The iPhone 14 was never going to be a terrible phone but it's got one fatal flaw. It's toting the same hardware, more or less, found in the iPhone 13. This means that opting for an older Apple will give you almost identical performance, for less money, in 2023. Still, if you choose the iPhone 14 you won't be disappointed.
We know what you’re thinking. An iPhone 14 review in February 2023 when the smartphone lineup launched at the end of 2022? Well, yes. And, in the words of Russel Peters, “No more questions.” We’re here, the phone is here, and so is the review. It won’t happen this late again.
But as it turns out, we really haven’t missed much. If you splashed out on an iPhone 13 in 2021, then nor have you. Apple’s most recent vanilla phone isn’t substantially different from its last one. Sure, there are one or two aspects that have altered, but the big bits? Yeah, those are almost all the same.
Something that hasn’t changed? The design. The iPhone 14 looks, millimetre for millimetre, identical to its immediate predecessor. That’s not a bad thing unless you already own the iPhone 13. Even then, it’s impossible to claim that Apple doesn’t have an eye for design. It just happens to be the same one as last year.
That means the ports and buttons are in the old familiar places around the metal edge bordering the phone. The rear glass panel is tasteful and elegant and you’re going to immediately cover it with a case. The front panel is Apple’s 6.1in Super Retina XDR OLED HDR (because the name just keeps getting longer) display.
In short, it’s attractive across the board and you’ll have seen it all before.
The same goes for the phone’s internals. For the first time, Apple has opted to have different processors in its base model and Max smartphones. The larger, more expensive devices feature the company’s A16 Bionic hardware. The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus both have last year’s processor. That doesn’t mean much in terms of device speed. It’ll still blister along at a pace that’ll make other phones nervous. But it’s not Apple’s best work.
The battery is still great — it should last almost an entire 24-hour cycle without needing to be charged — but you might find yourself squeezing better performance out of an iPhone 13. Apple hasn’t done anything special with regard to charging speed, probably because it doesn’t have to. It’ll still top up at just 15W.
There are a couple of cool features in the phone this time around but they’re… not really functional here in South Africa. Satellite calling and eSIM support are new for 2022/23. You might get an eSIM working on Vodacom but the results at the moment are spotty. Crash detection should work for you, though that was one feature we weren’t keen on testing.
Looking at some improvement
The iPhone 14’s camera might look like a familiar component but it’s also one area where there’s some visible improvement. Kinda. It’s still a dual-camera system. Both sensors are 12MP in size, bolstered by Apple’s really excellent software wizardry. But the main sensor is an upgrade, scooping the f/1.5 lens last seen in the iPhone 13 Pro. You can assume this will be a trend during future launches — Pro tech hits the standard product line and the Pro lineup gets all the upgrades.
What you get from the iPhone 14 is speedy image acquisition, excellent performance in anything approaching daylight, and even a slight improvement when taking photographs at night. But that’s hardly a novelty. Apple has managed to hit those high notes on all of its recent smartphones. Even Apple’s vanilla phones have been subject to visual upgrades.
Apple has tossed Action Mode, a movement smoothing system, at users for the iPhone 14 and it works. That’s it. That’s the whole sentence. It won’t outperform a gimbal but it’ll take the edge off your shoddy videography skills if you let it. The main camera also records video in 4K now, up to 30fps. It might not sound like much compared to other flagship phones but it’s nice to see it appear here at last.
Apple iPhone 14 verdict
Let’s be completely blunt: If you already own an iPhone 13, you really don’t need one of these. It’s the same phone, minus twelve to fourteen months of wear and tear. Apple made the choice to stagger its product lineups which means that 2022/23 will seem wonky. The iPhone 15 will upgrade to the A16 Bionic when the 15 Max gets the A17, the iPhone 16 will get the A17, and so on. The only people getting the poor deal are folks who opt for the iPhone 14 over the iPhone 13. You’ll find very similar features and performance. The major difference is that the iPhone 13 is the more affordable option — if you can use that term to describe one of Apple’s devices. If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 12 or older, the 14 is a decent choice. But the iPhone 13 will be an even better one.