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  • Cheryl Tan

iPhone 14 Pro Review: Your Next iPhone?

Hey guys, we have the new iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max with us, and after about 2 weeks of use, we’re here to talk about whether this should be your next iPhone or not.

So let’s talk design and the phones first before getting to iOS 16 and all the new features. The main outlook of the phones hasn’t really changed all that much from the iPhone 13 Pro lineup. You still get the flat edges, the flat display and the camera bumps at the back, but there have been small changes here and there. For example, the button placement is slightly different and the camera bump on the rear is also bigger, which means you can’t reuse your cases from the iPhone 13 Pro. The cameras protrude from the bump more as well, which is something to take note of. We’ll talk more about the cameras and their performance later.

Inside, there’s the new A16 Bionic chip, which is exclusive to the Pro line. The base iPhone 14s are inheriting the A15 Bionic from last year’s 13 Pro line. We did some Geekbench and 3Dmark tests and the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are certainly faster than last year’s 13 Pro Max, and way higher than Android flagship phones with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1.

There’s also the same IP68 dust and water resistance, MagSafe charging and all. But when you go away from the back and sides and look at the display, that’s when the differences show.

Aside from that, if you’re in the United States of America, you’ll notice that there’s no longer a SIM card tray and that’s because Apple is going fully eSIM there. Outside of the U.S., we get SIM card trays, so yeah.

First off, it’s a new display, Super Retina XDR OLED. Sizes are the same, 6.1 and 6.7-inches, but there are a bunch of upgrades. It’s brighter, for one, getting up to 1,600 nits with HDR content and up to 2,000 nits when outdoors. This means you’ll really never have to strain or squint to view your phone screen when you’re outdoors in bright sunlight. I know I didn’t have to.

Second, the ProMotion refresh rate now drops to as low as 1Hz, and because of that, Apple has finally introduced an Always-On Display. And the AOD does dim itself when it’s not in use. If you have an Apple Watch and you leave your phone in the room while you walk away, the AOD turns off completely and then turns back on dimly lit when you re-enter the room, which is a very nice touch by Apple. Additionally, the AOD does turn off quite intelligently: whenever your phone is in your pocket, whenever your phone is face down, whenever sleep focus is turned on and whenever low power mode is turned on, so that’s good.

Of course, having an Always-On Display does raise concerns about battery drain. I tested it overnight, leaving the AOD on and starting with a battery level of 80%. With no notifications coming in, it drained at a rate of 1% per hour. That’s not too bad really, but it does mean that you’ll see your phone’s battery life drain slightly faster than you would with an iPhone 13 Pro, or if you turned the AOD off. With a regular 12-hour day, you might notice that if your iPhone 13 Pro was usually at maybe 30% at the end of the day, it might now be 18% or lower instead. Just something to take note of. I like the AOD, it’s nice for a quick glance at the time or to see what notifications I have, instead of having to tap the screen to wake it. I’m alright with the slightly higher battery drain, it’s not that big a deal to me. We’ll talk about battery life in a bit though.

Another major change? Well, that would be Dynamic Island. I know, it’s a silly name, but here’s what I think about it. I think Apple has done a fantastic job making the best out of the punchouts for the front camera and Face ID. Think back a few years, when Google or some other Android brand had a hole punch camera in the top left or right corner. They came out with some really cute wallpapers that integrated the black dot, like, a dog’s nose and such, and people were saying it’s really cute and a smart way to hide it. It was, yeah, but it wasn’t useful, yknow? And the Dynamic Island?

It IS useful. It’s very ingenious, even. You can see at least two apps on the top of your screen at all times when they’re in use, you get quick and easy access to music controls, starting or stopping a timer and all that. It helps you get into the apps quickly, especially if you have a lot of apps open and it’s hard to find a specific one when you open the app switcher.

What’s more, it will only get better from here as more third-party apps come on board. And yes, this feature might just be a stopgap for Apple until they can figure out how to do under display cameras, but hey, looking at the quality of the selfies from the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4’s under display camera, I’m okay if Apple never goes that way.

There are third-party apps that do really cute, quirky stuff like Apollo’s Dynamic Island pet and the likes, and that’s fun, that’s nice, love to see all these apps figure out how to integrate the Dynamic Island in. Also, the animations are so smooth, they’re absolutely gorgeous. Look at how the thing bounces to the top as I swipe left or right. Apple’s UI is one of the best, and this is just further proof.

So let’s talk about cameras, because they are different this year. Apple is finally moving away from their standard 12MP cameras, and now, we’re getting a 48MP main wide lens in the 14 Pro and Pro Max. There is also a 12MP ultrawide and a 12MP telephoto lens. The 48MP sensor allows for full resolution RAW photos which do need to be toggled on in the settings, as well as the ability to pixel-bin to 12MP. Pixel binning isn’t a new thing, we’ve seen this for years. It’s basically taking four pixels and combining them into one, resulting in better light performance for the end result. This is turned on by default, so yeah, if you’re worried about your photos suddenly taking up a bunch of space, don’t be. The pixel binning does help with sharpness as well, and the macro has also been improved here.

Low light performance is better as well, with better-exposed images and all thanks to the new Photonic Engine computational photography tech which is basically Apple putting the Deep Fusion process earlier in the image pipeline so there’s more data to work with before the image gets compressed. This Photonic Engine works across the entire iPhone 14 lineup, so it’s not exclusive to the Pro lineup, although the 48MP camera and a bunch of other stuff like Dynamic Island and Always-On Display are Pro model exclusives.

For video, there’s also a new Action mode, although this is cropped in and maxed at 2.8K resolution, as well as the ability to film in 4K 24fps and 4K 30 for Cinematic mode, which is nice.

Anyway, I’m not a professional photographer or videographer, so I won’t delve too deeply into the camera performance, but we will have two videos coming up soon about how the cameras on the 14 Pro perform, both in photography and videography. We’ll link them here when they’re available. Something that I will bring up though, is that there seems to be a problem when using the cameras in third-party apps like Instagram and TikTok. Opening the camera results in a bit of a delay along with an audible click, and even though Apple said they rolled out an update to fix this, it’s still happening on my unit, so yeah. Hopefully, this gets fully fixed in the near future.

Aside from that, there’s also Crash Detection available thanks to two new motion sensors and an upgraded accelerometer and gyroscope, so if you’re in a car crash (hopefully not), the phone will be able to detect it and then if there’s no response after a bit, it’ll automatically call the emergency services for you.

Additionally, there is now Satellite SOS, in case you go hiking somewhere without cellular service, you can use a satellite connection to send out SOS pings. Unfortunately, this is limited to the US and Canada for now and it’ll only roll out later this year, so yeah.

Battery life does seem to be a bit worse though, although this could very well be chalked up to teething issues and battery drain bugs with iOS 16. I did a test: I unplugged my phone at 100% at 1.08pm, then went out about my day, watching videos, listening to music, texting, using social media, working and out for dinner and drinks. I racked up about five hours of screen-on time by 10.43pm, which is quite a bit, and I was left at 20% battery at that moment. So approximately nine and a half hours from 100% to 20% with five hours of screen-on time and the Always-On Display activated, with moderate brightness because I was mostly indoors.

It’s more than enough for light use in a day though. I did a test with light usage, around four hours of screen-on time and after 24 hours had elapsed, I still had around 25% battery life.

I’m really hoping Apple optimises the battery a bit more because this is nowhere as good as I used to get with my 13 Pro Max. There is, of course, MagSafe charging and if you use a compatible 20W brick, you’ll get faster charging on the phone as well.

So now, we come to iOS 16, and honestly, there’s just way too much to talk about in this video, which is already running long as it is. So here are my favourite features of iOS 16, very briefly. New lock screens, awesome, I love the depth mode and paired with the Always-On display, you even get the subject moving behind the clock when the screen dims and moving to cover part of the clock when the AOD lights up. Very nice touch. Lock screens and home screens can now be set to different Focuses, so I have different ones set up for filming, general and all that. Super easy, you can switch focuses very easily too in a single long tap, then swipe through.

Next, we have notifications rolling in from the bottom, nice, since it doesn’t block my wallpaper. There are Live Activities as well, although there aren’t many apps that support it just yet, and I’m really hoping for real-time sports updates to be available in Singapore.

Anyway, there is also unsend and edit messages, awesome. There is a 15-minute limit though, and edits will be clearly marked, so yeah. Mail-wise, there's better search, the ability to schedule sending emails, email unsend, and it's all great for productivity. You can also grab text from videos now, and there’s a new image clipping feature which works on subjects in photos, as long as Apple’s AI can identify a subject. Usually, there’s not any real problem since it works pretty well.

And yeah, like I said, way too many features to talk about in a single video, but long story short, I love iOS 16, it’s fun, there’s a bunch of QOL stuff inside and it’s awesome.

Back to the phones, are they worth it? Yeah. But I would say, the Pro lineup is the one to go for. The improvements to the base 14 and 14 Plus are nice, and sure, they might appeal to some, but for the real improvements? You can only get them with the Pro models. If you’re holding on to the 13 Pro or Pro Max though, it might be a bit of a tough sell to upgrade, unless you really want the Always-On Display, better cameras, Dynamic Island and the other exclusive features. For people with older phones though, it’s a pretty big upgrade.

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