iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max hands-on

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The high-end iPhones still look like iPhones, but this is no warmed-over iPhone 14 Pro. It has new buttons, new ports, and a new body.

iphone 15 pro at the 2023 iphone launch event

We’ve just had our first chance to check out the new iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, which Apple just announced at its annual fall event in Cupertino. There are lots of new things about the devices — camera upgrades, the new A17 Bionic chip — but there are three things about the phone you notice right away. The thing is made of titanium; there’s an Action Button on the left side; and that’s a USB-C port on the bottom. Oh, and a fourth thing: the sides of the phones on display were instantly and immediately covered in fingerprints.

At first glance, the 15 Pro looks just like the iPhones Pro before it. But pick one up, and the lighter weight due to the titanium frame is obvious, as are the curved edges. It’s just nicer to hold. Apple says the titanium has allowed it to make the sides of the device thinner, which certainly makes the display look bigger than usual, but it’s the same 6.1 inches on the Pro and 6.7 inches on the Pro Max.

iphone 15 pro usb c port

iphone 15 pro usb c port

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by Nilay Patel / The Verge

There’s a USB-C port on the bottom now, which Apple says supports 10Gbps transfers using a USB 3 cable — enough to support live shooting 48-megapixel photos using Capture One and shooting 4K video directly to external storage. But from the outside, it just looks like a USB-C port — we’ll have to test it out to know more.

On the side, you’ll find the new Action Button, which can be remapped using a delightfully designed menu in settings — you can set it to launch voice memos, open the camera or flashlight, change Focus modes, launch various accessibility features, or even launch Shortcuts, which means it can do anything you want it to do.

Inside, there’s the new A17 Pro chip, which is the industry’s first 3nm chip — a big deal in the high-stakes chip world. There’s a long litany of specs here: 10 percent faster performance cores than the iPhone 15 Pro, a 2x faster Neural Engine, and a new six-core GPU that’s up to 20 percent faster than the 15 Pro. The new chip also has a dedicated AV1 decoder for more efficient video streaming, and it also enables 4K60 video output over that USB-C port. In our brief hands-on time, the iPhone 15 Pro ran a bunch of games without exploding, so that’s a good sign? We’ll have to really test this thing in a proper review to know more.

It’s the same with the cameras: the hands-on area of the Steve Jobs Theater is one of the best-lit demo spaces around, so the new cameras looked great, and of course, the sample photos loaded on the demo phones were spectacular. The new main camera can switch between 24, 28, and 35mm focal lengths, and the new 5x tetraprism zoom lens on the Pro Max has a 120mm focal length, which was fun to play with. The main camera shoots at 24mp by default, but you can now shoot at both 48mp ProRaw and 48mp HEIF, which Apple pronounces “heef.” This is a shocking revelation.

Camera-wise, the new feature most people will immediately appreciate is the update to Portrait Mode, which automatically captures depth information when it detects a person, cat, or dog in the frame — allowing you to change photos to portrait after the fact. You can also adjust the focus point after the fact, which is a very, very neat trick that people have been trying to ship in consumer products for a decade now. We’ll have to see how this all works in reality, but here in Apple’s bubble, it all seemed to work flawlessly.

The 15 Pro now supports Wi-Fi 6E for faster wireless performance, and they have built-in Thread radios for…. whatever happens with Matter and Thread. (Even Apple doesn’t seem to know what they’re for yet.) There’s also the new second-generation UWB chip that enables precision finding in Find My if your friends have devices with that new chip, like the new Apple Watches or the iPhone 15.

Lastly, the satellite connectivity features have been expanded to include roadside assistance through AAA — Apple’s website says access to Roadside Assistance is free for the first two years, but the actual roadside service is going to cost you, or you have to be an AAA member. We’ll sort through that as well.

We obviously have a lot of things to cover in this review! Let us know what you want us to find out, and we’ll keep at it.

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