iPhone 14 Pro long term review: Still worth the upgrade

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 1
In our long-term review of the iPhone 14 Pro, we differentiate between Apple's marketing machine and nice-to-have features.

iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone 14 Pro box


With the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple introduced plenty of new features. We have a new, faster processor, satellite connectivity, improved thermal performance, and more.

After living with the iPhone 14 Pro every day for the last few months, we wanted to revisit our review to see what features wound up not much more than hype and which ended up as truly useful.

Always on display

One of our most asked-for features preceding the iPhone 14 announcement was an always-on display. It was a possibility with the iPhone 13 Pro, but it was apparently scratched at the last moment.

While testing competing Android handsets, it had always been one of the few features we wished Apple would take and expand upon. Apple delivered and even improved upon the always-on display post-release.





After first getting our iPhone 14 Pro a few months ago, the display took some getting used to. We constantly thought our iPhone was actually on and we needed to turn it off, but that was just the new display.

Now that we've adequately adjusted to it, it feels indispensable. Without touching our phones we can see the time, see unattended to notifications, as well as any Live Activities that are ongoing.

Despite many believing it is just another way for Apple to make you use your iPhone more, it has caused us to actively use our phones less. We don't have to pick up our phone to check things like a timer or the bowl game score -- we can already see it.

This stops us from grabbing our iPhones and getting sucked into an email or social media rabbit hole. Funny enough, it took our iPhones being on all the time to cut our usage.

Cameras

Apple consistently iterates on the cameras and this year had one of its most substantial upgrades to date. It moved to a massive 48MP sensor and used pixel binning to output 12MP photos.

In reality, most users won't notice this. The output is still 12MP, and few are going to play around with the full 48MP RAW option.

We can see some low light improvement, but it's minor without seeing pics side-by-side.

The iPhone 14 Pro camera bump
The iPhone 14 Pro camera bump


What was surprisingly helpful were the new zoom levels. Apple now lets you move between .5X, 1X, 2X, and 3X optical zoom levels.

The 2X zoom is created by using the center 12MP of the 48MP sensor, effectively cropping the outer edges of a higher-resolution image, to create an optical-quality zoom without the need for an additional camera lens between the standard and telephoto lenses.

We found ourselves zooming quite often to 2X in plenty of indoor situations. Before this option, if you wanted 2X zoom, you'd have to digitally zoom in on the old 12MP sensor, losing quality.

Plus, you can take 1X, 2X, and 3X zoom portrait mode shots. This may seem small, but it is one of the things we noticed most after months of using the iPhone 14 Pro.

Dynamic Island

Arguably, the most talked about new feature of the iPhone 14 Pro has been the Dynamic Island. This reimagining of the front-facing camera module has taken a static notch and turned it into useful information.

It has perhaps single-handedly changed the feeling of the phone the most. Pop-up alerts that used to obfuscate the display no longer do that.

The low power alert would pop up as a modal and force you to tap out of it, but now, that can now show in Dynamic Island. You can see charging status without having to open Control Center, see when your AirPods connect, see an AirDrop file download, and much more.

Not to mention Live Activities that will show, such as timers, scores, Uber Eats orders, and so much more. The Now Playing music UI is delightful, allowing you to quickly control it with less tapping than accessing Control Center.

Controlling AirPlay from the Dynamic Island
Controlling AirPlay from the Dynamic Island


If you have an Apple TV, the TV controls can display in the Dynamic Island. Pause, open the remote, or jump forward or back quickly from that interface.

This is an entirely new UI element that comes into play with so many facets of the phone, and it reinforces Apple's entire ecosystem from the software to the hardware, to all of its other devices.

Worth the upgrade

Inventory of iPhone 14 Pro is finally starting to normalize, which means if you're interested in one, you should be able to get it with little delay. This is good news as we'd easily recommend picking up the iPhone 14 Pro over an iPhone 14 or iPhone 13 Pro.

There are always features that end up being hyped by Apple, but end up underwhelming as you use the device. Some things are nice but the always-on display, the Dynamic Island, and the updated cameras have left a significant impression on us.

Three months later, iPhone 14 Pro is still worth the purchase.

iPhone 14 Pro - Pros

  • Always-on display
  • High performance A16 Bionic
  • Upgraded 48MP camera
  • Notch traded for Dynamic Island
  • Long battery life
  • Crash Detection
  • Emergency SOS via Satellite

iPhone 14 Pro - Cons

  • Reused physical design, again
  • One 48MP camera sensor, but two 12MP sensors
  • Still Lightning, no USB-C

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the iPhone 14 Pro

Apple's iPhone 14 Pro is available for purchase, with wireless providers AT&T and Verizon offering incentives on the latest devices.

For the latest iPhone deals, be sure to head over to our iPhone 14 Pro Price Guide.

If you have a used iPhone, you can also check out our Apple trade-in deals for exclusive cash bonuses on pre-owned devices, putting more money in your wallet for a new iPhone 14 Pro.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    I don’t understand listing physical design as a con. Did you not like the 12 Pro design? In my mind, if you liked the design 2 years ago, then you should still like it. I honestly don’t like the design, but I didn’t like it from the beginning. My favorite design of all of my phones was the iPhone 8. I wish that they would have kept that same design this whole time. Just like I loved AC/DC back in the 80’s and 90’s and I still love AC/DC. I never understood that concept that after you reach a certain age, you have to change your musical tastes. 
    watto_cobraM68000dewme
  • Reply 2 of 15
    A lot of those benefits are incremental, as the improvements tend to be every year.  I agree that the design isn’t a con just for being a few years old.  It’s a classic and uniquely Apple.  A lot of people wanted the 4/4s design to make a comeback.

    The biggest benefit isn’t even listed for some reason: outdoor brightness.  1,000 to 2,000 nits outdoors is huge.  It’s the one thing that won me over.  Do you never go outdoors in the sun?  I suppose it’s winter in NA and not great weather lately, but it’s pretty damned useful where I live.
    edited January 1 watto_cobratyler82
  • Reply 3 of 15
    MadbumMadbum Posts: 436member
    How many lives has the satellite sos saved already?
    h4y3s
  • Reply 4 of 15
    M68000M68000 Posts: 531member
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
  • Reply 5 of 15
    M68000 said:
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
    I love the always on display because it provides me with information without even turning on the phone. I see the time, the day and date, my watch battery status, the current temperature along with the day's high and low, and how many lights are currently turned on. I don't want to go back to how it was before. I suppose the battery life must be theoretically worse, but it doesn't really affect me in a noticeable way.
    bageljoey
  • Reply 6 of 15
    M68000 said:
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
    You can turn it off. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT213435
    bageljoey
  • Reply 7 of 15
    M68000M68000 Posts: 531member
    M68000 said:
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
    I love the always on display because it provides me with information without even turning on the phone. I see the time, the day and date, my watch battery status, the current temperature along with the day's high and low, and how many lights are currently turned on. I don't want to go back to how it was before. I suppose the battery life must be theoretically worse, but it doesn't really affect me in a noticeable way.
    Fair enough, to each his own.  I find the feature called “raise to wake” brings the screen on quickly enough when wanted.
  • Reply 8 of 15
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,647member
    M68000 said:
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
    You can turn it off. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT213435
    The published reports that I’ve seen on the impact of always-on-display (AOD) on battery life have observed about a 5% plus or minus a couple of points impact on battery life over an 8-hour period. In my opinion that’s a very acceptable trade off for the added utility of being able to see some information on your phone at a glance. I hope they bring the same feature to the iPad. As many others have noted, if you aren’t willing to pay the ~5% cost, turn it off. To me this trade-off is no different than tweaking the email refresh settings on your phone, i.e., push vs pull and if pull, the pull frequency. 

    Anecdotally, one of the worst battery drainers on my Apple devices, outside of the big bright displays, tend to be the WiFi and cellular radios struggling to hold maintain connections to specific towers or WiFi access points when more power efficient connections are available. I don’t know why this occurs but there does not appear to be an algorithm to try alternative access points rather than the device jacking up the radio power on an existing connection that is falling off. I can only observe this indirectly by seeing the roaming behavior and battery drain in my multiple AP setup, so it may be anecdotal. It would be nice if the device informed me that it is in a panicked state trying to maintain the connection and I should take action to preserve my remaining battery life. 

    On the power side of things I think it would be useful to be able to define your own power modes on the iPhone to supplement the Low Power mode setting. I know it’s possible to modify the Low Power mode and I know you can define your own custom Focus modes that can be tied to the Low Power mode. It might be useful from a power management standpoint to be able to selectively turn features like AOD on and off and tweak background activities based on Focus modes. It seems like Apple has already put much of the scaffolding in place to enable this level of control, but the ability of a user to define fine grained control is limited, which makes sense for the vast majority of users.

    I suppose the ultimate goal for Apple is to use AI/ML to observe exactly how users are using their device, both from an activity standpoint and charging standpoint, and use the AI/ML to make suggestions for additional Focus modes that reflect how the device is actually used and to optimize battery performance and lifetime, i.e., avoid too frequent charging or unnecessary background processing. Of course the user would always be given the option to override the suggestions. Amazon has been playing around with this sort of ML based “background helper” interaction with what it calls “hunches” for automated lighting. It’s still hit or miss, but I can see where this is heading with a couple more generations of refinement and additional sensor inputs. For example, if Apple’s AOD feature was smart enough to know that nobody is actually within the line-of-sight of the display it would turn it off completely. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 15
    After using the iPhone 14 Pro max for some months now, I can say the photo’s of this phone are not significantly better then my iPhone 11 Pro max. This was the main reason for me to upgrade. I expected more improvements but they are hardly noticeable. 
  • Reply 10 of 15
    M68000 said:
    M68000 said:
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
    I love the always on display because it provides me with information without even turning on the phone. I see the time, the day and date, my watch battery status, the current temperature along with the day's high and low, and how many lights are currently turned on. I don't want to go back to how it was before. I suppose the battery life must be theoretically worse, but it doesn't really affect me in a noticeable way.
    Fair enough, to each his own.  I find the feature called “raise to wake” brings the screen on quickly enough when wanted.
    I hate Raise to Wake. I have that turned off along with touch to wake. I have felt so extremely frustrated that every time I mowed the lawn, my phone would call my emergency contact. I tried for months to figure out a solution and I tried disabling touch to wake which didn’t work so I ended up disabling the emergency contact info. Then, a few months after that, I thought of trying both turning off Touch to Wake and Raise to Wake. That actually worked and now my phone never accidentally calls my emergency contact. I love the convenience of both Touch to Wake and Raise to Wake, but it’s more inconvenient to have my phone making unauthorized calls.
    dewmeCheeseFreeze
  • Reply 11 of 15
    M68000M68000 Posts: 531member
    M68000 said:
    M68000 said:
    How is an always on display desirable?  It’s just a battery waster.  Sorry,  just not getting the intrigue with an always on display.  Actually seems like it could be a distraction.
    I love the always on display because it provides me with information without even turning on the phone. I see the time, the day and date, my watch battery status, the current temperature along with the day's high and low, and how many lights are currently turned on. I don't want to go back to how it was before. I suppose the battery life must be theoretically worse, but it doesn't really affect me in a noticeable way.
    Fair enough, to each his own.  I find the feature called “raise to wake” brings the screen on quickly enough when wanted.
    I hate Raise to Wake. I have that turned off along with touch to wake. I have felt so extremely frustrated that every time I mowed the lawn, my phone would call my emergency contact. I tried for months to figure out a solution and I tried disabling touch to wake which didn’t work so I ended up disabling the emergency contact info. Then, a few months after that, I thought of trying both turning off Touch to Wake and Raise to Wake. That actually worked and now my phone never accidentally calls my emergency contact. I love the convenience of both Touch to Wake and Raise to Wake, but it’s more inconvenient to have my phone making unauthorized calls.
    We’ll we agree to disagree.  Thankfully the always on screen is able to be shut off by the user.   I don’t find the value in it like you do. 
  • Reply 12 of 15
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,616member
    Regarding the "always on": my understanding is that now that you can turn the background art off but keep the vital info dimly on, the battery loss is very minimal thanks to the OLED screen on some models.

    Regarding "raise to wake," put me in the "hate it" camp, because it shines very brightly at inappropriate times (late at night, funeral service, haunted house etc). I'm glad it is an option, but I turn it off personally.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 400member
    I think Dynamic Island will follow the path to extinction of 3-D Touch and (soon) the much maligned Touch Bar: both were interesting ideas with potential but lack of support in third party apps made their usefulness very limited. 
  • Reply 14 of 15
    Long term review? I have an iPhone 13 Pro. That would be a ‘long term review’ at this point. Not the 14 range.
  • Reply 15 of 15
    dutchlord said:
    After using the iPhone 14 Pro max for some months now, I can say the photo’s of this phone are not significantly better then my iPhone 11 Pro max. This was the main reason for me to upgrade. I expected more improvements but they are hardly noticeable. 
    That’s a surprise to me. I’ve seen significant improvements from 11 to 13. 
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