It’s no surprise that Apple releases new iPhones in the fall every year, and this September is no different. Apple held an event on September 13th 2023 to announce four new iPhones and two new Apple Watches. All models were available to purchase starting on September 22nd. I again upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Read about my thoughts on the 17th flagship iPhone.
It’s been about a year since I received my iPhone 14 Pro Max and published my review. Normally I don’t revisit these as I’m looking forward to a new iPhone in the fall. This year I wanted to highlight my experiences with my iPhone 14. It could be too early to tell, but this may be the best iPhone I’ve ever owned. That of course comes with some concessions as it’s not perfect.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the most durable iPhone I’ve ever owned. It may be one of the most durable pieces of technology I’ve ever used. I normally don’t use a case, and this year my iPhone didn’t spend a single minute in any protection. The first few months, I babied the device, but after the first drop, that quickly faded. Now, on average, I drop my phone on a hard surface five times a week. In the past, by the summer, my iPhone is so beat up that I need to get it replaced with AppleCare. This year is an exception. Not only do I not need to get it replaced, but there is barely a mark anywhere on it. The most noticeable blemishes are on the screen and around the stainless steel edge. About six months ago, I noticed a deep scratch about one inch long in the middle of my screen. I have no idea where it came from, but I’ve lived with it since. As I mentioned before, I drop it a lot. I’ve even dropped it on concrete from waist-high and cringed as I bent over to pick it up, expecting to reveal a spiderweb of glass on the front. Time and time again, it comes out unscathed
The Dynamic Island
Not quite a gimmick, but not really a useful feature. The Dynamic Island debuted as the coolest way to date to blend the front camera into the screen. In practice, it kind of just faded and became more of a button to get to music playing or a progress bar for when something is uploading. I still like it, but I’m hopeful it gets better in the next iterations before it’s replaced by under-screen cameras and sensors.
Always On Display
Probably the biggest functional difference in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max is the always-on display. I’ve heard that some people turn it off to save battery life, but in my (and others) testing, it does not have a significant impact on daily battery life. At first, it was somewhat odd to look over at your iPhone on the table and see a full-color display lit up, but I quickly got used to it. Now it serves as a way for me to glance at the time, widgets, and what’s currently playing. I love how Apple engineered the display and software to not just go monochrome like some other phones, but also preserve your wallpaper while giving you the choice to turn it off. Once again, the long wait was worth it.
Not So Great Points
- The cameras are fine, but I’m ready for a major upgrade.
- One thing I noted in my review last year was the focus distance of the main camera, especially when scanning barcodes. This was a pain point all year and I believe Apple will fix that on the next iPhone.
- Battery life has also been just fine. It seems like this phone’s battery is degrading faster than previous ones.
- The Pro colors are boring, but I don’t see Apple changing this anytime soon.
Pour one out for Lightning
The iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max may likely be the last iPhones with the Lightning connector. While it’s over 10 years old, the Lightning connector is one of the best port innovations we’ve seen in a long time. Some may forget that Apple was part of the consortium that helped develop USB-C, so it was loosely based on Lightning. In a physical connector sense, Lightning is better than USB-C because the complicated and fragile bits are on the inside of the device, whereas USB-C exposes them on the cable side. It was a big deal when Lightning launched on the iPhone 5 in 2012, and it’s still in use on a lot of products today. Let’s pour one out for the previous best charging solution and the originator of the reversible charging cable.
iPhone 14 to 15
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a great device and while it may be the best iPhone I’ve ever used, there is always the newest one to take that title. I probably won’t think about the 14 again after this, but it remains a favorite in my book. The next iPhone is rumored to be named the iPhone 15, in numerical order after the current iPhone 14. If all goes well, you will soon be reading my review of the next iPhone right here on Beard Blog.
I was surprised to learn that many iPhone users are unaware of the numerous Lock Screen features Apple has introduced in the last 12 months. These features encompass a range of customizations to enhance the appearance and functionality of the Lock Screen, including the introduction of widgets for the first time. Additionally, Apple now allows users to change the clock font, a feature previously unavailable. Given that most of these features are hidden and not easily found, I believe it would be helpful to share the Lock Screen setup I personally use on a daily basis.
The clock font options provided by Apple do not come with specific names or numbers, but I have chosen a unique font that adds some character to the default style. Moreover, I have opted for a non-standard wallpaper sourced from Reddit, further adding a personalized touch to my Lock Screen.
Apple offers a selection of first-party widgets for users to choose from, and third-party developers have the ability to create widgets for their apps. In crafting my Lock Screen layout, I have decided to incorporate a combination of both first-party and third-party widgets, allowing for a diverse and personalized arrangement.
Previously the date was below the time, but now we have the option to add it as a tiny widget above, giving room for more robust widgets in the space below. I wear a watch that display the day and month, but having it on the Lock Screen on my phone is sometimes handy.
Here on my Lock Screen I’m using two different Carrot Weather widgets for all my weather watching needs. Positioned above the time is a standard “High & Low” widget, provided by the third-party app Carrot. Directly below the time, I have incorporated a customized large widget from Carrot. The ability to personalize these minute details is one of the primary reasons I am a paying subscriber to Carrot Weather. It’s fantastic that Carrot Weather allows for such customization, enhancing my Lock Screen experience.
Apple includes a widget that enables you to choose a device and view its current battery level. If you prefer, you can even display the battery level of the iPhone you’re currently using. Personally, I have opted to display the battery level of my Apple Watch, as it is the device I am primarily concerned about. Additionally, this widget has the convenient feature of automatically switching to another connected device, like AirPods, when applicable. This functionality ensures that I can effortlessly keep track of various device battery levels on my Lock Screen.
In addition to having the camera icon conveniently located in the bottom-right corner of my Lock Screen, I frequently unlock my phone with the sole intention of capturing a spontaneous photo to share on Snapchat. This particular widget provides a direct shortcut to the camera function within the Snapchat app, enabling the fastest way to take a snapshot right from the locked position. Similar functionalities can be found in other apps as well, making lock screen widgets an excellent tool for efficiently utilizing various applications.
Here we are again, the fall weather is upon us and there are new iPhones out in the wild. Apple recently announced the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Later this year the iPhone 14 will get a big brother named the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s easy to tell that Apple has a long term strategy with the iPhone. They meticulously add new features that seem like a big deal at first, but are actually very small improvements year over year. This allows them to continue to release a new phone every fall and get people (like me) to buy it.
What’s new on iPhone 14 Pro Max
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a lot like the 13 Pro max and even the 12 Pro Max. Same shape, size, and materials. The biggest difference is the screen notch has been replaced by a rotated lowercase “i” shaped cutout called the Dynamic Island. I feel like this has a lot of potential in the future, but without any third-party app integration, it’s just a cool demo. The OLED screen has been updated to be brighter and be “Always-On” when not in use. This is similar to the Apple Watch where the screen dims but still shows some lock screen elements. I frequently have my iPhone sitting on a table in-front of me and now I won’t have to tap it to see what’s going on. Having devices where the screen is always-on is soon to become the norm. In the near future we’ll look at devices that don’t have the screen on as antiquated.
There’s a new main camera sensor (again) this year, but this time they quadrupled the megapixel count from 12 to 48. This doesn’t mean a whole lot, but allows it to gather more details and present you with a better image. I’ve found that when you want the most detail, use the “RAW” option to get a 48mp image as opposed to the Apple processed 12mp version.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are all-new this year, again. Every year, like clockwork, we get new iPhones. Just like last year apple announced four new phones with a new number, 13. Last year’s all new design was a great departure from the rounded bars of soap we’ve had for six years. If you’ve been following iPhones for a while, you may know that they like to do what most people call an “S” year. Starting with the 3GS, then 4S, 5S, 6S, and XS, we’ve come to understand that an “S” year is less new design and more internal upgrades.
The iPhone 13 should have been an “S” year. Not sure why we didn’t see the iPhone 12S, but I was betting on it. Literally, bet lunch on it being named the iPhone 12S.
So in the iPhone
12S 13 we get better cameras, bigger batteries and a new processor. The Pros got 120hz display and even better cameras.
I opted to replace my iPhone 12 Pro Max with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. As long as they’re making giant pro phones, I’m buying them.
I’m not going to go into the new features or what Apple is marketing on the device, you can see that at apple.com/iphone.
- The 120hz display makes motion buttery smooth, and I smile whenever I notice it
- The camera upgrades while minor year-over-year, have a huge impact on everyday photos
- Macro photos are fun and a game changer
Beard Blog iPhone macro photography deep-dive
- Same squared-side design that looks modern and still feels new
- Sierra Blue is a refreshing take on a silver finish
- OLED screen is brighter, which is useful in direct sunlight
The Missed Opportunities
- Moving to USB-C should have happened this year
- The camera / Face ID notch got smaller-ish, but it’s size still feels outdated
- Same software limitations running on a super-fast SoC
- Night Mode could be better with the new camera hardware
Beard Blog iPhone Night Mode deep-dive
- My phone shipped with eSim enabled, but I still have an ugly SIM card slot
- The physical mute switch is great, but someday it’s gotta go
- Speaker holes are still asymmetric
- Front-facing camera feels old and needs updated like other Apple devices
- Rear camera bump is huge, more noticeable on smaller phones
- Telephoto (3x) rear camera has more reach, but less quality
- Face ID hasn’t seen any major improvements since it was debuted on the iPhone X, while iPads can see faces in different orientations
- The back face of the phone is still slippery and fragile
Changing to USB-C, upgrading the front camera, and making it more grippy, might make this a 10 / 10 for me.
We’ll see what next year’s iPhone brings, which I’m sure will be named iPhone 14. Will we see USB-C finally or just no ports at all? Stay tuned, here and only here, for iPhone hot takes.
Apple iPhone Pro Max vs. Sony a7III
Low-light photography is all the rage now on smartphones. Better sensors and lenses combined with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other 21st-century buzzwords allow smartphone cameras to actually see in the dark. But how good are they?
Low-light photography has been around for a long time, especially on professional-grade cameras that can hold the shutter open for extended periods of time allowing the sensor to gather as much light as possible.
With the overhauled and widely acclaimed camera system on the iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max, I thought it would be a good time to see how it compares to a “real” camera.
Using the same tripod and lighting conditions, I captured my backyard with both an iPhone 13 Pro Max and a Sony a7III mirrorless camera.
Let’s start with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, 10-second “Night Mode” capture1
You can see there’s not a lot of light here. 10-seconds is a long time to shoot an image handheld, but on a tripod, it’s not nearly long enough.
iPhone 13 Pro Max, 30-second “Night Mode” capture 2
A lot more light here, almost looks like it’s daylight outside. While the image is visible and you can see details, there’s a lot of noise present and if you zoom in you can see some blurring from noise reduction.
Sony a7III 10-second exposure at f/1.8
Much more clearer detail here and has that daylight look like the 30-second iPhone shot. The high ISO gives it a softer look and has some visible noise.
Sony a7III 30-second exposure
The ultimate night shot, at 30 seconds the sensor has enough time to capture enough light it can reduce the ISO and crisp-up all the details.
Some might say, “This isn’t a fair fight!”, but if Apple is aiming to take on the prosumer camera market, they need to have benchmarks. This three year old camera shows just how far smartphone cameras still have to go to be competitive.
If you’re looking to get great photos in a dimly lit room, an iPhone with Night Mode will do the job.
If you want to create daylight out of near-pitch-black, get a tripod and a big camera that can suck in all the light available.
Check out my iPhone 13 Pro Max review here (coming soon)
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Sony a7III
Macro photography is capturing larger than life images to show detail on smaller objects that you normally don’t get to appreciate with the naked eye.
Apple’s most recent flagship phones, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, have a new macro capability that allows the ultra wide lens to focus on objects that are as close as two centimeters. Macro photography is always fun to do especially with insects, flowers, and everyday objects. Never has it been so accessible to a consumer with the object they carry around in their pockets.
I’ve decided to see how well the iPhone 13 Pro Max does against a “big” camera with a cheap macro lens.
I found a decorative wool pumpkin decorating our house for fall and through the woven nature would be a great test
Both images were artificially lit with an external LED light source to maximize detail.
You can see how much more detail and clarity comes out of the iPhone lens.
Here’s another comparison of a closer shot.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max macro capability is fantastic. Granted, I could probably match quality with an expensive macro lens on my Sony Mirrorless camera, but now I see no need with the iPhone camera.
Lastly, here’s a small collection of great macro images I captured on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.
In the two weeks since the iPhone 13 Pro was released I’ve been taking macro shots of everything I can find and like most new iPhone features I think this will stick around. We’ll see in a year how many macro shots from the iPhone I’ve accumulated.
“There’s an app for that!”
Continuing my list of the best things from 2020, mostly what helped us get through the pandemic, the most obvious thing you use a lot is your phone. There are a lot of great apps I use everyday but the three I’m about to list are essential apps for entertaining me, staying connected, and getting me what I need. What are some of your favorite apps of the past year?
One of my favorite categories to talk about and engage with others on is technology. Not only is it my day job but I would consider technology to also be a hobby and lifestyle of mine. Surprisingly 2020 gave us a lot of new technology; I guess that’s one thing that the pandemic couldn’t hold back. Some things were delayed, other things are supply constraint, but after it’s all said and done, nothing really got cancelled because of COVID. Good things come to those who wait so my top three picks this year were all released within a week of each other.
In order of release date, here are my three picks for best piece of technology sold in 2020:
Xbox Series X – November 10 | $499
The next generation of gaming is here! Finally we have solid state storage standard and get the amazing features like 120 frames per second and ray tracing. These are still really hard to find along with its counterpart the Sony PS5 due to high demand and low supply. Earlier this year I wrote about how you may want to put a new TV on your list as well to take full advantage of this new hardware.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max – November 13 | Starts at $999
The iPhone design is all new this year and Apple finally brought back the flat edge design that the iPad Pro has had for a few years now. In addition to the great new design, all new iPhones get 5G, OLED displays, and new colors. The best of them all, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, includes major changes to the three camera system producing some of the best photos you can get out of a smartphone. Two really great things about the new iPhones Pro are storage and video. Apple starts the Pro Max out at 128GB which is the sweet spot of storage for me. Lastly, the new iPhones Pro take HDR (Dolby Vision) video which may not seem like much, but when you watch it on your phone or an HDR TV, you really see the difference. I don’t want to take any other kind of videos again.
Apple MacBook Air – November 17 | Starts at $999
Earlier this summer Apple mentioned they would be ditching Intel for their processors and moving to their own, dubbed Apple Silicon. Now we have the first set of Macs which include the new Apple Silicon processors, the M1. It’s crazy to think that for only $999 you can get a tiny little laptop that has all day battery life and is faster than 90% of the computers out on the market, right now. We’ll probably never see leaps and bounds like this in computers again, so we have to relish it while it’s here. Anyone who asks me what computer they should buy, before they can finish I blurt out “MacBook Air with M1”. It’s great for everything from web browsing to professional video editing. It’s truly a great computer at a great price.
LG CX OLED 65″ TV | April – $2199.99
Check out more of my ‘Best of 2020’ —> Here
The iPhone of the future, today!
Apple’s new flagship iPhone has been on sale for almost three weeks and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. The iPhone X (pronounced ”iPhone ten”) is the biggest change we’ve seen to the iPhone in a really long time. It’s also the first iPhone since the original where people were excited to see it and asked me how I liked it. It’s a lot like when I first started wearing my original Apple Watch, but a lot more people know about the iPhone X. The following review will be my opinion of the new iPhone, not so much the technical attributes it posses. Furthermore if you’re curious about the technical stuff check out Apple.com.
The first thing you notice on the new iPhone X is the screen. It’s big, bright, and very colorful. The screen goes from top to bottom and left to right covering the entire top side of the phone. This new OLED screen is my favorite part of the iPhone X. All the colors are vibrant and the black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the screen starts and stops. As a result this makes the iPhone X screen very pleasing to the eye.
When the screen is fully lit up you can see a tiny notch at the top of the screen where the earpiece is. This notch holds all the fancy iPhone X sensors that I’ll get to in the next section. The screen itself actually flows under this notch so anything that would be shown the in the notch section of the screen will be hidden. In photos, reviews, and talking about it the notch seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. After a day of using the iPhone X the notch becomes unnoticeable and unobtrusive. Most of all, this notched screen design will become one of the most iconic phone designs we’ll ever see.
Gone are the days of using your unique fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Now the iPhone X comes with Face ID (replacing Touch ID) as the biometric authentication process. To put it simple, Face ID uses the features of your face to unlock your phone. This process works in the dark, in the sunlight, and most noteworthy even when you’re wearing sunglasses.
My experience with Face ID has been fantastic. My iPhone unlocks more reliably than when I used Touch ID on my iPhone 7 Plus. There are a couple instances where Face ID doesn’t work, but they are very minimal and easy to live with.
Consequently the iPhone X doesn’t like my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses so I have to slide them down to unlock my phone when wearing those. In contrast, My aviator-style Ray-Ban sunglasses work just fine.
Face ID is definitely the future and it can only get better from here. I was skeptical at first, just like I was before trying Touch ID, because all the previous face detection systems were utter garbage. Face ID has lived up to Apple’s marketing and I can’t wait to have Face ID on all the products I use.
As an amateur photographer my smartphone camera is very important to me. The iPhone is not my only camera but I like to take a lot of photos with it because it’s smaller, lighter, and always with me unlike my Nikon DSLR. Last year I was excited by the new dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. The added “telephoto” camera is very versatile and is even better on the iPhone X. The new cameras work very well in low light and the image is very clear. Previous iPhones seem to have a small increase in camera ability, but the fact that both cameras work identically at two different focal lengths is a huge leap over previous generations.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.”[/perfectpullquote]
The front camera hasn’t been changed, but it’s been supplemented by the new TruDepth Camera sensors which include infrared and depth sensors. The iPhone X’s front camera takes the same photos as the iPhone 7 but you now get depth mapping which adds the ability to take Portrait Mode photos. This still evolving feature is fun and looks cool, but it’s not a game changer. As a result I’d take the real depth of field on my DSLR any day.
The iPhone X’s front facing TruDepth Camera system isn’t just for photos, Animoji is Apple’s way of putting you facial expressions on your favorite emoji characters. This is probably the killer feature of the iPhone X.
Being able to send someone a short video of your expressions and voice is endless fun and entertainment. This is one of the few areas Apple has been an innovator and I would bet it pays off big now and in the future.
Pros / Cons
The iPhone X isn’t perfect, but at the same time, it’s a huge leap forward for tech nerds like myself.
- Great rear dual camera system
- OLED screen is stunning in person
- Face ID is more secure and easier to use
- No home button; New interface could be confusing to some
- Battery life is slightly worse than my iPhone 7 Plus, but still lasts all day
- Front camera resolution could be better
Who should buy the iPhone X?
Apple fans who want the latest tech, photographers wanting the best
smartphone cameras, and techie people who like being on the cutting edge.
Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X?
Users who want the same old iPhone interface, people who don’t want the latest technology, or folks who are afraid of the price.
The price of greatness
Let’s talk about price for a moment. All you read on the internet, hear on the news, and talk about at work is how this iPhone costs $1000+. While that is true, it’s not that big of a deal. Now let’s break it down a little bit.
Here are the costs of the current iPhone offerings and storage capacity respectively:
- iPhone 8 (64GB/128GB) ———— $699/$849 or $35$41 per month
- iPhone 8 Plus (64GB/256GB) —- $799/$949 or $40/46 per month
- iPhone X (64GB/128GB) ———— $999/$1149 or $50/$56 per month
You can see the new iPhones range from $699 up to $1149. The iPhone X is not some outrageously priced hunk of junk. It’s worth the premium over the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It comes down to if you can afford it or justify to yourself that you want to buy the iPhone X.
Most buyers will be financing this phone through carriers or Apple. Not many people will be shelling out cash for any of these iPhones. Also for even further comparison the top of the line Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs $950.
In conclusion, the iPhone X is the future of what we’ll expect to see over the next few years and it’s going to be great. After three years of the same stagnant design Apple hit it out the park with the iPhone X. It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.
During this holiday season, when you visit with your families and friends, some of that time may be blocked by bright screens in front of their faces. For the last couple of years, we may have thought this was a bad thing. In the soon-to-be year 2016, I think that has become something more.
This year instead of everyone sinking into their chairs with the soft glow of LED screens on faces, I’ve seen families and friends come together over technology. From talking about iCloud backups to Uber driving, it now seems our time together also includes some tech talk.
As a self-proclaimed photography enthusiast, I’m always trying to get the best shot as well as get my work seen by everyone. I normally do this by dragging my Nikon DSLR camera and several lenses around with me everywhere I go, just in case I see something that needs captured. My thought on great photography is 50% having the right eye to get the shot and 50% being in the right place at the right time. Both of those requirements don’t mention anything about having the best equipment.
A recent business trip took me to Las Vegas and during my free time, I ventured out to Valley of Fire State Park. This is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been. Because of my short trip and hassle of bring multiple bags, I opted not to bring my Nikon DSLR with me on this trip. I do have my new Apple iPhone 6s with me at all times, so I decided this would be a great place to test the newly upgraded camera.
The ability to climb around on rocks, hike down trails, and quickly snap great pictures without having to be mindful of my expensive camera equipment was great! Up until now I have never thought of a phone as a realistic replacement in hopes of capturing great photos. The new Apple iPhone didn’t let me down.
Here are some of the great shots I got on my short trip:
The new camera sensor as well as the optical image stabilization were key to getting great photos from such a compact device.
I’m going to continue to investigate this and might even try bringing both cameras on the next trip.