Not long after landing in stores, it looks like the iPhone 15 is getting into some hot water. Some owners report that their iPhone 15 overheats after performing simple tasks like browsing through social media feeds or watching videos for a short period of time. The problem doesn’t appear to be isolated to just the standard iPhone 15 series, but also the iPhone 15 Pro models.
That's not what Apple would want to have happened right after launching its new iPhones, and it remains to be seen just how widespread the problem is. Still, it's not the first time iPhones have run into this sort of problem.
What’s interesting from these various reports about the iPhone 15 heating up is trying to determine what’s actually causing the issue. Thermal images showing the phone’s hotspots dish up a few clues, but the reasons point to several different culprits — like the A17 Pro chip, titanium alloy frame, and also the new USB-C ports Apple has opted to use in place of the Lightning port.
On September 30, Apple issued a response identifying the cause of the overheating issues. The problem can be traced back to several software-related conditions, including updates on certain third-party apps and a bug with iOS 17 that will be addressed in a future update.
Apple says software issues are to blame
Apple insists the overheating issues are not tied to the device's hardware but rather stem from three distinct software-related conditions.
For starters, handsets may “feel warmer during the first few days after setting up or restoring the device because of increased background activity," Apple told MacRumors. This is fairly standard advice with any phone. As you're setting up a new device for the first time, odds are it's updating settings, downloading updates and doing a ton of other work in the background.
Apple has also identified a bug in iOS 17 impacting some users that will be addressed in a software update. The company highlighted to Forbes that this isn’t a euphemism for throttling performance to bring temperatures down, which is good news for buyers sold on the raw speed of the new handsets.
Finally, there are a few third-party updates where updates are "causing them to overload the system," including Uber, Asphalt 9, and Instagram. Apple said it is “working with these app developers on fixes that are in the process of rolling out.”
Temperatures reaching as high as 118°F
One report suggests another culprit: the new A17 Pro chip that’s powering the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. While we didn’t experience any issues with overheating during our review process, Chinese tech blogger Geekerwan said that the iPhone 15 Pro set a new record for surface temperature by reaching a peak level of 118°F — with the A17 Pro chip reportedly being the biggest contributor.
It’s largely understood that a phone's processor works much harder with demanding tasks, so it’s not surprising that fingers are being pointed at the A17 Pro. However, overheating issues also extend to the A16 Bionic powered iPhone 15 series. Other iPhone 15 owners say that overheating happens while charging using the new USB-C ports. Heating naturally occurs while charging, but it’s amplified if the phone’s actively being used.
Despite this, these extreme temperatures are concerning, especially when they occur with mundane operations. In a statement addressing the reports of overheating, Apple insisted the issue is not hardware related, but rather tied to software-related conditions.
Thermal system design could be another culprit
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the problem is related to compromises with the thermal system design of the iPhone 15 Pro series. While the titanium alloy frame made the iPhone 15 Pro series much lighter than their predecessors, it seems as though it’s also the result of “compromises made in the thermal system design.”
Kuo believes that a reduced heat dissipation area, combined with the iPhone 15 Pro's new titanium frame, reduces the thermal efficiency of the phones. This combination is perhaps the leading cause for the iPhone 15 Pro series, but certainly not for the standard iPhone 15 and 15 Plus.
Regardless of what’s causing the overheating issues, it’ll be interesting to see if software updates, like the one Apple has promised for iOS 17, will be released to fix these issues — and perhaps reveal whether or not their processors will be throttled down. There are several factors in play here, so we’ll have to wait and see what course of action Apple takes.