BUSINESS + ECONOMY

The iPhone 15 and five other takeaways from Apple’s big event

Sep 12, 2023, 8:00 PM

Apple shows off the new iPhone 15 Pro after its introduction on the Apple campus Tuesday in Cuperti...

Apple shows off the new iPhone 15 Pro after its introduction on the Apple campus Tuesday in Cupertino, California. Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/AP

(CNN) — Apple unveiled its iPhone 15 lineup along with other major updates during its September keynote event on Tuesday.

The company announced it will switch to USB-C charging from its proprietary Lightning charging cable with the iPhone 15, marking a milestone for the company by adopting universal charging. The change aims to ultimately streamline the charging process across various devices — and brands.

The company also showed off its Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches, with new colors and features including gesture control, and a new iteration of its AirPods Pro wireless earbuds, also with USB-C charging.

The iPhone charger update, along with changes to its design and camera system, comes as Apple looks to give consumers more reasons to upgrade their iPhones. Last month, Apple’s sales fell for the third consecutive quarter. iPhone revenue came in at $39.7 billion for the quarter, marking an approximately 2% year-over-year decline, as people update their devices less often.

Apple on Tuesday said it will not raise prices for the iPhone 15 lineup, which could further incentivize users to upgrade.

Here are the main takeaways from Apple’s Tuesday event:

iPhone 15 lineup is packed with significant design changes

The latest iPhones are packed with subtle but significant design changes. To start, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max now feature a titanium casing, allowing the design to be slimmer and thinner than before.

Other design changes on the premium models include a more-advanced 48 megapixel main camera with a larger sensor and a new telephoto lens for 5x optical zoom camera, exclusively on iPhone 15 Pro Max. The new Pro models’ design also features contoured edges and a customizable Action button, which gives the ring/silence button additional controls, from starting a voice memo to writing a note.

Meanwhile, the basic iPhone 15 phones now include updated image stabilization for taking photos and videos, 2x optimization and updated portraits with richer color and better low-light performance. They will also come with the “Dynamic Island” tool – home to alerts, notifications and other controls, in place of the notch – which were previously only available on the iPhone 14 Pro.

The iPhone 15s also include a Ultra-Wideband chip to power a handful of new features, including one that makes it easier to find friends who share their location in crowded locations.

The iPhone 15 comes in 5 colors (white, black, pink, green and yellow) and in two sizes: A 6.1-inch screen for the iPhone 15 and 6.7 inches for iPhone 15 Pro.

The iPhone 15 will start at $799, and iPhone 15 Pro will start at $999. The iPhone 15 models will be available for pre-order on Friday and for sale in stores on Friday September 22.

A milestone step toward universal charging

Perhaps the biggest change coming to the iPhone 15 models is that they will now use a USB-C charging cord, ending an 11-year run with Apple’s proprietary Lightning charging cable.

Now Apple customers can use the same USB-C chargers to power their iPhones, iPads and Mac computers — no more scrambling to find the right charger for each device. Apple said a dedicated USB-C controller will allow for transfer speeds of up to 20 times faster than with USB-2 technology for the iPhone 15 Pro.

The switch would come less than a year after the European Union voted to approve legislation to require smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, portable speakers and other small devices to support USB-C charging by 2024. The first-of-its-kind law aims to pare down the number of chargers and cables consumers must contend with when they purchase a new device, and to allow users to mix and match devices and chargers even if they were produced by different manufacturers.

Apple will also sell a $29 USB-C Lightning adapter to let people connect their existing Lightning accessories to a USB-C-enabled iPhone or iPad to charge or share data.

The company told CNN iPhone users can recycle their old Lightning chargers via its in-store recycling program.

Next generation Apple Watches

Apple kicked off Tuesday’s event by announcing the new Apple Watch Series 9, which features Apple’s in-house silicon chip and ultrawideband connectivity. The updated Apple Watch will let users log health data with their voice, use “name drop” to share contact information by touching another Apple Watch and raise their wrist to automatically brighten the display. The Series 9 will come in colors such as pink, navy, red, gold, silver and graphite.

Apple also showed off the second iteration of its rugged Ultra smartwatch line, featuring the updated S9 custom chip and a new UWB chip. It also features more information on the display for more intensive tracking.

The Apple Watch Series 9 will start at $399 and the Ultra is priced at $799. Customers can place orders today and they will be available on September 22.

Are hand gestures the future?

Apple said the Watch Series 9 will include a new gesture control called Double Tap that will allow users to tap their index finger and thumb together twice, to answer or end phone calls, play and pause music, or snooze alarms. The hand gesture can also scroll through widgets, much like turning the digital crown.

The Apple Watch Ultra will also feature Double Tap.

The company said Double Tap is enabled by an enhanced neural engine that processes data from sensors and machine learning. It is available starting next month.

“It will become one of those magical experiences you rely on everyday,” the company said.

A similar hand tap will be used to control the Vision Pro mixed reality headset when it launches next year.

A carbon neutral Apple Watch

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of environment, policy and social initiatives, said that the company’s Watch Series 9 will be Apple’s “first-ever carbon-neutral product,” thanks to efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and to offset emissions with carbon buybacks. She said this has been certified by an independent third-party.

Doubling down on sustainability initiatives, Jackson also said the tech giant will no longer use leather in any new Apple product, including watch bands.

Instead of leather, Apple said it will begin using a new textile that it is calling “fine woven.”

Fine woven will be made of 68% post-consumer recycled content, giving it a significantly lower carbon footprint than leather, Apple said.

“Beyond expected improved performance and incremental innovation embedded into Apple’s new products, it is great to see Apple communicate on sustainability as a new competitive advantage — especially with Apple’s first carbon neutral products,” Forrester Principal Analyst Thomas Husson said in emailed commentary following the event.

What we didn’t get

As expected, the company did not unveil a foldable phone, new iPads or Mac computers. It is likely, however, Apple will announce new tablets and Macs next month.

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The iPhone 15 and five other takeaways from Apple’s big event