iPhone 15 Pro rumored to ditch stainless steel for titanium: What we know
Among other changes, this year’s iPhone 15 Pro models are rumored to feature a new chassis made out of titanium for the first time. This could make for a lighter design, additional durability, and more. In fact, it could be one of the biggest design changes to the iPhone in years, marking an end to the stainless steel era that started with the iPhone X in 2017.
Thus far, a few different sources have reported that the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max (or iPhone 15 Ultra) could feature a new titanium design.
The Twitter leaker ShrimpApplePro, who has a decent though not perfect track record of accuracy, reported in November that the iPhone 15 Pro design would consist of a titanium case with rounded edges. This was also corroborated by JP Morgan Chase analyst Jeff Pu, who echoed the Twitter leak in an investor report earlier this month.
Apple has been working on an iPhone with a titanium chassis for several years. Multiple patent filings from the company have shown off its work in the area. But to get the clearest glimpse of what a titanium iPhone 15 Pro might bring to the table, we need to look at the Apple Watch.
Titanium iPhone 15 Ultra vs Apple Watch
The Apple Watch has been available in a titanium finish since the Apple Watch Series 5 was introduced in 2019. The Apple Watch Series 5 was available with a titanium finish in two colors – natural and space black. This marked the first time that Apple had used titanium in a product since way back in 2001 with the PowerBook G4.
The Apple Watch Series 6 was available in the same natural and space black titanium finishes, as was the Apple Watch Series 7 in 2021, which brings us to the current generation of the Apple Watch. This time around, the titanium finish is exclusive to the all-new Apple Watch Ultra.
There are two things we can take away from how Apple has used titanium in the Apple Watch lineup: colors and weight.
Perhaps most notable is the difference in weight between stainless steel and titanium. Over the years, Apple has sold Apple Watch models in both of those finishes. The iPhone lineup, however, has used stainless steel since the iPhone X in 2017.
Here’s a look at the difference in weight for the Apple Watch Series 7 in three different finishes. The Apple Watch Series 7 was the last generation of the Apple Watch that was available in three different materials with 41mm and 45mm sizes.
- Aluminum: 32.0g
- Stainless steel: 42.3g
- Titanium: 37.0g
- Aluminum: 38.8g
- Stainless steel: 51.5g
- Titanium: 45.1g
Then, there’s the Apple Watch Ultra, the only current-generation Apple Watch with a titanium finish. It’s also the biggest Apple Watch ever sold by Apple, with a 49mm case size. Here’s a breakdown of the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra:
- Aluminum: 32.2g
- Stainless steel: 42.3g
- Aluminum: 39.1g
- Stainless steel: 51.1g
- Apple Watch Ultra 49mm:
- Titanium: 61.3g
An Apple Watch Ultra made of stainless steel? That’d be unusable. The Apple Watch Ultra is only practical because of the titanium’s weight.
It’s no surprise that titanium is lighter than stainless steel, but I find it particularly interesting looking at what the differences have been in the Apple Watch lineup over the years. The Apple Watch offers us our only look at how modern Apple itself tackles using titanium in a product.
In the iPhone lineup, Apple has used stainless steel edges since the introduction of the iPhone X. Recent generations of the iPhone use aluminum in the non-Pro models and stainless steel in the Pro and Pro Max models. This, of course, means the iPhone 14 is lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro.
- iPhone 14: 172g
- iPhone 14 Plus: 203g
- iPhone 14 Pro: 206g
- iPhone 14 Pro Max: 240g
If the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max use titanium, they won’t be lighter than the aluminum iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. They would, however, be noticeably lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, which feature stainless steel bands around the side.
How much lighter? That’s up in the air at this point. Back-of-the-envelope math shows that the 45mm Apple Watch Series 7 in titanium was around 12% lighter than its stainless steel counterpart, which won’t be directly applicable to the iPhone lineup, but it’s good context.
Apple can also use the weight savings provided by titanium to offset the addition of things like new camera hardware or bigger batteries. It opens up a world of possibilities.
Personally, the idea of an iPhone 15 Ultra that’s 10% lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max sounds great to me. I’ve been tired of the stainless steel edges since at least the iPhone 13 Pro. The stainless steel is heavy, not to mention it’s a complete fingerprint magnet as well.
An iPhone 15 Ultra with titanium edges would be a dream come true. The iPhone has used stainless steel edges since 2017, and it’s time for a change. While we’re at it, let’s use the space black titanium that we saw in the Apple Watch Series 7, too.
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