Reviewing iPhone 14 Pro Max Hello, and thank you for choosing the brand new iPhone 14 Pro Max, which we believe to be the best iPhone ever created.
There are a number of new and improved features, but the new iPhone keeps some of the older and less useful components, including as the Lightning connector and the cable that goes with it that comes in the box.
Reviewing iPhone 14 Pro Max
If you were to look at the back of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the older model.
The only thing that is preventing us from upgrading to the newest iPhone is the fact that it is not available in purple.
Because of the Dynamic Island, however, the front of the device obviously resembles the new iPhone.
It is a smart name that Apple came up with to describe the new notch, which is simply software binding two physical cutouts with a little screen and a lot of functionality.
We’ll cover it in greater detail in the whole review, but suffice it to say that it’s easy to lose track of the fact that the new notch is a real object.
It is in the most mundane of activities, such as receiving a call notice, establishing a timer, or listening to music when it truly shines.
Additionally, the selfie camera has been updated, and the 12 megapixel camera now has autofocus.
The screen is still 6.7 inches in size, but it has a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits and a faster refresh rate, which enables it to have an always-on feature.
And in typical Apple manner, the execution, despite being behind schedule, is unlike that of any other company’s.
The Advanced Operation Display is not a screen that is completely dark, with only a few white indications showing the time, date, and any notifications.
At first, it will make people who have used their phone for a long time believe that their phone’s screen is turned on. Essentially, it is a dimmed-down version of your lockscreen, and it takes some getting used to.
However, the AOD is smart enough to detect its surroundings, and as a result, it will reduce its brightness when you are in a darker room, increase that brightness when you are outside, and completely turn itself off when you are asleep or when the phone is turned over.
When we do our review, it will be interesting to observe the impact that the new always-on mode has on the battery life.
The primary camera is brand new as well.
It is a 48MP 1/1.28″ image with 1.22m individual pixels, dual-pixel PDAF, and the second generation of sensor-shift stabilization. The new sensor bins its pixels 4 to 1 to produce a final 12MP image; however, it also allows for 2x shots again at 12MP with cropping rather than binning. Full 48MP images are also available through Apple ProRAW.
Reviewing iPhone 14 Pro Max
As you can see, there is a lot to evaluate, so let’s get started with the review. Before we do, here are some images contrasting the new 6.5-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max with the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro. An unboxing of the smaller Pro will also be published soon.
Apple is really leaning into its silicon lead to deliver big gains year over year in cameras, and it is relying on its design teams to give users new ways to interact with their very familiar devices. This year, Apple’s iPhone 14 lineup delivers on a bunch of different vectors with very few peccadillos or complaints.
The cameras improve upon the already outstanding iPhone 13 Pro’s arrays, particularly in terms of low light and telephoto performance. The always-on display achieves what others have done, but does it better and in a more rational way.
This year’s iPhones also defy inflation by offering better performance, improved battery life, and improved connectivity at the same price as last year’s iPhones. Through some lenses, this actually makes them cheaper for much of the world; however, the dollar’s relative strength has led to a higher cost in Europe and other places.
Even the “Dynamic Island,” which is a pill-shaped area that houses the iPhone’s front camera and other sensors, actually proves to be clever and useful. I’d even go so far as to say that Apple has pulled off a remarkable feat here by taking a reviled design concession — “the notch” — and turning it into a true tool that improves user experience.
As a side note, I’d like to mention that I made the decision to conduct my review of the iPhone in a slightly different manner this year. Typically, I will make an effort to fit in an extensive experiential tour with the new devices because I like to have a real-world perspective on them by the time the general public starts to get them.
But there is an enormous amount of time pressure there, and I never feel like I’ve really lived in them long enough. So this year, I’m going to drop some initial impressions today based on testing some of the marquee new features, and then I’m going to take a couple of weeks to layer on some experience-time with them. If my initial impressions remain the same, I’ll probably just update this post.
I was able to get my hands on the Deep Purple and Space Black models of the iPhone Pro as well as the Blue iPhone 14. I’m happy to report that the Space Black is much blacker than the Graphite of last year. It’s not Jet Black, which is my all-time favorite iPhone finish, but you do get the deeply black hi-shine steel band at least. The back of the phone is still not extremely dark because of the frosted glass finish, but it’s much darker than last year
This is going to be a fan favorite, I think, and will work extremely well with a transparent cover. The Deep Purple is my personal favorite color for this year, and I ordered it. It is fairly dark overall, but shows nicely when the light hits it.
Purple, which brought back a shade close to the iPhone 12’s lavender, and the (PRODUCT)RED, which is a really bold Pat McGrath-esque uber red that verges on magenta, are the winning colors that I saw in the hands-on area at the event last week. The Blue in the iPhone 14 is fairly subdued in my opinion. The winning colors that I saw in the hands-on area were Purple, which brought back a shade close to the iPhone 12’s lavender
This year, Apple shipped test iPhones to reviewers with a line of service attached. This meant that when I booted up the devices for the first time, I was presented with the option of activating that line or adding my own. I added both to get the full dual-line experience, and it went smoothly. Apple has had eSIM in iPhones since 2018, so they’ve had practice at this, but it was overall aggressively pleasant. Apple shipped test iPhones to reviewers with a line of service attached.
Once I added it, I was taken through a nicely designed flow to choose which number I would use as primary, which data plan I would use, and whether I wanted to blend the plans to use whichever data was faster at the moment. The new signal indicator, which shows both services on it, takes some getting used to, but other than that, it is nicely done. Adding my line was a painless process, even though I was “converting” from a physical SIM.
If you buy an unlocked phone, you can add lines from any carrier anywhere to it at will, which is pretty cool. If you buy a region-locked iPhone, you’re going to get the same experience that you do with a physical SIM in that you need to purchase a travel plan if you’re going overseas. If you buy an unlocked phone, you can add up to eight lines to the iPhone 14, and you can name each one separately to keep track of them.
Since Google added the capability to utilize Fi in eSIM quite some time ago, when my personal phone finally arrives, I will most likely use both my Fi line and the line provided by my carrier simultaneously.
It is next to impossible for me to determine if there is any real benefit here in my testing, though I’m sure that a teardown will display whatever architectural changes Apple has made. Whatever has changed, it is significant because the back glass of the iPhone 14 can now be replaced without having to disassemble the phone, which was not possible with previous models. This was not possible with previous models.
As a result of the fact that the display can now be replaced without additionally necessitating the removal of the True Depth Camera module from it, the overall cost of repair for issues of this nature is significantly reduced.
This can be helpful when moving suddenly into or out of large backlit scenarios. It is also difficult to verifiably test, especially considering that the camera and screen adjustments are already well supported by existing sensors. All new iPhone models now have an ambient light sensor on the back of the device. This sensor is used to adjust display brightness but also to determine camera exposure.
But I get the feeling Apple isn’t happy being forced into anything to do with a connector choice by the EU or anyone else. So your guess is as good as mine as to when that will happen. I would love to see Apple finally convert at least the iPhone’s pro models over to USB-C. It just makes sense at this point, given that Lightning was originally given an approximately 10-year “for the next decade” lifespan when it was announced.
Because I already have the setting to “show notifications but hide the contents,” I didn’t have to make many adjustments to my behavior, but if you keep the contents of your notifications visible, you may want to rethink your strategy there. For those of us who are not used to having it, the always-on screen does take some getting used to. I found myself habitually thinking that the phone had just gone into that brief “dimming” stage before it turned off.
And for those of you who just don’t like the new manner, yes, there is a setting in the settings app that allows you to turn off the always on behavior. It’s called the stay-off-my-lawn setting.
You will likely get a small amount of extra battery life by leaving the screen off, but the new A16 has the ability to ramp the display down to 1Hz, which allows them to leave the screen on without materially affecting battery life. Some other interesting side effects of the refresh rate dropping down to sub 1 second are that any timers you have running will show only to the minute while the display is in ‘off’ mode, unless the timer has less than two minutes left, in which case it will ramp back up.
The display is noticeably brighter in day-to-day use. Not enough to feel like a violent change from the iPhone 13 Pro, but even then there is a delta, and it’s more than on paper — it’s brighter, period. Apple claims that it can spike to 2,000 nits, but for most people, that’s a pretty random number.
I took a picture with an exposure locked frame on an iPhone 14 Pro Max of the same image displayed on both an iPhone 13 Pro (on the left) and an iPhone 14 Pro (on the right) in order to provide you with at least some basis for comparison. I believe the resulting picture provides a fairly accurate approximation of how much brighter the iPhone 14 Pro’s screen can appear when exposed to direct sunlight.
My habit has been to lay my phone face down on the table because I am almost constantly inundated with notifications. I believe that this habit will become much more common now that the always-on screen will continue to show notifications coming in unless you have customized your focus modes to keep them in the quiet place until you go looking for them.
This aggressive variable frame rate (VFR) adjustment has led to pretty solid battery life across the lineup. I didn’t run any formal battery tests this year but still got a solid day’s use and then some once they finished indexing. One interesting quirk is that the iPhone 14 actually gets a higher battery life rating for audio playback and lower ratings on the video tests. Once again, this is VFR at work as Apple dynamically adjusts the refresh rate of the screen. I didn’t run any formal battery tests this year
It strains against the restrictions not of its software or image pipeline but against the physics of sensor size and light collection, and it largely succeeds in doing so. One of the best small cameras ever developed is built within the iPhone 14 Pro.
The iPhone 14’s leap to a quad-Bayer coded 48-megapixel sensor turns the corner from maybe to eventually. It’s no longer if, it’s when, and the when is probably more of a matter of your use case than it is about the camera’s capability. In previous years, we were able to predict and joke about a far-flung future in which the image quality of an iPhone rivaled or surpassed a dedicated removable-lens camera.
The iPhone 14
But I thought I should dedicate a section of this piece to talking specifically about the iPhone 14. For the second year in a row, Apple delivers a really enticing “entry” point to the new lineup. Although I have a personal preference for telephoto focal lengths that would never allow me to settle into the “wide and ultra-wide” focal lengths, I was able to get a lot of use out of the iPhone 14’s cameras. In particular, I was impressed with how well the portrait mode
The excellent base of the A15 Bionic, a brand new main sensor with a 49% (not 50, never catch Apple lacking, they use number numbers) better light gathering and access to the new image pipeline with the Photonic Engine — and all of the new safety features like Crash Detection and Emergency SOS via satellite — make the iPhone 14 a really, really tempting buy. When you add to this that the color palette of options available is bolder and more fun than the somewhat reserved options that were previously available
Because the performance headroom of Apple’s chips far outpaces their yearly release schedule, you’re going to be hard-pressed to notice any shortcomings, if there are any. Although you’ll have to accept the fact that Apple is likely making better margins off your purchase because they’re shipping last year’s top of the line chip again in it, I’m not sure that should be a dealbreaker for you. Yes, you’ll have to live with the fact that Apple is likely making better margins
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The iPhone 14 is pleasant to use, appealing to look at, and extremely capable. The absence of advanced cameras in the iPhone 14 Pro is somewhat mitigated by the image pipeline, which delivers Action Mode, 24p 4K shooting, and improved zoom interpolation while filming. Those could easily have been reserved for the Pro models, and I doubt anyone but some close observers would have complained about that decision. However, you get all of it.
And if you’re interested in something like that, this year they even have “the big one.”
That means that I do not have one here, which means that I am unable to bring you any impressions of the larger screen on the “main line” model. However, other than that, the functionality of the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Plus are ostensibly supposed to be identical. That’s something I can’t tey until I get my hands on both models. Apple won’t say why the iPhone 14 Plus is shipping one month later than the other models of iPhone. However, it’s very likely
Also, I am aware that this may be considered heresy in certain quarters, but I prefer the blasted metal trim on the Pro versions than the polished sides that are prone to collecting fingerprints.
So far, my experience with the iPhone 14 Pro has led me to a few discoveries, which I’ll briefly outline below before delving more into in the next paragraphs:
The availability of a 48-megapixel RAW image will be quite useful for photographers, but the vast majority of users won’t find this capability particularly useful.
Apple’s Photonic Engine is interwoven with all of the camera improvements, despite the fact that it is difficult by nature to pin this down because so much of the process is happening on the raw images much earlier in the process. However, this is not snake oil; it is in the mix because you can see the improvements in the iPhone 14 as well.
The main camera’s quad-Bayer array lives up to its potential by adding finer detail, increasing the amount of light it gathers, and improving the way colors are rendered.
The telephoto camera in the iPhone 13 Pro is not very good, therefore it is a relief to find out that the one in the iPhone 13 Pro is absolutely, one hundred percent better than the one in the iPhone 13 Plus.
My favorite new mode is the native 12MP 2x option, which is brilliant due to the fact that it provides a near 50mm equivalent option for amazing candid shooting with zero interpolation due to the perfect 12mm crop fitting inside of the huge new sensor. It is also the mode that has the highest resolution.
The Ultra Wide camera has seen significant development since the iPhone 13 Pro; it now focuses much more quickly and performs noticeably better while shooting in low-light environments.
48 Megapixels in total resolution
A 4x jump in pixel count in a single year was unheard of for iPhone; in fact, they hadn’t increased it at all since the jump from 8MP to 12MP in the iPhone 6s. If you were in the room during the Apple presentation, you would have immediately heard the susurration that ran through the room in reaction to the words “48 megapixel.” My head certainly snapped up from typing in our liveblog.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 had a 41-megapixel sensor in 2013, for example, and though the photographs were adequate, they weren’t appreciably better than what the 8MP camera in the iPhone 5s offered. The general impression was that the iPhone won out convincingly due to better processing choices.
Because higher megapixel numbers on the box were an easy way to sell cameras at big box retailers, they kept climbing. However, more pixels means more heat and more noise and often smaller pixel pitch (size of individual sensor elements), which quickly degrades image quality if you don’t have enough horsepower to correct it at the ISP. However, manufacturers have been playing a dangerous game by adding more megapixels to digital cameras for decades.
However, the 48-megapixel camera found in the iPhone 14 Pro avoids the pitfall of selling itself based on the raw number of pixels by employing a Quad Bayer design. This design “bins” four individual pixel sensing elements, combining their information into a single mega-megapixel that provides improved low-light performance with less noise.
First of all, of course, photographers who are serious about taking as much control of the image as possible now have access to 48MP of RAW image data to play with. This is an ML-interpolated version of what the quad array would produce for that image. While on an individual basis the pixels are individually smaller at 1.2 m, there are four of them, so they combine to make up a 2.44 m photosite. Bigger is better in this case because it produces images with lower noise.
Engine Using Photons
Apple’s new image pipeline, which it calls the Photonic Engine, is responsible for the improvements made across all of the company’s product lines. The most significant development in this regard is that Apple is taking the raw captures (four main frames and two to three secondary frames) from the sensor and performing its combination work on them using Deep Fusion before making any adjustments, such as de-mosaicing, noise reduction, or color correction.
The Internet service provider (ISP) is able to work on larger, more information-rich 16-bit RAW exposures because the photos are interpolated earlier in the pipeline. This allows the ISP to preserve fine detail all the way down to the final 12MP JPEG.
The “why now” of Photonic Engine seems to boil down to a handful of factors, the most prominent of which are that the newly enhanced internal design dissipates heat better, the image pipeline is better integrated, and the 5-core GPU in the iPhone 14 is considered minimum viable to pull this off without any lag in shooting. The improved pipeline and thermals appear to be the reason why the iPhone 13 Pro cannot utilize the same process. As far as I can divine in my casting about, this is why the iPhone 14 cannot utilize the
Reviewing iPhone 14 Pro Max
In my testing, the results appear to be crisper images taken at any focal length, with strong color rendition that tends toward saturated neutral tones. In comparison, the pipeline of the iPhone 13 Pro generally tends to be warmer, whereas the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro present a ramped up but cooler (and truer) image in most conditions.
It is difficult to test the majority of the cameras against one another in order to create a true comparison for Photonic Engine because nearly every one of them has some new hardware involved as well. Additionally, all of them are receiving any ISP enhancements that have been made apart from the Photonic Engine specifically.
I had to do some research to figure this out, but I was able to confirm that the main camera on the iPhone 14 and the main camera on the iPhone 13 Pro use the same hardware. This is the only way that I can see to test how much the Photonic Engine or pipeline is contributing to the images directly. All of the other cameras use new hardware of some kind.
With the same hardware, the images from the iPhone 14’s camera displayed better overall sharpness and color rendition in bright conditions. In low-light conditions the dynamic range was also expanded; for example, highlights retained more detail. This is most likely the result of other pipeline tweaks, as the Photonic Engine does not, by itself, increase dynamic range. In my testing, I found that the updated pipeline delivered strong results.
I don’t know if there are going to be a lot of people migrating from the iPhone 13 Pro to the iPhone 14, anyway. I just found it an interesting way to test whether the new pipeline delivered better results on essentially identical hardware, and the answer is yes. These differences aren’t significant, but I don’t know if there’s going to be a lot of people migrating from the iPhone 13 Pro to the iPhone 14.
The Primary Filming Device
I was sitting next to Apple writer and student John Gruber when he pointed out that they had just called this default camera the “Main Camera” for the very first time during the keynote presentation. This was another fun in-keynote moment. Another fun in-keynote moment was when Apple renamed the Wide camera across its iPhone lineup.
This Main Camera lingo makes logical sense, and it will clear up a lot of uncertainty about whether we were talking about the wide or the wide wide; but, I am going to dispense with the capitalization of the term because trade dress is not important to me.
In my testing, the improvements are immediately clear compared to the iPhone 13 Pro. And in an easily visible way too — there’s no confusion — it’s absolutely better. Whatever it’s called, the main camera was the biggest recipient of upgrades this season, with the aforementioned quad Bayer 48MP sensor and Photonic Engine at the heart of it.
Better color rendition — as was indicated before, more neutral with heightened saturation — was one of the differences that I noticed. Other differences included improved detail in bright light as well as improved sharpness and crispness in low light.
The 100% focus pixels mean that it gets a better lock on subjects and accomplishes so quicker. The sensor is twice as wide here and Apple boasts that 3x “better” low-light shots are possible. The verdict here is that it is better overall, more open in the shadows, and sharper at the edges.
Protection and safeguarding
Crash Detection and SOS over satellite are two of the most important new safety features that have been added to the iPhone 14 lineup. Unfortunately, I was unable to test crash detection because the local crash test simulator that I used to use shut down last year after an unfortunate watermelon incident. SOS over satellite won’t be available for purchase until November.
But I believe that both capabilities are quite appealing to anyone who travels or adventures alone, particularly in places where there is a significant amount of driving involved. In order to prevent me from crashing my car, here is a rundown of how these features operate.
Detection of crashes
The following are the types of collisions that can be identified by the feature:
This function is made feasible in particular by software in conjunction with updated hardware:
Accelerometer with a dual core that can measure up to 256G of force (currently 32G).
In most crash scenarios, the amount of force ranges between 100 and 200G.
New and improved gyroscope that can detect faster and takes more readings per second.
In addition, the barometer, GPS, and mic are all utilized.
Crash data is only analyzed locally, while the vehicle is being driven.
When an accident takes place:
There will be a countdown of 10 seconds.
calls local or international emergency agencies.
A voice message that has been looped is sent out.
Your current location will be sent to EMS.
Provides an alert to your emergency contacts and also sends your current location to them.
Crash detection will also use satellites to deliver messages to emergency medical services if there is no signal.
Within Messages on an iPhone, that URL will turn into a Maps window with the location shown as a pin. On any other device, it will likely show the URL, and the user can click on it to open the web version of Maps. The emergency contact message will say that this user has been in a crash (providing the name of the user if it is set in their My Card) and provide the estimated location of the user (if available) in a maps URL.
When there is no cell signal at the top of your smartphone, a new status indicator will display that you are not in range. This will be labeled as SOS.
The capability can be activated by making a standard call to 911 from any cellular connection.
In the event that you dial 911 and receive no response, the line will become active between 30 and 60 seconds later.
The Emergency SOS message will then appear on the satellite screen, along with a description of the desired level of service and connectivity.
The user is then directed to a tap-friendly questionnaire that Apple developed in collaboration with medical professionals.
You have the option of notifying emergency contacts at all, if you so desire.
Additionally, they have access to the transcript of your SOS conversation.
After that, it displays a screen that walks you through how to point your camera at a satellite.
After that, the Messages app receives a notification.
When you are sending an urgent message, the chat window will be gray.
You also have the option to text the emergency number 911 directly through the Messages service.
This is a feature offered by Apple relay centers because the vast majority of EMS providers do not accept texts sent to 911, while some do.
At this time, the relay centers are located in the United States and Canada.
In the course of the training, you will be required to summon the appropriate services in order to cover the emergency and the affected area.
They will receive the information from your Medical ID card, which will indicate things like prescriptions, height, weight, and other information from your medical card.
In order to transfer data to a satellite in a more timely manner, a text compression method is utilized.
The components within the phone, such as the antenna and the software that enables the connection to the satellite,