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iPhone 14 Pro hands-on review

The iPhone 14 Pro replaces the notch with a Dynamic Island, talks to satellites and gets a massive camera spec bump

A photo of the iPhone 14 Pro
(Image: © Basil Kronfli / Creative Bloq)

Early Verdict

Apple's iPhone 14 Pro looks set to impress, though we're not sure how US customers will handle the lack of a SIM tray – as bold a move as ditching the headphone jack in 2016. Omissions aside, there's plenty going for the Pro, not least of all a huge megapixel bump on its main camera and a handsome new Deep Purple colour option that looks both demure and elegant. It also ditches the notch in favour of a punch hole selfie camera Apple calls its Dynamic Island. Bloated marketing jargon or game-changing tech? Check back for the full review in the coming week.

For

  • Dynamic Island is indeed dynamic
  • New elegant Deep Purple colour
  • Promising camera spec bump

Against

  • Design is samey
  • New camera makes the phone thicker
  • Pricier than 13 Pro outside US

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max have landed on our desk for review, and they're the best of Apple's smartphone range for 2022. Bringing back familiar styling with a handful of measured, meaningful updates to the series, Apple always iterates, but there's more new here than meets the eye. 

Highlights include the phone's Dynamic Island sitting in the top centre of the screen – a reimagining of the selfie camera and front sensors. It combines hardware and software design to blur the lines between physical and digital interactive elements. There's also a new 48MP primary camera, a huge pixel-bump that could make the 14 Pro the best iPhone for photography in 2022 – and the phone's available in a demure new Deep Purple colour.

With all of Apple's latest, greatest internals, from that A16 Bionic processor, through to crash detection and satellite communication, there's also plenty going on under the hood that should ensure a solid user experience. 

But with camera champs like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra totally outperforming the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max when it comes to zoom, and innovative foldables like the Z Fold 4 exciting even iPhone fans, is Apple's new flagship series launching on the back foot?

iPhone 14 Pro: Design

The most notable design update to the iPhone 14 Pro line is the Dynamic Island, which replaces the notch in previous iPhones to play host to the selfie camera and front sensors. Invisible when navigating through much of the phone's interface, Apple does a great job of marrying hardware and software to make a pill-shaped cutout become a core part of the operating system's UX design.

The other notable update to the iPhone 14 Pro over the 13 Pro is the phone's depth, or more specifically the camera's depth. If you've got an iPhone 13 Pro case and are hoping it'll work with the 14 Pro, you're out of luck. Slightly different button positioning and a chunkier camera bump will scupper those notions.

There are a lot of similarities between the past-gen and present flagship iPhones. Styling is identical at first glance. The frame is a highly polished stainless steel, and the back panel is a sheet of frosted glass, fending off fingerprints like a champion. The two phones also sport the same footprint, so they should take up a similar amount of space in a palm or pocket.

Whether you opt for the standard iPhone 14 Pro or the Pro Max, they're available in the same colours, a new Deep Purple, Gold, Silver, and Space Black. All the new iPhones also enjoy IP68 water and dust resistance and scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass on the front and back. 

iPhone 14 Pro: Screen

The iPhone 14 Pro has a manageable 6.1-inch touchscreen on the front, with rounded corners and that pill-shaped cutout at the top. Like the Nothing Phone (1) and iPhone 13 line, the Pro has an even bezel surrounding the screen – attention to detail seldom seen outside Apple's camp.

The screen's an LTPO Super Retina XDR OLED panel, it has characteristics you'd expect from an OLED – depth, punch and pop, as well as quality you'd expect from Apple – excellent colour calibration. 

It's the OLED technology in the 14 Pro and Pro Max that makes the Dynamic Island look like such an integrated part of the UI. OLEDs can display pure blacks, so when the interface around the cutout is black, it simply looks like the cutout has been expanded. This resizing of the cutout is what makes it dynamic.

With its smooth 120Hz refresh rate, the iPhone 14 Pro's menus glide, and thanks to HDR10 and Dolby Vision, content plays back with excellent tonal range. Apple trumped Samsung at its own game when it announced the new iPhones' brightness. Climbing up to 2000 nits, easily seeing what's on-screen shouldn't be an issue even in the brightest environments. 

iPhone 14 Pro: Interface and features

Running iOS 16, the new iPhones bring plenty of fun and useful flourishes to the hardware refresh. We've already touched on the Dynamic Island, which straddles both hardware and software updates. The phones are also able to communicate with satellites when there's a broad clearing around you, so if you're out in the wilderness and don't have a signal, you can still communicate with emergency services. And with crash detection, the new iPhones and Apple Watches can send an alert if you've been in a collision.

The new iPhones also introduce always-on displays, something we've had on Android phones for a while. Even when the phone's on standby, the screen stays partly illuminated, showcasing handy information you can customise.

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are powered by Apple's A16 Bionic chips, which promise competition-beating gaming and performance, and with 128GB through to 1TB of storage, the phones should pack plenty of space for files and photos. 

Although many thought Apple was going to ditch the lightning connector in favour of a USB-C port, the new iPhone 14 series carries forward the proprietary charging tech for another year. Apple doesn't disclose battery capacity, though we do know the iPhone 14 Pro has had a capacity bump – likely to help compensate for that always-on display. 

One thing Apple has ditched is the SIM card tray, specifically for US customers. Relying on eSIM, it'll make changing phones less of a faff once the tech is off the ground, and makes sense from a design standpoint, encumbering smartphones with fewer removable parts. That said, given that eSIMs haven't been widely adopted, not everyone will be happy with this move – especially travellers who change SIM cards frequently, and don't have eSIM versions of their international SIM cards.

iPhone 14 Pro: Camera

The big update to the new iPhone 14 Pro's camera is its 48MP primary sensor. Matched with a wider than usual, 24mm angle of view, and loaded up with an f/1.78 aperture lens with OIS, it all reads well on paper.

The ultra-wide camera sports a traditional 12MP with a 13mm, expansive angle of view, and it's matched with an f/2.2 aperture. The 12MP telephoto camera creates a roughly three-times zoom equivalent, with a 77mm angle of view, OIS and an ƒ/2.8 aperture.

Apple also uses the inner 12MP in the 48MP sensor to create a two-times zoom digital lens as well, so you can crop losslessly in well-lit environments. While these specs sound tasty, none are earth-shattering, given countless Android phones like the OnePlus 10 Pro sport similar numbers. It'll be interesting to see how photo and video quality stack up.

A photo of the iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Creative Bloq)

iPhone 14 Pro: Early verdict

It's too early to say whether the iPhone 14 Pro is a fantastic phone and a worthy upgrade to the 13 Pro or 13. That said, Apple plays a generally safe game, iterating year-on-year without overhauling, so the new Pro is in-line with expectations. It's a good-looking, premium smartphone that has a great screen and a slick interface.

Camera and battery performance are the two big unknowns here. We've only been using the phone for 24 hours, so it's too early to call it on either front.

A photo of the iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Creative Bloq)

It's also worth noting, that we expect more from this year's iPhone Pro line because of its price. The 14 series is pricier than the 13 Pro, which now costs £150 less for the base model – £949 versus £1,049. That's a lot of money for updates that might not rock your world. Then there's the fact that iPhone launch pricing has increased outside the US compared to last year. 

So check back later this week for the full rundown of the good, the bad and the overpriced, as we document our experiences with what promises to be the best iPhone line money can buy.

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The Verdict
0

out of 10

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Apple's iPhone 14 Pro looks set to impress, though we're not sure how US customers will handle the lack of a SIM tray – as bold a move as ditching the headphone jack in 2016. Omissions aside, there's plenty going for the Pro, not least of all a huge megapixel bump on its main camera and a handsome new Deep Purple colour option that looks both demure and elegant. It also ditches the notch in favour of a punch hole selfie camera Apple calls its Dynamic Island. Bloated marketing jargon or game-changing tech? Check back for the full review in the coming week.

Basil is a trained graphic designer and photography expert who geeks out over anything to do with digital imaging and sketching. Now a tech journalist and content director at a creative comms agency, he covers tech through a real-world lens, contributing to titles including Creative Bloq, Digital Camera World, Metro, T3, TechRadar and WIRED.