Apple’s iPhone 14 series, especially the Pro models, brings more than incremental changes compared to the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 series. Apple has been widening the capabilities gap between the Pro and base models. For example, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max feature the latest A16 Bionic SoC made on TSMC’s 4nm process, while the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus are powered by TSMC’s 5nm-based A15 Bionic SoC. The 14 Pro series also features an advanced camera system, Pro Motion display design with intuitive Dynamic Island, and more.
iPhone 14 Pro most successful iPhone model
Ever since Apple introduced the Pro and Pro Max models with its iPhone 11 series, the iPhone 14 Pro models have proved to be the most popular Pro series. According to Counterpoint’s Global Monthly Handset Model Sales Tracker, the iPhone 14 Pro model’s volumes and revenues in its first year of global release almost doubled compared to that of the iPhone 11 Pro model for the same period, driving record iPhone revenues for Apple. Further, the iPhone 14 Pro was consistently among the top three best-selling smartphone models globally for every quarter since its launch. This helped Apple dominate the premium market, with the iPhone 14 Pro alone contributing 13% volume for the above-mentioned period. The top three markets contributing to the iPhone 14 Pro’s growth were the US, China, and UK.
There are a few other reasons contributing to the 14 Pro’s success, including the primary camera getting the much-needed bump to 48MP resolution, and the five-core GPU. Apple also improved its ProMotion display by adding an always-on display feature and refresh rate that can go from 1Hz to 120Hz. Lastly, the Pro models also come with a pill-shaped floating notch that Apple calls Dynamic Island, a good differentiator from the iPhone 14 model.
Key differentiators for iPhone 14 Pro
Dynamic island: A notch above
Ahead of the iPhone 14 launch, there were rumors of Apple going with a new pill-shaped floating notch design. But Apple surprised everyone by adding a cool software trick and making it very meaningful for its power users and developers. Calling it Dynamic Island, Apple has made this new take on the infamous notch a little more fun, interactive and useful. It is nearly a year since we have been using the iPhone 14 Pro, and the Dynamic Island seems like a good differentiator.
It comprises two parts – a physical island that houses the camera and sensors, and a virtual island on the display. As the iPhone features an OLED display, all the pixels go completely black, making the cutout and virtual island blend well to appear like one large cutout capsule. This approach is quite innovative and changes completely the conversation around the notch.
When you get important alerts, Dynamic Island adapts and expands in real time to show these notifications on the status bar. You can also tap and interact with the notification content of this expanded capsule. Dynamic Island is also a good multi-tasking option for supported apps, giving you quick access to apps, rather than swiping up and holding to scroll through the background apps.
Dynamic Island initially launched with first-party and a few ecosystem apps, showing notifications for apps like Timer, Maps, AirDrop and Apple Music and even for charging, wireless charging, hotspots and others such as YouTube. Apple made the API available to the developers and apps like Spotify and Uber take good advantage of the notch, making it more functional. There is also Live Activities feature for background notifications, which is quite helpful too.
Cameras: High-resolution sensor with better OIS, improved night mode and more
Apple has offered the biggest camera upgrade with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. Both the Pro models come with a brand-new, high-resolution 48MP camera sensor, which is 68% larger than the 12MP one on the iPhone 13 Pro. Featuring a 1/1.28-inch sensor, 2.44um pixel size and f/1.78 aperture, the camera outputs 12MP photos by default, thanks to 4-in-1 pixel binning tech.
Apple has also added a new feature called Photonic Engine, which is basically a computational photography model that improves the dynamic range and low-light camera performance by incorporating Apple’s Deep Fusion tech.
Over the past year, we have used the iPhone 14 Pro as a primary phone and camera for capturing photos and videos in multiple settings. Under most scenarios, the primary camera does a great job of capturing photos, which are brighter, richer in details and punchier in colors, a great upgrade from previous generation iPhones. The new camera featuring a larger sensor does a great job in low-light conditions, such as inside dim-lit cafes or restaurants. The following photos provide some evidence of its performance.
However, the algorithm needs to be improved and localized with respect to the varied human skin tones across different geographies. The HDR goes a little aggressive adding a slightly darker skin tone, especially in backlit scenarios. But otherwise, the 12MP front camera does a good job, especially when on video calls.
For users who like to play around with RAW capture and edit it in post-processing, there is support for Apple ProRAW mode. The best part here is that you can capture RAW photos in both 12MP and 48MP resolutions. Below are a couple of photos shot in RAW and edited in Adobe Lightroom. But you can also edit the photos in other apps such as Snapseed.
The primary camera also comes with second-generation sensor-shift OIS technology. It helps in capturing blur-free photos, but most importantly it helps in capturing smooth, jerk-free videos, even at 4K 60fps and without needing a gimbal. 8K video recording is missing, and we hope the iPhone 15 series will bring this feature which has been available on the Android flagships for a few years now.
WATCH: Apple iPhone 14 Pro Video Camera Samples
The Action Mode works well in capturing stable footage with less camera shake, even when you are running behind a subject. The only catch here is that you can capture up to a maximum resolution of 2.8K, which is not bad either. The Cinematic Mode has also improved with its edge detection, and the best part about this mode is that it lets you change focus from frame to frame right on your smartphone. Apple has also added 4K video capture in Cinematic Mode, which is a good improvement. All of these features leverage the new A16 Bionic’s AI capabilities.
There are two more cameras – a 12MP sensor with an ultrawide lens of 13mm (120-degree field-of-view), and a 12MP sensor with a 77mm telephoto lens and OIS offering up to 3X optical zoom. All three cameras are consistent with their color science, which shows how Apple has worked on optimizing the algorithms barring skin tones. The following shots confirm the color consistency across the sensor and focal lengths.
The ultrawide camera also doubles as a macro camera, allowing you to capture close-up shots from a distance as close as 2cm. Below are a couple of close-up photos.
Lastly, the iPhone 14 Pro also comes with a ToF 3D LiDAR scanner for depth information, and it is probably the most underrated sensor on the iPhone. It may not have the everyday use case when clicking photos and videos but comes in very handy in Augmented Reality use cases, like using the camera as a measuring tape, which is in-built, or other third-party ARKit-based phygital interactive apps for design or learning.
Snappy performance with powerful A16 Bionic SoC
The A16 Bionic SoC made on a 4nm TSMC process is one of the big under-the-hood upgrades in the iPhone 14 Pro series. The new SoC focuses on enhancing power efficiency, display and camera. With nearly 16 billion transistors, there is a new 6-core CPU, featuring two performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. The new 16-core Neural Engine is capable of 17 TOPS, enabling advanced computational photography experiences.
The SoC also comes with a 5-core GPU with 50% more memory bandwidth. Whether running multiple apps in the background or playing graphics-intensive games, the A16 Bionic handles it all without breaking a sweat. However, there are times when the back of the smartphone gets a bit warmer when pushed to the limits.
Display enhancements such as dynamic refresh rate & AoD
There are other core experiences that the chipset unlocks. For instance, there is a new Display Engine that enables always-on display capabilities for the custom-built OLED screen, and a refresh rate as low as 1Hz when idle or when there is static content on the screen. This helps in reducing power consumption and offers a slightly better battery life even when the always-on display is kept on. However, if you turn on the wallpaper option in the “always-on” display (AoD) setting, the battery drain is faster. So, ensure that you keep it off, while notifications can be left on.
The 6.1-inch SuperRetina XDR OLED display also supports a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, offering smooth playback of videos and a good gaming experience. The screen outputs a wider color gamut, supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and can attain peak brightness of up to 2,000 nits outdoors. We were not able to test the peak but never faced any legibility issues during the usage.
In terms of battery life, the iPhone 14 Pro lasts for a day, and even some more, depending on your usage. There is a 3,200mAh battery unit with support for fast charging and wireless charging – both using MagSafe (faster at 15W) and Qi (7.5W). While Apple sells a 20W charging adapter, you can also use third-party USB Type-C-based adapters with the bundled Type-C-to-Lightning cable to charge your iPhone.
It takes about 90 minutes to fully charge the iPhone 14 Pro. With a mixed usage of calls, browsing the social media timeline, listening to music, and clicking some photos and videos, we get a good six hours or slightly more of screen time. One thing to add here is that Battery Health has not held up well – it is already at 91% of its maximum capacity after 12 months of use. However, the good thing is that it hasn’t really affected the battery life in a major way. Faster charging is something that is on top of our wishlist and where Apple is falling behind.
Other useful additions: Crash detection, emergency SOS and more
There are other key features that the iPhone 14 series brings, such as crash detection, which uses a mix of high g-force accelerometer, gyroscope, and machine learning algorithms to detect when a user is subjected to a severe crash. It then automatically contacts emergency services. There is also an Emergency SOS via satellite feature that lets you send emergency messages and get help when a cellular or Wi-Fi network is unavailable. This feature can come in handy for users who go on treks and hikes where there is limited to no network connectivity. However, this feature is region-specific and not available across the globe.
Lastly, all iPhone 14 models support 5G connectivity. However, there is one major change in the US – there is no physical SIM card and these are eSIM-only iPhones. There may still be time before we see eSIM-only iPhones across all markets. eSIM and integrating iSIM in the future will allow Apple to save some board space to make way for more thinner form factor.
The iPhone 14 Pro comes with a great build quality, beautiful display, great set of cameras and many other features that make it Apple’s best Pro yet. iOS updates have consistently improved the experience, right from software features to camera performance and optimized battery life. Even the Dynamic Island functionality has improved as more apps now support it. The Live Activities feature is quite helpful in offering important background notifications, from the live status of a cab you booked to food you ordered, and even smaller things like the status of a story upload on apps like Instagram.
There are areas where we hope to see some improvements with the new iPhone 15 series. Support for faster charging speeds will be a good addition. In the camera department, we often notice that the AI and HDR go a little aggressive on different skin tones. Maybe an option to turn off HDR could have been better. 8K video recording is another feature we would love to see in the iPhone 15 series as 4K 60fps is becoming a de-facto feature that would also warrant a base storage of 512GB and going up to 2TB for all the Pro models.