7 top new iPhone 15 features

iPhone 15
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Four of the most exciting smartphones of 2023 have now arrived, with Apple having unveiled the iPhone 15, the iPhone 15 Plus, the iPhone 15 Pro, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

There’s a lot that’s changed this year, and you can head to our hands-on iPhone 15 review, iPhone 15 Pro review, and iPhone 15 Pro Max review to read our first impressions of those phones. But there are some clear highlights.

Below, you’ll find seven top new iPhone 15 features – these are in many cases things that Apple has already shouted about, and in all cases they rank among the main reasons to consider picking up a phone in the iPhone 15 line.

1. An iPhone finally has a periscope camera

The camera array on the rear of the iPhone 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro Max (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Smartphone makers – other than Samsung – have been slow to adopt periscope cameras, which is a type of lens design that allows for longer distance optical zoom than a typical telephoto camera can manage.

As such, while Samsung has been offering a 10x optical zoom on its Galaxy Ultra phones for several generations, Apple has stuck with 3x. That is, until now.

While it still can’t match Samsung’s 10x optical zoom, the iPhone 15 Pro Max does at least have a 5x optical zoom camera, allowing you to zoom in much further than the 3x of its predecessor.

This will be ideal for taking photos of animals, high-up parts of buildings, and other things you can’t easily get close to.

2. USB-C instead of Lightning

USB-C port on the iPhone 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro Max (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Perhaps the most widely expected change for the iPhone 15 line was the move to USB-C. The European Union had dictated that device makers must make this change in 2024, so it was always likely that Apple would get ahead of the game this year. But while this might not have been Apple’s choice, USB-C is a top new feature.

This switch means that you’ll be able to use the same cable for most things since the best Android phones and the majority of other battery-powered gadgets use USB-C – as do recent iPads and MacBooks.

USB-C also potentially allows for far higher data transfer speeds, though only the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max tap into this, with support for 10Gbps speeds.

3. All four models get a Dynamic Island

iPhone 15

The iPhone 15 (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Arguably the headline feature of the iPhone 14 line was the Dynamic Island, which replaced the much-maligned notch with something genuinely useful and different. But this feature was originally exclusive to the Pro phones.

Now though, every iPhone 15 model has a Dynamic Island, so you don’t have to splash out on the iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max to get this exciting upgrade.

4. The Action button

The side buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro Max (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

One feature that’s exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro models is an Action button, which sits where you’d previously have found the mute switch.

If you just want to mute and unmute your phone like with the previous switch this can do that. But it’s also customizable, so you can set it to trigger numerous other functions, such as turning the flashlight on and off, or launching the camera.

It’s a far more useful feature than the departing mute switch and it’s the sort of thing that you’ll wonder why it wasn’t added years ago – and why the standard models are left out.

5. A big main camera upgrade for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus

iPhone 15

The iPhone 15 (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

While the headline camera upgrade for the iPhone 15 line is arguably the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s periscope camera, the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus also got a big upgrade, with a 48MP main sensor replacing the 12MP one of their predecessors.

This is capable of taking far higher resolution photos than the camera on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus. Apple has claimed the photos taken with these new phones should be better in just about all scenarios, including for portraits and in low light environments.

6. A telephoto camera without a telephoto lens

iPhone 15

The iPhone 15 (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Not only is the 48MP camera on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus an upgrade in megapixels, it also doubles as a telephoto camera, as it can crop in to take optical quality 2x zoom shots at 12MP.

That means for the first time on a non-Pro iPhone you effectively have three rear cameras, including a telephoto. Of course, technically it’s still just two lenses, but this ups the versatility of the iPhone 15’s camera significantly.

7. A super-powerful new chipset

A picture of the A17 Pro chipset

(Image credit: Apple)

While the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus have inherited the excellent A16 Bionic chipset from the iPhone 14 Pro line, there’s something new powering the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Dubbed the A17 Pro, this is Apple’s latest smartphone chipset, and it delivers up to 10% faster CPU performance, offers a 20% faster GPU, and even has the ability to drive hardware-accelerated ray tracing, which should deliver some impressive graphics in future iOS games. And the Neural Engine performance, which governs iPhone smart features, has been doubled. 

Some of those figures are more impressive than others. But a year after launch the A16 Bionic still easily rivals the best chipsets in Android phones, so the A17 Pro should be a real beast.

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James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.