Apple

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Review

No recent phone release exemplifies the union of hardware and software better than the Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. With the introduction of Apple’s glorious Dynamic Island—a fluid software element that reinvents how we interact with notifications and phone events—a new CPU and a 48-megapixel front camera, the new Pro series represents a noteworthy move forward on an otherwise modest upgrade.

I’ve spent just under a week testing the latest phones, checking out the new features, better cameras and new software. Apple released four iPhone 14 models in all, of which two carry the Pro moniker. Some features are common to the whole range, such as crash detection, emergency satellite connections and a new front camera with autofocus.

But then there are the Pro-only benefits which go beyond a faster processor and better camera. The new Pro display has a dynamic refresh rate that enables the new always-on display. There’s also a smaller cut-out for the front camera and a feature called Dynamic Island, which makes the most of the new display with notifications which appear from nowhere.

One other thing: the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are identical in every way apart from the size and weight of the handset, size of the screen, battery life and price. This review covers both phones equally, with differences noted accordingly. Are these phones worth your money? Read on.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro: Technical Specifications

Price $999 and up | Cameras: Rear 48 megapixel wide, 12 megapixel ultra wide, 12 megapixel telephoto; front 12 megapixel | Processor: Apple A 16 Bionic | Display: 6.1-inch OLED, 120Hz display 2,556 x 1,179 pixels, 460 pixels per inch| Storage: 128GB (up to 1TB) | Battery: Up to 22 hours video playback | Dimensions: 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 7.3 ounces


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max: Technical Specifications

Price $1,099 and up | Cameras: 12MP ultra wide, 48MP wide, 12MP telephoto, 12MP Face ID camera | Processor Apple A 16 Bionic | Display: 6.7-inch OLED 120Hz display 2,796 x 1,290 pixels, 460 pixels per inch| Storage: 128GB (up to 1TB) | Battery: Up to 22 hours video playback | Dimensions: 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches | Weight 8.5 ounces


Best for

  • Managing notifications and more with Dynamic Island
  • Strong, highly detailed cameras
  • Always-on screen

Skip because

  • Expensive
  • ProRAW can be slow
  • 48MP shots eat up storage space

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series: Design

If you saw the iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max lying on the table, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the iPhone 13 Pro. The design really is that similar. The iPhone 14 Pro shares the same cliff-edge design and gleaming stainless-steel antenna band as its predecessor.

All four of this year’s iPhones have immaculate build quality. Externally, you may only notice two differences. First, there’s no outline where the SIM card tray once popped out (more on that below). Second: In addition to carrying over silver and gold from last year, this year’s Pro phones introduce Space Black and an all new shade called Deep Purple, a dark but attractive color which can look grey in some light but gleams in others.

Turn the phone on, though, and it’s instantly apparent this is a different phone. Instead of the clear cut-out docked at the top of the display, a smaller pill-shaped cut—not quite large enough to call a notch, and certainly not as obtrusive as the previous notch—provides space for the front camera lenses. This space quickly fades away as you start using the phone and surface the fresh, new Dynamic Island interface element which Apple uses to disguise the cut-out in the most enjoyable way imaginable. (More below.)

Turn the iPhone over and the familiar matte-finish back with glossy camera panel is visible. But the cameras are bigger than ever, and sit a little deeper than on the iPhone 13 Pro to accommodate the larger sensor of the 48-megapixel wide camera.

As similar as the iPhone 14 Pro series looks to last year’s models, the dimensions are slightly different and require a new case. But the differences are so small you’d never be aware of them as you hold the handsets. The feel in your hand—even with the larger Max—is manageable, similar to last year’s models.

As noted earlier, the lack of a SIM card tray heralds the beginning of the eSIM era, since all of the iPhone 14 series ditches the physical SIM card in favor of the all-digital version. You can set up your phone with a QR code or leave your old phone nearby so Apple can work its magic and transfer the number along with your photos, apps and so on. Note that the other phone needs to be on iOS 16 for this to happen, otherwise you’ll need to contact your carrier.

This only applies to iPhones sold in the United States for now, though I predict that Apple will want to be rid of the tray as soon as possible everywhere. After all, it takes up valuable space which can be given over to other components, such as a bigger battery and other sensors.


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series: Display

The new iPhones have brighter displays with thinner bezels (though frankly, you’d again be hard put to spot the difference). Much easier to spot is that the new display is brighter—up to 2,000 nits of outdoor peak brightness—so you can see your screen even in the California sun. The screen also has a higher brightness for HDR content.

Apple also improves its ProMotion dynamic display, a feature first introduced with the iPhone 13 Pro. The ProMotion adaptive refresh rates now adjust between 1Hz to 120Hz, making for a smooth yet energy-saving experience. Going one step further, by achieving the ultra-low, battery-saving 1Hz refresh rate, Apple was able to introduce its first always-on display.

The addition of an always-on display is a huge boon. No more having to tap the phone to view the time. It’s always visible, along with notifications and other customizations. All are presented in a persistently visible yet muted manner, making for a sensational always-on display in everyday use.


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series: Software

The new lock screen—available on all iPhones with iOS 16—is actually all about customization, and just one of the software additions of note. Add widgets, choose favorite photos, change the color of the clock digits and more. Notification can be disabled if you choose a focus mode. Adding new lock screens and changing among them is as simple as changing faces on the Apple Watch. Apple is late to the customization game, but I found this implementation very appealing.

More noteworthy is the introduction of Dynamic Island, only available on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. As noted earlier, the Dynamic Island cleverly disguises the capsule-shaped cut out for the front cameras. The Dynamic Island works to show notifications and app interactions in a more fluid and useful manner than traditional notifications. For example, when I played music and swiped the Spotify or Apple Music app offscreen, the oval of blackness of the Dynamic Island widened to show the album playing and a sound wave showing it was still playing. Tap anywhere near the island and the phone registers your touch, opening the music app again. The Dynamic Island works with lots of iPhone moments, from connecting your AirPods, to Apple Pay, from charging notifications to AirDrop. It’s fantastic.


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series: Cameras

The iPhone 14 Pro’s wide camera gets the biggest upgrade, graduating from 12 megapixels to 48 megapixels. The camera has a larger sensor—65% bigger than the one on the iPhone 13 Pro. Like other cameraphones, the iPhone 14 Pro adopts something called pixel binning, where adjacent pixel sites work as one. The iPhone Pro 14 groups four pixels together to maximize response in low light, to deliver 12-megapixel images with greater sharpness and less photo noise.

Apple’s cameras always use all the available pixels, but the iPhone automatically optimizes the shot, deciding whether to use pixel binning or not. You can also shoot in Apple ProRAW, which allows you to manually choose whether to use pixel binning or not. When shooting at the full 48-megapixel resolution, file sizes are unsurprisingly much bigger—as much as 80MB per image, which means it won’t take long to fill your storage. Apple sells iPhones with up to 1TB storage, but those models come at quite the cost—$1,499, the same price as the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro M2. If there’s a downside to ProRAW, apart from the space images take up, is that the larger files cause a noticeable pause before the phone is ready to take the next shot. The resulting photographs are remarkably detailed, though, and can make a case for no longer needing a dedicated point-and-shoot camera.

The cameras here are outstanding, making easy work of low light situations and triumphing in brighter conditions. I found the cameras handled well, producing terrific images.


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series: Performance and Battery Life

The iPhone 14 Pro has an all-new chip, the A16 Bionic processor—unlike the regular iPhone 14, which has the A15 Bionic chip, originally seen in the iPhone 13 Pro. The A16 is supremely fast, whatever you’re doing, and contributes to everything which makes the A14 Pro and Pro Max excel, from smooth video and gaming to the always-on screen, from amazing photographs to that eye-catching Dynamic Island. Benchmarks tend to put Apple’s iPhone chips ahead of rivals and this new processor is enough of an upgrade to continue that tradition.

Two new features in the new iPhones (and also found on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus) I have had to take on trust. One is crash detection which, Apple says, will know if you’ve been in a vehicle crash and can alert emergency services. Let’s hope none of us ever have to put this to the test, but it’s reassuring to know it’s there. Secondly, there’s emergency messaging to satellite, to help you if you are in a pickle when out of cellular coverage. This arrives in November (U.S. and Canada only) and will help you to send a series of short text messages to emergency services via satellite. Apple includes two years of service with iPhone 14 Pro series.

I found battery life on both models very strong, though it is predictably longer on the larger Pro Max which has a larger battery. In practical daily use, Apple says the battery life on the iPhone Pro Max is roughly the same as the iPhone 14 Plus (not yet released) which claims the title of best battery life in an iPhone ever. Even so, both are more than good enough to last a day fully.


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series: Verdict

The new iPhone 14 Pro series phones largely look and behave similarly to last year’s models, apart from the glorious Dynamic Island and always-on screen features. The cameras are a major step up, and put Apple out in front—again—for lipsmackingly good photography.

While these are not cheap handsets, they still represent a strong value for the features and capabilities they offer, and are the best iPhones you can buy today, with a few clever features (like the satellite connectivity) that put them ahead of the competition—in some cases, just barely.


My Expertise

I’ve been writing about tech for, honestly, longer than I care to remember. Most of the words I’ve written have been about phones, many of them before the word smartphone existed, back when Nokia owned most of the market and battery life was measured in days, not hours. I’ve tested every shape of phone, from soap bar to flip to slide to (I kid you not) lipstick. My first cameraphone was a Nokia 7650 with a 0.3 megapixel sensor. Things have come a long way since then, but the importance of central elements has remained: ease of use, versatility, efficiency and battery life.

How I Tested The iPhone 14 Pro And Pro Max

I’ve tested these phones extensively, from taking pictures in as many situations as possible to pushing the battery life to its limits with video playback, video streaming, using mapping apps to push the GPS connection and so on. Of course, I’ve checked that video looks smooth on the screen and that the phones can, you know, make and receive calls. I used common, familiar apps to vet they work faster than ever. And I’ve made sure the phones fit the hand, offer good value and are a pleasure to pull out of your pocket and use.