Last modified: December 8th, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Here’s an obvious opening comment for you. The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are really good smartphones. Anyone that carries one of these devices in their pocket for the next 12-24 months will love its new always-on screen, improved photographic ability, and speedier performance, while loving the improved battery life. 

It’s a solid upgrade on the 13 Pro, with three blockbuster debut features – Dynamic Island, an always-on display, and SOS satellite calling – that almost make the 14 Pro and Pro Max feel and behave like a brand new, and innovative, premium smartphone.

…while looking exactly like the phone Apple launched 12 months ago. 

It’s quite the trick.

Pros

  • Great cameras
  • New Dynamic Island makes the notch useful
  • Battery easily lasts a day
  • 2,000 nits, 120Hz display
  • Fastest phones on the market thanks to A16 Bionic chip
  • SOS Satellite calling

Cons

  • Expensive
  • 20W charging
  • 3x optical zoom hasn’t improved

Price

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are the best of the best of what Apple has to offer. They’re also some of the most expensive devices on the market.

The iPhone 14 Pro costs $1,999 for a 128GB model, $2,199 for 256GB, $2,599 for 512GB and $2,999 for 1TBl.

The Pro max costs $2,199 for 128GB, $2399 for 256GB, $2,799 for 512GB and $3,199 for a 1TB model.

To put this into perspective, Samsung’s flagship device the Galaxy S22 Ultra, released earlier this year, costs $1,999 for a 128GB model, $2,099 for 256GB and $2,399 for 512GB. 

Design

The iPhone 14 Pro and the Pro Max share the same design characteristics. The only difference is their physical dimensions.

The 14 Pro measures 147.5 (H) x 71.5 (W) x 7.8mm (D) while the Pro Max measures 160.7 (H) x 77.6 (W) x 7.9mm (D). 

Both devices are large phones, but they aren’t any bigger than their predecessors or popular competitors like Samsung’s S22 Ultra or Oppo’s Find X5 Pro. I had no trouble using either phone. Still, you will need two hands to operate both.

Both devices are almost identical to their iPhone 13 counterparts. The only noticeably new feature is what Apple calls “Dynamic Island”, which has replaced the notch at the top of the screen (more on this below). Some people will lament the lack of changes, but why change a winning formula? It’s a sleek, premium look, and these are some of the nicest-looking phones available.

Coming in Space Black, Silver, Gold or Deep Purple, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max have the same stainless-steel flat frame, the texturised matte glass on the back of the device and the ceramic shield material on the front. They have an IP68 resistance rating, meaning they’ll survive being submerged in up to 6 metres of water for 30 minutes and are also dust resistant.

When the iPhone 7 launched, Apple removed the headphone jack. It looks like the next thing to go will be the SIM-card tray. You may have read that the latest devices don’t have a tray, but this is reserved for devices in the US. Here in NZ, it remains. Along with the volume buttons on the left and the power button on the right.

Dynamic Island has replaced the divisive notch at the top of the screen, and it’s a significant upgrade. Not only does it house the TrueDepth selfie camera, but the pill-shaped cutout can also display outputs and alerts for numerous apps. It shows battery alerts, notifies you when Face ID unlocks the phone, shortcuts actions, tells you when accessories have connected, shows calls coming in, call duration and a lot more. It’s not exclusive to Apple apps, either. Listening to Spotify, you can see the album artwork of the song you’re listening to on the left of the pill, and there’s a soundwave on the right.

The best part about Dynamic Island is you can interact with it. Using Spotify as an example again, if audio is playing, you can tap on the pill to open the app directly or tap and hold to get a smaller, half-sized control panel. These inputs also work with other apps like Whatsapp and Messenger. 

It’s great not having to trawl through my phone to find the app I’m currently, or was recently, using, and it’s a genuinely helpful use case for what was a relatively useless notch.

iPhone 14 Pro & iPhone 14 Pro Max review

Display

Both devices have Super Retina XDR OLED displays which are fantastic.

The iPhone 14 Pro boasts a 6.1-inch 2556 x 1179 460ppi (pixels-per-inch) display while the 14 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch 2796 x 1290 460ppi screen. Both support ProMotion which automatically adjusts the refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz, and can reach up to 2,000 nits’ brightness in sunny outdoor conditions. They’re crisp, sharp, and vibrant and are some of the best displays on a phone.

A new addition to the iPhone 14 Pro range is the Always On Display (AOD). These are the first iPhones to support this, and Apple still has some way to go before it meets the customisation options Android phones offer. But it’s a great start.

The AOD mirrors the lock screen and turns the brightness down to save battery, ProMotion also kicks in here, reducing the refresh rate to as low as 1Hz, again to conserve battery. With AOD on, you can see widgets, notifications and more without waking up your phone. It’s also customisable; you can change the font, the background and the colours to match your personal preferences. Putting the phone in your pocket or face down on a table will turn the AOD off, and you can also turn it off entirely if you like. It’s a great new addition.

iPhone 14 Pro & iPhone 14 Pro Max review

Cameras

The iPhone 14 Pro devices have triple-camera arrays that have been significantly upgraded.

Last year’s 12MP sensor has finally been improved. This year’s Pro devices boast a 48MP f/1.78 sensor that supports sensor-shift optical image stabilisation.

The iPhone 14 Pro has a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 120° field of view and an f/2.2 rating. The iPhone 13 Pro range had an f/1.8 rating. Interestingly this means the iPhone 14 Pro devices will let in less light with ultrawide photography. You’ll barely be able to tell the difference, though. 

The 12MP f/2.8 telephoto lens from last year’s devices has remained with 3x optical zoom. Frustratingly the zoomed photography hardware hasn’t seen much of an upgrade. The 3x telephoto zoom is behind the competition, especially as Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 10x telephoto lens. 

The main camera is the standout here, and it deserves some explaining:

Phones are restricted by their physical size in that there’s a limit to how large a camera sensor can be. Larger sensors wouldn’t fit in the compact form of a phone. This means they have to remain relatively small but smaller sensors mean smaller pixels, and smaller pixels aren’t as good at capturing light. 

In the iPhone 14 Pro range, Apple has introduced a 48MP sensor that’s 65% larger than the one found in the iPhone 13 Pro. That’s a massive jump. The sensor can capture four times as many pixels as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Interestingly though, four times as many pixels in a sensor that’s only 65% larger would result in a worse photo. 

To remedy this, the iPhone 14 Pro range uses a process called pixel binning. This technique takes the data from four pixels and converts them into one, a quad-pixel. This means the 48MP sensor is essentially being used as a bigger 12MP sensor. This creates larger pixels (measuring 2.44 microns), and the larger the pixel, the more light that enters the sensor, therefore the better the image.

It’s hard to get your head around, but that means your 48MP sensor is taking 12MP photos that are sharper with higher contrast and better low-light performance.

You can turn this pixel binning process off and take a full 48MP photo using the iPhone’s ProRAW format. You’ll have to turn this on in the settings, but essentially it allows you to take a photo with all the details of 48 million pixels. The photos are incredible; however they’re mostly unusable due to their massive storage size. Photos in ProRAW will use up your phone storage very quickly.

iPhone 14 Pro & iPhone 14 Pro Max review

There’s also another new feature that the large sensor is capable of. It can provide 2x optical quality zoom without a 2x lens. It does this by cropping out the edges of a 48MP image leaving only the centre to create a 12MP photo. Essentially, it mimics the effects of a telephoto lens.

It’s much better than digital zoom because digital zoom relies on software to guess pixels. Not the case here. It’s cropping a 48MP image down to a 12MP image. This means it’s more accurate as there’s 12MP worth of data to use. It’s not as good as a dedicated telephoto lens, but the results are decent.

Apple has introduced a new Active Mode for video photography. This acts as a stabiliser to help reduce shaking in action videos. It achieves this by quickly cropping the video to maintain the subject in the middle of the shot. It works well. Also, the Cinematic mode has improved to include 4K filming at 30fps.

Below you can see our camera comparisons between the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

At 1x zoom, there is very little to differentiate the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 14 Pro Max. They both take great photos that are vibrant without looking unnatural. They do a good job recreating a realistic portrayal of the colours.

Both these photos are taken at 3x optical zoom. This is the furthest both devices can zoom using the dedicated telephoto lens. Both images look great, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max is able to more clearly define smaller details. A good place to notice this is the mast on the right side of the image. You can more easily see the individual Lego pieces.

These photos are taken at 10x zoom. At this range, both devices are using their digital zoom capabilities. This means software is predicting pixels and trying to accurately recreate the image. Again, both devices do a very good job at 10x, however the iPhone 14 Pro Max is able to more clearly define smaller details. You can see far most dust on the Lego and the overall image looks sharper.

These low-light photos were both taken at a lux reading of 150. We can see the iPhone 13 Pro makes the image brighter, but it loses clarity. Looking at individual figures they aren’t as defined as the image taken by the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Also, the iPhone 14 Pro Max does a better job at recreating realistic colour.

These images were both taken at a lux reading of 0. This is almost pitch black to the human eye. The cameras were set to night mode, with a maximum exposure time of 30 seconds. These are extreme testing conditions and both phones produce very impressive results. Both images have some colour inaccuracies but overall, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is better. It produces a sharper more detailed image. A good place to notice this is if you look at the light blue Lego pieces, you can more easily define the individual studs.

Performance

The iPhone 14 Pro devices both have the new A16 Bionic chip. There’s nothing much more to say than they’re the fastest phones on the market. The A15 Bionic chip was already brilliant. The A16 is better. These phones fly.

The CPU is only 10% faster than the A15 Bionic, but the memory bandwidth has been increased by 50%. It means video editing and gaming are even quicker.

Features

There are two notable new features to come with the iPhone 14 range. The first is emergency SOS via satellite.

Emergency SOS lets you contact authorities in places where there isn’t reception or Wi-Fi, and as I said in my review of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus. “Although I never had a use for it, I have been on hikes or fishing trips here in NZ, where reception is spotty. And knowing I could contact authorities from practically anywhere is an excellent comfort.”

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max also support crash detection. This uses the accelerometer and gyroscope in the phone to detect if you’ve been in a car crash. If in an accident, the iPhone 14 will automatically dial emergency services and notify chosen emergency contacts.

Fortunately, I wasn’t in a situation to test this. However, it’s also a nice comfort to have.

iPhone 14 Pro & iPhone 14 Pro Max review

Battery

The iPhone 14 Pro has a 3,200mAh battery, while the Pro Max has a 4,323mAh battery. Both are incredibly efficient thanks to the A16 Bionic chip. 

The iPhone 14 Pro will easily last you a day, and the Pro Max will get you a bit more at about 26 hours.

Frustratingly, the maximum charging speed is still a measly 20W, and a charger doesn’t come in the box. 

Both phones support MagSafe and Qi wireless charging as well.

Verdict

Historically, the iPhone Pro offered iPhone customers a device with a sharper screen, better camera, and faster processor. 

That hasn’t changed. However, this generation of iPhone Pro goes a step (or three) further –  adding Dynamic Island, the excellent new always-on display, SOS satellite calling to the Pro series.

This represents a bit of a watershed moment for the iPhone. The introduction of Dynamic Island and the always-on display mean the iPhone 14 Pro isn’t just an iPhone for “Pro” users looking to do “professional” work on a smartphone. These are features that regular/amateur smartphone users can, and will, want to use.

Apple’s decision to only equip the iPhone 14 Pro with these features, while holding the regular iPhone 14 back, means these “Pro” phones are arguably an entire generation (or three) ahead of the regular iPhone 14. 

This presents customers with a more difficult choice of whether to make-do with a regular iPhone 14 with “Lite” features or splash out several hundred dollars more for an iPhone with all the whistles and bells.