The iPhone 14 Pro – which Apple unveiled on September 7 at the Steve Jobs Theater in California – is, unlike the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus, about the future.
While the still attractive and, thanks to the A15 Bionic chip, still fairly powerful iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus looks a lot like last year’s iPhone 13, the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro (and 6 .7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max).
Apple has always steadfastly defended the notch, which houses the powerful TrueDepth module — even in the face of taunts from competitors like Samsung. However, Apple had to move forward, even if it’s a bit of a stutter with half of the iPhone 14 line still with the notch and the more expensive Pro line not.
The result is the new and exciting Dynamic Island. Unlike a traditional screen cutout, this one, which is located at the top of the Super Retina XDR display, can change depending on the activity.
The Pro line also (finally) gets an always-on display for that extra bit of convenience and adaptive refresh rates that can be smoothly adjusted from 1Hz to 120Hz.
Apple has also upgraded the camera array with the 48MP main lens; photos combine four pixels into one large one for better images (yes, that’s what Android phones have been doing for ages). And while the megapixels on the ultra-wide and telephoto lenses haven’t changed, Apple said they’ve been updated, as has the 12MP TrueDepth front-facing camera, which now has autofocus. All cameras will benefit from Apple’s new Photonic Engine image pipeline.
Inside is the new A16 Bionic chip, which has a 6-core CPU, a 5-core GPU and a 16-core neural engine. Apple said it is capable of 17 trillion operations per second.
Features such as 4K support in Cinema mode, crash detection and satellite communication are copied over the iPhone 14 line.
In other words, the Apple iPhone 14 Pro covers the new iPhone base, but adds the powerful, professional features you expect, including better cameras, an expanded display and the intriguing Dynamic Island.
Apple also managed to make its best iPhone better without increasing the price, at least in the US. That’s called winning, but in some markets it will cost you a little extra.
iPhone 14 Pro price and availability
The iPhone 14 Pro starts at $999 / AU$1,749 (about £867) for the base 128GB model. There are storage options up to 1TB.
Pre-orders begin Friday, September 9 at 5:00 AM PDT / 11:00 PM AEST and availability begins September 16.
Design, materials and display
Apple didn’t ditch the iPhone 13 Pro design — which we trace back to the iPhone 12 — on the iPhone 14 Pro. It still has the stainless steel band wrapped around the glass on the front and back and the now instantly recognizable square three-camera array with the smaller LiDAr sensor. The dimensions are very close to the iPhone 13 Pro, but not quite the same. At 147.5mm x 71.5mm x 7.85mm, the iPhone 14 Pro is slightly longer and thicker than the iPhone 13 Pro (146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm). At 206 grams, it is also 2 grams heavier.
None of this was noticeable when I held the phone. It felt very much like my iPhone 13 Pro. Perhaps the only thing that stood out, aside from the Dynamic Island (more on that later), was what was missing: a SIM slot.
This is the first iPhone line to use all eSIM. During the presentation, Apple did its best to make the eSIM setup on the iPhone 14 Pro look easy, but this can take some getting used to, especially for those who regularly switch SIM cards on new phones. In terms of look and feel, one less gate valve and a long, smooth, flawless bezel are a plus in my book.
Other switches, buttons, and ports, such as the Power/Sleep/Siri button, silence slider, volume controls, microphones, and stereo speakers appear unchanged on the iPhone 13 Pro.
I’m a bit surprised that Apple hasn’t swapped the lighting port for a USB-C charging/data port. Perhaps Apple has decided that this is a task better left to the iPhone 15 or 16. By 2024, the European Union can still enforce the change.
While Apple hasn’t completely changed screen technology, the iPhone 14 Pro Super Retina XDR OLED display is different in a number of important ways. First, while the 460ppi is the same, the screen has slightly more pixels overall. The screen resolution is 2556 x 1179 (the iPhone 13 Pro was 2532 x 1170).
Apple significantly increased brightness with a peak brightness of 2000 nits outdoors. It’s not something I could test at the Steve Jobs Theater, but all that brightness could mean your iPhone 14 Pro won’t be outdone by the bright sun.
With the iPhone 14 Pro, we finally get the always-on screen we’ve always dreamed of. In typical Apple fashion, the iPhone 14 Pro always-on mode, which you activate by pressing the sleep button just once, looks better than most. The advantage of such a screen is of course clear information without unlocking the phone or eating up a lot of battery life. So far I like what I see.
Another less obvious change is the variable screen refresh rate that can go from 1 Hz to 120 Hz, meaning the iPhone 14 Pro now slows down and speeds up screen redraws when it doesn’t need them. when that is the case. You get smoother action, but you don’t notice when you read this article on the iPhone 14 Pro, for example, that the screen looks anything but excellent.
The most obvious screen change, however, is the notch, which is no longer a notch. Instead, we have the somewhat remarkable Dynamic Island. First of all, kudos to Apple for coming up with this name that says “lonely” and “changeable” at the same time. That’s what the Dynamic Island is, a small mottled space on the iPhone 14 Pro’s Super Retina XDR OLED display. Imagine if the notch sailed from the top edge of the screen, lost some luggage and then settled a short distance from the top.
Now the redesigned TrueDepth 12MP camera and sensor array are literally surrounded by pixels. Having a push-through hole on a smartphone screen is not uncommon. Samsung’s Galaxy S22, Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 have them all. However, none are like that.
Through a bit of screen magic, Apple has married the cutout to the screen, making it seemingly grow and shrink at will. However, that is an illusion. I saw the Dynamic Island in action. It’s always the same size, but because it can be surrounded by black pixel boxes of all different shapes and sizes, and because Apple animates the transition, the crop seems to get smaller and larger.
The effect is even more powerful because it is partially activated by your gestures. A touch or swipe on the Dynamic Island can enable an edit and change the shape of the Dynamic Island.
I can’t tell you how wild it is to see this in action. This makes it look like the opening of the TrueDepth module is made of rubber. It’s a brilliant leap of innovation and I can’t wait to spend more time testing it.
Cameras and battery life
Apple has taken its best time adding megapixels to its iPhone camera arrays. This wasn’t stubbornness or laziness, I think Apple just found it perfectly comfortable to rely on its lens stacks, sensors and formidable image processing to produce top-quality images. Still, it couldn’t stay away from megapixel multiples forever. Now we finally have a 48MP lens on the iPhone 13 Pro (and Pro Max).
There are three cameras:
● 48 24mm, ƒ/1.78 aperture
● 12 MP Ultra Wide: 13 mm, ƒ/2.2 aperture with a field of view of 120°
● 12MP 3x telephoto: 77mm, ƒ/2.8 aperture
All of these lenses are an upgrade from the iPhone 13 Pro camera array, even if Apple hasn’t upgraded the pixels on all the lenses.
The main camera can take four pixels and combine them into one larger one for better photos and low-light photography. I know, Android cameras have been doing this for ages.
All cameras have a longer focal length, bringing them close to the realm of prosumer photography, and all are supported by Apple’s best-in-class image processing, including the new Photonic Engine image pipeline.
Apple hasn’t broken new ground in terms of zoom length and is still presenting 3x optical zoom, while Samsung rolls out 10x optical zoom (and 100x space zoom) on its Samsung Galaxy S 22 Ultra. Still, Apple has done something interesting with its new 2X optical zoom option. Apparently it needs the full 48MP sensor and zero in the middle of 12MP for 2x optical quality and full quality 4K video.
I’ve tried all of these lenses and loved switching from wide angle to 1X to 2X and all the way to 3X zoom. In general, the pictures I took at the Steve Jobs Theater looked good. I’ll be able to judge the camera quality better once I’ve fully tested the phone.
Apple claims a 23-hour battery life for video playback, which sounds great and I’m looking forward to testing it. The company has not improved its fast charging capabilities. You can still charge 50% in 30 minutes if you use a 20W charger. I was honestly hoping for more.
Performance and software
The driving force behind all this is Apple’s new A16 Bionic chip, which has 6 CPU cores, 5 GPU cores, and a 16-core neural engine. Apple claims it is more powerful than the previous A15 Bionic chip, which lives on in the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus.
While I have no reason to doubt Apple — its silicon consistently leads the industry — I won’t know how powerful it is until I’ve fully tested it. During my short hands-on, the iPhone 14 Pro responded quickly and well to all actions and touches. However, that is not such a test. Stay tuned.
The other great thing about all these new iPhone 14 phones is that they come with a brand new platform: iOS 16.
I spent weeks with the iOS 16 Public beta, enjoying the new lock screen and the ability to push a little bit of my photo subject on top of the redesigned clock on the lock screen. The new customizable widgets can be packed with useful information, multi-stop directions on maps are great, and who isn’t excited about undoing your worst texting mistakes?
There’s a lot to see and use in the new OS, and I think all of this will add value to the iPhone 14 Pro.
There are other notable features, such as crash detection and, as an industry first, Emergency Satellite SOS, both of which, if they work as advertised, could be potential lifesavers.
Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro offers Apple’s best in silicon, cameras, screen and mobile innovation. It also feels like Apple is catching up and finally waking up to the idea of pixel binning, always-on displays, and adaptive refresh rates. Still, the iPhone 14 Pro as a whole is another potentially exciting entry into a long line of iPhone innovations.
It’s definitely worth taking a closer look at.