A word of warning if you’re planning to buy one of the new iPhones expected later this year: you’re probably going to pay more for the iPhone 15 than you did for previous Apple devices. Or at least that’s the expectation for the most desirable models.
Specifically, rumors point to a $100 price hike for both iPhone 15 Pro models in the fall. That would push the starting price of the iPhone 15 Pro to $1,099, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max would cost $1,199 — the same amount Samsung charges for its premium Galaxy S23 Ultra phone.
There is of course a big difference between a rumored price increase and an actual price increase. Ultimately, talking about higher iPhone 15 prices could be just that, and the phones Apple releases this fall could end up costing the same as the prices Apple has been charging for the past few years. After all, the same pattern of rumored price hikes that turned out to be nonexistent happened last fall with the launch of the iPhone 14.
But let’s pretend it’s a done deal for a moment, prices are going up, at least on the new Pro models. Naturally, that’s going to spark a degree of backlash against Apple, as I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s happy to pay more for a product. How big that blowback will be, however, depends very much on Apple.
Here’s a closer look at what Apple needs to do if it wants to get its way with more expensive iPhone 15 models.
iPhone 15 prices: What we know so far
Rumors of price hikes for Apple phones didn’t really target the iPhone 15 or the iPhone 15 Plus, so you can probably expect those devices to maintain their predecessors’ respective $799 and $899 starting prices. To date, the rumors are almost exclusively about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 15 models.
It was a January report on the Chinese social network Weibo, in which an unverified source claimed that the iPhone 15 Pro models were due for a price hike in the fall. The idea is apparently that Apple wants to further differentiate its Pro models from the standard iPhone – a credible claim given the differences between iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro that emerged last fall.
It’s also worth noting that while iPhone prices have remained the same in the US, that’s not the case in other parts of the world. UK buyers paid £150 more for the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max than comparable iPhone 13 models. In the rest of Europe, iPhone 14 Pro prices increased by €100 compared to their predecessors. It’s thought that this time around, a price hike on the iPhone 15 Pro could only affect US customers, given where prices jumped last year.
What changes the iPhone 15 Pro does not justify the price increase
If Apple is going to raise the price of its Pro models, the normal round of incremental changes that come with annual phone updates just won’t cut it. For example, we expect the iPhone 15 Pro to feature a new A17 Bionic chipset built on a 3nm process, a move that should deliver significant performance and power efficiency improvements. And as welcome as that development would be, it wouldn’t be enough to take the sting out of a $100 price increase.
The same goes for other incremental improvements, such as screen brightness or a switch from Lighting to USB-C. We expect any new iPhone to promise a brighter display, especially in light of the improvements Samsung has made to the Galaxy S23’s display.
And while Apple’s adoption of USB-C would certainly be a big deal, it’s likely to happen across the entire iPhone 15 lineup. That move won’t make people more inclined to pay for the Pro model, even though the iPhone 15 Pro offers faster charging speeds, as rumored.
In other words, business as usual won’t make it for a more expensive iPhone 15 Pro. Apple will have to offer significant changes if it wants to avoid consumer complaints.
What we would expect from a more expensive iPhone 15 Pro
So if a better processor and a new charging interface aren’t enough to move the needle, what will? Based on iPhone 15 Pro rumors so far, there are three potential changes that could make a more expensive Pro model more palatable.
More storage space: The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max both come with 128GB of storage in their base models. That’s not a very Pro amount, especially in an era where apps are becoming more sophisticated and we’re encouraged to capture high-resolution 4K videos and images. The standard iPhone offers that same 128 GB of storage, for goodness sake.
At the same time, Apple’s competitors are increasing the capacity of their base models. For example, buy a Galaxy S23 Plus or S23 Ultra for their starting price and you get 256 GB of storage space. (We should also point out that Samsung has increased the base capacity of those two models without a price increase, at least for the US versions of the phone.)
If Apple wants to distinguish its Pro phones from the other models, increasing the capacity is a must. That alone wouldn’t justify a price hike, but Apple could combine it with other improvements like…
Improved Durability: The iPhone is already quite durable, thanks to Ceramic Shield displays that are meant to resist scratches and damage from drops. But that’s another feature shared by the iPhone series. Apple could take steps again to make the iPhone 15 Pro stand out in this area.
And it could be, if the rumors of a new iPhone 15 Pro feature are correct. Reportedly, Apple could replace the stainless steel used in the iPhone 14 Pro with titanium – a metal that is lighter but also more durable.
The Apple Watch Ultra, Apple’s premium smartwatch, is already available exclusively in titanium. By switching the iPhone 15 Pro to that material, Apple would turn its Pro models into true premium smartphones – at least until the iPhone Ultra comes out next year, as rumor has it.
A periscope-style zoom lens: This is possibly the biggest change for the iPhone 15 Pro, as it would address one of the few weaknesses of Apple’s phones. The telephoto capabilities of the iPhone 14 Pro are quite limited – the 12MP telephoto lens on current models supports a 3x optical zoom, with a maximum digital zoom of 15x. Compare that to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which has a pair of telephoto lenses and can offer a digital zoom of up to 100x. Even the other S23 models support a 30x digital zoom.
A periscope-style iPhone 15 lens would allow Apple to address that disparity. By stacking the camera lenses vertically, Apple would have more room in the iPhone 15 Pro to boost the phone’s optical zoom capabilities. That could mean a 6x optical zoom for the iPhone 15 Pro, making it an automatic contender for one of the best camera phones given Apple’s expertise in other aspects of mobile photography.
iPhone 15 Pro Outlook
It is possible that all this discussion will be up for debate in September. Apple could find a way to keep iPhone prices exactly where they are while making improvements and improvements to all iPhone 15 models.
But if that doesn’t happen and Apple feels compelled to raise prices, it will have to flaunt new features that make the iPhone 15 Pro worth the higher price. A better zoom lens, a more durable device, and extra storage space could be the three things that make the extra $100 cost easier to swallow.