© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A USB-C (USB Type-C) cable is seen near the Apple logo in this illustration taken October 27, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
By Stephen Nellis
CUPERTINO, California (Reuters) – Apple (NASDAQ:) on Tuesday unveiled a new iPhone 15 Pro with a titanium case and faster chip that enables better cameras and mobile gaming, moves designed to respond to a global smartphone slump.
The new lineup includes iPhone 15 starting at $799 and iPhone 15 Plus starting at $899.
Apple chose not to raise prices during a tough period globally for smartphone sales. For the Pro series, prices start at $999 and the Pro Max at $1,199, the same prices as last year for the same levels of storage, available starting Sept. 22.
Both the Pro and other iPhone 15 models will have a brighter display and a 48-megapixel camera as well as 100% recycled cobalt in their batteries.
Apple said the iPhone 15’s satellite connectivity can now be used to summon roadside assistance. It is rolling out the feature out with the American Automobile Association (AAA) in the United States.
Apple said that USB-C charging cables are coming to both its iPhone 15 and the charging case of its AirPods Pro devices, allowing the use of the same charging cables already used for iPads and Macs.
It will feature the same A16 Bionic chip inside that previously formed the brains of the iPhone 14 Pro.
The event at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters comes amid lingering economic uncertainty, especially in China, Apple’s third-largest market where it faces challenges from expanded restrictions on using its iPhones in government offices and the first new flagship phone in several years from Huawei Technologies.
The announcements largely met expectations and shares were down 1.7% after the first hour of the event.
Apple said the iPhone 15 Pro Max – the largest phone the company makes – will have a new camera lens with a longer optical zoom than previous models. The lenses uses a series of prisms to emulate the performance of a longer lens.
Apple also said that the new USB-C connector on iPhone 15 Pro models will allow videographers to record high-quality video directly to an external hard drive, making it easier to use the phone as a professional video camera.
Apple also said the iPhone 15 Pro can capture what it calls “spatial videos” by using two of the device’s cameras to capture a three-dimensional video. Those videos will be viewable on Apple’s Vision Pro headset that is due out early next year, marketing chief Greg Joswiak said.
An Apple executive said the company used machine learning to detect a person in the frame, allowing users to turn a picture into a portrait immediately or later in the Photos app.
Apple also showed off a new Series 9 Watch with a feature called “double tap” where users tap thumb and finger together twice, without touching the watch, in order to perform tasks like answering a phone call.
It uses machine learning to detect tiny changes in blood flow when the user taps their fingers together, freeing up the other hand for other tasks like walking a dog or holding a cup of coffee, said Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has new features for cycling and diving and what Apple said is the brightest screen it has ever made. The Series 9 will start at $399 and the Ultra 2 watch will start at $799 and be available Sept. 22.
Apple will no longer use leather in any of its products, said Lisa Jackson, the company’s environmental chief. The company is replacing some of those products with a textile called “FineWoven” that it says feel like suede.
CEO Tim Cook also said Apple is “on track” to ship its Vision Pro mixed-reality headset early next year.
While Apple is introducing new features and products, the iPhone made up more than half of Apple’s $394.3 billion in sales last year.
The global smartphone market has slumped from shipping 294.5 million total phones to 268 million in the second quarter, but Apple’s shipments declined the least of any major smartphone maker, dropping from 46.5 million phones to 45.3 million, according to data from Counterpoint Research.
“The truth of the matter is, we’re in a very down smartphone market,” said Bob O’Donnell, head of TECHnalysis Research.