Is the iPhone 14 worth buying? Here’s what the reviews say
The iPhone 14 is a step up from the 13, but is it worth updating?
The iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max all launched last week. While you can’t get any of them in hand today (although they are shipping to customers now), the review embargoes are up.
That means reviewers are starting to post their thoughts on the latest iPhones. This year brings some new colors, some redesigns (mainly for the Pro models), and a new operating system in iOS 16.
Is that enough to tempt you to upgrade if you already have a recent iPhone? How about tempting you away from Android? We’ll dive in to see what the other experts are saying.
This year, Apple changed the lineup. The iPhone mini is gone, replaced by the iPhone Plus. That makes two phone sizes in the lineup, 6.1 and 6.7 inches, and two versions, base and Pro.
Pricing keeps the two-tiered approach, with the iPhone 14 starting at $799, iPhone 14 Plus at $899, iPhone 14 Pro at $999, and iPhone 14 Pro Max at $1,099.
In the words of The Wall Street Journal, “you should just buy this year’s $999-and-up iPhone Pros.”
The reasoning is that the $200 gap between the tiers isn’t that much when considering the jump in specifications.
The Pro models have a better main camera, at 48 megapixels. They have a telephoto lens. They also have that adaptive refresh rate screen that can go down to 1Hz to enable an always-on display of important info.
And yes, they have the Dynamic Island, that weird resizing hole-that’s-not-a-notch that holds the selfie camera and Face ID sensors.
This is the one feature that all the reviewers spent a long time talking about. It’s markedly different from anything Apple has done before.
The Verge liked how it brought unity to “all those older status systems.” Engadget thought it “felt slick,” and liked the aesthetic change.
The base iPhone 14 and 14 Plus don’t get any of that fun stuff, however. So, ultimately, we agree with the WSJ, spend the extra cash if you are going to upgrade this year.
Power, battery, and performance
The split between the tiers continues with the internals. Apple put the older A15 Bionic in the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, saving the new A16 Bionic for the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max.
Does that extra performance actually matter in real-world usage? Engadget called the A16-powered Pro models “smooth, well-tuned machines that can handle any task thrown at them.”
TechCrunch had some charts of performance that show the A16 Bionic way ahead of every other Apple device. That will make more of a difference as the device ages, with it feeling faster for more years to come.
Battery life on the Pro models is all-day, according to The Verge, but they did mention it felt like it was draining faster. Presumably, that’s from the always-on screen.
The Wall Street Journal found that the iPhone 14 was pretty similar to that of the iPhone 13. You do get emergency crash detection and SOS messaging in the iPhone 14, though, so it is worth remembering that for comparison’s sake.
Apple has always had a two-tier approach to cameras between the base and Pro models, but it’s more pronounced this year. The Pro gets a 48-megapixel sensor, while the main sensor in the base is still 12 megapixels.
The Pro model has a third sensor as well, a telephoto. CNBC says the Pro’s main sensor “captures great detail” and likes the action mode, which stabilizes video recording as a gimbal would.
Wired didn’t think it was much of an improvement over last year’s iPhone 13 Pro. That’s because the iPhone 14 Pro spits out 12-megapixel images by default.
To use the full 48, you have to set it to use RAW. That gives you larger files with more pixels, so more data to work with when editing.
MobileSyrup called the camera performance “top-tier” while also saying they’re marginal improvements over last year. That may be so, but the iPhone 13 Pro did so much right, marginal improvements are expected.
What might be a better comparison is to the Pixel 6 Pro, and Tom’s Guide did just that. They called the iPhone 14 Pro the best camera phone, “inch[ing] ahead of Google.”
Oh, and that’s all just for photos. The iPhone is the king of mobile video, and the iPhone 14 Pro just reasserts Apple’s dominance.
Should you upgrade?
As always, this depends. The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are a much bigger upgrade than even last year’s iPhone 13 Pro. If you’re an early adopter who wants the latest, biggest tech, that’s the one to buy.
The base iPhone 14 is less cut-and-dry. Sure, it’s an improvement over last year (unless you prefer a smaller phone). Is it $100 more of an improvement over the $699 iPhone 13? Probably not.
That said, if you’ve got an older iPhone from several generations ago, all of the iPhone 14 models will be a worthy upgrade. Video performance is stellar and might even be enough to outshine the best of Android.
The other piece of the puzzle is always carrier rebates. Most of the major carriers have rebates for customers trading in a recent handset that could mean your iPhone 14 is free.
Have any thoughts on this? Carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.
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