You may have a few questions when you unbox your brand new iPhone 15.
Like, what is that quirky cutout in the screen trying to tell me? Or how do I use the new action button on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max? And, why does everyone keep harping on about optical zoom?
Evidently, Apple has introduced a raft of upgrades with its latest and greatest models. The headliners include fancy new cameras and a lightning fast chip that can run video games built for consoles.
To familiarise yourself with the new phones, check out our guide to their top features and best kept secrets.
Best iPhone 15 tricks and tips
The following tips should turn you into an iPhone 15 power user in no time.
How to check the iPhone 15 battery cycle
All four iPhone 15 models offer a new way to check the health of your battery, which can help you to determine when to replace it. Batteries have a limited number of charge cycles before they start to degrade, and now you can look this info up directly instead of relying on a third-party app.
Just head into settings > general > about. Now scroll down to the battery section and check the number next to “cycle count”.
The “cycle count” metric indicates how many complete charging cycles your battery has gone through. A charge cycle happens when you use all of the battery’s power, either in a single go or over the course of several days.
How to stop your iPhone 15 battery charging beyond 80%
Keeping track of how many charges your phone has left is useful, but the real gains come from the battery health settings.
By default, Apple sets your iPhone’s battery to the “optimised” charging mode, which reduces the amount of time your device spends fully charged. However, iPhone 15 users can take advantage of an exclusive feature that caps the charging limit at 80 per cent.
To enable it, go to settings > battery > battery health and charging. Now, tap charging optimisation, and select the 80 per cent limit option.
Whether or not it’s better than the default remains to be seen, but it should give you added peace of mind that your battery isn’t speeding towards its inevitable demise.
How to use your iPhone 15 to charge an Apple Watch or AirPods
That USB-C port on the bottom of your iPhone 15 is a handy little multitasker. Not only can you now borrow other people’s chargers without worrying if they’ll work, it also enables you to power up other Apple devices.
To give some juice to other gadgets, just grab the USB-C cable included with your iPhone 15, plug one end into your handset, and the other into another iPhone 15, the new AirPods Pro 2, or a USB-C Apple Watch charging puck. It really is as easy as that, and far more convenient than the Lightning charger of yore.
What does the Dynamic Island do?
If you’re upgrading from an older iPhone, you may be wondering what that pill-shaped cutout on the top of your screen actually does.
Introduced on the iPhone 14 Pro, the “Dynamic Island” - as Apple likes to call it - is now available on all iPhone 15 models. The new-look notch shows you interactive alerts and app information, including low battery warnings, the next direction in Maps, and music controls. You’ll also be able to open certain apps you have running in the background by tapping the Dynamic Island.
Alas, if you find the cutout distracting, there’s not much you can do about it other than swiping away its notifications. For now, Apple doesn’t let you turn off the Dynamic Island, so you’ll have to learn to love it.
How to turn regular photos into portrait mode photos
If you’ve snapped a pic using your phone in the past few years, you’re probably aware of portrait mode. The visual effect, also known as bokeh, applies a soft, out-of-focus background to draw more attention to the photo’s subject. This makes it great for pics of kids, pets or loved ones.
In a first for iPhones, you can add portrait mode to photos after you’ve taken them on Apple’s latest models. This way, you don’t risk missing the all-important shot while you’re fiddling around trying to turn the effect on. The iPhone 15 can do this because it automatically captures depth information when there’s a person, dog or cat in the frame, or when you tap to focus.
Here’s what you need to do to transform your captured snaps into portrait modes: In the photos app, select the photo you want to apply the visual effect to. If the depth information was saved, you should be able to turn portrait on by selecting the portrait option at the top left of the image, and tapping portrait. This will result in the background being blurred while the subject remains in focus.
You can also tap edit to adjust the strength of the blur by moving a slider. While a yellow autofocus box lets you shift the focus elsewhere by tapping the part of the frame you want to move it to.
If you’re satisfied with the changes, tap done to save them. Thankfully, you can always revert back to the original photo by undoing your changes.
How to use 5x optical zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max
The iPhone 15 Pro Max enables you to snap faraway people and subjects better than its siblings. A new telephoto camera goes up to 5x optical zoom, even higher than the 3x zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro, by using multiple mirrors to reflect the light to create a longer focal length.
The new feature is straightforward to use: simply tap the 5x button at the bottom of the camera viewfinder in photo mode. You can even activate up to 25x digital zoom by pinching the screen, but bear in mind that you will see a dip in image quality the more you zoom in.
How to use the action button on the iPhone 15 Pro
Apple has added a new button to its iPhone 15 Pro models in place of the ring/silent switch. Instead of performing a specific function, the new button can be customised to perform an action of your choice. You could set it to open your favourite app, or the camera, or flashlight when pressed. If you use shortcuts, you can even assign those tasks to it.
As always, social media is full of crazy and cool ways to use the button, from locking and unlocking a Tesla to Facetiming your partner to opening and shutting your blinds. And if none of that sounds appealing, you could just have it do nothing or turn your phone on silent (as before).
To set it up, go to settings > action button. Now, scroll through the list of available actions. The arrows below each icon will show you additional options, and you can add custom-made shortcuts and accessibility options by tapping the blue button below the action.
How to record iPhone 15 Pro videos to an external hard drive
If you have dreams of becoming the next Christopher Nolan, then you need to get a knack for ProRes video. Yes, anyone can record a movie on their iPhone, but as its name implies, ProRes is used by actual professionals. Film editors mainly harness it during post-production when working with software such as Final Cut.
The feature essentially allows you to capture video with far more detail as far as tone, colour and motion are concerned. In fact, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max let you record in 4K at up to 60fps directly to an external hard drive. There’s no option to save the clips to your phone as the large file sizes would inevitably clog up your storage space.
To start recording ProRes video to an external drive, all you have to do is open the Camera app, connect the hard drive to the USB-C port on your iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max, switch on ProRes recording and tap the record button. Now, you’re ready to wow the world with your very own masterpiece or a clip of your mum’s birthday party. Hell, even Spielberg started with home videos.
How to use a wired internet connection
As we’ve already mentioned, the USB-C port on the iPhone 15 range can perform a number of useful functions beyond simply charging your phone.
One of those handy little extras is its ability to offer a speed boost for streaming games or Netflix. If your home wifi or 5G doesn’t cut it, you can hook your internet straight to your iPhone 15 by using a USB-C to Ethernet adapter. When you do so, you’ll see an alert telling you that the iPhone recognises the connected accessory. You can then view information about your connection in a new section in your settings, titled Ethernet. Here, you’ll be able to view your IP address and router info.
We tried it out, and managed to get a maximum download speed of 320Mbps on a full-fiber broadband network. That was about 100Mbps faster than wifi, but still significantly slower than the 800Mbps wired download speed on a MacBook.
While this feature was also available on older iPhones with Lightning ports, you’re probably more likely to have the aforementioned USB-C adapter lying around if you already use it for your laptop, for instance.
Using an ethernet connection can be super helpful if you want to play Xbox Game Pass or NVIDIA GeForce Now on your iPhone. Check out our next tip for an even crazier iPhone 15 gaming suggestion.
How to turn your iPhone 15 Pro into a gaming console
Apple has long positioned its iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, but can the iPhone 15 Pro replace your PS5 or Xbox?
Well, it can apparently handle some of the same games as those consoles, including upcoming iOS versions of Resident Evil 4, Death Stranding, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage. It’s all thanks to the Pro’s new chip, which Apple claims is the best on the market.
Gaming on the go is great, but to truly recreate the console experience you’ll want to hook your iPhone 15 Pro to a TV screen or monitor.
Fun fact: The iPhone 15 Pro is now a gaming console! Step aside, Nintendo.
Here’s my setup which includes pass-through charging, power to the Razer MagSafe cooler to stop overheating, and HDMI to my 150” 4K projector.. all through one adapter!
Full list of components below 👇 pic.twitter.com/dVjzyxx2ud
— Vadim Yuryev (@VadimYuryev) September 26, 2023
You can do this by purchasing a USB-C digital AV multi-port adapter from Apple or a third-party brand. The dongle will essentially allow you to mirror your iPhone screen on your TV using a HDMI connection. You’ll also be able to charge your phone at the same time, and have a separate USB port as well. Next, just pair a PlayStation or Xbox controller over Bluetooth, and you’re good to go.
Bear in mind that there are reports that the iPhone 15 Pro gets pretty toasty in demanding conditions. Still, you could follow YouTuber Vadim Yurev and stick a magnetic iPhone cooler on the back to prevent it from overheating.