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Apple's 'Wonderlust' Event Highlights iPhone 15, USB-C and Apple Watch 9: Everything Announced

At its annual fall event, Apple launched its latest round of iPhones and watches. And yes, USB-C has landed on the iPhone 15.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
5 min read
iphone 15 in 4 pastel colors and black
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

It was a big day for the iPhone and Apple Watch as Apple rolled out the 2023 models: the iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2. And the moment you've all been waiting for -- USB-C has landed in the iPhone and AirPods.

Watch this: Everything Apple Announced at Its iPhone 15 Event

In addition to the big reveals, Apple tossed us the usual random scraps of updates to its products and services, and announced the availability of its operating systems. The company claims that by 2030 it will have net zero climate impact (in a skit featuring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) and detailed all the ways it's working toward that. iCloud Plus gets a couple of new tiers, as well -- 6 and 12 terabytes -- because everything takes up a lot more space.

For the play-by-play commentary during the event, you can relive the magic with our archived live blog.

gamer using iphone 15 pro
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

iPhone 15 and 15 Plus

These inherit a lot from the iPhone 14 Pro, minus the telephoto camera, including the Dynamic Island widget that expands the camera cutout to show contextual information. The 15 Plus has a bigger battery and a 6.7-inch screen compared to the 6.1-inch of the 15. Both also use the second-generation Ultra Wideband chip that's in the new watches. 

In addition to USB-C charging, Apple has upped its MagSafe to support the Qi2 standard.

Watch this: Apple Debuts iPhone 15 and 15 Plus With USB-C, Dynamic Island

It uses "color infused glass" for the new back (giving more durable color) with an etched layer over it. The new main camera is 48 megapixels -- still dual cameras -- and uses pixel binning to improve low-light performance. It still uses digital zoom for 2x by cropping into the center of the sensor. And now you don't have to remember to switch to portrait mode; it will autodetect. Plus, it lets you select a subject for focus after the fact.

Apple has expanded its emergency satellite service to roadside assistance. It's launching in the US with AAA, and is included in the membership. Nonmembers can subscribe separately.

The new A16 Bionic chip with an improved neural engine adds aggressive background noise cancellation on calls (aka Voice Isolation).

The iPhone 15 starts at $799 and the Plus starts at $899 in the US. Both prices are with carrier activation.

4 iphone 15 pro models
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

The Pro -- 6.1 inches for Pro and 6.7 inches for Pro Max -- now sports a titanium alloy case with an aluminum substructure, which makes it lighter (though not thinner) and better for heat dissipation, and has shrunken borders for more screen visibility. Their new internal design also improves repairability, partly because the back glass can be replaced.

The rumored Action button is real. It's programmable and has haptic feedback, but still remains available for muting and works in conjunction with Dynamic Island. And like Android, there's an always-on StandBy screen enabled by iOS 17.

Watch this: iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max Add Apple's Customizable Action Button

Apple debuts the A17 Pro chip for these, which has a new GPU that includes ray-tracing acceleration (for augmented reality!). Metal, the company's 3D graphics framework, includes optimized upscaling, plus provides more efficient (and therefore battery friendly) operation. Some console games will also be natively playable -- Apple specifically called out Assassin's Creed Mirage, coming next year.

The chip also has improved performance cores, a new neural engine, a dedicated AV1 decoder, a USB 3 controller and USB-C connection.

Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work

See all photos

The Max has a 48-megapixel camera with a larger sensor than the other models and coated lenses for fewer reflections. It's got 24mm, 28mm and 35mm equivalent lenses on the main camera, and the company promises better detail and dynamic range. The 120mm telephoto lens uses a "tetraprism" design with three-axis sensor-shift image stabilization. There's also a 3x zoom lens.

Video supports recording to an external USB drive, v-log encoding and ACES support (the latter two are big for pros). Because the Vision Pro headset is on the horizon, it lets you capture 3D spatial videos -- later this year.

The $15 Pro starts at $999, with the Pro Max starting at $1,199; preorders start Friday and they ship on Sept. 22.

a set of apple watch ultra 2
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra

The new S9 chip powers the updated watch, with upgraded graphics and neural core for more streamlined operation and on-device processing of Siri requests, including logging and retrieving health data. The new Ultra Wideband chip will allow or improve location and control other Apple devices. And the display is brighter and can get darker, which should improve visibility in dim or bright lighting. On the inside it's also got an A16 Bionic chip.

The company says that the Series 9 is net zero, its first carbon-neutral product; part of that is replacing leather bands with a new material it calls "FineWoven." New faces, colors and materials: There are a lot of new bands.

Watch this: Apple Watch Series 9 Gets New S9 Chip

There's a gesture that's been repurposed from its accessibility tools -- Double Tap -- which controls the primary button in an app and scrolls through widgets, among other things.

It's shipping in October, also in a new pink color, and preorders are live now.

In addition to all the updates to the Series 9, the new display on the Ultra goes up to 3,000 nits of brightness (that's pretty bright, significantly brighter than the Series 9's 2,000 nits), and offers a new modular face. It also has an expanded altitude range.

Watch this: Apple Watch Ultra 2 has a More Advanced Display and S9-Powered Features

It too has an improved environmental impact, such as using 95% recycled titanium.

Both watches are available starting Sept. 22; they begin at $399 for the Series 9 and $799 for the Ultra 2.