Should You Buy the iPhone 14 or 14 Pro?
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Should You Buy the iPhone 14 or 14 Pro?


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To the surprise of no one, Apple announced the long-awaited iPhone 14 lineup during its big Sept. 7 event. As expected, we have four new iPhones to look forward to, two “standard iPhones,” and two “Pro” devices. While it’s always hard to pick a new phone, this year it’s particularly tricky. Which iPhone 14 should you buy?

What’s new with the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus?

Let’s start with the “standard” iPhones: This year, Apple dropped the “mini” variant, which is disappointing. Obviously, it means the iPhone 12 mini and 13 mini didn’t sell as well as Apple had hoped, but it was great to see an option for people who didn’t want a humongous smartphone to carry everywhere they went.

However, it’s a trade-off. While we’ve lost the ability to scale down, we’ve gained the ability to scale up. We now have the usual 6.1-inch iPhone 14, but also a 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus. This iPhone is the first to offer the larger form factor in a non-Pro device. That’s why Apple brought back the “Plus” moniker for this iteration (RIP my iPhone 8 Plus).

Let’s talk more about those displays. Like last year, they’re both OLED. The iPhone 14 has a resolution of 2,532 x 1,170 at 460 pixels per inch (ppi), while the 14 Plus has a 2,778 by 1,284 resolution at 458 ppi. They both reach 800 nits of brightness normally, but when viewing HDR content can reach 1,200 nits.

Apple is quick to tout the battery life on the 14 Plus, calling it the “best battery in an iPhone” with up to 26 hours of video playback time. The 14, by comparison, gets 20 hours of video playback. Apple being Apple, we don’t get metrics like mAh, or even general screen-on time, but I’m sure reviewers will be hard at work over the coming weeks to deliver those stats to us.

When it comes to performance, however, Apple took a sure-to-be-controversial approach with the 14 and 14 Plus. These devices use the A15 Bionic chip, the same processor found in the iPhone 13 lineup. That’s a first from Apple. Even when a new iPhone seems identical to the previous year, the chip was always new. You could buy the newest iPhone knowing, if nothing else, it was faster than the previous model, and the reason for that was new hardware. That’s what you’re paying for.

This year, though, that’s not the case, which makes the 14 an interesting sell—if you’re rocking an iPhone 13, that’s not an enticing offer. If your iPhone is older than that, it might seem better worth your money to buy a cheaper 13. It very well may be, but let’s take a look at some other new features first before you make that call.

While the A15 chip might be the same, the cameras are improved. The 12 MP main camera has a larger sensor than last year, with a f/1.5 aperture that lets in 49% more light. The 14 also comes with the Photonic Engine, which kickstarts Deep Fusion earlier than ever. That means it takes in more data, which it then uses to produce more detailed images. Apple also improved low-light performance, which is always a welcome change.

My favorite camera addition, however, is to the selfie cam, as Apple finally added autofocus. In all iPhones previously, we were stuck with a fixed focus, but now the TrueDepth camera can follow focus, complete with its f/1.9 aperture lens. My second favorite camera addition is Action Mode, a new video stabilization feature that looks great, at least from Apple’s demos. If it works as well as they say, it’ll be a game changer for both home movies and filmmakers alike. Speaking of video, Cinematic Mode now supports 24 fps.

In a move I didn’t see coming, Apple killed the SIM tray, and, with it, the SIM card. It’s all eSIM now, which, as we’ve covered, is a good thing.

The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus also come with Crash Detection, a new Apple feature that uses a high dynamic range gyroscope to identify when you’ve been in an accident. Crash Detection contacts emergency services, shares your location, and alerts your emergency contacts on your behalf. This feature is also new to Apple Watch Series 8, and if you have both an iPhone 14 and Series 8, they’ll work together to get you the help you need.

Another great safety feature is Emergency SOS via Satellite, which runs your Emergency SOS communications through satellites rather than cell towers. That’s huge in areas with low to no cell service. It even guides you where to point your phone so you can always be aiming at satellite.

The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus starts at $799 and $899, respectively, and come in five colors: Blue, Purple, Midnight, Starlight, and Product Red. They’re not cheap, and they certainly are an iterative update. You could call them the iPhone 13S if Apple still made “S” phones, but even the S iPhones had new chips each year.

Still, there are new features here. Photos and videos are going to look better on the 14, and you no longer have to spend $1,099 to have a 6.7-inch iPhone.

The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max are the phones to beat

The Pros this year are great. Not only do they sport most of the great features mentioned above, they improve upon them. Well, you’d expect them to if Apple decides to slap the “Pro” name on them. Here’s what makes these new iPhones tick.

Right away, the biggest change is in the TrueDepth camera. No longer is there a notch. Now, we have the “Dynamic Island,” (so Apple), which is a pill cutout taking up less screen real estate. At least, it does until it shifts into different alerts and notifications.

I’m not going to lie: I really like this feature. Sure, no cutout would be nice, but, honestly, Apple did a great job implementing these dynamic alerts. The cutout expands and shrinks depending on what’s happening on your iPhone: Music playback, GPS directions, changing audio sources, what have you. Plus, the Dynamic Island can split into two areas when needed, giving you even more information at a glance.

Like the 14 and 14 Plus, the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max feature a 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch display, respectively. The 14 Pro has a resolution of 2,556 x 1,179 at 460 ppi, while the 14 Pro Max comes with a 2,796 x 1,290 resolution display at 460 ppi. These displays are bright, reaching 1,600 nits typically, and a whopping 2,000 nits with HDR content. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses.

This year, Apple finally added an Always-On display to the Pros. This tech takes advantage of these iPhones’ super low refresh displays, allowing iOS to leave data on the display without taking too much of a battery hit. This AOD is pretty great, too, showing not only the time, notifications, and iOS 16 complications, but also your wallpaper. In effect, the whole display stays on, just dimmed.

The battery life is also great, according to Apple’s weird video playback metrics, of course, coming at 23 hours on iPhone 14 Pro and 29 hours on iPhone 14 Pro Max. The Max’s metric is odd, considering it’s three hours longer than the 14 Plus, but Apple calls the latter the best battery in an iPhone. Maybe that’s because Apple rates the Plus at 100 hours of audio playback and the Pro Max at 95? Who knows. It’s just more evidence we need independent reviewers to test the batteries on these things.

Oh, what’s this? A new iPhone, with a new chip? Well, isn’t that justnormal. Yes, it’s the Pros and the Pros alone that get the A16 Bionic chip this year, but it’s a worthy upgrade. This chip features 16 billion transistors, and is Apple’s first to be made with a four nanometer process. In short, the thing blazes. As is the case with each new Apple silicon chip, it’s the best SoC ever in an iPhone.

But it’s the cameras where these Pro iPhones really shine. The 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max feature a 48MP main camera with a ƒ/1.78 aperture and quad-core sensor. This sensor is 65% larger than the one found on the 13 Pro, which enables Apple to add a 2x zoom option at what they call “optical quality.” You can now choose from 0.5x, 1x, 2x, and 3x zoom on both the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. Apple ProRAW is now available at 48MP, as well. Based on Apple’s samples, the Pros take a mean photo.

Don’t forget, aside from obvious iPhone 14-specific feature, the Pros come with all the awesome options I mentioned above, including Action Mode and Photonic Engine.

The 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max start at $999 and $1,099, respectively, which is actually noteworthy. Rumors had Apple raising the prices on the Pros this year, but thankfully, that’s not the case. The 14 Pro starts at the same price the iPhone X did in 2017, $1,207.49 (adjusted for inflation). They also come in four color options: Deep Purple, Gold, Silver, and Space Black.

So, which new iPhone should you get?

I’m normally one to recommend the cheapest iPhone you can stomach. Even the least expensive iPhones does most of what you want out of your iPhone, and your wallet will thank you. And that thinking still holds true here: The iPhone 14, as is, will serve you well. It has a great display, fantastic cameras, a speedy (if one year old) A15 chip, and will be a reliable iPhone for the money. However, I have to say, the Pros this year are good. Really good. They might cost more, but you get more for that money. You get a new chip, even better cameras, even brighter displays, and the new Dynamic Island (sure, it’s not an essential feature, but it’s so cool).

If your budget allows, I would cautiously point you toward the 14 Pro—but only if your budget allows. If you only have $800 to spend on an iPhone, the 14 will be a great choice. If that’s still too much, though, I say ditch the 14, and look for a good deal on a 13. It’s the same chip, after all, so it’ll likely be supported as long as the 14, and you’re bound to save money serious cash.

Now, these are my initial thoughts based on these phones on paper. It’s worth waiting for hands-on experience from reviewers before making a final call yourself. If you can, go to your local Apple Store or tech shop and try the phones for yourself when they’re available. Of course, that might be difficult to do with pre-orders starting in just two days, but I have faith in your patience.

   



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Written by Jake Peterson

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