Apple have revealed their latest phone hardware (in amongst the usual Watch and AirPod tweaks) in their now familiar September reveal event. While surprises were few on the ground, with pundits predicting most of the upgrades and new features on display, the presentation’s leaning on mobile gaming to show off the power of their new A17 Pro chip was a refreshing change.
For years no-one has really argued that iPhone’s power and capabilities put their premium line of phones one small step ahead of the competition, but the problem has been in identifying use cases for springing for that extra ‘Pro’ level of performance when, for most people, the plain old ‘standard’ phone, or even the more keenly priced SE model is simply ‘good enough’.
So while the new Pro models have a unique titanium frame, a new action button to replace the ring/silent switch and an improved camera - giving the phone just enough new looks to let everyone know you went for the ‘best one’ - now it seems there’s a genuine reason to stump up the Pro's $999 or $1199 over the $799 and $899 basic iPhone 15 - its A17 Pro processor.
New chip, new power
Of course, iPhones have a new chip every year, but this year the step up has finally crossed a barrier and the most immediate, most obvious winner looks like mobile gaming.
The A17 Pro chip is the mobile industry’s first three nanometer chip with 19 billion transistors. It has a 6-core CPU with performance cores and efficiency cores. These performance cores are 10% faster and are quoted as being “the fastest processor in any smartphone”.
The four high efficiency cores offer three times the performance-per-watt capabilities of the competition and the 16-core neural engine is up to twice as fast for machine learning with up to 35 trillion operations per second.
And now there are even dedicated engines for encoding and decoding ProRes and an AV1 decoder for better performance from video streaming services. The new GPU has a 6-core design for up to 20% better peak performance giving improved efficiency, facilitating the use of mesh shading and - for the first time - hardware accelerated ray tracing.
And on the software side MetalFX upscaling combines the performance of the GPU and Neural Engine to enable high-quality graphics while using much less power.
All of which sounds great and Joswiak called in the big guns to put the power into practice.
Let the games begin
“iPhone has advanced HDR displays, variable refresh rates and is compatible with the largest range of game controllers,” he explained, highlighting again and again the phones exemplary performance for mobile gaming with a demo showing iPhone 15 Pro using an PlayStation 5 DualSense controller. “Some of the world’s best game developers are taking advantage of this new level of performance,” he went on, introducing Fabrice Navrez, executive producer for Ubisoft Mobile to show off The Division Resurgence. And “what’s possible on iPhone 15 Pro”
Navrez' game demo really showed console quality graphics with improved resolution, more dynamic lighting and even more fire and weather effects “making the game more real.”
Next Fish Ling, senior director of global business development for HoYoverse showed off the familiar sights of Honkai: Star Rail, primarily focusing on high quality water features with more realistic waves and reflections. “On the new iPhone 15 Pro, Honkai: Star Rail has never looked better,” she claimed.
Sticking with HoYoVerse, mobile game executive Meng Wang showed off Genshin Impact. “The A17 Pro’s GPU is even faster and the MetalFX upscaling gives faster response times bringing more detailed environments to life,” he said.
Finally producer Tsuyoshi Kanda of Capcom stated that “Games like Resident Evil Village and Resident Evil 4 once only available on consoles can now be played on iPhone thanks to A17 Pro. This is the future of mobile gaming all thanks to the power of iPhone 15 Pro.” Both games are launching “later this year.”
Time for one more surprise and Ubisoft will be bringing the latest in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Mirage, to iPhone 15 Pro in early 2024 - the first time the full console version of an Assassin's Creed title will be natively available on a smartphone.
“It’s amazing to think that these games are running on a device that fits in your pocket,” said Joswiak. “This new level of performance will enable new games for iPhone 15 Pro that were previously only available on games consoles, PC or the Mac” he said before whipping out a flashy fast-cut banner saying “Welcome to the next level of mobile gaming”.
Looks like today’s devs are putting all that new power to good use, and Apple have just delivered their best reason to upgrade your iPhone in years.