The iPhone 15 needs this one feature for me to upgrade

iPhone 14 Plus shown held in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 15 is somewhere in the region of three months away, and we’re getting a few indicators of how the phone will shape up when it does arrive in September.

There will be some solid improvements, no doubt. Likely a faster chip alongside some extra camera functionality and almost certainly better battery life.

Despite this, most of the chatter will likely be taken up with Apple’s long-awaited shift from Lightning to USB-C. The company has seemingly made the decision to bring the iPhone in line with the iPad and MacBooks by switching to USB-C, according to a number of leaks and rumors. I think this should have happened long ago and it’s only coming to pass now because of EU regulations forcing manufacturers to adopt the standard.

However, I’d wager there’s another core part of the base-level iPhone that’s been ignored for far too long: the display. I’m not talking about the quality of the screen itself — Apple has already made the leap to OLED on all its models — but rather, the refresh rate.  

According to leaks back in March, Apple is still planning to ship the standard iPhone 15 with a basic 60Hz refresh rate. That makes no change from the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, which stubbornly kept the refresh rate at 60Hz. Probably as a way to upsell customers to the 120Hz ProMotion adaptive refresh rate on the Pro variants. 

The thing is, a note to investors from JPMorgan seen by Apple Insider reveals that sales of the regular iPhone 14 have now leapfrogged both models of iPhone 14 Pro, making it the top-selling version of Apple's smartphones in recent months. It's got a 19% share across carriers in April and clearly, people aren't just going to jump straight to the Pro models.

And here’s the rub, Android phones have been offering higher refresh rates since before Apple even made it a thing on the iPhone 13 Pro in 2021. Plus, the fact you can go out and buy Google’s recent Pixel 7a for $499 (compared to the rumored $799 starting price for the iPhone 15) and get a 90Hz screen shows Apple has to step up its game.

I get why Apple is being forced to move to USB-C. The European Union wants to make things less complicated for consumers and we’d also benefit from increased charging time and data transfer speeds. But I’d wager plenty of people have got enough Lightning (or MagSafe) chargers they’d be prepared to put up with Lightning for a bit longer. Especially if they’re getting the majority of content on and off their phones wirelessly through streaming or AirDrop.

But the screen itself: that’s your primary method of interacting with your device! I remember seeing the difference between the 60Hz screen on the iPhone 13 and the 120Hz ProMotion display on the 13 Pro and feeling like I could never go back. That feeling persists today and I haven’t used a phone with less than 90Hz since.

You'd notice the difference

A woman holding an iPhone near an iPad

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Unlike an incremental update in performance or an extra hour of battery life or even the promise of fewer cables to have to carry around, having a fast refresh rate on a phone screen is something I’d wager most people would actually notice in their day-to-day lives. And, unfortunately, I don’t think a directive from the EU to make phone companies increase their display tech is going to come anytime soon.

Now, I’m sure Apple will find many different ways to improve the screen experience for those that do choose to upgrade to the iPhone 15. Like adding the Dynamic Island feature or improving the energy efficiency. And I’m all for that. But I’d also like to see Cupertino finally recognise that, in 2023, shipping a phone with a 60Hz display is doing a disservice to both customers and the myriad of features coming to iOS 17.

Of course, this may all turn out to be untrue and Tim Cook could stand up in September and reveal the base model iPhone 15 comes with a ProMotion display. And if that's the case, I'll be happy to have been proved wrong.

More from Tom's Guide

Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.