iPhone 15 Ultra for $1,300?! The rumored price hike could actually be worth it

iphone 15 ultra concept video
(Image credit: 4RMD/YouTube)

Multiple reports point to Apple releasing an iPhone 15 Ultra in 2023, which would presumably replace the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Apple already has an Ultra device in its lineup in the Apple Watch Ultra, which commands a $400 (about AU$600) premium over the Apple Watch 8.

The Apple Watch Ultra sports a larger and brighter display, a more durable titanium frame, longer battery life and a dedicated action button among other upgrades. And based on the leaks so far, the iPhone 15 Ultra should have some at least a few exclusive features of its own.

Recently, one leaker tipped what seems like an obscenely high price for the next top-end iPhone, saying that the iPhone 15 Ultra could cost $100 to $200 more (around AU$150 to AU$300) more than the previous model. That would put the iPhone 15 Ultra at $1,199 (about AU$1,790) or possibly even $1,299 (about AU$1,940 at the time of writing). For those scoring at home, that would be the same price as a MacBook Pro M2

But I actually think the iPhone 15 Ultra could be worth the premium if Apple delivers a truly unique and differentiated flagship. Here’s why.

New titanium design

iPhone 15 Ultra render with rounded edges

(Image credit: @jonjuhan/Twitter)

The iPhone 15 Ultra is expected to feature a titanium chassis, at least for the device's side rails. This would be an upgrade over the stainless steel used for the past few generations of Pro iPhones.

The benefit of titanium is that it’s approximately three to four times stronger than stainless steel while also being lighter. However, titanium is known for being more expensive than steel. So Apple will need to demonstrate that the added durability of titanium will be worth it to shoppers, and I’m sure that a titanium device will be put through various drop tests by reviewers. 

We’ve also heard that the iPhone 15 could feature a more curved design, but it’s not clear whether this will apply to iPhone 15 Ultra or the entire lineup. It would certainly be another way for the Ultra to stand out. 

Powerful periscope zoom

iphone 15 ultra concept video

(Image credit: 4RMD/YouTube)

This is long overdue, but the iPhone 15 Ultra is tipped to feature a periscope lens capable of 5x or 6x optical zoom. By comparison, the Google Pixel 7 Pro features a 5x optical zoom and the Galaxy S22 Ultra has dual telephoto zoom lenses of 3x and 10x.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max could only go up to 3x optical zoom, so this would be a very welcome upgrade for the iPhone 15 Ultra. We’re also assuming the digital zoom would increase for this model, as the iPhone 14 Pro series currently maxes out at 15x. I would be shocked if Apple didn’t go to at least 30x to better compete against Google (30x) and Samsung (up to 100x). 

The iPhone 14 Pro Max definitely struggled in our camera zoom shootout versus the Pixel 7 Pro and Galaxy S22 Ultra, so a periscope zoom is easily No. 1 on our list of exciting enhancements. 

Dual front cameras

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This is kind of a weird iPhone 15 Ultra rumor but it could happen. Twitter leaker MajinBu claims the Ultra will offer two front cameras. It's not unheard of for handsets to offer two front cameras, providing wide-angle option for fitting in more people or more background on selfies. A second front lens could also enable improved self-portraits and provide better performance in augmented reality apps.

While this rumor could come true, we have to wonder what it would mean for the design of the Dynamic Island, which has replaced the notch on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This is where you can get live alerts and other activities updates on the fly. Would the Dynamic Island grow as a result, and would it just be too big?

Double the storage

It’s kind of a no-brainer that the iPhone 15 Ultra will offer at least 256GB of storage to start. This was one of our complaints about the iPhone 14 Pro series — that 128GB is just not very Pro in this day and age when people are shooting 48MP ProRAW photos with your phones and recording 4K video. And the iPhone 15 Ultra could up this to 8K video, which takes up even more room.

Some of the pricing rumors have tied a higher starting storage with the hike, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra is also rumored to start with 256GB

USB-C with faster transfers

USB-C and Lightning charging cables for phone on black background

(Image credit: Ivan Shenets | Shutterstock)

All four iPhone 15 models are tipped to feature USB-C connectivity — especially now that Apple has a 2024 deadline to ditch Lightning for USB-C form the EU. However, only the Pro/Ultra models are expected to offer USB-C ports capable of higher speed data transfers, likely using the USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt 3 standard.

This would make if faster to transfer photos, videos and other files to your MacBook Pro or other PC. And it could enable the iPhone 15 Ultra to be used with an external display or other accessories that support high-speed data connections. We're just not sure whether this perk will be exclusive to the Ultra or not. 

Bottom line

When you add all of the rumored upgrades together, including a tougher and sleeker titanium design, periscope zoom camera and double the storage, the iPhone 15 Ultra could very well sell for $1,199 or even $1,299. And I’m telling you right now that people will be willing to pay that price.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra already costs $1,199, so Apple jumping from $1,099 for the iPhone 14 Pro Ultra up to $1,199 doesn’t seem far fetched at all. It’s the even bigger possible leap to $1,299 that could rub even the most fervent early adopters the wrong way, especially if the economy remains shaky through the fall.

So a pricier iPhone 15 Ultra sounds like a big gamble, but it could ultimately pay off for users — and Apple. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • kep55
    Let's see. A phone costing $1,400 when a pretty potent computer costs under $600? No way on earth is it or any phone worth that much.