 14 Pro’s 256GB storage model. If I was insane enough to fall for the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s 1TB model, the Apple Store would shave $2,300 from my bank account. I’m not even including the taxes here.

Again, I know people that paid this eye-watering amount for the iPhone 14 Pro Max. To put it into perspective, a lot of my tech industry friends have bluntly told me that this phone is good, but absolutely not a worthy upgrade over the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I agree with them to a large extent.

With the iPhone 15 Ultra, Apple already has its work cut out, thanks to all those meaningful upgrades. Will people think twice before splurging that amount? Yes. However, Apple will still sell a few dozen million units without breaking a sweat, like every other year.

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