Apple iPhone 14 review: Playing it safe

Apple has four new iPhones in its portfolio in 2022, with two standard models and two Pro models. Unlike 2021, when we saw a smaller iPhone mini accompany the regular 6-inch iPhone 13, this year the iPhone 14 is joined by a larger Plus. 

The iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Plus are identical in all aspects, except their physical size and battery capacities. That’s like the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 of last year, and indeed, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max also released this year.

So is the standard iPhone 14 still the iPhone for everyone, or is this the year the higher-priced Pro steals the limelight and makes the most sense to buy?

Our quick take

The Apple iPhone 14 plays it safe, both in its design and hardware, and that makes the proposition to opt for the iPhone 14 Pro this year more appealing than it may have been in previous years. 

There are of course some upgrades – you get an improved main camera, an upgraded front camera and a slight battery increase compared to the iPhone 13. The design is identical and there’s not a huge bump in performance either, but it’s still a great design and a small performance upgrade all the same.

For those with the iPhone 13 though, the iPhone 14 is more of an “S” upgrade, but without a new chipset. It makes more sense for those with an iPhone 12 or older to buy it, as the improvements will be clearer. 

However this year, more than any in the past, there’s a much stronger argument to buy the iPhone 14 Pro model – or opt for the iPhone 13 Pro if the newer model is too far out of budget.

Similar design

  • 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.8mm, 172g
  • Five colours: Blue, Purple, Midnight, Starlight, (Product) Red
  • IP68

The Apple iPhone 14 shares an identical design to its predecessor, the iPhone 13. Offering an aerospace-grade aluminium frame over the Pro’s surgical-grade stainless steel body, and the flat edges we’ve seen since the iPhone 12 models, the only surface-level difference from the 2021 model is the new colour options.

That’s not a bad thing though. That classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” saying applies, and while we’d like to have seen the notch disappear for an all-screen design – or at least the same display design as the Pro models – the iPhone 14 remains a great looking device.

On the rear, there are two camera lenses once again. They sit diagonally in a square frosted-glass camera housing, offset against the rear’s otherwise glossy finish. There’s a seamless transition between the housing and the back panel as well, just as there was with the iPhone 13, which creates a lovely continuity.

The left edge features the signature silence switch, along with the volume buttons, while the right edge features the power button. The SIM tray is present on the left – that is, for all countries except the US. That’s because the iPhone has gone eSIM only there, and so the physical SIM slot has been replaced with a frosted section on the right edge instead.

Speakers are positioned either side of the Lightning port – and yes it is still Lightning and not USB-C – while the speaker sits above the notch on the front of the device.

As we mentioned, the iPhone 14 comes in five colours, including a new purple option – which is stunning – along with blue (our review model), Starlight (silver), Midnight (black) and (Product) Red. Like its predecessors, it’s water resistant and features MagSafe. The aluminium frame means the iPhone 14 is quite a lot lighter than its Pro sibling, while those flat edges make it lovely to hold.

Not much has changed compared to the iPhone 13, but there’s still plenty to love here.

Same display

  • 6.1-inch, OLED
  • 2532 x 1170 pixel resolution, 460 ppi
  • 1200nits

The Apple iPhone 14 features an identical display to the iPhone 13 but it’s a great one. It’s a 6.1-inch display with a 2532 x 1170 pixel resolution for a pixel density of 460ppi. It’s an OLED panel again too so you get punchy and vibrant colours and very black blacks. There’s ample brightness as well at 1200nits, though it’s not as bright as the iPhone 14 Pro’s peak brightness of 2000nits.

Apple technologies including True Tone and Haptic Touch are on board though – both of which we have separate features on if you want to know more about what they mean. Support for HDR is there too, as you would now expect from a flagship smartphone.

While we thought we might see 120Hz refresh rates on the iPhone 14, this wasn’t to be this year. Instead, the iPhone 14 has the same standard 60Hz refresh rate as the iPhone 13, and there is no Always-On Display like the iPhone 14 Pro either, nor Dynamic Island.

It’s the Always-On Display that’s the biggest omission on the iPhone 14 as it works so brilliantly with the Lock Screen customisation options in iOS 16. That said, you won’t know what you’re missing out on with either the Always-On Display or the Dynamic Island unless you have used the iPhone 14 Pro, so for most people, it won’t be an issue to go without here.

The iPhone 14 still offers an excellent display – it’s just not as exciting as its Pro sibling.

Hardware and specs

  • A15 Bionic chipset, 5-core GPU
  • 128, 256, 512GB storage options
  • Up to 20-hour battery 

The Apple iPhone 14 runs on the A15 Bionic chipset like the iPhone 13 – marking the first time Apple has not upgraded the processor when launching a new phone. Is it an issue? No, not in use. The A15 is a very capable chipset and the iPhone 14 is a very capable phone, with great performance all round.

It handles multi-tasking without an issue and we didn’t experience any excessive heat when running Call of Duty Mobile, so it can handle the pressure without complaint.

We are a little disappointed the standard models are no longer running the same hardware as the Pro models though. The iPhone 14 has been upgraded to the iPhone 13 Pro’s five-core GPU, rather than the iPhone 13’s four-core GPU, so you’re getting the same hardware as last year’s iPhone 13 Pro model, but it still doesn’t match the iPhone 14 Pro of this year.

There is 5G connectivity, like the iPhone 13, though the iPhone 14 also offers Emergency SOS via satellite if you are in North America. You can read about what it means in our separate, and there is also a Crash Detection feature on the iPhone 14, which we also have an explainer on, though hopefully you’ll never need it.

Storage options start at 128GB and run up to 512GB, which again is the same as the standard iPhone 13 models. There is a bump in battery however, with the iPhone 14 said to last one hour longer than the iPhone 13, meaning up to 20 hours.

In our experience, the battery life on the iPhone 14 is very good. We typically took it off charge at 6AM and we hit the 20 per cent mark around 10:30PM or 11PM so it offers a pretty solid effort.

The iPhone 14 Plus is likely to perform better, as the iPhone 14 Pro Max does compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. However, the iPhone 14 still gave us all day and evening without having to worry about it.

Upgraded cameras

  • Dual rear (12MP f/1.5 + 12MP f/1.8)
  • 12MP front, autofocus

The Apple iPhone 14 opts for a dual rear camera, comprised of a 12-megapixel main sensor and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide sensor. This is the same setup we have seen since the iPhone 11, with the standard models losing out on the extra telephoto lens offered by the Pro models. 

While the resolution stays the same as the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13, the iPhone 14 has had an upgrade to the main sensor with a f/1.5 aperture compared to f/1.6 aperture. It’s the same sensor as the iPhone 13 Pro models had in 2021, and it means a slight improvement in low light photography. There is a Photonic Engine on board to aid low-light shots too. The ultra-wide sensor is the same as the iPhone 13 model at f/1.8.

Overall, the iPhone 14 offers some great results from its dual camera. In good lighting, the shots are detailed with good colour balance. You don’t get quite as much detail as the iPhone 14 Pro, but the iPhone 14 is still excellent for being able to point and shoot and get a great result, and there is plenty to be said for that.

The iPhone 14 performs well in low-light conditions too, with Night Mode kicking in faster than it did with the iPhone 13 and slightly better images compared to the iPhone 13 overall. It’s a solid camera offering overall and while there are some grounds to suggest opting for the iPhone 13 Pro instead of the iPhone 14 so you get the benefit of the telephoto lens too, you’ll still get some excellent results from the iPhone 14.

In terms of features, there’s sensor-shift stabilisation again – something that was introduced on the iPhone 13 models – which is designed to improve low-light photography. There’s also Smart HDR 4, Portrait Mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control, and Night Mode with Deep Fusion.

You’ll also find Photographic Styles and Cinematic Video. Cinematic Video has been upgraded to offer 4K recording at 24fps and 30fps on the iPhone 14, and there’s also a new feature called Action Mode that is designed to offer more stable video when moving, which works well, though there aren’t huge differences in our testing.

The front camera on the iPhone 14 is a 12-megapixel sensor, and it offers features including Night Mode, Deep Fusion and Photographic styles too. It’s got a wider aperture than the iPhone 13 though at f/1.9 and it offers autofocus for better selfies, putting it on par with the iPhone 14 Pro models. 

Software

  • iOS 16

The Apple iPhone 14 runs iOS 16, which brings an array of new features with it – all of which you can read about in our separate feature. One of the biggest changes is to the Lock Screen though.

With iOS 16, you get a lot more personalisation options, with the ability to change fonts, colours, images and add widgets. It makes for a fresh look on all models running the software, even if not all have hardware to fully take advantage of the Lock Screen, like the iPhone 14 Pro models do with their Always-On Displays.

There are also some other great features, like a Live Activities feature that enables you to keep up with live events in real-time, along with the ability to set a different Focus per Lock Screen and some big changes to Messages, Photos and Mail. 

Of course, you don’t need an iPhone 14 to experience the iOS 16 software as it is compatible with the iPhone 8 and later, but there are a couple of features that are exclusive to the iPhone 14 range, including Car Crash detection, which you can read about in our separate feature, and Action Mode on the camera.

To recap

The Apple iPhone 14 plays it safe, both in its design and hardware, and that makes the iPhone 14 Pro the more attractive option this year than it may have been in previous years. There are of course some upgrades – you get an improved main camera, an upgraded front camera and a slight battery increase compared to the iPhone 13. The design is identical though and there’s not a huge jump in performance either and while that’s still a great design and solid performance, this year more than any in the past, there’s a much stronger argument to buy the iPhone 14 Pro model.

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