iPhone 16 Ultra: Release date rumors, news, and more

iPhone 16 Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

Over the last couple of years, we've started to hear more and more rumblings of a possible new iPhone "Ultra" that could be the best and biggest iPhone ever created. Yet confusion abounds as to what the iPhone Ultra actually is. When it was first hinted at back in 2022 that Apple might do more to differentiate between the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15, and between the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman fervently stated "Like I said...: Ultra is coming."

Yet while Mark Gurman has previously said that Apple has considered rebranding its "Pro Max" iPhones as "Ultra" models, that change didn't materialize in 2023, which leaves us asking what the future of the iPhone could hold when it comes to the fabled "Ultra" moniker. 

We're expecting Apple to launch the same slate of iPhone and iPhone Pro models in 2024 as it has done in previous years, yet murmurs of an Ultra iPhone persists, both as a simple rebranding of Apple's current best iPhone, the Pro Max variant, or as a possible fifth entry in the lineup. 

iPhone 16 Ultra: The headlines

  • What is it? The best iPhone that Apple could sell in 2024, iPhone Ultra is a model that will go above and beyond the Pro Max models that we're used to.
  • When can we expect it? If Apple follows its usual release cycle we expect it to launch in September 2024.
  • Are there any surprises? The entire iPhone 16 Ultra itself could be a surprise for 2024, and if it does arrive it's difficult to know what it could have to offer right now.

iPhone 16 Ultra : Release date rumors

If Apple does indeed have a new iPhone 16 Ultra in store for us this year, chances are that it'll be unveiled alongside the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro. That means a launch in September at the usual iPhone event, followed by a release shortly thereafter. Apple usually hosts its events on a Tuesday, with pre-orders the following Friday and a release date seven days later. 

iPhone 16 Ultra: Display

iPhone 15 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

It's difficult to know what Apple might do here, but we've heard rumors relating to the iPhone 16 Pro Max that hint at a new, larger display. According to those rumors, Apple will take the current 6.7-inch OLED panel and stretch it to a new, larger 6.9-inch size. Beyond that, few details are available. Could the iPhone 16 Ultra go even bigger? That isn't something we've seen suggested to date, but it would be a good way for Apple to sell a phone that is sure to be costly — bigger screens always cost more, after all.

The iPhone 16 Pro Max isn't expected to have any big new display features, but that doesn't mean that the iPhone 16 Ultra won't. We're firmly in the realms of guesswork at this point, but one potential way that Apple could differentiate the iPhone 16 Pro Max from the iPhone 16 Ultra is to give the latter an upgraded display.

What that might look like, we can only guess. There's the potential for a revamped Dynamic Island, ditching the hole+pill camera design in favor of an under-display Face ID sensor. It seems unlikely that there will be a Touch ID sensor under that display, but it also isn't something we'd rule out, either.

iPhone 16 Ultra: Chip and specifications

The iPhone 15 lineup at the Apple Store in Nanjing East, Shanghai, China.

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's Pro iPhones are both expected to get upgraded chips, building on the 3nm A17 Pro that powers the current models. Analyst Jeff Pu expects that to mean that the high-end models will benefit from an upgraded 3nm chip that will carry the A18 Pro moniker, and if that's the case we can probably assume that will be the case with the iPhone 16 Ultra, too. There's little reason to think that the iPhone 16 Ultra will get a new chip of its own, if only because that will make the lineup even more complicated than it already is.

There are also rumors that Apple intends to switch to TSMC's latest N3E manufacturing process, a change that should make the newer chips cheaper to produce. However, there is no way of knowing how fast the new chips will be or whether there will be other improvements or features.

iPhone 16 Ultra: Cameras

An iPhone 15 Pro Max against an abstract multi-colored retro background.

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

If Apple really is going to ship a new model to sit above the previous Pro Max, it may use camera features and upgrades as a way to differentiate it.

A prime candidate here would be a new zoom lens, improving upon the 5x tetraprism offering that debuted in the iPhone 15 Pro Max. That lens is already expected to make the move down to the iPhone 16 Pro, and the rumors suggest that the iPhone 16 Pro Max will gain a new telephoto lens, too. But details are hard to come by, and it's unclear whether Apple will choose to go a step further with the iPhone 16 Ultra.

iPhone 16 Ultra: New buttons

An iPhone 15 Pro Max against an abstract multi-colored retro background.

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

The iPhone 15 Pro models gained a new Action button, and the 2024 iPhones are set to add yet another to the mix, based on the current rumors. That button is currently called the Capture button, but it isn't clear what the Capture button will do. However, it's currently expected that the new button will come to all of the iPhone 16 models and that includes the new iPhone 16 Ultra, too.

However, it's vital to remember that there is no guarantee that this will come to fruition. Apple can, and often does, change its mind when developing these products and it might do the same this time around, too.

iPhone 16 Ultra: What we'd like to see

If Apple really is going to go Ultra next time out it's difficult to look at that decision and not immediately be reminded of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, a phone that will have been in sale for a good few months by September 2024. It'll be Samsung's flagship phone, at least in terms of models that don't fold, and Apple may seek to give it competition above and beyond the Pro Max models.

If that really is the case, we'd like to see Apple really push the boat out and add support for a stylus, likely a new type of Apple Pencil. These high-end iPhones are so big these days that writing a note on them isn't difficult, and Apple could choose to make the iPhone 16 Ultra even larger. Why not let people write notes on it, even if we're not sure that drawing is something people will want to do at that display size.

iPhone 16 Ultra: Price

The complete iPhone 15 lineup at Apple's Regent Street store in London, U.K.

(Image credit: Apple)

If there's one big unknown — beyond whether or not the iPhone 16 Ultra even exists — it's how much it will cost. The Apple Watch Ultra models cost more than the standard ones, even when you take into consideration the included cellular connectivity. So how much could we expect an iPhone 16 Ultra to cost?

That will all depend on specifications. The iPhone 15 Pro Max started at $100 more than the iPhone 14 Pro Max but that wasn't a price hike despite what you might have heard — it was simply the removal of the 128GB model as an option, making the more expensive 256GB version the cheapest one. If Apple goes the same route with the iPhone 16 Ultra, perhaps starting at 512GB, the price will reflect that.

If the iPhone 16 Ultra is real and it is indeed the best iPhone ever, expect it to come with the heftiest price tag of any iPhone too. 

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.