On the heels of another iPhone announcement, it’s inevitable that Apple will announce a slew of revolutionary, magical upgrades to its smartphone lineup — at least, in its own words. While many of the features won’t fit either of those buzzy marketing words, there are some big changes to the phones this year. In fact, not only do some of these updates improve the experiences of iPhone owners everywhere, but they could reverberate into the world of Android in ways both big and small. So, while the blue bubble folks might be getting maxed out on excitement, us Android users should take a moment to see how we might benefit from Apple’s iPhone 15 announcement.
1 USB-C and Qi2
The change from Apple’s dated Lightning port to USB-C has been a long time coming. Even though the swap didn’t come from Apple’s core, the implementation of this new port should be welcomed by both sides of the mobile OS fence. Sure, long-time iPhone users may feel some initial frustration as they’re required to buy new cables, but once this hurdle is out of the way, the benefits of this change will be easy to appreciate.
At first, Android users were thrilled with USB-C because we no longer had to pay attention to what direction the old-timey microUSB cable was facing, making charging phones in the dark a cinch. But as the port quickly matured, so did the USB-C standard, outpacing Apple’s Lightning port in both data transfer and charging speeds.
Though Apple didn’t specify on stage the version of USB it’s using for the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus during the announcement, looking at the spec sheet, it’s USB 2.0. This means the data transfer speeds will remain at the same paltry 480Mbs supported by Lightning. As for charging rates, Apple states the phone will charge to 50% in around 30 minutes with a 20W or higher charger, leaving max wattage unclear at the moment. However, if you opt for one of the iPhone 15 Pro models, then you will get the treat of up to 10Gbps with USB 3.0. This allows for even faster charging than the standard iPhone 15 models, but again, Apple isn’t specifying what the maximum wattage will be.
Yes, all the best Android phones have been able to enjoy these wonderful features that come with USB-C for years now, but with the iPhone finally getting on board with the ubiquitous port, we can all benefit from it. In case you didn’t know, nearly every time Apple adds a feature to its phones that requires any kind of accessory change, there is instant credibility to the change. Think back to when the headphone jack disappeared. Not only did Apple introduce its own AirPods, but it spurred more brands to offer high and low-quality wireless earbuds. The same type of accessory boom will come from Apple joining the USB-C clan, and Android users will benefit as well.
Another example is MagSafe, Apple’s beloved magnetic charging technology that debuted on mobile with the iPhone 12. While Android users don’t have official compatibility yet, many accessory companies are offering excellent MagSafe adapters, so phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 can take advantage of it. And with the Qi2 standard first announced at CES in January, the state of MagSafe is changing fast. Not only will Android phones have magnetic charging natively built-in, but Apple’s latest iPhones will also support the standard. So, just as the swap from Lightning to USB-C will lead to Android users getting more accessories, Qi2 support will too.
2 Satellite communication
Last year, Apple brought Emergency SOS via satellite to the iPhone 14 series so that no matter where you were, if you needed help, you could get it. With the announcement of the iPhone 15 series, Apple has added a new feature to the service in Roadside Assistance via Satellite, thanks to a partnership with AAA. The feature opens up more ways to take advantage of the technology and lets users send a message to AAA from a list of choices so that the help can arrive at your exact location with the proper tools needed to get you going again.
I live in rural Kansas, and there are many times when driving around my area that I have zero service. So, things like the Motorola Defy Satellite Link allow me to reach out for help when needed. However, that requires a separate piece of hardware stuffed in my glove box, whereas the iPhone has it built in. We’ve already seen an uptick in component makers and service providers beginning to spin up so features similar to what Apple offers can be used by Android phones. Samsung, MediaTek, and Qualcomm all have plans to bring satellite connectivity options to each brand’s chips, and Google is working on offering satellite communication in Messages. Then there was that T-Mobile and SpaceX partnership announcement last year, though admittedly, we’ve heard very little about it since.
With Apple continuing to improve its own satellite communication features, it demonstrates the company is truly invested in it. This will, in turn, signal to the rest of the industry that if the company’s rivals haven’t begun to create its own solutions, they need to start ASAP. Not only is it necessary to stay in feature parity with Apple, but to compete head on, providing similar communication options for emergency situations is a must.
3 Action button
Apple has done away with a feature that has been around since the very first iPhone — at least, on the Pro models, anyway. This physical alert toggle has always allowed iPhone users to quickly put their phone into silent mode or switch the ringer on without turning on the display. While a similar feature has been available on phones like the OnePlus 11, it has been ignored by the rest of the Android smartphone world. So, why has Apple done this? To make room for the new Action button.
This button isn’t entirely new, as it first appeared on last year’s Apple Watch Ultra. On the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, the Action button will let users long press to change their phone’s ring state, just as the legacy switch did. But a short press can be customized to launch a voice recording, specific apps, and much more. The customization options of the button are what most surprised me, as Apple hasn’t always allowed users such freedom on their devices. This is what excites me as an Android user.
Because Android is far more open than iOS and has long been an OS for people who want the ability to customize their phones, the idea of bringing a physical button to access specific functions of their phone could be glorious. We’ve seen this before — Samsung allowed users to remap its Bixby button before killing it completely on its last few smartphone generations — but with this week’s launch, it could be due for a comeback. Think of how double clicking the power button to launch the camera has become a universal shortcut. Making a dedicated button that could launch the flashlight, your favorite app, run a smart home automation, and so much more would be a killer feature.
Heck, with a proper API, apps could have access to the button, allowing it to be used for specific actions like physical shutter buttons for the camera, pausing a timer, music controls, and so much more.
Smartphones have long been made with aluminum for the frame. For more premium devices, we usually get stainless steel. Apple has upped the ante now with a titanium frame for the iPhone 15 Pro models. As someone with a metalsmithing degree, I love this. Titanium is such a neat material, as it is extremely strong while being significantly lighter than steel. Plus, its natural color has a really cool, unique look.
The change to titanium isn’t an overly exciting thing, as it doesn’t offer any new use cases. But the material does mean your phone would be less cumbersome to hold and carry around while also holding up to damage better. I’d love to see Android phone makers take up the material for top-tier handsets — perhaps next year’s Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. There is the chance it would increase the price of these phones, but I hope that isn’t the case, as Apple managed to keep the prices of 2023’s handsets the same as 2022’s models (when, of course, accounting for the death of the $1,100 128GB Pro Max model).
5 Voice isolation mode
Lastly, one feature that wasn’t hardware-focused is the improved Voice Isolation mode. While this isn’t a new feature for iPhones, the updated machine learning algorithm further prioritizes your voice when on a call, and when activated, the Voice Isolation mode removes even more background noise from your side of the conversation. Google has been putting in quite a bit of work with its Pixel series phones, like the Pixel 7 Pro, to try and provide a better calling experience, especially with features like Clear Calling. That said, I’m not sure it has quite hit the level of what the new iPhone 15 series can provide.
I think this is a feature that would be right up Google’s alley to implement even further, thanks to the already heavily AI-laden, custom Tensor chips, like the upcoming Tensor G3. But Google isn’t the only company that is implementing more and more machine learning features into its handsets. Even though phone calls may not be your primary communication method of choice, because people are on the go so much more these days thanks to smartphones, the ability to be clearly heard no matter where you call from is something that we should expect.
Revolutionary or not, we all benefit
All in all, I thought this was one of the most tame iPhone announcements we’ve had in quite a while. However, the changes Apple made to the devices, mainly the move to USB-C and support for Qi2, can have a massive impact on Android users. Sure, there are some big updates to the cameras for all four iPhone 15 models, especially when it comes to the Pro variants. But in many ways, the changes Apple did make in the photography department were to catch up to what we’ve been enjoying on Android for a few years now, not to leap ahead of the competition.
I look forward to seeing the impact of the updates Apple brought this year on the Android smartphone world as a whole. I am also pretty excited for my iPhone-toting friends to get really excited about USB-C — after they finish complaining about getting a new cable, of course.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro is built out of titanium for the first time, delivering the lightest Pro model yet. Combined with a powerful SoC capable of console games and a new camera system, the company’s latest iPhone is pretty impressive — if you can live with iOS, of course.
iPhone 15 Pro Max
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the latest and greatest from Apple, with a slick new SoC that can handle console games and a new telephoto camera that finally uses periscope technology. It also finally adds USB-C, so you won’t be carrying a Lightning cable around with you anymore. These upgrades all come together to make one compelling package.
The iPhone 15 is the newest addition to the Apple smartphone lineup. It packs an improved 48Mp main camera, adds the ‘Dynamic Island’ camera cutout introduced with the 14 Pro models, and finally swaps Lightning out for a universal USB-C charging port. It’s still an iPhone though.