iPhone 15 Ultra: what we know so far

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Apple set off a tectonic shift in the iPhone world last year when it added a new device, and a new naming scheme to the iPhone 14 line-up, with the iPhone 14 Plus.

Originally believed to be the ‘iPhone 14 Max’ and designed to complement the sizeable iPhone 14 Pro Max – with a simpler chip, display and camera system, the 14 Plus also showed that Apple wasn’t beyond reworking its product names for better clarity.

Rumors now suggest that the company will apply a similar treatment to the top of 2023’s iPhone lineup. Instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it’s starting to look like we’ll be introduced to an ‘iPhone 15 Ultra’, set to sit above the iPhone 15 Pro. 

The naming is not out-of-character for Apple. The company just launched an extreme version of its smartwatch – loaded to the gills with features – called the Apple Watch Ultra

The notion of an Apple iPhone 15 Ultra makes sense to us and breaking away from the Pro in name will give Apple better justify any differences Apple decides to inject into its two most capable 2023 iPhones. It’s likely that the 15 Ultra will be more than just a bigger screen and battery, as is the case with the current iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The biggest and baddest of Apple’s expected 2023 iPhones
  • When is it out? Likely September 2023
  • How much will it cost? Probably even more than the iPhone 14 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Ultra release date predictions

Apple events historically happen in the first or second week of September. The company likes to make an announcement on a Tuesday or Wednesday, then start pre-sales the same Friday. The phone usually arrives in stores the Friday following.

For the iPhone 14, that event fell on September 7 (admittedly, earlier than expected), with three of the four phones going on sale over a week later, on September 16 (the iPhone 14 Plus arrived on October 7). 

In 2023, that means September 5 or 12 are likely event dates (both are Tuesdays), though the 6 and 13 are possibilities too. We could see the phone in stores as early as September 15. 

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max always on display

Apple’s current top dog: the iPhone 14 Pro Max (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

iPhone 15 Ultra price leaks

The early leaks about how Apple will price the iPhone 15 Ultra are telling. Apple may start the Ultra phone at $1,199. This would put the phone in the same pricing tier as Samsung’s current “Ultra” device, the Galaxy S22 Ultra. That phone costs $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849.

However, a more recent leak suggests it could be even pricier, at $1,299, likely equating to £1,429 / AU$2,249 in other regions.

The current iPhone 14 Pro Max costs $1,099 / £1,199 / AU$1,899, which itself represents a price hike outside of the US market over last year’s model. We think it’s possible that when Apple switches from ‘Pro Max’ to ‘Ultra’, it will bump the price by $100 or $200 in the US with corresponding price hikes elsewhere. 

Hopefully, that price increase will also come with more reasons to buy. The current iPhone 14 Pro Max gives you a bigger screen and battery than the standard 14 Pro, and that’s it. That’s a big bonus for $100, but if Apple is going to push the price even higher, it needs to offer more features and more hardware to justify the price.

Fortunately, one source claims that the starting capacity will be 256GB, which is double the starting size of current models, and would go some way to justifying the price.

  • iPhone 14 Pro Max: $1,099 / £1,199 / AU$1,899
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G: $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849
  • iPhone 15 Ultra (expected): $1,199 / £1,309 / AU$2,099 – $1,299 / £1,429 / AU$2,249

iPhone 15 Ultra news, rumors and leaks

We have already heard quite a bit about the expected iPhone 15 with rumors reaching back to before the iPhone 14 series’ launch, but only recently has news of a higher-tier Apple iPhone 15 Ultra emerged. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman mentioned right after launch of the 14 line that an Ultra would be coming, and that was the first we had heard of this new possible nomenclature.

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After that, we heard further confirmation from other iPhone 15 leaks, and one leaker suggested that in addition to a bigger screen and battery, the iPhone 15 Ultra could see a better camera setup than its iPhone 15 Pro sibling.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max camera array

The iPhone 14 Pro Max cameras (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The information came across rather vague, with the leak saying that Apple was testing a much-anticipated 8K video recording feature for its next iPhone, but the leaker was unsure if this feature would be coming to the iPhone 15 Pro or just the higher-end iPhone 15 Ultra. This set off speculation that the Ultra phone could see camera improvements over the Pro.

Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra is a step ahead of its Galaxy S22 Plus and base model Galaxy S22, and one significant improvement is the addition of a periscope-style telephoto zoom lens. Leaks suggest Apple could also use a periscope zoom on its larger Ultra device, and size requirements for such a lens would make more sense on the larger phone compared to the smaller iPhone 15 Pro that is expected next fall too.

Another camera upgrade could come in the form of a new Sony sensor that apparently captures more light and is better at avoiding overexposing or underexposing shots than current smartphone cameras, even in tricky scenes where the foreground lighting is very different to the background.

We’ve also heard that the Ultra might have a dual-lens front-facing camera, with the same source also saying it might only come in one shade – the same silver color as the Apple Watch Ultra.

Elsewhere there’s a reputable source claiming that the Pro models of the iPhone 15 line (presumably including the iPhone 15 Ultra) will get a USB-C port with support for data transfer speeds of up to either 20Gbps or 40Gbps, up from just 480Mbps on current iPhones.

Of course, it’s sure to be very powerful too. Expect an A17 Bionic chipset, which a source claims might be a lot more efficient than the A16 Bionic used by the iPhone 14 Pro line, which could in turn lead to better battery life.

Beyond that, we’ve also heard that the iPhone 15 Ultra might be clad in titanium, which is typically stronger and lighter than the stainless steel used by the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This claim comes from a tweet by leaker LeaksApplePro (opens in new tab), who isn’t one of the biggest leakers but has been right before.

Another source has now said the same, so this might well be true. This second source has added that the sides will apparently be a different shape too, with them curving in to the rear of the phone, rather than being a right angle.

Another design tweak could come in the form of solid-state power and volume buttons, which sit flush with the body of the phone and don’t physically move.

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