Apple unveils the iPhone 15, Apple Watch Series 9. Here's what to know

BySamantha Murphy Kelly and Clare Duffy
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Apple unveils the iPhone 15, Apple Watch Series 9. Here's what to know
Apple unveiled its iPhone 15 lineup along with a major update during its September keynote event Tuesday.

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- Apple unveiled its iPhone 15 lineup along with other major updates during its September keynote event Tuesday.

The company confirmed rumors that it will switch to USB-C from its proprietary lightning charging cable with the iPhone 15. That means users will now be able to use the same charging cord to power their iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Apple also announced its updated Apple Watch Series 9, with new colors and features.

The press event, which Apple teased with a "wonderlust" tagline, took place at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California.

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Although the annual iPhone event has become formulaic over the years, announcing incremental changes to battery life, camera system and displays, this year's USB-C announcement marks the biggest change to the iPhone's design in 11 years. The change could ultimately streamline the charging process across various devices and brands.

The change 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.

Here are the takeaways from Apple's Tuesday event:

Meet the iPhone 15

The company announced its next-generation entry-level iPhone 15s, which now feature an expanded "Dynamic Island" tool that is home to alerts, notifications and other controls, in place of the notch.

The feature was previously only available on the iPhone 14 Pro. The basic iPhone 15 phones include updated image stabilization for taking photos and videos, 2x optimization and updated portraits with richer color and better low-light performance. The Pro models feature even more advanced camera updates, including a more-advanced 48 megapixel main camera featuring a larger sensor than on iPhone 15.

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max (Photo: Business Wire)
iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max (Photo: Business Wire)
Business Wire

The iPhone 15s ship with the A16 bionic processor - the same chip used in the iPhone 14 Pro - with a neural engine that handles more complicated tasks, such as live voicemail transcriptions on device, according to the company.

The iPhone 15 has an Ultra-Wideband chip so it can connect with other devices nearby, making it possible to more easily find friends who share their location in crowded locations, and powering some iOS 17 features.

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-store next week.

Switch to USB-C charging

Perhaps the biggest change announced along with the new 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.

In the iPhone 15 Pro, Apple said a dedicated USB-C controller will allow for transfer speeds of up to 20 times faster than with USB-2 technology.

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.

Apple Watch Series 9 brings new capabilities to the world's best-selling watch while achieving a significant environmental milestone.
Photo: Business Wire

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.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 (Photo: Business Wire)
Apple Watch Ultra 2 (Photo: Business Wire)
Business Wire

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.

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.

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