Apple‘s September 2023 event was a classic of the type. Relatively taut and tight, with just six key product announcements and a run-time of a little under 90 minutes, but with plenty to sink our teeth into.
And then some! Each of the four phone reveals – iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max – served up a plethora of new features and welcome upgrades, while the two Apple Watch unveilings were hardly lacking in notable moments, either.
So, where to start? We’ve rounded up all the key info for you in one place. Read it and you’ll be an instant Apple event expert. And if you want the full story on what happened, also check out our Apple event 2023 live blog.
1. The iPhone 15 got the upgrade it deserved
The iPhone 14 could have felt a little hard done last year (if it was sentient rather than a bunch of metal and glass). After all, it received relatively few new features compared to the Pro models, meaning that gap between them widened and leaving people with no compelling reason to upgrade.
Well, that’s all changed with the iPhone 15. The headlines are that it has a new 48MP main camera (up from 12MP) and that it gets the Dynamic Island on the front screen (bringing it in line with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max), but there are plenty of other treats in store for prospective new owners.
The change to USB-C is welcome, obviously, while the increase in screen brightness to a maximum of 2,000 nits shouldn’t be overlooked; this is the kind of quality-of-life update that will really matter. There’s also new color-infused rear glass (which looks lovely on the pink model in particular) plus a softer, curvier design and a processor boost to the A16 Bionic.
In short: the base iPhone is back in business, baby.
2. The iPhone 15 Plus is a better buy than you think
It’s got that new form factor with the Dynamic Island, there’s a new 48MP main camera which enables optical-quality telephoto imagery, the battery life (already amazing) is getting even longer… Apple really cooked with this one.
3. Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro was… also there
Apple also launched an iPhone 15 Pro at this event, but it’s hard to get quite so excited about that model. This is a straight upgrade over the iPhone 14 Pro, with nothing major to call attention to itself beyond the new Action button (see below).
Now, we’re not complaining – the iPhone 14 Pro was an excellent phone – but compared to that, all the iPhone 15 Pro is getting is USB-C and the new A17 Pro chipset. Those are good features, to be certain, but this is ultimately an iPhone 14 Pro Plus, if an Android phone maker were to name it.
4. The iPhone 15 Pro Max could have a camera to die for
The iPhone 14 Pro Max was blessed with a wonderful camera that goes head to head with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and runs it close. So the news that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has had a major camera update should leave Samsung quaking in their boots.
The big news is that it has Apple’s first periscope zoom lens, which gives it a powerful 5x optical zoom equivalent to a 120mm lens. Couple that with the ability to shoot at 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm equivalent focal lengths and you have a very capable looking camera.
Of course that isn’t the only upgrade here – the A17 Pro chip should pack plenty of power, the move to USB-C is welcome and the Action button looks genuinely useful – but it’s the cameras that will (rightly) steal the headlines.
5. The Action button could be the iPhone 15’s secret weapon
OK, maybe secret weapon is pushing it – not least because the rumor mill was talking about it months ago – but the new Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max models is definitely interesting.
It replaces the mute button that has been found on all iPhones since the very first model, and it promises to deliver much more functionality than that ever did. It’s fully customizable, and can enable you to do everything from run Shortcuts to launch the camera app, turn on the flashlight, launch the Translate app or record a voice memo.
Yes, it sounds eerily similar to the customizable power button on Pixel phones, but integration with the Dynamic Island should make it seamless to use and a genuinely welcome addition.
6. USB-C may not be what Apple wanted, but it’s welcome
Is there any more frustrating experience than going to charge your iPhone then realizing that no, that USB-C cable there doesn’t fit it. And neither does that one. Where’s the Lightning cable? Oh, that’s upstairs. Damn you, Tim Cook!
Well, no more. Apple’s full iPhone 15 range has moved over to USB-C and about time. After all, iPads and MacBooks have charged via that standard for ages. Would Apple have done it without European regulators pushing them into the change? Who knows – but we’re happy that it did so.
7. The iPhone 15 colors could stand to be more colorful
Look, we’re not about to suggest Apple goes Full Google with Oh So Orange and Kinda Coral, but the company’s iPhone colors are usually a little more… colorful than this.
The iPhone 15 Pro colors are essentially inspired by 50 Shades of Gray with a splash of blue, while the regular iPhone colors are so pale you’re tempted to put sunblock on them in the sun.
We’ve talked about how premium smartphones have terrible color choices, but it seems like iPhone 15 range takes that to an extreme.
8. Apple Watch 9’s double tap gestures look super-cool
The Apple Watch 9 has plenty of interesting new features, including some seriously useful screen improvements – it can go as bright as 2,000 nits and as dim as one nit, which should be a very big deal when using it whether in bright sunlight or a dark room.
However, there is one standout feature, and that’s the new Double Tap gesture control. This can be used to control your Apple Watch without touching it, so you can answer a phone call or silence an alarm simply by double-pinching your fingers together.
Our US Editor in Chief Lance Ulanoff has already tried it – and it works. Neat!
9. You’ll never lose your iPhone again (if you own an Apple Watch 9)
One other big new feature for the Watch 9 is its upgraded Apple U2 chipset. This is the chip that enables the high-fidelity “Find My” experience and the new version has Ultra Wideband technology that gives it three times the range of the older generation.
The upshot of all that? Well, if you’ve left your phone under a bag somewhere in another room, you should be able to just follow the arrows to be guided directly to it. Speaking as the father of two teenagers, this could be a lifesaver.
10. Apple Watch 9 brings better interaction with HomePods
That same Ultra Wideband tech that Apple has introduced to the Watch 9 also brings about a benefit for HomePod owners. Namely, the ability to make a UWB link between Apple’s watch and its speakers.
In a video clip shown during the Apple Watch 9 presentation, a user walked into a living room and audio content recommendations automatically popped up on their watch that could be handed off to a HomePod. Not exactly an earth-shaking development, but an example of how iPhone features are migrating to the Apple Watch.
11. AirPods weren’t quite forgotten (just almost)
Although it might have been a very small announcement amid all of the iPhone 15 news – several members of the TechRadar team completely missed it – AirPod owners got a much-anticipated update about the transition from Lightning to USB-C. And it looks like it won’t just be the AirPods Pro 2 that will see a new USB-C charging case, as Apple’s wired EarPods will also be switching to it.
We haven’t heard anything about a change in cost, so we’re safe to assume that the AirPods Pro 2 and EarPods will retain their existing price tags. The updated charging ports will be available to purchase from today and will be in stores as soon as September 22.
In addition to USB-C, Apple announced in a press release following the live event that the AirPods Pro 2 will be getting an improved IP45 rating to make them more dust resistant. We also finally heard that lossless audio would be coming to the best AirPods but with the Apple Vision Pro…
12. Apple takes the environment seriously (but also humorously)
One of the more offbeat segments in the Wonderlust event live stream involved a supposed Apple board meeting presided over by Mother Nature, played brilliantly by Octavia Spencer.
This provided a couple of genuine laugh-out-loud moments (within the realms of tech events, at least), while simultaneously being a vehicle for Apple to boast about its environmental credentials. And fair play to it – because they are quite impressive.
Anyway, among the announcements today were that Apple will never again use leather in its Apple Watch bands, that the Apple Watch 9 will be its first carbon-neutral product and that by 2030 its entire product range will have followed suit.
Oh, and it’s also eliminating plastic from packaging, using 100% clean electricity, using 100% recycled cobalt and much more to boot.
Cynics may suggest that on the other hand, Apple is a company which makes mass-market products which typically need replacing every few years, and that this is the least it could be doing for the planet. But it’s something – and that’s better than nothing.
13. The A17 Pro could make the iPhone 15 a gaming monster
Apple’s new A17 Pro chipset will almost certainly smash all mobile benchmarks when it’s tested, because its own silicon always does. But aside from making your iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max run buttery-smooth, it also promises to serve up a fantastic gaming experience.
Why? Well, it will support hardware ray tracing in mobile games.
For the uninitiated, ray tracing makes lighting in a 3D-rendered scene look incredibly realistic, which can dramatically heighten the immersion and realism. But it takes a lot of power to do – so the idea that a mere phone could handle it is seriously impressive.
Given the extent to which Apple already dominates the mobile gaming space, this could see the humble smartphone get ever closer to being a true gaming handheld.
14. Phone 15 Pro’s Spatial Videos will make you a 3D movie maker – but only for the Vision Pro
When Apple launched the Vision Pro, one of its notable features was an ability to show 3D movies – yes, you could watch Avatar at home the way James Cameron intended for it to be seen.
That 3D feature must have cast a long shadow at Apple, because the new camera system for the iPhone 15 Pro line allows the phones to shoot pictures and videos in a 3D ‘Spatial Video’ format. Unsurprisingly, users will have to buy a Vision Pro to view their 3D movie creations. And that’s a shame, because there are other ways to watch 3D movies, specifically by using a 4K projector that supports the format. Sigh. At least Apple has switched its iPhone line over to USB-C connectivity.
15. Apple’s iPhone 15 pricing hides a secret
This year’s iPhone prices are not too bad; the launch prices are all the same as their iPhone 14 equivalents in the US, and have gone down a little in the UK. You can read our full guide to the iPhone 15 prices here.
But look a little deeper and you’d notice that the price for the base iPhone 14 has dropped by $100 to $699 (down to £699 in the UK and AU$1,299 in Australia). And other iPhone 14 models have also gone down in price. We always expect prices for previous models to drop, but that’s a decent cut that may well make the iPhone 14 worth considering.
And if not, well then you’d better head over to our iPhone 15 preorders page and reserve your new phone.