Recent iPhone releases have seen Apple emphasize the differences between its standard phone and its Pro model. That figures to continue when the iPhone 16 models arrive next fall, as early rumors suggest a continued iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro divide.
Apple tends to reserve its marquee additions for the Pro lineup, and it sounds as if there are some big changes planned for the iPhone 16 Pro. In addition to the expected chipset upgrade, you could also see an improved telephoto lens, a bigger screen and even a new button to go with the Action button added to the iPhone 15 Pro.
While the iPhone 16 Pro will undoubtedly command a lot of attention when it launches in the fall, the iPhone 16 could turn some heads, too. Like other recent updates to the standard iPhone, this model may pick up some Pro features like that aforementioned Action button. And Apple may drop the practice of using last year's Pro chipset with the new entry-level iPhone.
We've got a long road travel between now and next September when the iPhone 16 launch is most likely to happen, so expect the iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro differences to become more pronounced over time. But at the moment, here's what you can expect from both models based on the rumors that are out there.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Price
We simply won't know what Apple's next flagship phones will cost until pricing rumors start heating up over the summer. It's far too soon to have any sense now of what Apple's going to charge for the iPhone 16 lineup.
That said, with the exception of a price hike for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple has kept its pricing structure in place for a number of years, with the entry level iPhone starting at $799 and the Pro model costing $999. Whatever pricing Apple eventually settles on, that $200 gap between the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro is likely to remain.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Design
The arrival of the Dynamic Island feature on the iPhone 15 means that all four models look alike — a trend likely to continue with the iPhone 16. Apple is expected to continue using different materials for its standard and Pro models so don't count on titanium casing finding its way to the iPhone 16.
One Pro feature that may migrate to the less expensive models is the Action button. Apple introduced that on the iPhone 15 Pro as a replacement for the mute switch, and in addition to silencing your phone, you can also use the button to trigger an action like launching an app or a series of tasks built using the iPhone's Shortcuts app. A report claims the Action button will be added to the iPhone 16.
A second button is rumored to be coming to at least the iPhone 16 Pro. It's being touted as a Capture button, and you'll be able to use it to activate the iPhone's camera. Further details are unavailable at this point, and it's also unclear if this will be exclusive to the iPhone 16 Pro or whether all iPhone 16 models will get the Capture button.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Display
The standard iPhone and iPhone Pro models have had the same screen size since the iPhone 12, but that could be changing when the iPhone 16 launches. While the iPhone 16 should retain the current 6.1-inch screen found on the iPhone 15, Apple might boost the size of the Pro model's screen to 6.3 inches.
Unfortunately, the most annoying difference between the iPhone and its Pro version will likely remain with the iPhone 16. Apple's expected to keep the display refresh rate of it entry level model at 60Hz, while the iPhone 16 Pro will continue to offer a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. A 120Hz LTPO display isn't expected on Apple's entry-level phones until the iPhone 17 in 2025 at the earliest.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Cameras
If there's one area where the iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro divide figures to remain strong, it's the camera setup enjoyed by both phones. Right now, iPhone 16 camera rumors are fairly scant. The same can't be said for the iPhone 16 Pro, which appears to be in line for several improvements.
Start with the main camera, where the rumor mill predicts Apple will opt for a larger sensor aimed at delivering brighter, more colorful images. The ultrawide lens could get a resolution boost, with some reports calling for a 48MP sensor to replace the 12MP shooter on board the iPhone 15 Pro.
The biggest rumored change has the iPhone 16 Pro picking up an iPhone 15 Pro Max-exclusive feature. That phone features a tetraprism telephoto lens that supports a 5x optical zoom — the longest zoom available on an iPhone. Reports claim the iPhone 16 Pro gets that upgrade this fall. The iPhone 16, of course, should continue to do without a dedicated telephoto lens, relying on a cropped 2x zoom via the 48MP main camera for when you want to get close up.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Performance
If you hate Apple using different families of chipsets in the same phone lineup as much as I do, 2024 sounds like it could be our year. Instead of recycling the A17 Pro currently powering the iPhone 15 Pro phones as the silicon for the standard iPhone 16, Apple may equip all of this year's models with A18 chips.
It won't be the same chipset in each model, though. The standard iPhone 16 will likely get a basic A18 while we'd expect Pro silicon for the iPhone 16 Pro. This mirrors the approach Apple uses with its M-series chips in the MacBook lineup.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the only iPhone to ship with 256GB of storage in its base model. It's possible the iPhone 16 Pro adopts that feature, too, unless Apple merely boosted the storage on the Pro Max to fend off complaints about that model's price hike.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Battery life and charging
We haven't heard much about battery improvements to the iPhone 16 lineup, though a larger iPhone 16 Pro would leave room for a bigger battery. So far, the lone rumor has Apple looking for ways to improve heat dispersion for its phone batteries, possibly by using a frosted metal shell and new connector for the battery. Such a move would target some of the overheating problems that typically plague the Pro models.
If we were to guess at a potential change, it could involve iPhone 16 Pro charging speeds. Apple's switch to USB-C with the iPhone 15 lineup really didn't take advantage of the faster charging speeds allowed by the charging standard. (The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max do benefit from faster data-transfer speeds thanks to USB-C.) It's possible Apple boosts the iPhone 16 Pro's charging speed from the current 20W as a way to further differentiate the Pro model from the standard iPhone 16.
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro: Software
Both the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro will ship with iOS 18 installed. The focus of this coming software update will apparently be artificial intelligence, with some concluding that Apple is going to debut its own chatbot. Basically, we're talking about a more sophisticated version of Siri that's capable of more demanding tasks.
Just what those tasks might be is unclear at the moment. Assuming both iPhones are powered by an A18 chipset, the iPhone 16 and 16 Pro should have enough horsepower to run AI features entirely on-device. A rumor claims that older iPhones may need to offload some AI tasks to the cloud.
iPhone 16 v. iPhone 16 Pro: Outlook
iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro differences should come into sharper focus the deeper we get into 2024, so stay tuned for more rumors about each model. At this point, it's fairly clear the Pro model will draw the most interest from people who value mobile photography and the best screen possible. The iPhone 16, meanwhile, figures to benefit from a big leap forward in processing power while also picking up some features previously exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro.
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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.