Apple’s latest devices for 2022 are here – the iPhone 14 series. So just what’s been improved over last year’s models, and is it worth the upgrade? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the new iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max to the previous generation’s iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max.
While Apple is still launching four models this year, the first thing to note is the naming conventions are different. Gone is the entry-level “mini” in favor of a “Plus” model – a moniker we haven’t seen since the days of the iPhone 8. Generally speaking, the iPhone 14 Plus and Pro are similar in specs, but the Pro has a more powerful camera while the Plus has a better display and battery.
Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 13 mini is the smallest of the bunch, by quite a margin. After that, it’s essentially a four-way tie between the iPhone 13, 13 Pro, 14 and 14 Pro, which remain almost exactly the same size between generations. At the higher end are the iPhone 14 Plus, 14 Pro Max and 13 Pro Max, with only fractions of a millimeter in any dimension separating them.
The iPhone 14 has lost a couple grams in weight compared to the 13, but the Pro models put that much back on. The Pro Max meanwhile stays steady.
Apple usually divides its color schemes into lively and fun for its base models, and fancier muted tones for the high end. Returning to the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus are black and white (or “midnight” and “starlight” in Apple parlance), as well as red and blue, while the iPhone 13’s pink has been swapped for a new purple finish.
On the Pro and Pro Max models, gold and silver return, while Space Black is a slightly darker version of the previous graphite finish. The pastel Sierra Blue has been swapped out for another purple.
The new iPhones have much the same builds as the previous generation – the two base models are made with glass front and back, ringed in aluminum, while the Pro and Pro Max opt for stainless steel for more durability. They all have what Apple calls Ceramic Shield, a special layer that protects the display from cracks and scratches.
All eight phones are rated IP68 for water resistance, with Apple claiming they can safely sink to a depth of 6 m (20 ft) for up to 30 minutes. As usual, it’s better not to test that out yourself, but it’s nice to have that peace of mind that they should survive rain, spilled drinks or accidental dunks in the pool or bath.
The iPhone 13 mini matches its small stature with a small display, measuring just 5.4 in. The iPhone 13, 14, 13 Pro and 14 Pro all have 6.1-in displays, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max, 14 Plus and 14 Pro Max jump up to a huge 6.7 in. All eight models are built with OLED displays.
There’s very little wasted space on the front of each device too. For all eight iPhones, the screen takes up between 85 and 88% of the total real estate.
One interesting new feature on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max is what Apple calls the Dynamic Island. This tries to recontextualize the much-maligned notch at the top into a black space that changes to display info at a glance. For instance, it can show details of a currently playing song or podcast, or let you know who’s on the other end of an incoming call.
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max also introduce an Always On feature, common to Android devices, where key info like the time, date and weather remain visible on the lock screen when the phone is not in use.
In pure numbers, the display resolution hasn’t changed much between generations. The iPhone 14 has the same resolution as the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro, while the iPhone 14 Pro crawls ahead so slightly you’d be hard-pressed to notice. The iPhone 14 Plus jumps up to that of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, while the 14 Pro Max improves on that by about the same tiny margin as the 14 Pro over the others.
The main advantage of both generations’ Pro and Pro Max models is the much higher maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz, which will make video run silky smooth. For more static imagery, a feature called ProMotion can automatically adjust the refresh rate right down to 10 Hz, which apparently gives huge gains to battery life.
The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus are running the A15 Bionic, the processor found in last year’s models, which packs a 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine.
The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max are the first to feature the company’s new A16 Bionic chipset, which according to Apple is the fastest in any smartphone. The A16 boasts a 40% faster CPU and 50% more GPU memory bandwidth than the A15. The CPU also has two “efficiency cores” that Apple says use just one third of the energy of other manufacturers’ CPUs.
All eight phones are powered by 6 GB of RAM, but the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max have switched to a new type called LPDDR5 RAM, which is supposed to be faster.
All eight iPhones have a 12-megapixel (MP) depth-sensing camera on the front. This TrueDepth camera, as Apple calls it, is used for the Face ID unlocking system, to make animated emojis that look like the user, and a few other things.
The iPhone 14 series has a slightly wider aperture of f/1.9, which makes it better for low-light shots and producing blurred-background “bokeh” effects with shallow depth of field.
The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus have essentially the same main camera setup as the iPhone 13 and 13 mini – a wide and ultra-wide angle lens, both 12 MP, with 5x digital zoom and 2x optical zoom out. The only improvement is an ever-so-slightly wider aperture.
The 14 Pro and Pro Max have had a more substantial upgrade however. The main camera now packs a 48-MP sensor, making it easily the most powerful camera ever on an iPhone (and about average for flagship Android phones).
This larger sensor can be used in a few ways. In most photo modes, the pixels are grouped together in fours, to make one big “quad-pixel” that Apples says gathers 20% more light in photos than other models, while also keeping file sizes down to a manageable 12 MP. A new 2x Telephoto option also makes use of the middle 12 MP of the sensor, for clearer zoomed photos and 4K video.
Of course, you could make use of the full 48 MP with ProRAW mode, for extra sharp images – although this is unavailable on the 128 GB model of the phones, since the larger file size would mean you’d run out of space fairly quickly.
And finally, the iPhone 14 range has an improved True Tone flash, which is 10% brighter and apparently gives off more consistent light.
The iPhone 14’s biggest improvement to photo modes is what Apple calls the Photonic Engine, which is an upgrade of the Deep Fusion mode on the iPhone 13 line. In both, the device snaps multiple shots of the same image using different settings, then takes the best bits of each – detail, texture, colors, shadows, etc – and merges them all into one photo. The Photonic Engine does this earlier in the process than Deep Fusion and uses uncompressed images, apparently with much better results.
Most of the other photo modes carry across between generations, but the more powerful hardware in the new phones should improve them to varying degrees.
Smart HDR 4 can not only balance bright and dark areas of an image better, but it can apparently even recognize up to four people in one shot and automatically adjust the lighting, contrast and skin tones for each of them.
Portrait mode blurs the background of shots to different degrees to make the subject pop. This blurring, as well as lighting effects, can be edited after an image is shot.
Photographic Styles lets users create custom presets that can be applied to all of their photos, highlighting things like color or contrast.
Night mode brightens up dark scenes by taking longer exposures, a feature that’s made more effective by the iPhone 14 series’ larger sensors.
Multiple photos can be stitched together to create panoramas up to 63 MP.
Augmented reality (AR) is a mode where virtual objects and characters are overlaid on the real world, as seen through the camera lens. This can allow everything from fun filters on selfies, to checking whether furniture will fit in a room, to catching Pokemon in the park.
The Pro and Pro Max models of both generations have a few extra tricks up their sleeves. Their ultra-wide-angle cameras can shoot macro photography – extreme close-ups of tiny objects like insects or flowers, capturing intricate detail. They can also shoot in ProRAW mode, capturing images in their “raw” file formats so users can tinker in more depth. The trade-off there is quite big file sizes.
Again, most of the same video modes are available on both generations. All eight phones can shoot video in 4K resolution at 24, 25, 30 or 60 frames per second (fps). They can all shoot in 1080p Full HD at 25, 30 or 60 fps, and in 720p HD at 30 fps.
Slow-motion video can be shot in Full HD at either 120 or 240 fps, and going the other way, the action can be sped up in timelapses.
Also present is Dolby Vision, a video grading technique that boosts High Dynamic Range (HDR) for better contrast. Normally it’s applied to a film in post-production, but the last few years of iPhones have been able to do it in real time during a shoot, which even professional film cameras can’t do.
Cinematic mode can automatically follow subjects in a video, even shifting its focus when someone new enters frame. These settings can be adjusted after a video is shot too. The iPhone 14 range can now shoot this mode in 4K at 24 or 30 fps.
The Pro and Pro Max models of each generation can record in Apple’s proprietary video format, ProRes, which captures higher color fidelity and applies lower compression.
The main new addition for the iPhone 14 lineup is Action mode, which smooths out shakes and bumps in video better.
All eight of these iPhones use the Face ID system, which takes a scan of the user’s face with the TrueDepth camera to unlock the device.
The same built-in storage options are available across generations – all eight phones offer 128, 256 and 512 GB versions, while the Pro and Pro Max models go up to a roomy 1 TB. An important thing to keep in mind is that if you plan to shoot photos in the ProRAW format, you’ll need to fork out for at least the 256 GB version – the mode is disabled on the 128 GB versions because it chews up too much space too quickly.
You better choose carefully too, because in true Apple fashion you can’t expand that storage later with a MicroSD card.
The iPhone 14 series sees only modest gains in battery capacity and performance over last gen. Each will last about an extra hour of video playback compared to their corresponding iPhone 13 model. In raw numbers the 14 Pro Max’s capacity has actually dropped slightly since last year, but still makes gains in usage time thanks to power savings from the ProMotion display. That’s also why the 14 Pro Max gets about three hours more usage time than the iPhone 14 Plus on the same battery.
All eight phones have fast charging and wireless charging capabilities too, although you’ll need to fork out for specialized chargers for these functions.
Both sets of iPhones use Apple’s proprietary Lightning ports for charging or headphones, if you’re still not on the Bluetooth train.
All eight iPhones will run iOS 16, the latest version of Apple’s operating system. It comes pre-installed on the iPhone 14 line, but the iPhone 13s can be updated to run it too. The main new addition to iOS 16 is an overhauled lock screen, along with the usual UI and UX tweaks.
All eight phones can tap into 5G communications.
The iPhone 14 range has a couple new emergency features as well. Crash Detection picks up on sudden movements, loud noises and pressure changes that may be associated with a car accident, and starts a 10-second countdown. If the user doesn’t stop it in time, the phone will automatically notify emergency services and personal contacts.
Emergency SOS is designed to be used in places where there’s no Wi-Fi or cellular service, helping people connect via satellite to Apple specialists and relevant authorities.
The iPhone 13 lineup was released back in September 2021, while the iPhone 14, 14 Pro and Pro Max came out a year later. The iPhone 14 Plus was held back for October 2022.
The iPhone 14 range is available for Apple’s usual price points. Meanwhile last year’s iPhones have all had a price drop of US$100 (or $200 for the 1 TB iPhone 13 Pro Max), which could make them enticing for those who don’t mind missing out on a few luxuries.
So with all this in mind, which phone do you think you’ll be picking up? Let us know in the comments below. If you still can’t decide, check out our other phone comparisons.