iPhone 14 Pro: Apple’s best camera phone in a while

Even those with the iPhone 13 Pro might be tempted to upgrade.

by Justin Choo

If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of the iPhone 14 Pro after seeing the presentation at the Apple Event. But having used the iPhone 14 Pro for two months, I was surprised by how low-key good the upgrades were.

While it is, in spirit, comparatively minor, and interesting tech like Emergency SOS via satellite isn’t ready and crash detection isn’t something you want to experience, most people will form their impressions based on primarily the camera. And it seems far better than what it has let on. Even the cheapest phones have 50MP sensor, so what’s the big deal with the sensor upgrade on the latest iPhone Pro? As it turns out, quite a bit.

First things first

Spotify is that much cooler with Dynamic Island.

If Dynamic Island is something you’re looking forward to then it’s best to lower your expectations. It’s mildly useful with pop-up notifications and some apps lend themselves naturally to the fact you can long press to bring up an expanded interface, like Spotify, but it’s far too easy to expect too much, too soon.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s mostly a secondary convenience for specific situations and I wish they didn’t draw attention to it because it’s just going to generate unrealistic expectations that can’t be met at this point, though recent updates have improved its functionality.

Dynamic Island is potentially useful but for now it’s mostly a novelty.

Give it two generations before they work out how to best make the most of what is effectively a second screen–but it certainly is an interesting way to reclaim ‘lost’ screen estate and turn a highly-memed disadvantage into a feature. The fact that you can have two ‘tabs’ in the ‘background’ can be pretty useful if done right.

More of the same, but not really

The rest of the phone looks like an exercise in checking boxes; is it an A16 or A200 chip right now? (It’s A16 Bionic by the way) Apple’s silicon has always been ahead of the pack and we reached a point where no one really cares to question their viability. It’s quick enough that Apple has opted to use A15s on the regular iPhone 14–and it still pretty much works. But at the same time, it’s good that they’re bumping those numbers up. Even when working with large photos the iPhone 14 Pro never slows down.

The display is now always on–there’s no telling at this point how long Apple’s methodology of preventing burn-in will fare in the long run, but if you do feel a little disconcerted that the screen feels like it’s constantly on, you can always turn off the feature.

The battery life is slightly worse this time around but the iPhone 14 Pro just has enough gas in the tank to get through a day. However, a battery pack is necessary if you are a heavy user. Coming from an iPhone 13 Pro Max, I start to appreciate the extra juice a lot more now.

The main event

What I appreciate most about the new iPhone 14 Pro is the main camera. It sports a 48MP sensor, which is like a dime a dozen these days, but the cliche that chances are Apple does it differently is true in this instance; the contrast and sharpness are generally better than most. If I have to sum it all up in one word, it’ll be sharpness. There’s a slight improvement in fine details and dynamics with regular JPEGs and in low light. I’m pretty sure some people might complain that it’s a little too sharp but I guess you really can’t please everyone.

If you really need the best possible image quality, the ProRAW pics from the iPhone 14 Pro is noticeably more detailed than those from the older iPhone 13 Pro. You’d expect that working with a bigger file will cause some slowdowns but it’s almost the same as working with a RAW file on the iPhone 13 Pro.

The theme of sharpness carries over to video, where the iPhone 14 Pro continues Apple’s tradition of dominance in easy-to-use, quality video cameras. The Action camera certainly makes its presence felt and it really does feel like a gimbal in some respects. Say what you want about stills, but the iPhone is still the one to beat when it comes to shooting videos, and it doesn’t look like relinquishing its lead.

Low-light situations are where the cameras shine as the camera offers more detail, and since it’s all software–photonic engine in this case–I think things can be improved further with time.

Other subtler improvements include the new 24mm focal length and simulated 48mm (2x telephoto), which is pretty nice for framing subjects (preference, though) while Portrait mode can blur out front and back. It’s not perfect and you’ll need to frame your subjects carefully for the transitions to be smoother.

The wide-angle camera is much sharper too. When taking macro shots, in particular, the difference in detail compared to the 13 Pro is quite clear. The same could be said for the front-facing camera, which also has autofocus capabilities now.

Final thoughts

Once again, on paper, it doesn’t look much, but using the iPhone 14 Pro on an everyday basis reinforces how much better the camera is than its predecessor. Add to that the many little updates via iOS 16, and it’s a great phone to use; day in, day out. While they don’t have many jaw-dropping tech announcements these days, I find that their ‘death by a thousand cuts’ approach to improvement is what keeps me using the devices.

Is it good enough to warrant an upgrade as an iPhone 13 Pro user? I have to stop short of an unequivocal yes; yet at the same time, I didn’t quite expect it to be as compelling as this. Every year, the quality of the camera improves, but this is the first time in a long while that I sat up and took notice. If the camera is the most important thing to you, upgrading from the iPhone 13 Pro to 14 Pro doesn’t sound as ridiculous as we’d think–thank goodness you can still fetch a decent price for your old iPhone.

  • 8.1/10
    Apple iPhone 14 Pro - 8.1/10

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Price starting from $1,649

Value Proposition
Design & Build Quality

The Powerpoint game this year might seem middling, but this is the most improved upgrade that Apple has released in a while.

Leave a Comment