iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Biggest changes to expect

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro
(Image credit: iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro )

Recent iPhone updates have seen Apple lavish the most attention on its Pro models, and the iPhone 16 Pro should be no different. Even though we're a little less than a year away from that model's debut, early rumors already point to some significant iPhone 16 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro differences.

It's not that the iPhone 15 Pro wasn't a big step forward from its predecessor. For the most recent release, Apple upgraded the phone's frame to titanium, introduced a more powerful A17 Pro chipset and added a physically larger main sensor along with other photo processing improvements. And that's before we even talk about changes such as switching out the Lightning port for a USB-C one and adding a new Action button that triggers shortcuts.

Yet, some big changes are apparently in the works for the iPhone 16 Pro, beyond just the usual chipset upgrade. The iPhone 16 Pro could also see a larger screen while adopting one of the best improvements from the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Here's how the iPhone 16 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro comparison is shaping up at this point, based on rumors about potential changes to Apple's iPhone lineup.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Price and availability

We usually don't hear about pricing rumors until we get closer to the launch date for a new iPhone. In the case of the iPhone 16 Pro, that's likely to happen in September 2024, so it'll be a while before we start getting the definitive word on whether Apple will deviate from the $999 starting price it charges for the iPhone 15 Pro.

You'd expect Apple would want to hold the line on that price. For one thing, it means you can still get a Pro-level iPhone for less than $1,000. For another, with the price of the iPhone 15 Pro Max going up to $1,199 and a potential iPhone 16 Ultra debuting in 2024 at an even higher price, Apple may be content to keep iPhone 16 Pro pricing as is.

Still, it's hard to deny that the price of phone parts has gone up. And as Apple adds more high-end features to its Pro models in order to make them stand out from the standard iPhone, that increases the possibility of a price hike. Stay tuned to find out what the iPhone 16 Pro might cost.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Design

iPhone 15 Pro shown in hand

iPhone 15 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple made a big design change with the iPhone 15 Pro, swapping out the stainless steel frame for one made out of titanium. That's not only more durable, it also helps the iPhone 15 Pro weigh less than its predecessor — about half-an-ounce less, according to the listed specs. Look for the iPhone 16 Pro to keep that titanium frame.

The other big design change introduced with the iPhone 15 Pro involved a new Action button replacing the mute switch found on previous models. A long press of the Action button toggles on silent mode, but you can also assign shortcuts to the Action button by diving into the Settings app on the iPhone 15 Pro. Alas, you can only assign one shortcut at a time.

There's a possibility of that changing with the iPhone 16 Pro, as more people get used to the Action button's presence. But a more likely addition, according to iPhone 16 Pro rumors, would be the addition of another dedicated button. This one's the Capture button, and you'd reportedly use it as a shortcut for snapping photos or capturing video with your iPhone's camera. 

A mock-up render of an alleged iPhone 16 Pro prototype featuring a punch hole cutout instead of a Dynamic Island

iPhone 16 Pro prototype mock-up (Image credit: Majin Bu/X)

Another iPhone 16 Pro design rumor that we're less convinced about involves the potential of Apple turning to under-display Face ID sensors for the iPhone 16 Pro. That would eliminate the need for Dynamic Island-sized cutout on the phone's display. And while there's a prototype of an iPhone 16 Pro showing off a circular camera cutout, even the leaker sharing that image doesn't believe the feature will be ready until at least the iPhone 17 Pro in 2025.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Display

iPhone 16 Pro Concept Video Science & Knowledge

iPhone 16 Pro concept design (Image credit: Science & Knowledge/YouTube)

Since the iPhone 12 Pro, screen sizes have been locked at 6.1-inches for the more compact of Apple's two Pro options. But that could be changing with the iPhone 16 Pro.

A rumor suggests Apple is considering larger displays for both the iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max. In the case of the Pro, the size of the panel would increase to 6.3 inches, making us wonder how easily the new phone would fit in our hand when compared to the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro.

Apple didn't change the brightness level of the iPhone 15 Pro's display, sticking with a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits when the phone's outdoors. There's a possibility of the phone maker opting for a brighter panel for the iPhone 16 Pro, especially with the Google Pixel 8 Pro boosting its maximum brightness to 2,400 nits. A better sourced rumor tips the iPhone 16 Pro to use new panels supplied by Samsung that are more power-efficient, thanks to a switch from blue fluorescent technology to blue phosphorescence technology.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Cameras

iPhone 15 Pro shown in hand

iPhone 15 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After upgrading the size of the sensor of the iPhone 15 Pro's main 48MP camera and improving features like Night mode, Portrait mode and SmartHDR, you'd think that Apple had done about all that it could do for cameras on its Pro phones. Yet, another improvement seems likely for the iPhone 16 Pro, and it's already available on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

That phone got an exclusive upgrade to its telephoto lens, switching to a tetraprism design in order to support a longer zoom. While the iPhone 15 Pro continues to offer a 3x optical zoom, the Pro Max model relies on the new telephoto lens setup for a 5x zoom. A consistent rumor tips that feature to find its way to the iPhone 16 Pro this time out.

That may not be the end of the hardware changes to the iPhone 16 Pro's camera setup. There's also the possibility of the 12MP ultrawide camera on the current Pro model getting a boost to 48MP on the iPhone 16 Pro.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Performance

iPhone 15 Pro shown in hand

iPhone 15 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 16 Pro is certain to get a new system-on-chip, and like the A17 Pro inside the iPhone 15 Pro, the upcoming A18 silicon should be built on a 3-nanometer process for better performance and power efficiency compared to 4nm chips like Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. The difference this time around is that the A18 should be available for all iPhone 16 models — the Pro versions would get a more premium iteration of that chipset compared to the standard iPhone 16.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max became the first Apple handset to offer 256GB of storage in its base model. It's possible Apple extends that to the iPhone 16 Pro, though it could just as easily keep a higher storage capacity as a distinguishing feature for its premium phone, whether that's the iPhone 16 Pro Max or the iPhone 16 Ultra.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Battery life and charging

iPhone 16 Pro Concept Video Science & Knowledge

iPhone 16 Pro concept (Image credit: Science & Knowledge/YouTube)

We haven't heard much about Apple's battery plans for the iPhone 16 Pro, which isn't surprising. Apple doesn't talk about the size of the batteries it uses in its phones, even after they're released. (We have to rely on teardowns for that kind of info.) So it's unclear if Apple plans to use a larger battery than the 3,274 mAh cell inside the iPhone 15 Pro.

The current Pro model lasts a pretty long time on a charge — we recorded a result of 10 hours and 53 minutes on our battery test, and that's nearly an hour better than the average smartphone. We'd guess that Apple would rely on better power efficiency from both the iPhone 16 Pro display and the A18 silicon to get more battery life out of its upcoming phone.

A more pressing matter to keep an eye on is whether the new iPhones see their wired charging speed extend beyond 20W. Even though Apple added USB-C to the iPhone 15 models, including the Pro, that didn't translate to the faster charging speeds USB-C can support. (The iPhone 15 Pro does enjoy faster data transfer speeds than its predecessor.) Perhaps Apple introduces faster charging with the iPhone 16 Pro.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Software

ios 18

(Image credit: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

The iPhone 16 Pro will almost certainly arrive with iOS 18 pre-installed, but that's no great edge over the iPhone 15 Pro on paper, as the software update will be available to current iPhones as well, save for a handful of models that came out five years or so ago. But some iOS 18 features may turn out to be exclusive to the iPhone 16 series.

Specifically, the future version of iOS is said to be putting a lot of effort into AI-powered features, including the possibility of generative AI onboard the iPhone. iPhones with an A18 chipset, including the iPhone 16 Pro, are likely to have the processing power to handle all AI features on device, while older models may have to turn to the cloud for some AI capabilities. If true, you'd expect those specific features to run faster on the iPhone 16 Pro than they might on the iPhone 15 Pro.

iPhone 16 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: Outlook

Even with more than nine months to go before the iPhone 16 Pro sees the light of day, we're already hearing about a number of changes for Apple's upcoming handset. That would seem to suggest big iPhone 16 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro differences.

The iPhone 15 Pro is certainly one of the best iPhones out there, and if you need a good compact premium device right now, there should be nothing stopping you from an upgrade. But if the prospect of an improved telephoto lens and on-device AI intrigue you, it may be worth holding out until fall 2024 to see what the iPhone 16 Pro delivers.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.