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Why you should probably forget about an iPhone Ultra

OPINION: Apple didn’t specifically release an iPhone 15 Ultra as many had predicted. Thankfully, the iPhone 15 Pro is that device in all but name.

Many rotations of the iPhone 15 rumour mill this year focused on the potential for a new super-premium category following the Apple Watch’s ‘Ultra’ naming convention.

Speculation pointed to an iPhone 15 Ultra with a grander design, improved image processing, superior camera hardware, and an exclusive new button other iPhones have never had. 

However, after today’s events, you can pretty much forget the prospect of any phone under the Ultra moniker for now, but also take solace in the fact those features did come to fruition in a phone you can own on September 22 – the iPhone 15 Pro.

An exclusive Action Button to replace the mute switch? Check. I love the idea of choosing your own adventure for this button to take a shortcut regularly used features.

That ‘Ultra’ premium design? Well, the iPhone 15 Pro introduced a brushed titanium frame. Is that premium enough for you? It utilises a material that has the highest weight to strength ratio of any metal ever.

It’s arguably the fanciest looking iPhone ever, which everyone is instantly going to cover with a FineWoven (not leather, thankfully) case!

That accounts for two of the things Apple used to separate the Apple Watch Ultra from the pack. Doesn’t leave a lot to shoehorn into an Ultra phone does it? Considering the iPhone 15 Pro cameras also got a gigantic boost, including an amazing-sounding Spatial Video feature, the opportunity to reband is even smaller.

The design is an interesting problem for Apple now. This is the fourth year in a row Apple has used essentially the exact same design language. To the naked eye, the iPhone 15 range looks the same as the iPhone 12. Save for a Flip or a Fold, it doesn’t feel like there’s anywhere else to go. An iPhone Ultra with a fresh look could have revived that maverick spirit.

You can tell the company is reaching a bit too. During the presentation, Apple described adding the Dynamic Island as headlining an “all-new design” for the standard iPhone 15

It went a little farther in the media release calling the iPhone 15 a “huge leap forward for iPhone with a gorgeous new design featuring a durable, colour-infused back glass and new contoured edge; the Dynamic Island.” 

Steady on.

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Ultra in all but name?

There was plenty more Apple could have justifiably marketed as an iPhone Ultra. How about the ability to play console quality AAA games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage, apparently without skipping a beat. Resident Evil Village too. That’s a huge advance made possible by the new A17 Pro (not Ultra) processor, the mobile industry’s first 3nm chip with the biggest GPU redesign Apple has ever carried out.

Apple says that GPU has a 6-core design that’s is 20% faster and increases peak performance and energy efficiency. It’s got hardware-accelerated ray tracing, like the consoles and PCs. They definitely could have gotten away with spinning this as an Ultra, if that was the plan.

Yet, there are still outlier extreme use features Apple could pile into an iPhone Ultra. Perhaps it could increase the storage to 2TB? Perhaps, following the Watch’s lead, a battery that offers true two-day reliability. Maybe there’d be 8K video? Maybe the company could follow the iPad model and start placing M-Series chips into the top iPhone? To what end, I just don’t know.

For me though, an iPhone Ultra feels like one of those mythical Apple launches people talk about for years an end that never really materialises, like the elusive touchscreen Mac. Or, it’s possible Apple might just be saving the word for a time when it wouldn’t be marketing hyperbole?

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