Review: The iPhone 14 is exactly as good as it should be

Review: The iPhone 14 is exactly as good as it should be


  • Improved camera
  • Strong performance
  • Improved repairability is consumer friendly

The inconvenients

  • Lack of SIM card tray will be a problem for some
  • Battery life is a concern

Let’s get that out of the way right now — the $799 iPhone 14 is a fantastic smartphone with good camera performance and reliable overall performance, and somewhat concerning battery life. I’ve been using Apple’s latest base iPhone model, the iPhone 14, for about 10 days alongside the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro Max are very similar but quite different at the same time.

Upgrading from an iPhone 13 to an iPhone 14, or even an iPhone 12, isn’t the most compelling decision, but for anyone who just needs a new iPhone, the iPhone 14 is well worth the price. ‘investment.

However, if you’re someone who wants a bigger phone, you can either pick up the iPhone 14 Pro Max now (assuming you can find it in stock) or wait until $899 iPhone 14 Plus will launch on October 7. Pre-orders for the larger-screen iPhone 14 model are currently live.

How and why did I come to these conclusions? Let’s dig.

Also: How to get the best deal on the new iPhone 14 models


Processor Apple A15 Bionic
Display 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR
Memory 6 GB
Storage 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
Cameras 12MP Main, 12MP Ultrawide, 12MP TrueDepth
Battery Up to 8 p.m.
Connectivity 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.3, 5G (Sub6/mmWave)
Operating system iOS16
Colors Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Purple, Product RED

Familiar design, with one exception

Color options aside, the iPhone 14 is nearly identical to the iPhone 13 in design. There’s really only one noticeable change in my eyes, and that’s the lack of a SIM card tray on the iPhone 14. Apple made the decision to go all-in on eSIM, the digital version of the little plastic card we’ve all moved between phones.

During the initial setup of the iPhone 14, I was asked if I wanted to transfer my existing phone number from my personal iPhone 13 Pro Max to the iPhone 14. Remember that before turning on the iPhone 14 and sign in with my Apple ID, there was no way for the iPhone 14 to know what phone number I had or who would be assigned to it.

Also: Here’s how major carriers handle the iPhone 14 eSIM

After selecting that I wanted the iPhone 14 to use my phone number, Apple and my carrier worked magic behind the scenes and my number was ported over to the new iPhone in less than two minutes. It was really an easy experience.

I’ve covered more details about switching from SIM to iPhone 14 eSIM here, which should help you get started.

As for colors, you can get the iPhone 14 in Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Purple, or Product RED, with storage starting at 128GB, with 256GB and 512GB options.

iPhone 14 standing on edge, showing its lack of a SIM card slot

The side of the iPhone no longer has a SIM card slot.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Performance and battery life

If you visit Apple’s comparison tool, pitting the iPhone 13 against the iPhone 14, you’ll notice that the phones use the same A15 Bionic processor. It’s the first time Apple has used the previous generation processor in a new iPhone model, with the iPhone maker building on the already strong performance the A15 Bionic brought to the iPhone 13.

To be clear, there is a slight difference between the A15 Bionic used in the iPhone 14. It has a five-core GPU, as opposed to the four cores of the iPhone 13 version. Apple claims that this additional core brings a ~18% increase in GPU performance to iPhone 14.

I didn’t notice any significant performance improvement over the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but I never had any complaints about the iPhone 13’s performance in general. That is to say – I don’t think performance is an issue with the iPhone 14. I had no issues when multitasking between apps or playing ballistic baseball. Apple has had a history of supporting devices through software updates for several years, so I’m not worried the company will drop support for the iPhone 14 anytime soon, despite having the same processor as the iPhone 13 now a year old.

Another internal difference between the two generations is an increase in memory, from 4GB in the iPhone 13 to 6GB in the iPhone 14. This extra memory will help keep apps and tabs open in memory longer and to improve overall multitasking.

iPhone 14 on a table

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Battery life is said to be slightly better, with the iPhone 14 gaining an extra hour of video playback. After more than a week of testing, battery life is my only concern for the iPhone 14. Maybe it’s because I came from the iPhone 13 Pro Max with a bigger battery , but I pushed the iPhone 14 battery charge to its limit on a daily basis. On a busy day, or even a day full of commuting for a business trip, I have no doubt that I should charge the battery before the end of the day to ensure I have enough power to do it.

Also: Bad battery after installing iOS 16? Don’t Panic, Do This Instead

I’m intrigued to see what battery life looks like on the iPhone 14 Plus, the 6.7-inch version of the iPhone 14. Battery life is generally better on iPhone models to the bigger screen, and if that’s also the case this year, then the Plus may end up being very popular.

iPhone 14 back showing cameras

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Camera upgrades

Apple’s biggest changes to the iPhone 14 all relate to the camera. Apple calls the iPhone 14’s camera system an “advanced dual-camera system,” partly thanks to some hardware upgrades, but also because of some iOS camera software features that are new this year.

There’s a new 12-megapixel main camera with a larger sensor that harnesses Apple’s new Photonics Engine for better performance. Apple promises improved low-light engine performance and the addition of a new Action mode for video capture.

Also: iPhone 14 Pro: Huge new camera sensor, same slow Lightning transfers

When enabled, Action Mode will stabilize your recorded video similar to GoPro cameras. You’ll want to use the new mode outdoors, or at least in a very bright area. I’ve taken a few random jogs around my house and garden and can confirm that Action mode does indeed keep iPhone video smooth and steady.

I look forward to playing around with this feature a bit more to see where it really excels and where it fails. The fact that he needs a well-lit environment is a little disappointing.

As for the main camera, I took a bunch of photos and the iPhone 14’s main camera is definitely an improvement over the iPhone 13. From a quick portrait mode photo that i took my bulldog, Emoji, photo of a sunset you can see below, the iPhone 14 camera does a great job of capturing and reflecting colors, lighting and details.

The sunset illuminating the end of a street

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The photo above has not been edited other than cropping the image in order to post it. All color and saturation settings remained unchanged.

Safety first

You can expect more features to be enabled on the iPhone 14 in the future. The new Emergency SOS functionality via satellite, for example, is not yet available. This is supposed to go live in November and will remain a free service for the next two years. The price after that is not yet known. Garmin offers a similar service on standalone devices with pricing plans starting at $15 per month, but I imagine Apple will find a way to integrate it into its Apple One plans.

The new Emergency Communications feature comes with a dedicated collision detection feature that will automatically identify when you’re in a car crash and contact emergency services for help.

Also: iPhone 14 Pro packs a lot more innovation for the same price than last year

At the end of the line

It’s easy to call Apple as having reused the internals of the iPhone 13, made a little tweak here and there, and called it the iPhone 14. This year, Apple drew a deeper line in the sand to differentiate iPhone 14 from iPhone 14 Pro line up. The iPhone 14 Pro range is clearly aimed at those who want a major departure from last year’s design.

Like I said up top, the iPhone 14 is a great phone, and for someone coming from an iPhone 11 or older, the iPhone 14 is a major upgrade. The camera, design and overall performance are worth investing in Apple’s latest.

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