Apple iPhone 14 Pro review: effortlessly superb

iphone 14 pro in deep purple, held in a mans hand.

iPhone 14 Pro

MSRP $999.00

“The iPhone 14 Pro’s outstanding performance, simple and powerful software, versatile camera, and high-quality design make for an effortless ownership experience.”

Pros

  • Camera improvements mean great photos
  • Always-on display looks fantastic
  • Powerful A16 Bionic processor
  • Vibrant screen and clear speakers
  • Long-term software support

Cons

  • One-day battery life
  • Modest charging speed

Everything about the iPhone 14 Pro feels entirely effortless. The design is expertly judged and modern, the software is incredibly simple to use, and the camera takes even better photographs than its predecessor. But effortless can be taken another way, too, in that it’s not exactly the most daring update over its predecessor.

Let’s talk in detail about whether the iPhone 14 Pro is worth the effort on your part to either take the plunge into Apple ownership or upgrade from an existing iPhone. If you’re looking for the non-Pro iPhone 14, check out our review.

iPhone 14 Pro design

the back of the iphone 14 pro in deep purple color.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you’ve seen an iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 14 Pro will be very familiar. It has the same flat, squared-off chassis that still feels slightly too sharp in your hand, but is beautifully made from stainless steel. Apple’s Ceramic Shield is over the screen and there’s toughened glass on the back. An IP68 water-resistance rating adds confidence, as the phone will avoid damage from accidental water spills. The volume controls and power button are still in place on the side, and if you buy an iPhone 14 in the U.S. you won’t find a SIM tray, as this is the first iPhone to only accept an eSIM.

The 6.1-inch Pro is beautifully balanced in your hand, and it is usable with one hand too. It’s no featherweight at 206 grams, but it never feels ungainly at 71mm wide and 7.8mm thick, plus I have not had any fatigue from holding it for long periods of time. It can be a slippery thing, though, and protecting it with a case will help keep it from making an unwanted break for freedom. There are several ordinary colors (black, silver, or gold), but go for the lovely new Deep Purple and choose a transparent case. It looks almost black in some situations, but get it in the right light and the purple absolutely pops. Even the chassis has a purple hue. I think it looks excellent.

On the back, the camera module is large and makes a bold statement when the iPhone 14 Pro isn’t in a case, but because the three cameras protrude considerably, the phone never lays flat on any surface. It all adds up to a smartphone that’s unmistakably an iPhone. This isn’t a groundbreaking design, there’s nothing especially flashy about it, yet it manages to be classy and cool, fitting in with every situation. It doesn’t demand attention, but it will still get admiring glances, particularly if you choose the purple one.

Would I have liked to see a design that wasn’t almost exactly the same as the last two models? Yes, that would have been good. Does it strictly need to look any different? No, not at all. Apple has got the Pro formula right — classy looks, just the right size and weight, high-quality materials, and stellar build quality — so it can’t be blamed for not making dramatic changes with the iPhone 14 Pro. The one thing I’d have liked to see is more color options, but I expect those will come later to keep the range fresh.

iPhone 14 Pro always-on screen

the iphone 14 pro's screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The new 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR screen, with its 2556 x 1179 resolution and 460ppi pixel density, has some tricks up its sleeve. Before we get into the big changes, it’s worth mentioning the brightness. It reaches 1600 nits normally, but can boost to 2,000 outdoors in sunlight, and the difference is noticeable. There’s a “bump” when the extra kicks in, and the screen really does become brighter and easier to read when the sun is beating down.

However, it’s the always-on display that’s the largest, most obvious new screen feature. Android phones have had always-on screens for years, showing the time, battery, and notification icons against a black screen. Apple’s always-on screen is essentially just a dimmed version of the lock screen, in full color, and with dynamic widgets and notification alerts. It’s the Apple Watch’s always-on screen, just on your phone. It’s also so much more than we’ve seen on any other phone, with the time and date highlighted in a bright white font over your choice of wallpaper, and notifications clearly showing the icon and basic details about each one.

Controls for music and audio apps also stay on-screen and a quick tap wakes them up, ready to pause or change tracks. I’ve found the whole lock screen experience to be sharper and faster to react than before. I use the phone in my car for music, and where before it took multiple taps to make anything work, it’s a single tap and an instant reaction on the iPhone 14 Pro. The always-on screen is beautiful, useful, and a step above implementations we’ve seen elsewhere in terms of design. But it may not be helping battery life, which we’ll come back to later.

the always-on display on the iphone 14 pro.
Always-on display on the iPhone 14 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Apple’s 120Hz ProMotion feature makes a return and should be considered a strong reason to choose the Pro model over the standard iPhone 14. The higher refresh rate provides smoother scrolling and less-jarring animations, and doesn’t cause as much eye-strain. It quickly becomes “invisible,” but you will absolutely notice its absence. Watching video on the iPhone 14 Pro, the screen comes alive with stunning colors, deep blacks, and pitch-perfect contrast. Even the stereo speakers are some of the best in the business. There’s clarity, power, and actual presence to the sound, and I can happily watch videos and listen to streaming music through them for long periods of time.

The iPhone 14 Pro has a fabulous screen, and it’s sure to be even more immersive and pleasurable to view on the bigger 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max … if you can bare the extra weight and price of the device.

iPhone 14 Pro iOS 16 and Dynamic Island

Dynamic Island, Apple’s cringey name for the expanded pill-shaped notch replacement at the top of the screen, is most definitely a work in progress. At the moment, it’s relatively simple, showing information about Bluetooth connections, screen and voice recordings, face unlock alerts, and timers. Apple’s Live Activities feature isn’t ready yet, and developers haven’t been given access either. When these things happen in the near future, Dynamic Island’s usefulness will skyrocket.

For now, what you see is potential. The Dynamic Island never feels intrusive, and the functionality it does provide is helpful. Music controls are the best example, as a short tap takes you directly to the app that’s playing, and a longer press reveals a set of quick controls. Although these features can be found elsewhere in iOS, it’s undeniably fast and intuitive to use the Dynamic Island, and it bodes well for the future when more apps make use of it. It’s also a seamless thing of beauty, as the software morphs and shifts around the hardware component so slickly that you really can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.

The iPhone 14 Pro comes with iOS 16 installed. In addition to the new battery percentage display and the excellent haptics, much has been made about customizing iOS 16’s lock screen, and I remain unconvinced it’s necessary or beneficial. Even the new Settings page to change the wallpaper and add widgets is needlessly complicated and rather confusing. I’ve personally seen no everyday benefit to adding more clutter to the lock screen, but understand others may feel differently. The new A16 Bionic processor powers all this with aplomb, and while I’ve had no problem with performance at any time, I’m not sure I can see any real difference between it and the A15 Bionic in the iPhone 13 Pro.

The notification system in iOS has also been demonized for some time, but it’s a personal thing. I’ve used iOS for years and have seen the system evolve into what it is today. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than ever before, and I don’t consider it the hateful thing some others do. Notifications sit at the bottom of the lock screen in a stack, which can be expanded when Face ID sees you. Some can be interacted with or further viewed, or tapped to open the corresponding app. To me, it does what I want, and is by no means better or worse than most Android notification systems. Siri even (surprisingly competently) reads my messages when I’m using my AirPods.

Negatives? Muscle memory means I often pull down on the left of the screen when the phone’s unlocked to better see notifications I may have missed, but this once-helpful feature has been reduced to a copy of the lock screen and does make notifications slower to view and interact with. I also dislike the Search widget being permanently stuck to the bottom of each home screen, which just duplicates functionality and causes visual clutter.

There’s one key software advantage over many other phones that makes the iPhone such a joy to live with, and that’s software updates. Although Apple doesn’t put a time frame on how long it officially supports its smartphones with major updates to iOS, the most recent iOS 16 software works as far back as the iPhone 8, released at the end of 2017. It’s reasonable to expect the iPhone 14 Pro to continue getting updates for another five years.

iPhone 14 Pro camera

the camera module on the iphone 14 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Yes, the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera is an improvement over the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera. It’s not by much, but the enhancements do make a difference. The main camera has 48 megapixels, while the wide-angle and telephoto cameras have 12 megapixels. We have compared the iPhone 14 Pro to the iPhone 13 Pro and to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 already, providing a deep dive into its abilities in different environments, and how the new Photonic Engine improves lowlight zoom images.

What about the app and the photographic experience? The iPhone 14 Pro can take 2x or 3x optical zoom shots, or expand to a 0.5x wide-angle photo; for video, it can record up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (fps). It’s versatile and satisfying, and while some may want to see a greater optical zoom, the 3x setting gets you in pretty close. For this reason, I have found the new 2x zoom more useful than if Apple had added a 5x zoom.

Face recognition is near-instant when using the rear camera, the app immediately recognizes and perfectly isolates text to copy-and-paste into other apps or messages, plus Siri Knowledge is great at recognizing plants and animals. The image-editing suite is powerful but confusingly laid out and not particularly fast to use, and I find that the premade filters rarely enhance my images. Samsung does a better job with its filters, but its editing suite is even less intuitive, and I often still turn to apps like Snapseed to give photos a boost.

Stills can be shot in Apple’s ProRaw mode, providing more potential for editing by those who know how to get the best from the format. But beware, as ProRaw photos take up a lot of space, with single images coming in at around 60MB or more. It gets even worse if you want to experiment with the ProRes feature for video, as Apple estimates a single minute of ProRes video will take up a giant 1.7GB of storage space,. It also estimates that the 100GB remaining on my 256GB iPhone 14 Pro will let me record ProRes for just 19 minutes.

ProRes and ProRaw are niche features that most people won’t feel the need to experiment with, and it feels similar for the returning Cinematic Mode (which now shoots in 4K resolution at 24fps or 30fps) and the new Action Mode. This adds a gimbal-like level of stabilization to videos where you and the target are moving around. The iPhone 13 Pro already had great stabilization for video (see the comparison with the gimbal-equipped Asus Zenfone 9 for evidence), and it’s great on the iPhone 14 Pro too, plus the smoother transition between zoom levels is very welcome.

Yes, the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera is an improvement over the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera.

Shooting photos and video in the normal modes at a reasonable resolution, and with the stock stabilization, will likely be enough for most people in most situations. The additional pro-style features may not get used very often, and certainly not by everyone who buys an iPhone 14 Pro, but they are implemented well, and should you have the knowledge and correct additional software to properly try them out, they are undoubtedly powerful.

The iPhone 14 Pro’s camera is fantastic. It takes exciting and vibrant photos in the sun, detailed and balanced photos in the dark, and has more than enough versatility for me to experiment. There’s more technical expertise hidden inside than ever before and features that are beyond me right now, but could prove useful and enjoyable in the future.

iPhone 14 Pro battery and charging

the deep purple color iphone 14 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 14 Pro’s battery performance hasn’t been great, but there are signs of improvement. Initially, the battery was never going to last more than a day, and with moderately hard use (around three to four hours of screen time), it would be down to less than 30% by early evening — and that saw some anxiety start to creep in. Heavy use and a trip to the charger were necessary by this point. This was also mostly connected to Wi-Fi, and sometimes with no gaming — just GPS, camera, apps, a short amount of video, and a few hours of streaming music.

The battery life and charging technology are the least impressive aspects of the iPhone 14 Pro.

Since those dark, early days, the iPhone 14 Pro seems to have settled down into my own use patterns. While the battery isn’t going to suddenly last for two days, it has definitely improved. The arrival of iOS 16.0.2 may also have helped optimize the system. Although it’s not mentioned specifically as a benefit, the very first version of iOS 16 also dramatically cut the battery life on my iPhone 13 Pro — suggesting software may be a factor in the relatively poor battery performance.

iphone 14 pro battery life settings.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Apple doesn’t supply a charger with the iPhone 14 Pro, but it does put a USB Type-C to Lightning cable in the box. If you own Apple’s 20-watt charging block, expect the battery to charge to 50% in about 30 minutes. I use Apple’s 29W charging block, and this takes it to full in just over an hour. It’s acceptable performance, but can’t match the fast charging times provided by the OnePlus 10T, or many phones from Oppo or Xiaomi. It is consistent with Samsung’s phones, though.

The battery life and charging technology are the least impressive aspects of the iPhone 14 Pro. Other brands, particularly some of those not sold in the U.S., have made significant advancements in fast-charging technology, and it’s reasonable to expect the majority of Android phones to last two days on a single charge with normal use. Apple falls behind this, and if you demand a lot from your phone, then be prepared to carry a battery pack or make emergency charging stops during the day to avoid any anxiety.

There is some anecdotal evidence from people testing beta versions of iOS that battery life has been further extended, and it’s something we will continue to monitor on the iPhone 14 Pro.

iPhone 14 Pro price and availability

The basic iPhone 14 Pro with 128GB storage space costs $999, or 1,099 British pounds in the U.K. The price increases every time you add more storage space, right up to $1,499 or 1,429 pounds for the top 1TB version. All iPhone 14 Pro models are available to buy now through Apple’s online store and most networks in the U.S.

The little things make a big difference with the iPhone 14 Pro

the iphone 14 pro held in a mans hand, seen from the back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

One of my favorite things about the iPhone 14 Pro is how easy it is to live with, and this begins from the moment you get it out of the box. It doesn’t take long to set the phone up, and if you’re coming from another iPhone, Apple provides everything from extra temporary iCloud storage and fast account transfer to make it really simple. If you’re trading in your old iPhone, a little notification pops up that essentially automates the process required to get it ready to be sent back. It’s effortless and a great introduction to your new, expensive phone.

It goes far beyond those first moments. I use both AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, which connect instantly and have fantastic Bluetooth range, plus I can swap between different devices without any of them getting confused. I also regularly use Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones with the iPhone, and the accompanying app makes keeping it up to date simple, and the Bluetooth connection is equally as stable.

I’ve connected the Apple Watch SE 2 and the Apple Watch Ultra to the iPhone 14 Pro, and again, it’s very easy, and the connection absolutely flawless. My Oura Ring also connects without issue, and the app works very well. My podcasts download when I want them, Apple Pay is accepted everywhere, the choice of cases to protect the phone is enormous, and even resale value is typically stronger than any other device. There are also two new safety features: a car crash detection system that I have no intention of testing, and an emergency satellite calling feature that I can’t test because it’s not out until November. I hope to never need it.

the iphone 14 pro held in a mans hand, showing the screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I don’t want the phone I own and use every day to be an effort. It’s one of the reasons needy software like Oppo’s ColorOS and OnePlus’s OxygenOS frustrates. The iPhone 14 Pro works with me, providing all the functionality and quality I expect from a phone that costs $1,000, plus a wealth of features that hide from view yet enhance my ownership, whether that’s the 120Hz ProMotion screen or crash detection.

This is what I want, far more so than any visual change for change’s sake, and the iPhone 14 Pro delivers it. Buy with confidence, and enjoy the very best smartphone ownership experience you can have. However, if you have an iPhone 13 Pro already, then there’s not much new here unless you’re really taken by the always-on screen and Dynamic Island, and it’s really the same story for anyone with an iPhone 12 Pro too. Anyone with an iPhone before the 12 will find it a considerable and worthwhile upgrade.

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