This iPhone 15 rumor is the only one I care about

ipHone 15 concept 4RMD
(Image credit: 4RMD)

One of the most important iPhone 15 rumors yet surfaced this past week — one that has me feeling a lot better about the prospects for all of Apple's upcoming phones. And that's important after last fall's iPhone release when the standard model started to feel like it was playing second fiddle to Apple's Pro handsets.

To be sure, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max still figure to see the more significant upgrades when Apple's new phones arrive this fall. That's a strategy that seems to be paying off handsomely for Apple, after the company reported record phone sales for its fiscal second quarter in the wake of particularly noteworthy improvements to the iPhone 14 Pro models. And early iPhone 15 vs. iPhone 15 Pro rundowns promise more of the same in the fall.

But a new iPhone camera rumor indicates that the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus aren't should see some noteworthy improvements in their own right this year. And that's reassuring for folks who might balk at paying $1,000 or more for their next smartphone.

Camera improvements tipped for the iPhone 15

The rumor comes from analyst Jeff Pu of Haitong International Securities, and it concerns the rear cameras on the standard iPhone 15. Specifically, Pu expects Apple to use a 48MP sensor for the main camera on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus — an upgrade that would mirror what Apple did with the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max last year.

iPhone 14 Pro Max

The cameras on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, shown here, got a significant hardware boost. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Those two phones swapped out the 12MP sensor used in previous iPhone Pro models in favor of a 48MP camera. As a result, iPhone 14 Pro owners enjoyed greater flexibility when taking photos. By default, they could take 12MP photos that combined four pixels into one to let in more light or they could shoot in 48MP Pro RAW mode for more detailed shots.

The camera upgrade wasn't the only major change Apple introduced to its Pro models last all — they also included a new A16 Bionic chipset and ditched the notched display in favor of the new Dynamic Island feature. But you could make the case that the improved cameras on the iPhone 14 Pro were the most significant enhancement, given the importance of cameras to mobile phone users.

"Camera quality is consistently one of the top purchase drivers for smartphones," said Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential. "it is hard to overstate how important they are both to consumers and as an ingredient in the iPhone’s success."

This makes [cameras] one of the most important features that Apple offers, given the prolific use of photos and video for social media and messaging

— Ben Wood, CCS Insight

Ben Wood, chief analyst and chief marketihg officer at CCS Insight, agrees about the importance of cameras to a smartphone's success. "For most consumers, the camera on their iPhone is their primary device for taking pictures," he said. "This makes it one of the most important features that Apple offers, given the prolific use of photos and video for social media and messaging."

Improving the main camera on the iPhone 14 Pro models while leaving a 12MP sensor in place for the main camera on the regular iPhone 14 helped Apple differentiate the models in its current lineup. "It made the iPhone 14 Pro comparatively more attractive," Greengart said. "Apple has reported that the Pro models are their best sellers despite their higher price points."

What a 48MP camera would mean for the iPhone 15

It's worth keeping in mind that even with its 12MP main and ultrawide cameras, the iPhone 14 still captures excellent photos. We include that device in our best camera phones rankings, even with the low megapixel rating and lack of a dedicated telephoto lens (another iPhone Pro-only feature).

"It’s not just about the number of megapixels a camera has," Wood said. "Other factors such as the sensor size, aperture, and image stabilization, also play an important role and historically Apple has been very strong at drawing all these capabilities together to deliver an excellent camera experience."

Dummy models of (left to right) the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 dummy units (Image credit: Macotakara)

Still, upgrading the iPhone 15 camera to a 48MP sensor would be a big boon to the base-model phone, for the same reason that the iPhone 14 Pro devices benefitted from the greater flexibility of that camera. And it would be another selling point for Apple's most affordable flagship.

Right now, the major rumored changes slated for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus include the addition of the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island feature plus a switch to USB-C. That former move merely brings the iPhone 15 in line with the Pro models, while the USB-C switch-over is expected to come to all four iPhone 15 models.

Contrast that with the rumored iPhone 15 Pro changes. Apple's Pro phones are tipped to get a more durable titanium frame, a new A17 Bionic chipset and a dedicated action button. On the camera front, both Pro models could benefit from improved camera sensors, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max is specifically tipped to get a periscope-style telephoto lens. That would mean an improved optical zoom, one of the few areas where Apple's phones have fallen noticeably behind the competition.

Add all that together, and it's a lot of changes on the Pro side of things. The regular iPhone 15 could benefit from a key improvement all its own. And that increase to a 48MP main camera could be just what the doctor ordered.

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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.