There are definitely some changes between the iPhone Pro 13 and iPhone Pro 14, but they are not necessarily huge, which is to be expected in a yearly upgrade cycle. The screen is always-on, the cameras are better, and the notch is now a Dynamic Island. That basically sums it up. That said, I’m still excited to have one and I’m still enjoying my choice to join the iPhone Upgrade Program.
Always on screen
- Some people find the always-on screen odd, but I like it. I like glancing at the clock, the progress of my song, the weather, and any notifications I have. It’s definitely readable but its definitely dim. I won’t be surprised if the always-on screen becomes “50% brighter” in the 15 or 16. It works fine and it doesn’t seem to have an impact on battery life at all. Bravo Apple.
- Activity does not show any information when the phone is locked and the display is dimmed, but springs to life as soon as the phone is activated. Is that a bug? I can’t imagine why it doesn’t show progress. There is nothing private about the progress of my rings, and more importantly, my watch shows progress when the display is dimmed.
- The screen refreshes at 1 hz (once per second) but the widgets don’t. When I play music I expect the playhead to advance once per second but it only moves every few seconds, resulting in a jumpy look. I’m guessing that is designed to save even more power by not activating the apps as much, but it’s a bit jarring if you’re looking directly at it. I’d love to see Apple change the behavior in the future, but it’s minor.
The big news is the new 48 MP main camera. In normal mode it treats every 4 pixels as one and outputs a 12 MP image with better detail and light sensitivity. In RAW mode it outputs a full 48 MP image. I haven’t used it enough to understand the difference for normal photos, but I’ve taken some RAW images and they are quite detailed. While other aspects of image quality can’t match my Nikons, the 14 Pro’s 48 MP sensor can out-resolve them and all Nikons on the market for that matter. It’s not a bad thing to have a high-resolution camera in my pocket at all times, even if the images are sharpened to death on output.
I’ve played with Action Mode a bit and it is definitely very smooth. The phone switches to the ultra wide camera so that the crop doesn’t seem reduced as much. It’s designed to replace the need for a gimbal and is very similar to the stabilization available on Go Pros and other action cameras. I still find my phone awkward to hold and would prefer the grip that I get from a gimbal, but I’m sure I’ll use it more than I expect.
The Dynamic Island
Is cool, but I don’t find it quite as amazing as reviewers do. It does take on a lot of system functions and provides a bit of a status bar / watch complication feature in iOS, but it’s not life-changing. It fits in nicely with everything and it’s a clever way to use the camera cutout. It’s great when playing music and it provides a clear indicator that Air Pods are connected. It’s a nice addition and I’m sure it will grow to be even more useful over time. I don’t dislike it but I wouldn’t recommend buying a new iPhone for it.
Other than the camera bump being even larger and deeper than the even larger and deeper bump on the 13 (and 12 before it), it’s an iPhone. I do like the Space Black color –the sides are a deep black and the back a dark carbon; it looks very slick. This would be Darth Vader’s choice if he had one. It’s a shame that it will spend all of its time in a case, but at least the case is nice as well. Last year I chose Apple’s brown leather case; this year I chose a new orange option. Is it inspired by the International Orange of the action button on the Apple Watch Ultra? Maybe. It kind of has a Halloween vibe with the black camera area sticking out.
The A16 is imperceptibly faster but most of that is probably because everything is freshly installed. Outside of taking the occasional RAW photo, portrait, or cinema video, I don’t stress my phone out anyway. I prefer to do most of my computation-intensive tasks on a laptop or dedicated gaming PC. I am curious if any internal design changes allow it to run longer before thermal throttling kicks in. I rarely run into that but I’ll take what I can get.
So another year, another iPhone. The upgrades aren’t substantial, but they’re good enough to take me through another year. It’s still worth the cost of a new case and screen protector to get a new phone every year.