The iPhone 15 Pro Max is expected to arrive in September 2023 with curved titanium sides, an updated camera system, and a Thunderbolt USB-C port. Here's what to expect.
Initial rumors surrounding the iPhone 15 began in the middle of 2022 and have remained more realistic than early iPhone 14 rumors by comparison. Subtle changes to case designs, a new port, and other updates fit Apple's usual update cycle.
The standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will have a much more muted set of updates, like adding the Dynamic Island and USB-C. This post will focus on the biggest pro model we expect will be called iPhone 15 Pro Max.
A note about iPhone naming
At first, a rumor shared by Mark Gurman suggested Apple could shift the name to iPhone 15 Ultra — a tool to further differentiate the larger pro phone from the smaller. He later changed this prediction, suggesting the "Ultra" name would hold off until the iPhone 16 series and be placed at a tier above "Pro Max."
Naming is important to Apple, as it conveys where a product exists in the lineup without too much guesswork. As Gurman said, "Ultra" would imply a new device category, and while the rumored new design and feature changes are significant, they wouldn't push the product into a new premium category.
No details were provided about this potential iPhone 16 Ultra. It could have an even bigger display and a faster top-end A18 processor to stand above the other iPhones.
Product names are rarely leaked, if ever. Only time will tell what Apple's naming strategy will be. We're focused on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and everything rumored about it for this piece.
Expected iPhone 15 Pro Max design - titanium and curves
Apple tends to find a design it likes and stick with it for several years. The current flat-sided design debuted with the iPhone 12, and very little has changed since.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is expected to be yet another iteration of the existing design, though the slight change could be striking. The bottom edge of the metal frame is rumored to curve into the glass back for a more uniform, smooth design.
The metal material would be made of titanium instead of stainless steel. The glass back will remain the same to enable wireless charging and MagSafe.
The camera bump could change to accommodate the rumored periscope telephoto camera — more on that later. Despite having a new camera system, the camera bump could shrink slightly in length and width, though it'll still be thicker overall.
A different leak from ShrimpApplePro suggests the display could have a slight curve to the bezel. This wouldn't be like a Samsung Galaxy with a curved display — the curved portion would be a non-touch bezel only.
It isn't clear exactly how Apple would implement this type of display without leaving the glass exposed on the corners. This would introduce a significant weak point for drops, but Apple has likely planned for this issue in the final design.
iPhone 15 Pro Max features - USB-C and periscope camera
External design updates tend to drive customer interest the most, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is getting a lot of feature updates too. The rear camera system is getting yet another significant upgrade, the selfie camera could get a second lens, and the port may get a bigger upgrade than just USB-C.
iPhone 15 Pro Max - USB-C port with Thunderbolt
Apple's move to USB-C has been predicted for years, but for the iPhone 15 lineup, it may not be a choice. The EU has passed a law forcing smartphone manufacturers to adopt the universal port, and Apple has to comply by 2024.
Some had speculated that Apple would go port-less before adopting USB-C, claiming that Lightning and MagSafe were necessary proprietary fixtures. However, that doesn't seem to be the case, as the transition to USB-C has already begun in other products.
Moving to a USB-C port doesn't guarantee faster speeds, but rumors suggest the port will offer more than convenience. Apple could use the USB 4/Thunderbolt spec in the iPhone 15 Pro, at least according to Ming-Chi Kuo.
That would allow wired data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps, an approximate 80x increase over the USB 2.0 speeds used by iPhone today. Thunderbolt speeds would be a massive improvement for creatives, especially those working with massive ProRes video files.
However, one rumor suggests Apple could cripple the versatility of the port by having a separate Made for iPhone (MFi) certification. Products that lack that certification could have limited functionality when connected to an iPhone.
It doesn't seem likely that Apple would implement such an extreme system, but rumors are insistent. While MFi was useful for integrating Lightning into third-party products, the certification hasn't bled into Apple's USB-C product lineup. The MacBook and iPad have USB-C and connect to any peripheral without MFi.
iPhone 15 Pro Max - Periscope telephoto lens
The iPhone 14 Pro had a significant leap in camera capabilities thanks to its 48MP main sensor, but the telephoto lens was still lacking. The device would rely on cropping the main sensor if the lighting were anything other than excellent.
Rumors have pointed to the existence of a periscope telephoto lens coming to the iPhone for years. It seems Apple has been working on the technology internally, but it never makes the final cut.
A periscope lens system stacks a series of lenses "folded" so it fits vertically within the iPhone. A mirror reflects the image from the outward-facing lens and optically zooms using the periscope-lens stack.
The current telephoto lens is only capable of a 3x optical zoom, and it doesn't perform nearly as well as the large main sensor. If Apple follows Samsung's playbook, a periscope lens could increase the optical zoom to 10x, 50x, or even 100x.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is rumored to get a periscope lens for much better optical zoom. Ming-Chi Kuo says that this lens will be reserved for the iPhone 15 Pro Max for this generation, but it would be available on both iPhone 16 Pro models.
iPhone 15 Pro Max - Two selfie cameras
One rumor shared by a leaker named Majin Bu suggests that the iPhone 15 Pro Max could have two selfie cameras. It would be limited to the larger model due to space considerations.
This rumor hasn't been repeated since, so it may have been a leak related to early testing rather than the final product.
Two selfie cameras could serve multiple purposes, perhaps for better depth data collection or a wider depth of field. The rumor didn't specify what this hardware would be used for.
The smaller pro model and both non-pro models will have a single selfie camera and the Dynamic Island. That's a slight change for the non-pro models, moving on from the notch.
Other rumors state that Apple will move on from the pill-and-hole cutout found beneath the Dynamic Island software by iPhone 16. While this won't affect 2023 models, it could provide more space for smaller iPhone models to adopt two selfie cameras in the future.
iPhone 15 Pro Max - A17 and Wi-Fi 6E
The latest Apple Silicon will be reserved for the high-end iPhones, just like with the iPhone 14 lineup. That means the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will get the 2022 A16 processor, and the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will get the new A17 processor.
OLED display chips could also see a process improvement, thus making the chip and the OLED display itself more power efficient. It isn't clear how much this would improve battery life, but every bit of savings helps.
A more powerful and efficient display chip could also be useful for a more demanding display. One rumor states Apple could increase the display brightness to 2,500 nits for HDR.
Finally, it seems Apple's special color option for the iPhone 15 Pro Max could be deep red. It will join gold, silver, and space black as a new color option.
When is the iPhone 15 Pro Max going to be released?
Apple tends to announce its iPhone lineup during a September Apple Event. Depending on supply chain constraints, all models could release simultaneously or take a staggered approach based on availability.
Expect the iPhone 15 Pro Max to cost a premium with its new design, periscope lens, and other improved technologies. High-end models with 2TB of storage could cost nearly $2,000.