My personal phone is the iPhone 13 Pro Max. For me, it’s the perfect phone: it’s fast and has a big screen and great cameras.
When Apple introduced its new iPhone 14 models in September, I was curious to see how it would improve over last year’s phones.
The new phones look identical to last year’s, but as usual, there are some nice updates inside.
Apple sent me an iPhone 14 Pro for this review and it was interesting to go back to a smaller phone.
As a reminder, Apple has four new iPhone models: the 6.1-inch iPhone 14, the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus, and the two pro models, the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro and the 6.1-inch iPhone Pro Max. 6.7 inches.
The features and specs I write about here are for the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. The iPhone Pros are the same except for screen size and battery size.
iPhone 14 models don’t use a physical SIM card; They use an eSIM, which is a virtual SIM card. I usually put my SIM card in a new phone and I’m good to go. This time I had to transfer my number from my SIM card to the iPhone 14 Pro eSIM, which deactivates the old SIM card. I guess I’ll have to get a new SIM card from my provider when my trial is over.
The 14 Pro has an always-on display, which is a fit for me. I’m not used to seeing my phone screen all the time. It feels like you’re wasting battery life, but the new adaptive refresh rate works at just 1 Hertz (update per second). The screen can refresh at rates from 10 Hz to 120 Hz, depending on the content on the screen. If you place it upside down, the screen will turn off.
The OLED screen is also super bright, up to 2,000 nits outdoors.
The 14 Pro models do not have the usual screen notch for the front cameras. Instead, Apple developers turned the notch into a feature called Dynamic Island that moves the previous notch down a few pixels from the top of the screen. The opening now has rounded corners and expands to become a place to display things like incoming calls, volume changes, music playback info, and notifications. The island is even available for app developers to use.
I downloaded a sports score app that shows live game scores on Dynamic Island.
It’s a unique solution to an area of the screen that people used to complain about.
The main camera on the 14 Pro has a 24-millimeter wide-angle lens with a 48-megapixel sensor. This is a huge improvement over last year’s 12-megapixel camera.
The other two cameras are similar to last year: a 12-megapixel telephoto camera still has 3x optical zoom, and the 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. All three cameras have new lenses and better sensors for taking truly impressive low-light photos.
Overall, the cameras are among the best I’ve used on a phone, but I was expecting a longer telephoto zoom range.
The selfie camera has a 12-megapixel sensor, and photos and Facetime calls look fantastic.
Oh, and the camera lenses are slightly larger than last year, making the camera bump more pronounced. Adding a case helps minimize wobbling when you place it on a flat surface.
Emergency SOS satellite messaging
If you’re out of cell range and need help, iPhone 14 models can now send text messages via satellite.
Before sending the message, the phone will ask you a few questions to assess the situation and then show you which direction to point the phone for the satellite connection.
When you connect to the satellite, your phone will automatically send your information, including your location, medical ID (if you created one in your phone’s settings), and your phone’s battery level to a dispatcher.
You can’t text your friends via satellite, only the emergency dispatch service.
You have to be outside with a clear view of the sky, and messages can take up to a minute to send and receive.
The SOS Emergency service is free for two years.
You can also use the Find My app to share your satellite location with people who can see your location.
There’s a new high g-force accelerometer that can detect extreme acceleration or deceleration. This new sensor and a few others work together to determine if you’ve been in an accident.
There are sensors that can measure sudden changes in cabin pressure, sudden changes in direction, and loud impact sounds.
If the phone thinks you’ve had an accident, you’ll see a screen asking if you’re okay. If you do not recognize that you are okay, a call will be made to the local emergency services to inform them of your location and the need for help.
A few false crashes have been reported since the introduction of phones, especially on roller coasters. I’m sure Apple will adjust the settings in the future.
iPhone 14 Pro runs the new A16 Bionic processor with a six-core processor, a five-core graphics processor, and a 16-core Neural Engine.
It has Face ID to unlock the phone and for Apple Pay.
It has mmWave and sub-6 5G, as well as Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3.
I had no problem getting a full day out of battery. Apple doesn’t disclose the battery size, but it does say the 14 Pro’s battery can get up to 23 hours of video playback or 75 hours of audio playback.
It has wireless charging, including MagSafe. It is capable of fast charging up to 50% in 30 minutes with a 20-watt charger (not included).
The phones are dust and water resistant (IP68). They can be immersed in water up to 6 meters deep for up to 30 minutes.
The 14 Pro models are available in Space Black, Silver, Gold, and Deep Purple with storage ranging from 128 gigabytes to 1 terabyte.
Is for you?
Should you upgrade to the 14 Pro or Pro Max?
If you have an iPhone 11 or 12 model and are ready for a new phone, I absolutely recommend you upgrade.
Owners of the iPhone 13 Pro models (including me) have a more difficult choice.
The 14 Pro models are a nice step up, but there’s nothing wrong with my year-old iPhone 13 Pro Max; in fact, I’m still paying for it.
The coming year promises to be an interesting one as the European Union passed a law requiring all phones sold in Europe to have a USB-C port, which Apple acknowledged will be included in iPhone 15 models.
I can’t wait to see if the 2023 iPhones will be more of a redesign rather than a feature bump.
Jim Rossman is a technology columnist for the Tribune News Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.