Apple’s new iPhone 15 family brings major upgrades to the travel experience

Sometimes, the smallest changes can make the biggest impact.

This is especially the case with Apple’s all-new iPhone 15 and 15 Pro, which debuted last week at the tech giant’s “Wanderlust” press event.

Now that the devices are on sale in stores and online, you’re probably wondering if this is the right year to upgrade.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

As a road warrior, I’m always looking for devices that will improve my travel experience. After a few days of testing the new phones, I can confidently say that the iPhone 15 family will undoubtedly improve the way I move around.

Despite retaining the same overall aesthetic as recent generations, this year’s iPhone lineup has some small but powerful updates that should make this the smartphone of choice for many travelers.

this is the reason.

Two-way USB-C charging

It all starts with the way you actually charge your new iPhones.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Over the past decade, you’ve probably become familiar with Apple’s Lightning port located on the bottom of every iPhone. However, this year, the tech giant officially discontinued Lightning connectivity in favor of USB-C.

This global standard is widespread everywhere in the world and has countless benefits for travelers.

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Firstly, this means you will no longer need to carry multiple charging cables for all your devices. The switch to a USB-C port means that iPhones, iPads, and Macs (and many other non-Apple devices) can now be charged with a single USB-C charging cable — no need for a separate cable just to power your iPhone.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

What’s more, since USB-C is the new industry standard charging port, you’ll have no problem finding one of these cables on the go if you forget to pack one. (And don’t worry, every new iPhone includes a sleek, white braided USB-C charging cable in the box.)

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Switching to USB-C has already helped reduce cable clutter in my bag, but it just gets better.

With the introduction of USB-C, you can now use your iPhone to charge other small devices, including the second-generation AirPods Pro with a USB-C port, an Apple Watch, or even another iPhone, as well as some smaller third-party devices. Hardware too.

Of course, charging other devices will eat up your iPhone’s battery — I lost about 10% of the charge to deliver 25% of the charge to the Apple Watch — but being able to use my primary smartphone as a battery pack is a very useful “insurance policy” against my other devices… you die.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Switching to USB-C also speeds up data transfers and supports sharing to external displays, which are some features that many power users will appreciate.

A bunch of Apple products still use the Lightning port (including the AirPods Max and some iPads), but with the company moving entirely to USB-C, travelers will have plenty to get excited about.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

This simple change to the bottom of each iPhone unlocks more power — no pun intended — for every traveler with an iPhone 15.

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Action button for easy access

Until now, every iPhone model shipped with a ring/silent switch. But if you’re like me, your iPhone stays on silent all day, turning that tiny switch into a tiny space collecting dust.

With the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple introduced an all-new action button (similar to the one found on Apple Watch Ultra) instead of the ring/silent switch.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

As part of the change, you now have almost unlimited options for what this switch can do. You can program the action button during initial setup and in the Settings app. Apple offers a range of common pre-programmed functions, including opening the camera, turning on the flashlight, and recording a voice memo.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

I’ve been experimenting with using the action button to open the camera, and I’ve found that this is the quickest possible way to take a shot on the go.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Unless you’re like me and always take photos while you travel, you might want to use this button for something else, like checking your flight status.

The great news is that there are almost endless customization options with Shortcut. You can set it to open your favorite airline app or start a timer when boarding begins. Since it is fully supported by software, you can change the function whenever you want.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Another small change that has powerful implications for travelers.

Dynamic Island on all iPhone devices

Last year, Apple introduced… Dynamic Island on iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, and this year, every iPhone 15, including the base models, features this new island “destination.”

Zach Greif/The Points Man

While the tech giant has created some helpful first-party notifications for this pill-shaped separation, several third-party developers have taken this experience to the next level, especially for travelers. From tracking your flight status with United Airlines or Flighty to getting a live countdown until Uber or Lyft arrives, Dynamic Island has helped make life on the road more efficient.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

By bringing Dynamic Island to the entire iPhone 15 family, Apple’s new affordable smartphones are more powerful than ever.

Portability and durability

Both the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models got a travel-friendly redesign this year.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

It is worth noting that the Pro models are now made of titanium. When this was first announced, I wasn’t really sure how the Pro models would feel in my hand and pocket, but after just a few days, there’s been no turning back.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Not only are these the lightest Pro models Apple has ever made (definitely noticeable from the moment I picked them up), but the thin borders also help make my content pop across the entire front face of the phone. Plus, the rounded edges feel better in my hand than previous models.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Of course, the switch to titanium should also bring some noticeable improvements in the durability of these devices, an essential feature for frequent flyers who are always traveling on planes and trains. I haven’t dropped my phone yet, but the titanium design, in theory, means it won’t damage as easily as an old phone. (If it’s damaged, the good news is that a new back case can now be repaired for between $169 and $199, compared to the much higher out-of-pocket repair cost of $449 to $549 on last year’s models.)

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Overall, the iPhone 15 family looks more premium than before. The back glass now incorporates the color into a single piece of glass and has rounded edges.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Although Apple has taken a big step forward in iPhone design, the same can’t necessarily be said for the company’s new first-party cases, some of which are now made from a proprietary material called FineWoven that replaces the leather cases Apple uses for sale. .

Zach Greif/The Points Man

In my testing, I found that the case quickly showed a lot of smudges and cracks from fingerprints. I’d recommend ordering an Apple-branded silicone case instead (or just head to Amazon for something more affordable).

Satellite communication has become more powerful

The iPhone 15 family takes satellite connectivity to the next “stratosphere.” In addition to the existing Emergency SOS via satellite service, iPhone 15 offers roadside assistance in the US

I don’t currently own a car, but I rent one frequently, especially when I travel to national parks. I love the outdoors, which means I often go places where there is no cell phone service.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

In the past, this meant that I was completely off the grid if something bad happened. But with satellite connectivity in the iPhone 15 family, I’ll rest assured that I can call for help if needed.

With the new roadside assistance feature, you can call AAA if something goes wrong with your car, even if you don’t have cell service. (This service is free for AAA members and can be purchased one-time by non-members.)

I wish I never used this feature, but it’s useful to know it’s there in case something goes wrong.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to upgrade to take advantage of this service. Every iPhone 14 features satellite connectivity and can also call for roadside assistance as of Friday.

Boosts the camera

As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you, and for many travelers, that’s a smartphone.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

This year, Apple introduced some serious camera upgrades for both the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro. Although I haven’t yet been on the road to test it, my initial impressions are that this may be the biggest leap forward yet.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Not only do the phones include a host of new lens options — a whopping seven on the iPhone 15 Pro models — but they also feature upgrades to the software that processes images.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

I did see some noticeable improvements in low-light photography, which will be great for airplane cabins and hotel room tours taken at night.

Future-proof technology

There are no two ways to do it: Upgrading your phone is a big investment. However, these new devices are packed with technology that shouldn’t become obsolete in a few months.

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Perhaps most exciting is the new Ultra Wideband chip. This technology tells you how close you are to an AirTag or a friend you follow on Find My Friends.

The new chip allows for up to three times the range, which means finding your friend or family member (who’s also using a new iPhone) at a loud concert or crowded airport will be easier.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Other tech upgrades include Wi-Fi 6E (on the iPhone 15 Pro) and second-generation Qi wireless charging standards for both models – two technologies that are slowly becoming more popular.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Just like last year, the iPhone 15 models It exclusively supports eSIM (or embedded SIM cards), which means connecting to your cellular provider is done exclusively via the software on the phone — a big change that Apple first introduced last year.

iOS17 upgrades

Along with the new hardware, some software improvements come in the form of iOS 17, which was released to all new iPhone users on Monday.

The program includes some travel-friendly features that I’ve already built into my routine, including standby, live voicemail, check-in, and shared AirTags.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Standby mode essentially replaces the traditional alarm clock. It allows you to dock your phone in landscape orientation and view the time, weather, and any other essential information while charging the phone overnight.

In the photo above, I’m using the Belkin 2-in-1 Wireless Charger Stand, which works perfectly in standby mode.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Meanwhile, Live Voicemail is a game-changer for me when I’m busy on the road. When I send calls to voicemail, it automatically transcribes the message in real time. If I notice it’s urgent, I can still answer the phone without missing the call.

Note that this feature uses cellular data; Additional call rates may apply if you are roaming.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Check-in lets my friends and family set automatic geofences to alert me when they get home, and sharing AirTags means multiple people can track the same bag or backpack during a trip.

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Smartphones have become an essential part of travel, and Apple’s all-new iPhone 15 family takes that experience to the next level.

In fact, three of the smallest physical changes contain big upgrades for those who are always on the go. This includes an all-new USB-C charging port, which can also charge other small devices, the Action Button on Pro-level models, and Dynamic Island on the entry-level iPhone 15s.

Zach Greif/The Points Man

Combined with the new design on both models, along with serious camera upgrades and some futuristic tech, these are Apple’s best travel-friendly phones yet.

If you’re still on the fence about upgrading, this might be the year to do so, especially if you carry an iPhone 13 or earlier.

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