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 The biggest difference is the screen notch has been replaced by a rotated lowercase “i” shaped cutout called the Dynamic Island.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.
One regression we see on the new and improved camera is the minimum focus distance. The distance increased from 150mm to 200mm. This means you’ll now need to back your phone up an extra 50mm away from your subject to start to focus on it. In the built-in camera app, the ultra-wide camera with macro takes over and make this seamless. The issue is with third-party apps that don’t know the ultra-wide camera exists. So you’re stuck moving in and out more to scan a barcode at the grocery store. This is something I do often, whether it’s scanning a barcode or taking a photo in a social media app. It has been incredibly frustrating. I’m hopeful app developers will realize this and update their camera views. Apple could make it easier for them to implement auto-switching to the ultra-wide camera, but I won’t hold my breath on that.
- Always-On display is great.
- Screen is much brighter in direct sunlight.
- Dynamic Island has potential.
- 48 megapixel sensor captures a lot of data.
- No more SIM card slot.
- Crash detection and satellite connectivity for edge cases.
- 2x crop mode is better than 3x telephoto camera.
The Missed Opportunities
- Another year of the slow lightning port and not USB-C.
- No night mode photography improvements.
- A fresh color (Deep Purple) but all offerings are still muted.
- New flash design, but doesn’t appear to be a brighter flashlight.
- Front-facing camera gets autofocus, but no other improvements.
- Action mode doesn’t need to exist.
- Main camera minimum focus distance increase.
- Mute switch still exists as physical feature.
- Back glass still slippery.
- Camera bulge bigger than ever.
- Telephoto camera becoming less useful.
How can the iPhone get to 10/10?
– Move to USB-C with faster data transfer and charging.
– Fix the focus issue on the main camera.
– Brighter and more vibrant Pro colors.
– Increase screen size in current footprint, and reduce bezels more.
Should you upgrade?
If you currently have an iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max, I do not recommend upgrading to a 14 Pro or Pro Max. There’s just not a lot new and you’ll see more improvements if you wait for the 2023 iPhone Pro. That being said, if you have any other iPhone and are looking at the iPhone 14 Pro models, it’s a great upgrade and you should choose this one.
As far as the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, this is not a good year to get the non-pro phones. They don’t include the latest processor and are a re-hash of last year’s system-on-a-chip. If you’re looking to save some money and still want a new phone, take a look at the iPhone 13.
Outside of the screen improvements and small camera enhancements, there’s not a whole lot to talk about this year. Hopefully next year brings more design changes and addresses some of the shortcomings.