Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone has been out for a week now. I’ve been testing it extensively and putting it through its paces to help you in your purchasing decision. And I’ll answer the questions that most people care about. Like what is dynamic island and why does it matter? And of course, is the iPhone 14 Pro worth it?
In part 1 we’ll do a deep dive into design, performance, display, dynamic island, connectivity and battery life. In part 2 we’ll go into depth with the all new camera system with plenty of sample photography. Let’s dive in to part 1.
For the third year in a row, Apple has retained the same overall design language for its flagship iPhone. The iPhone 14 Pro shares the same flat sides, stainless steel band, frosted glass back and large camera bump as the iPhone 12 Pro and 13 Pro respectively. There is one notable design change, however, but we’ll get to that later. At a quick glance though, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max with their predecessors.
While this is a recycled design, progress for the sake of progress serves only to entertain in the context of a design change. And the current design has proven to be very popular. It certainly isn’t a deal breaker, especially if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone such as an iPhone 11.
The stainless steel band retains the same highly polished finish. It feels robust in the hand and strong. Owners of the silver model are experiencing the raw colour of the metal. For owners of the new deep purple, space black or gold finishes, the metal has a PVD coating. PVD is very scratch resistant but if you do manage to ding the phone, it may expose the raw steel finish below. If you want to avoid that, choose the silver model. It’ll show scratches sooner but they can easily be removed with a polishing cloth if that bothers you.
The rear of the device features a frosted glass back, colour matched to the band. It is also highly scratch resistant and is made from an unknown variant of Cornings Gorilla glass. Apple rarely announces the exact product it uses for its glass. Needless to say however, while it feels high quality it is still glass. That means that yet it can shatter and yes it can be scratched.
The display glass continues to be made from what Apple refers to as ‘Ceramic Shield’. Ceramic Shield is proprietary joint venture between Apple and Corning. It combines ceramic ions with gorilla glass to provide superior resistance to drops and thus enhanced drop protection. However it is still glass and confers no additional benefits when it comes to scratch resistance.
Glass and steel are both highly durable and recyclable materials. But in addition to that, much of the internals are made from renewable, recyclable or sustainable materials.
- 100% recycled gold in the wire of all cameras and the plating of multiple printed circuit boards
- 100% recycled tungsten in the Taptic Engine, representing 100% of the tungsten in iPhone 14 Pro Max17 and 99% of the tungsten in iPhone 14 Pro
- 100% recycled rare earth elements in all magnets, representing 100% of the rare earth elements in iPhone 14 Pro18 and 99% of the rare earth elements in iPhone 14 Pro Max
- 100% recycled tin in the solder of multiple printed circuit boards
- 35% or more recycled plastic in multiple components
Apple also uses 90%+ paper in the packaging with very little in the way of plastic. And the paper they do use is sourced from recycled material and responsibly managed forests.
This year Apple saved its best silicon for the Pro models. They receive Apple’s new A16 bionic. The new chip offers up to a 17% boost in performance compared to last years A15. That’s thanks to its new 4nm architecture. In testing, it was hard to notice a difference when navigating the user interface. The iPhone 13 was already so fast and far ahead of anything offered in the world of Android that the differences aren’t immediately clear.
A16 features a:
- 6‑core CPU with 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores
- 5‑core GPU
- 16‑core Neural Engine
Performance as measured by Geekbench 5 is consistent with Apple’s claims. And the A16 is comfortably ahead of any of the competition. It is necessary? Absolutely not. But the point of this level of performance is longevity. Apple provides free software updates for up to 6 years in some cases for ageing iPhone models. And so the iPhone 14 Pro should still feel fast for years.
Perhaps more important this year than the performance boost is the new display controllers. Apple has enabled a variety of new display features and the A16 has the brains to deliver them. Speaking of the display…
Apple has overhauled the display this year. The bezels have shrunk a little, the displays have gotten brighter and most excitingly, are always on. The active area of the display is larger now though the actual dimensions when measured corner to corner are unchanged.
The displays can now reach up to 2000 nits of peak outdoor brightness. It really shows too. For HDR playback, it reaches an impressive 1600 nits. That’s the same peak brightness as the ProDisplay XDR and is the brightest smartphone display in the world now.
The new panel is capable of refreshing as low as 1hz and all the way up to 120hz. That means your iPhone lockscreen can remain on with minimal impact to battery life. The A16 chip also plays its role thanks to the aforementioned display controllers. Of course those coming from an Android phone may well have experienced an always on display before. This isn’t new technology by smartphone standards. But it is new for iOS users and Apple’s implementation is by far the superior.
Rather than simply showing rudimentary information in white with the rest of the screen blacked out, the display is intelligently dimmed. It means you can still see your lockscreen wallpaper in addition to the new lockscreen widgets introduced in iOS 16. It has definitely taken some time to get used to as it is still relatively bright when the phone is locked. I keep my phone is still unlocked even though it hasn’t been. Apple tries to solve for this by offering wallpapers that change in appearance once the phone is locked. I like the implementation but it’ll take a while for my muscle memory to catch up.
- Dynamic Island
- Always-On display
- ProMotion technology with adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz
- HDR display
- True Tone
- Wide colour (P3)
- Haptic Touch
- 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio (typical)
- 1,000 nits max brightness (typical); 1,600 nits peak brightness (HDR); 2,000 nits peak brightness (outdoor)
- Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
- Support for display of multiple languages and characters simultaneously
This year Apple has introduced a big upgrade to the front facing camera. The new 12 megapixel shooter offers autofocus and image stabilisation. But in addition to that, Apple has been able to move some of the phones sensors such as the proximity sensor behind the display. Finally it means Apple has been able to eliminate the notch. What we’re left with is a small pill shaped cutout and circular cutout for the camera. However these do not appear as two separate entities. Apple has blended them together with software using black pixels and called it Dynamic Island.
The Dynamic Island offers a range of functionality. For example quick access to apps running in the background with live activities such as music, active timers, AirDrop transfers and a whole lot more. It does this by expanding the area of blacked out pixels where the notch would be and adapts its shape to match the task at hand. For instance if you have two live activities running in the background, it separates out the island. Or when you use FaceID it expands the size of the island. It even enabled you to bring up a menu platter to access certain features from inside apps running in the background.
What is so clever about this feature is that it takes what could have potentially been a disadvantage (the pill and hole punch cutouts) and turns it into a compelling feature. A feature that customers and competitors alike are clamoring for. Already we’re seeing Android customisations to add similar functionality.
This year Apple has adopted the new x65 modem from Qualcomm. It is a much more power efficient and much more performant 5G modem. In my speed tests on 5G, I noticed a significant increase when compared to running the same test on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. The difference was around 30% greater speeds in places with good cover. Less dramatic in other locations.
The x65 modem also unlocks limited Satellite connectivity. Users in the US and Canada are able to contact emergency services via Satellite in areas without regular phone reception. This is a great safety feature to have but I couldn’t test this as I’m based in the UK. I’d recommend checking out this test by YouTuber Justin Outdoors.
Apple promises an additional 1 hour of battery life for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max respectively. Though this is confined to video playback at 50% brightness. Usage patterns can be dramatically different from person to person so your mileage may vary.
In my testing I was able to achieve an impressive 11+ hours of screen on time with mixed to heavy use on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. My usage included a lot of video streaming from YouTube, live streaming on Instagram, general social media usage, web browsing, reading email and responding to iMessage with a couple of phone calls thrown in. Natually due to its larger size, you can expect enhanced battery life on the Pro Max compared to the smaller 14 Pro.
These devices will still require you to charge them daily if your usage is anything remotely similar to mine. Though if your usage pattern does not involve live streaming, long phone calls and video streaming, you’ll probably be able to stretch the battery out to 1.5 days. Thankfully charging is relatively quick. You can fast charge up to 50% in 30 minutes per Apple’s figures via a wire or MagSafe. I found this was a little conservative and found the charging speed to be slightly better than Apple’s claims. It should be noted that regular Qi wireless charging will be slower.
To be honest, there isn’t anything too remarkable here. The battery life is good for sure. But that’s relative in the context of lithium ion battery chemistry. We aren’t likely to see any change wave in battery life until better alternatives ca be produced en masse in a safe and cost effective way.
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to categorise this as a tidbit, but Apple added car crash detection this year. Thanks to more advanced acceloremters and specialised algorithms, the iPhone can now tell if you’ve been in a high impact collision. It will then automatically dial emergency services and ping your emergency contacts. This is a great feature but is one that most users will hopefully never need. Naturally it isn’t something that most testers are willing or able to test. Fortunately this video by TechRax has you covered
So far I’m very impressed with performance. But this was already very impressive on the iPhone 13 Pro. I’m also impressed with battery life which admittedly was also comparable with the iPhone 13 Pro. Though enhanced 5G performance has been particularly appreciated and the Dynamic Island is truly delightful. But what really sets the 14 Pro apart from last year is coming in part 2. And that’s the camera. But if you were already very satisfied with the camera in your current iPhone you need not read further. Buy the iPhone 14 Pro if you own an iPhone 12 or newer. Keep your iPhone 13 Pro for another year unless you can’t resist the splurge.
Stay tuned for part 2.