iPhone 14 & 14 Plus
The lower tier of the iPhone line-up features the same exact look, feel, and footprint as the outgoing models, with the regular iPhone 14 getting a 6.1-inch OLED display. The 14 Plus gets a bigger 6.7-inch version of the Super Retina XDR display, with no other discernible design or panel upgrades, right down to the same large notch in the top. You even get the same A15 Bionic processors as last year's models, making it seem less like an update and more like a rebadging. Apple is claiming that the processor in the 14 series is 18% faster than the original A15, but it's hard to tell if regular users will be able to notice the difference in day-to-day use. Still, a few things are truly new to the iPhone series, which may be able to justify the new name.
Even though the base iPhone 14 and 14 Plus get the same 12 MP dual camera setup, they feature an updated sensor, allowing for a faster aperture and more light capture. Apple is claiming up to 2.5 times better low-light performance from the main camera with the new sensors and up to 2 times better with the ultra-wide. The highlight, though is the updated front selfie camera, which for the first-time features autofocus. This new TrueDepth camera also gets a new, faster, f1.9 aperture lens, which should also improve your selfies to some degree, with ample help from the new Photonic Engine.
Apple is all about renaming things with this new line-up, and the latest thing to get renamed is its existing Deep Fusion imaging software, which is now called the Photonic Engine. This AI-accelerated machine-learning algorithm is separate from the 'Night mode' featured in many cameras. It goes through each image on a pixel-by-pixel basis and claims to dramatically change the texture, details, and noise visible at the end. Since this is purely a software upgrade, you can expect it to work on all models, with both the front and back cameras.
Another software-based feature is the new Action mode, which claims to offer gimbal-like image stabilisation while shooting videos. This new feature uses the data from the full sensor and applies all sorts of over-scan and advanced roll corrections to make the video look incredibly stable, even in unstable shooting conditions. Of course, since this is purely software-based play, the results may vary depending on the lighting conditions and your shooting style. But it is still better than nothing, considering the company isn't likely to introduce a physical gimbal-based system anytime soon.
Just in case you fall down hard while shooting your own action videos or get in an unfortunate car accident, the new iPhone also has a brand-new crash detection feature that can alert emergency services about your condition. This is an improved version of the crash detection feature found in the Apple Watch, which uses the accelerometers in your phone, along with a special algorithm to detect if you have been in a car crash and contact the authorities if you don't respond in a certain amount of time. Since this is also a purely software-based feature, it will also work on all models of the new iPhone 14 line-up.
Apple is finally taking the plunge and embracing the e-sim completely, at least in the US versions of the iPhone 14, which will not include any mobile sim tray for the first time. On the one hand, this will save them some space on the inside that might be of use for other things. But, on the other hand, this represents yet another way Apple is locking you into a system that will make international travel with the iPhone a major hassle. Let us see how international carriers adapt to this new update and whether we will see other companies follow suit.
Another connectivity-related upgrade is the introduction of satellite-based emergency communications in the new iPhone. This is a low-tier version of regular satellite-based mobile communications systems, which require a dedicated antenna to sustain voice calls over satellites. Instead, this version relies on small tweaks to the iPhone antenna to send your location and other key emergency information to the authorities and your emergency contact, just in case you get lost somewhere in the wilderness. While this will be a welcome change for people stuck in emergencies, it will also make it harder for the company to launch the new iPhone in countries that don't allow such systems, like India. Let us see how useful and popular this feature does end up being once it is officially launched sometime later next year.
iPhone 14 Pro & Pro Max
So far, all the upgrades mentioned above will be shared amongst all the models of the new iPhone 14 series. However, a few changes are explicitly reserved for the more expensive iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max versions, representing the next generation of smartphones according to Apple. While most of these features and updates have already been in the Android ecosystem for quite some time, it is still a giant leap for Apple, which has waited quite some time to catch up to the competition.
Always On Display
One of the first noticeable changes to the iPhone experience is the new always-on display, powered by a more vibrant and responsive OLED panel that features a peak brightness of up to 2000nits in specific lighting conditions. This new panel also features advanced LTPO and smart dimming technologies so that the new lock screen won't take much battery life in regular usage. The dimming technology even takes into account the colours of your lock screen image and optimises them accordingly to keep them from getting dull or discoloured while in this mode. In addition, you can populate this lock screen with all sorts of relevant information, as well as the new live notification widgets that were introduced in the latest version of iOS. Thus, making it an essential part of your iPhone experience.
Dynamic Island Notch
Once you get past the always-on display, you will immediately notice that the regular notch has been replaced with a smaller pill-shaped punch-hole cut-out, which the company calls Dynamic Island. This cut-out features a shrunken version of the front camera layout and other sensors. Apple has made significant software tweaks to make this area usable by expanding it through notifications badges, activity icons, and other popups that offer all sorts of interaction options. Of course, this might also end up making your front camera a mess of fingerprint smudges, but that is a trade-off you will have to make to enjoy the new interface.
Between the always-on display and the dynamic island, the new iPhones offer many customisation options. Of course, you could always pick the picture that will be the highlight of your home and lock screen. But now, the phone can detect the depth of the photograph and subject within to ensure that the widgets and timecards are placed in the correct depth of field without obstructing your view. Another tweak lets you pick the font and colour of your choice, to highlight the text and numbers on display. All of this and more provide endless possibilities for your personality to shine through.
A16 Bionic Chipset
Another major upgrade for the iPhone Pro models is the inclusion of the new A16 Bionic chipset. While this is not the M1 model we were hoping for, it still represents a big leap in computational technology; with 16 billion transistors, an advanced ISP and Neural Engine, and the fastest 6-core CPU and 5-Core GPU from the company, based on a new 4nm architecture. We'll wait until our full review to benchmark this properly, but if Apple's claims are to be believed, then this is supposed to be twice as fast as anything the competition offers. If that is all true, then we are truly witnessing the next generation of smartphone performance.
The Pro models get a more serious camera upgrade, with a brand new 48MP main camera that features advanced pixel binning technology to offer you two times better low-light performance than previous models. In addition, since the camera can now support four times the resolution by default, you can preserve more details in landscape shots. This lets you zoom in easily without losing any detail. Similarly, the phone can use the centre 12 megapixels of the quad sensor to create an almost optical 2x zoom functionality, which is usable in both photos and videos. Combined with the new photonic engine, action mode, 4K 24fps cinematic mode, and other smaller updates, the new Pro camera system is a big upgrade.
Price & Availability
Pricing for the iPhone 14 remains the same as last year's model, with the base 128GB version starting at $799. Similarly, the based 128GB version of the iPhone 14 Plus starts at $899. Pre-orders for both models will begin on September 9th, but the phones will go on sale on September 16th and October 7th, respectively.
Thankfully, the Pro models aren't getting the price increase we were dreading. The base model of the iPhone 14 Pro starts at $999, with the equivalent iPhone 14 Pro Max starting at $1,099. The pre-orders for the Pro models will follow the same dates as the regular iPhone 14, although we will have to see what the availability is like for the Pro Max at the time of open launch.