Just five months out from its expected release window, the iPhone 15 Pro is on track to bring some significant changes to Apple's top-tier smartphone line up.
The iPhone 15 Pro looks set to be a remarkable device, with top notch specs and some potentially daring changes to elements of the phone that have been standard since the very first iPhone was revealed.
That's not to say recent years haven't seen big additions, of course. 2022 was a huge year for the 'Pro' iPhone, as Apple looked to broaden the gap between its regular iPhone offerings and its more premium 'Pro' devices. The iPhone 14 Pro boasts a host of features that distinguish it from the iPhone 14, including the new A16 processor, the incredible Dynamic Island that replaces the notch, the powerful 48MP camera, and a new Always-On display.
But the 2023 iPhone 15 Pro could make that gap a chasm.
With that in mind, rumors for this year indicate that Apple will continue to keep a wider gap between the regular and Pro iPhones and the iPhone 15. We know that 2023 is shaping up to be a major upgrade for the iPhone in a number of ways, not least in part thanks to the advent of USB-C in an iPhone for the first time. We've also heard about camera upgrades, new materials, and possibly a new shape and design for the first time since the iPhone 12.
The latest rumors point to the addition of a new LiDAR sensor from Sony being used in the iPhone 15 Pro camera array, the possibility of a new wine-like red model being offered, and changes to how shortcuts work on the phone's buttons. Speaking of buttons, there appears to be conflict as to whether to continue using physical buttons in the iPhone 15 Pro design, or to move to a new capacitive touch design instead.
So what can we expect from the iPhone 15 Pro? Could it actually be called the iPhone 15 Ultra? What new features will it bring, what will it share with its younger sibling the iPhone 15, and what will Apple decide to reserve for its most premium product, which is shaping up to be the best iPhone ever made?
iPhone 15 Pro: What's in a name?
There are murmurings that at least one of Apple's iPhone 15 models may be called the iPhone 15 'Ultra'. That would follow the unveiling of the Apple Watch Ultra last year as the company's premium Apple Watch model. Now, this doesn't sound like a rugged, outdoor-proof iPhone. Rather the name Ultra has been more increasingly used by Apple to denote its most-premium offerings, notably the M1 Ultra Apple silicon chip.
We could see a new iPhone 15 Ultra this year instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with reports early January suggesting Apple hasn't yet settled on a name. However, we have heard corroborating rumors that Apple could try to differentiate more between the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, possibly by changing its name.
iPhone 15 Pro: Release date and price expectations
Apple's iPhone 15 Pro is almost certain to be released in September alongside the iPhone 15, in keeping with Apple's standard launch cycle for the iPhone. The company has only missed this cadence once in recent years, after all, that time due to COVID-19.
The iPhone 15 Pro is expected to retain the same pricing structure as the current models, so beginning at $999/$1,099 respectively. The only rumored price change so far is a possible slight reduction in the price of the regular iPhone 15.
iPhone 15 Pro: Sizes and models
The iPhone 14 Pro currently comes in two sizes, the smaller 6.1-inch model and the larger 6.7-inch Pro Max. According to the latest reports, Apple is set to retain this lineup, using all of the same sizes from the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro lineup.
That means we can expect two iPhone 15 Pro models this year in the same 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch sizes.
iPhone 15 Pro: Processor
The iPhone's processor is at the heart of the device and powers everything it does. It drives multitasking, your apps, and your iPhone's camera. Last year we got the shiny new A16 processor in the iPhone 14 Pro. That model is expected to trickle down to the iPhone 15 this year.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro will reportedly get an all-new A17 processor that could mark a very big change. That's because the new processor will be built on a new 3nm technology, which packs more power and punch into the same space compared to the current 5nm form Apple uses. 3nm is up to 15% faster at the same power levels as 5nm or can use up to 30% less power at the same speeds.
This means the new iPhone 15 Pro could be much, much faster than the current model, or perhaps more importantly, it may be much more efficient when it comes to battery life.
In February 2023, a report from DigiTimes said that TSMC's 3-nanometer process was even more performant and efficient than expected, indicating that the iPhone 15 Pro could be even faster and more energy efficient than Apple anticipated.
iPhone 15 Pro: Design and USB-C
The iPhone 15 could introduce a new design language for the iPhone. We've had squared edges and a flat back since the iPhone 12, but new information indicates that Apple may drop this in favor of a slightly more curved back like the one in the concept image above, featuring a titanium finish.
It could see a new iPhone 15 that looks more like the old iPhone 5C, with this much more premium finish, of course. That idea was further pushed by a report from 9to5Mac in February 2023 that the iPhone 15 Pro will feature a curve around the edges of the phone on both the front glass and back metal, indicating that Apple is moving slightly away from that boxy, industrial design that it switched to with the iPhone 12.
On that note, there are reports, notably from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, that Apple will use this titanium frame for the iPhone 15 Pro instead of the aluminum of the current models. This was further corroborated by CAD designs (opens in new tab) sent to 9to5Mac. Combined with rumors the phone will sport a multi-function Action button, you start to see a shared design language between the 15 Pro and the Apple Watch Ultra, adding credence to the idea the 15 Pro won't be called 'Pro' after all.
Apple is also set to add USB-C to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro this year, in order to comply with new EU regulations stipulating it as the charger of choice for mobile devices. In February 2023, an unknown leaker shared an image on Reddit of the bottom of what they claim is an iPhone 15 Pro. The photo, if genuine, shows that the company is for sure switching the new Pro iPhone from the Lightning connector to USB-C for the first time. You can check out the image below:
In addition, there's talk of bringing a new microprocessor to the iPhone 15 Pro's internals, one that is designed to replace Apple's current "Super Low Energy Mode" currently powered by the main system-on-chip. It'll open up functionality even when the phone is effectively off.
According to the leak (opens in new tab):
"The new microprocessor that will ship in the 15 Pro models will not only manage [Find My and Apple Pay] tasks [in low-power modes] but will also be able to immediately sense capacitive button presses, holds, and even detect their own version of 3D Touch with the new volume up/down button, action (currently ringer switch) button, and power button, while the phone is dead or powered down," the source revealed. The new feature is currently being tested with and without Taptic Engine feedback and will reportedly power Find My, Bluetooth/UltraWide band functionality, and Apple Pay's express transit feature.
Away from ports and build materials, there's one other important design aspect to consider: color! And the iPhone 15 Pro could be getting an all-new shade when it goes on sale. Leaks point to a new deep, wine-like red being offered with the iPhone 15 Pro, with color code 410D0D — more maroon than red, really. It's a chic shade.
iPhone 15 Pro: Display
2022 was a big year for the Pro iPhone's display, so it seems natural that Apple will not make another similar leap this year. As such, there are no indicated rumors or reports of a major upgrade to the display coming to iPhone 15 Pro. Instead, we can reportedly expect an under-panel Face ID configuration in 2024.
That means we can likely expect the same 120Hz Super Retina XDR Display with ProMotion technology, which allows your iPhone's refresh rate to drop to just 1Hz when you're not using it, preserving battery life while showing an Always-On Display. It would also feature high contrast, and resolutions of 2556x1179-pixel resolution at 460 ppi and 2796x1290-pixel resolution at 460 ppi for the Pro and Pro Max (Ultra) respectively.
One thing that is also expected is for the bezels to shrink. A report from 9to5Mac in February 2023 showed off a CAD rendering that compared the bezels of the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro. The image, which you can see below, indicates that the company is bringing even thinner bezels to the display on the iPhone, enabling even more screen space for users.
We could also see the OLED display become more power efficient. According to a report in February 2023, Apple is updating the display driver from a 40nm process to 28nm which is expected to offer battery savings and performance improvements, although it did not say exactly what users can expect realistically.
Rumors of the buttonless 15 Pro also persist, with this March 2023 report stating that solid-state buttons under the screen could be customized to be more effectively used with gloves, which is a big advantage if Apple is planning to opt for buttonless tech. Touch-sensitive buttons and skin barriers historically don't mix very well, but we have faith if Apple is bringing the technology to its flagship premium device.
And yet the change is not set in stone. Reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated in April (opens in new tab)that, "both high-end iPhone 15 Pro models (Pro & Pro Max) will abandon the closely-watched solid-state button design and revert to the traditional physical button design." With the phone still in the "EVT" testing stage, it's not too late in the day for Apple to reconsider its buttonless plans — and there'd be benefit in doing so, not least in terms of sticking with a tried-and-tested input format, while suppliers can eke out another year's worth of revenue from an existing design.
Regardless, it seems change is coming to the buttons, one way or another. Regular leaker 941, who tweets under the handle @analyst 941 (opens in new tab), described how Apple will be looking at changing the shortcuts tied to buttons, whether they come in physical or haptic form.
Furthermore, within the camera app, the action button (formally; mute switch) will replace the volume up button for taking a photo.Action button use in Camera:– Light press: auto-focuses the camera– Hard press: captures photo– Hard, Long-hold press: captures/records videoApril 16, 2023
iPhone 15 Pro: Camera
The iPhone 15 Pro will reportedly bring a new periscope design to the iPhone 15 Pro Max only. According to Ming-Chi Kuo, that will mean 1/3" 12MP, f/2.8, sensor-shift support, and 5–6x optical zoom for massively improved optical zoom features.
A periscope camera packs in more zoom features using a smaller amount of space by using angled mirrors like a periscope. Its introduction to the iPhone would allow Apple to offer much higher levels of optical zoom without increasing the size of the lens or the bump on the back of the devices.
Such changes could lead to even bigger camera bumps, something that is echoed in a report from 9to5Mac in February that claims to show genuine CAD images. You can check out the CAD render that shows off an even bigger camera bump below:
Change could also be coming to the LiDAR sensor, used in the camera not only for augmented reality purposes, but to help with precise photography and videography modes. Having used the same sensor since the iPhone 12 Pro, Apple is said to be considering moving from a supply from Lumentum and Win Semi to a module put together by Sony instead.
According to Ming-Chi Kuo (opens in new tab), "the critical design of Sony's ToF VCSEL solution is integrating VCSEL & driver IC, which can reduce power consumption or provide better ToF performance under same power consumption." Sony's sensor could lead to improved battery life as well as performance for the camera and augmented reality applications — increasingly pertinent as Apple looks to step into AR and VR experiences in a bigger way with its new Apple VR headset.
iPhone 15 Pro: RAM and storage
While we haven't heard anything about possible storage upgrades and changes for the iPhone 15 Pro, we have heard that it could get a whopping 8GB of RAM.
This would enable even speedier multitasking and more stable running of lots of different apps on your iPhone.
iPhone 15 Pro: Wi-Fi chip
A research note released in January 2023 from Barclay's analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O'Malley predicts that the iPhone 15 Pro models will feature a Wi-Fi 6E chip. The iPhone 14 lineup currently comes packed with Wi-Fi 6, so this will mark a decent upgrade for the upcoming Pro models.
Wi-Fi 6E, unlike Wi-Fi 6, is able to use the 6GHz band on top of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This enables faster, more reliable, and wider coverage for devices connected to a Wi-Fi 6E router. Apple has already upgraded the latest MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iPad Pro models to Wi-Fi 6E, so it's not surprising to see this rumor for iPhones that will release in the fall of 2023.
Get more iMore in your inbox!
Our news, reviews, opinions, and easy to follow guides can turn any iPhone owner into an Apple aficionado
Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9