Apple iPhone 14 review: it's greater than the sum of its parts

Despite token upgrades, the latest model is still a very capable device that can rival other flagships

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Apple's new iPhone 14 line-up is here, and kudos to everyone who was able to get their hands on the new devices, considering the supply shortage resulting from the rush that greeted stores on the first day of sales.

We aptly begin with the new entry-level device, the iPhone 14. We all know that the mini version is gone and replaced by the Plus, which is a good place to start, particularly for budget buyers.

Let's find out the case it makes to convince iPhone users to upgrade this year.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 13: what’s the difference?

Not much. The iPhone 14 looks and feels like the iPhone 13, but the things that matter most are what makes it tick from inside.

SPEC SHEET: APPLE IPHONE 14

Display: 6.1" Super Retina XDR OLED, 2532 x 1170, 460ppi, HDR, True Tone, P3, 1200 nits

Processor: A15 Bionic, 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine 

Memory: 6GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: iOS 16

Main camera: Dual 12MP main (f/1.5) + 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4); 2x optical, 5x digital; Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, Portrait Lighting

Main camera video: 4K @ 24/25/3060fps, full-HD @ 25/30/60fps, HD @ 30fps; HD slo-mo @ 120/240fps; night, time lapse, cinematic, action modes; Dolby Vision, 4K HDR

Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth (f/1.9), Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4; Animoji, Memoji; Portrait Lighting

Front camera video: 4K @ 24/25/3060fps, full-HD @ 25/30/60fps, HD slo-mo @ 120fps; night, time lapse, cinematic, action modes; Dolby Vision, 4K HDR

Battery: 3279 mAh, up to 20h video, 16h streaming video, 80h audio; fast charge to 50% in 30m; MagSafe, Qi wireless charging

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC (Apple Pay)

Biometrics: Face ID

I/O: Lightning

Cards: Dual eSIM / eSIM + SIM (US models use eSIMs only)

Colours: Blue, midnight, purple, starlight, Product Red

In the box: iPhone 14, USB-C-to-Lightning cable, one Apple sticker

Price: Dh3,399 / Dh3,799 / Dh4,649

The latest iPhone's 6.1-inch display comes as no surprise — it has been standard since 2019’s iPhone 11. Design-wise, they are the same, still donning the renowned geometric curved edges and minimalistic design.

Even the camera block was untouched, unlike those in the iPhone 14 Pro models that have become bigger.

Durability also stays put: the iPhone 14 uses “Ceramic Shield”, aerospace-grade aluminium and is rated IP68. This makes it dust and splash resistant and able to withstand being submerged up to six metres for up to 30 minutes.

Also, don't bother looking for the Dynamic Island; that's a feature exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro models, but that's a review for later.

Performance

The iPhone 14 shares the same A15 Bionic chip as its predecessor — a highly unusual move since Apple always upgrades its iPhone chips across the board every year. The iPhone 5c and all SE models, which used the chips from their direct predecessors in the iPhone chronology, are exceptions to this.

However, the iPhone 14 has a 5-core GPU — that’s an extra core compared with the iPhone 13 — which should mean its graphics hold up better. Content does feel fluid, particularly in games and other heavy-duty apps that require a tonne of hardware power.

Another crucial change, particularly for users in the US, is that all iPhone 14 units sold there now use only eSIMs. Apple has used eSIMs since the iPhone XS and XR in 2018, but this is the first time iPhones have discarded physical SIMs, at least in one country.

This won’t affect users in the UAE or anywhere else, but this does mean that Apple is now seriously leaning towards ditching physical SIMs completely. US-bought iPhone 14s can benefit from eSIM transfer services in countries they travel to. However, bear in mind that not all countries support eSIM technology, so snapping up a roaming plan seems to be the only solution.

Camera

The iPhone 14 retains a dual-lens camera system — main and ultra-wide — both with a 12MP sensor. Again, on the surface, there may seem not much of a difference; there are only a couple of notable upgrades, one of which is that the main lens’ aperture is now wider at f/1.5, meaning it can gather more light.

The other is more important: Apple added its “Photonic Engine” technology to the iPhone 14, hence using the same image processing as its Pro counterparts.

Photonic Engine uses a combination of hardware, software, AI and machine learning to process photos, and is basically an evolution of its “Deep Fusion” technology. That addition is noteworthy and is, by far, the biggest distinguishing factor from the iPhone 13.

The combination results in outstanding images. As usual, you'll be able to control your focus with some taps on the screen, but overall the brightness, white balance and exposure blend in well with each other.

Exposure is equal to the actual environment. Given that users are becoming used to cameras that overexpose shots, it may feel weird to see a “dim” result on it, but we always appreciate natural-looking results. The same goes for night shots, which are true to form.

With video, the iPhone 14 continues to feature Apple's Cinematic Mode, which, the company says, is a way of making Hollywood-grade reels. Apple first added this mode into the entry-level tier in last year's iPhone 13 models, which significantly boosted their appeal. With the latest device, it feels more fluid and more responsive.

Battery

The iPhone 14’s battery has been bumped up slightly from its predecessor to 3279mAh, and that translates into across-the-board improvements on how long it will last.

Apple says the device will last “all day” but, to give you an idea, here are the numbers: the iPhone 14 is advertised for up to 20 hours for video, 16 hours for streaming video and 80 hours for audio. Those are all up from the iPhone 13’s 19 hours, 15 hours and 75 hours, respectively.

That may not mean much, but imagine all the times when you are running out of battery and trying to squeeze every watt from your iPhone just to get something done. So these token increments can come in handy in those tough situations.

As always, Apple delivers on its all-day pledge, with enough to spare until around noon the following day or even beyond, depending on the use. In our one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, the iPhone 14 ended up losing only 7 per cent of battery, which is a very good number.

You will still also get the fast-charge promise of getting the iPhone 14 up at 50 per cent in only 30 minutes with a charger that’s 20W or higher. However, you will need to buy it separately; remember, Apple hasn’t included charging bricks and EarPods since the iPhone 12 in 2020.

Using a 30W Apple charger, the iPhone 14 surged to 63 per cent in 30 minutes — way above what's promised — and 87 per cent in an hour before reaching the finish line almost half an hour later. We have to note that this was done in power-off mode, which means that when the device came alive, all background activity was practically disabled.

The verdict

In all honesty, the Apple iPhone 14 is a token upgrade from iPhone 13. But despite that, it's still a very capable device.

The case being made by this device is two-pronged. First, we have to keep in mind that there is a market for users who do not require or want flagship features.

Secondly, not everyone can or is willing to upgrade their iPhones every year, so the iPhone 14 is the best chance for users of the iPhone 12 or iPhone 11 — maybe even the iPhone XR — to change their device.

Apple has kept prices on a par with last year's counterpart, which is a clever move to entice new or upgrading users.

If you don’t need the top-of-the-line features of its Pro counterparts, the iPhone 14 more than suffices. But if you want to take a step further with the whole experience on a bigger, 6.7-inch screen without going Pro — and have Dh400 to spare — consider waiting for the iPhone 14 Plus, which comes out on October 7.

Updated: September 22, 2022, 9:45 AM
SPEC SHEET: APPLE IPHONE 14

Display: 6.1" Super Retina XDR OLED, 2532 x 1170, 460ppi, HDR, True Tone, P3, 1200 nits

Processor: A15 Bionic, 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine 

Memory: 6GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: iOS 16

Main camera: Dual 12MP main (f/1.5) + 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4); 2x optical, 5x digital; Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, Portrait Lighting

Main camera video: 4K @ 24/25/3060fps, full-HD @ 25/30/60fps, HD @ 30fps; HD slo-mo @ 120/240fps; night, time lapse, cinematic, action modes; Dolby Vision, 4K HDR

Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth (f/1.9), Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4; Animoji, Memoji; Portrait Lighting

Front camera video: 4K @ 24/25/3060fps, full-HD @ 25/30/60fps, HD slo-mo @ 120fps; night, time lapse, cinematic, action modes; Dolby Vision, 4K HDR

Battery: 3279 mAh, up to 20h video, 16h streaming video, 80h audio; fast charge to 50% in 30m; MagSafe, Qi wireless charging

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC (Apple Pay)

Biometrics: Face ID

I/O: Lightning

Cards: Dual eSIM / eSIM + SIM (US models use eSIMs only)

Colours: Blue, midnight, purple, starlight, Product Red

In the box: iPhone 14, USB-C-to-Lightning cable, one Apple sticker

Price: Dh3,399 / Dh3,799 / Dh4,649

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