iPhone 14 and 14 Pro Review: Go Pro or Go Home

iPhone 14 and 14 Pro Review: Go Pro or Go Home

Folks, forgive me for what I’m about to say: You should buy this year’s $999 and up iPhone Pros.

I hear you. “Wait wait wait. In a year when everything costs more, even current apples, you want me to give you $2.5 billion Apple AAPL -1.89%

More effective?

Blame it on “dynamic island,” a screen compromise that Apple has turned into a clever multitasking trick in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. Also blame its always-on display and great cameras.

After spending almost a week testing the new phones, I can say that the more “affordable” models are also good options. But this year, more than in the past, Apple’s top phones do more to justify their $200 price increase.

Plus, a more expensive phone may actually be within reach now that cell phone carriers have gone totally crazy with deals that can wipe out hundreds. (Yes, I know banana prices have gone up too.)

Before I explain my reasoning, you need to understand the two main groups of iPhone 14:

• iPhone 14 ($799 and up) and iPhone 14 Plus ($899 and up): Known here as the “regulars,” these have two chambers and colorful designs. (The smaller, cheaper Mini option is over.) The 14 has a 6.1-inch screen and the Plus has a 6.7-inch screen; otherwise they are identical in design.

I plan to review the iPhone 14 Plus, due out on October 7, at a later date. The other phones will be available on September 16.

The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro have 6.1-inch screens. The iPhone 14 Plus (not shown; due out Oct. 7) and Pro Max have 6.7-inch screens.


Gabby Jones for The Wall Street Journal

• iPhone 14 Pro ($999 and up) and iPhone 14 Pro Max ($1,099 and up): These two also have 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screens, respectively, but have a more premium design and a trio of cameras, including a new 48-megapixel main camera. They also have an always-on display and the dynamic island multitasking bar.

Despite the dream of Apple and cell phone carriers that you buy a phone more often than you wash your jeans, chances are you’ll be upgrading a phone that’s already two or three years old. That’s why I compared the latest to the iPhone 13 lineup, but also to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 models. While the camera improvements will be much more satisfying if you have one of those older phones, that dynamic island will make any other phone look… static.


The regular iPhone 14 screen looks exactly the same as the 13. It even looks the same as the iPhone 12 to me, though Apple says it’s brighter. The 14 Plus’s screen will be bigger and it’s probably the perfect solution for those who crave a superyacht-sized iPhone without the price tag of one.

I usually have to take out my glasses to see Apple’s display “enhancements”. But this year, the changes to the Pro models came to me as soon as I opened the box.

The always-on display is, well, always on. When you’re not actively using your phone, most colors on the lock screen background are dimmed, but everything else (time, date, widgets, and notifications) is clearly visible. (See my iOS 16 review for more on the new lock screen.)

The iPhone 14 Pro screen dims much of the lock screen when in always-on mode.


Gabby Jones for The Wall Street Journal

For those of us who use our phones as a watch, I predict that thousands of wiretaps will be saved each year. Also, it didn’t affect battery life noticeably. After a long hard day shooting my review video on a real island (uninterrupted camera and video use), the Pro passed out around 7:30pm The Pro Max was still running when I went to bed. You can turn off the always-on display to further drain your battery.

On iPhone 14 you’ll find that familiar “notch,” the little black area that houses the selfie camera and Face ID sensors. In the new Pro models, Apple has reduced it to the form of a pill and called it… the dynamic island.

The name alone had me guessing this would be Apple’s biggest trick since 3-D Touch on the iPhone 6S, but it’s the best iPhone multitasking addition in recent memory.

The dynamic island can display a phone call or a song. Touch and hold and you can easily access controls while in another app.


Gabby Jones for The Wall Street Journal

Think of it as an interactive dock. Space retracts and expands, thus “dynamic”, to display certain app information, allowing you to do something else on the rest of the screen. Here are some ways it has been really helpful:

• Controls on demand: Start listening to a podcast or song, then swipe up. Its content will be minimized to an icon on the island. Long press on the little album art to access the player controls. It means being able to reply to an email and not having to leave the app to change or pause the track.

You can do the same when receiving phone calls. The duration of the call and a cool waveform animation will appear on the island. You can press and hold to access controls to hang up and switch to AirPods or speakerphone, etc.

• Quick access to the application: Swipe up when recording an interview in Voice Memos and the icon will fly on the island. You can then start taking notes in a different app. To go back to the recorder, just tap on the island icon.

• Visible information: Apps can also display live information. When you set a timer and minimize the app, it shows the countdown on the island. Third-party apps are also coming to the island soon. Imagine you can take a look at your Lyft’s estimated arrival time while texting your friend.

When your phone is on the lock screen, the island is largely inactive, although Face ID unlock appears there.

How you’ve grown! The camera bumps in the iPhone 11 Pro, below, 12 Pro, 13 Pro, and 14 Pro compared.


Gabby Jones for The Wall Street Journal


The iPhone 14 models have two cameras, one main and one ultrawide. At this point, any phone is great at taking photos in good lighting, which is why Apple is focusing on low light, boasting that the 14’s main camera can capture 49% (not 50%?) more light. than the iPhone 13.

However, in my low-light tests, I didn’t see a 49% improvement. In fact, when I shared a group of photos with colleagues without telling them which phone took which, some ranked the shots 13 higher than 14. They ranked all those shots higher than the ones taken 11 and 12.

In those same low-light tests, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max ranked at the top, though so did the 13 Pro models. The new Pro phones have cameras that are nearly the circumference of 1/4 teaspoon (really ) and the height of the Empire State Building (not really). Each phone has a 48-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, telephoto main camera, a big jump from the 12-megapixels that have been standard on iPhones since 2015.

The iPhone 14 Pro cameras are now about the size of my quarter teaspoon.


Gabby Jones for The Wall Street Journal

There are two places where you see the benefit of 48 megapixels. It allows for a new 2X zoom option, which is really a crop in the 48-megapixel wide shot. Then there’s the 3X option, which is the true telephoto camera. The added flexibility is nice, especially for us parents who can never get close enough to the football game or graduation.

The other benefit is when shooting in Apple’s more advanced ProRaw format: you can take full 48-megapixel images, which have noticeably more detail.

battery and more

When it comes to battery life, none of the iPhone 14 or 14 Pro models I tested lasted significantly longer than their predecessors. The story could be different with the advanced model, the iPhone 14 Plus. Apple says it has “the longest battery life ever”; I’ll test that claim when it arrives.

Given that the $799 iPhone 14 isn’t substantially better than the iPhone 13 that’s now $699, I can see why some might want to save the $100.

But can you put a price on life? Like in, its life. The entire iPhone 14 lineup gets new emergency features. If you don’t have cell service, you can send a message for help using Emergency SOS via satellite. I got a short demo at Apple’s Cupertino campus, but it won’t launch until November, so I haven’t tried it.

There’s also car accident detection: the phone’s new sensors can detect if you’ve been in an accident and alert emergency services. I haven’t set up a trial plan for that yet, a plan that wouldn’t break my lease, of course.

With more zoom options, professionals make more sense if you want the most flexibility from your camera.


Gabby Jones for The Wall Street Journal

The Pro upgrade used to be about the third camera with a telephoto lens. That’s still important, but now so are new multitasking capabilities and a screen you don’t have to keep touching.

So is it worth spending an extra $200 to go Pro? You know where I am: on the dynamic island.

Sign up here for tech stuff with Joanna Stern, a new weekly newsletter. Everything is now a technology thing. Columnist Joanna Stern guides her, providing analysis and answering her questions about our always-connected world.

Email Joanna Stern at joanna.stern@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.