iPhone 14 reviews: Spend more for the iPhone 14 Pro, or less for the iPhone 13

There’s a very consistent theme to the base model iPhone 14 reviews: It’s not good enough to justify paying $100 more than the (now) $699 iPhone 13. If you want a new phone this year, spend the extra on the iPhone 14 Pro.

Indeed, of the early reviews, I’ve only spotted one which didn’t boil down to this advice …

The Verge isn’t overly impressed, saying it’s too similar to the iPhone 13, and too different from the iPhone 14 Pro.

The iPhone 14 is good. You probably shouldn’t buy an iPhone 14.

If those two phrases sound at odds with each other, then let me explain. The iPhone 14 is highly capable. Its chipset can handle everything from day-to-day tasks to graphics-intensive gaming. Its cameras are capable of very good photos, and it records the best video clips you’ll see from any phone in its class. This is all true of the 14, but it’s also true of the iPhone 13.

The iPhone 14 is a very good phone, with a handful of useful upgrades over the 13. But it’s a small handful, and that leaves the 14 in a tight spot. The iPhone 13, which came out a year ago and Apple is still selling, is nearly identical to the 14 and $100 cheaper, while the iPhone 14 Pro introduces a lot of interesting new features. 

CNBC echoes this view:

The regular iPhone 14 […] is a small update over last year’s iPhone 13. It starts at $799 and has upgraded cameras over the iPhone 13, slightly improved graphics processing and the same car-crash and satellite SOS features in the iPhone 14 Pro. But, it’s missing the following features that you can get in the Pro:

– The cameras are new, but they aren’t as sharp as the ones on the iPhone 14 Pro.
– There’s still no ProMotion display, so scrolling isn’t as smooth on the Pro.
– The sides are made of aluminum instead of stainless steel.
– The iPhone 14 uses last year’s A15 chip, but with an additional graphics processing core for improved gaming performance.
– There’s no always-on display and no Dynamic Island.

Engadget, too, says this is not a worthwhile upgrade from the 13.

The best way to distinguish between the iPhone 13 and 14 is by looking for the SIM tray on the left. The new phone doesn’t have one. Other than that, the only difference this year are the new color options (purple and blue). I like them, but they don’t inspire the same sort of lust in me that the green iPhone 12 or pink iPhone 13 did […]

I’m kind of upset that Apple still hasn’t upgraded the iPhone 14’s screen. It still runs at 2,532 x 1,170 and a mere 60Hz. What gives? The last generation was already woefully outdated with its slow refresh rate. When I switch between the iPhone 14 and the 14 Pro, I immediately notice how much choppier scrolling is on the regular phone […]

Compared to the previous generation, though, this year’s cameras aren’t a huge step up. Photos I shot with the iPhone 14 and 13 were very similar […]

The iPhone 14 is very similar to the iPhone 13, which itself was very similar to the iPhone 12. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad phone — it’s just less of an upgrade for anyone using a phone that’s only two years old. You’ll notice a bigger difference if you’re going to the iPhone 14 from the 11 or older, since new features like Emergency SOS via Satellite and crash detection are hopefully things you won’t need to use much. For those people, the iPhone 14 will be a satisfying daily driver.

The WSJ also falls into this camp. Joanna Stern’s view is go Pro or go home.

Forgive me friends for what I’m about to say: You should just buy this year’s $999-and-up iPhone Pros […]

The regular iPhone 14’s screen looks exactly the same as the 13. It even looks to me the same as the iPhone 12, though Apple says it’s brighter […]

[As for the cameras,] in my low-light testing, I didn’t see a 49% improvement. In fact, when I shared a group of photos with colleagues without telling them which phone took which, some ranked shots with the 13 above the 14. They ranked all those shots above any taken with the 11 and 12 […]

Given that the $799 iPhone 14 isn’t substantially better than the now-$699 iPhone 13, I can see why some may want to just save the $100 […] So, is it worth spending $200 extra to go Pro? You know where I stand—on the dynamic island.

The Washington Post didn’t mince any words:

Get out your magnifying glass. Apple’s iPhone 14 is better than the iPhones that have come before it. But you’re going to have to look really, really close to even notice.

How close? In our camera tests, we had to study one shot for 15 minutes to tell it apart from a photo taken on a three-year-old iPhone 11 Pro. “Solid but subtle” is how we would describe the iPhone 14 upgrade, including an emergency satellite connection we hope you’ll never need, modest battery gains, and a new shape for the front cutout on the 14 Pro models.

TechCrunch offers rare disagreement, arguing that the base model has plenty to commend it.

For the second year in a row, Apple delivers a really enticing ‘entry’ point to the new lineup […]

With 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, the iPhone 14 becomes a really, really tempting buy. When you add to this that the color palate of options available is bolder and more fun than the somewhat reserved Pro lineup and you’ve got a killer looking deal.

The iPhone 14 is pleasant to use, friendly to look at and extremely capable. The lack of the advanced cameras in the iPhone 14 Pro is leavened a bit by the image pipeline delivering 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. But you get all of it.

And this year they even have ‘the big one’ [iPhone 14 Plus] if that’s what you’re into.

iPhone 14 reviews wrap-up

It’s no surprise that most reviewers dedicated much more time, and many more words, to the iPhone 14 Pro. If you’re upgrading from an older phone, you might find the iPhone 14 a worthwhile upgrade, but the smart money seems to be on paying the extra for the Pro model, or holding onto your cash.

It is, though, worth bearing in mind that none of the reviews cover the iPhone 14 Plus. If you want a large screen without paying the big bucks for the iPhone 14 Pro Max, that could well be the perfect upgrade. Reviews for this model are likely to drop next month, ahead of availability.

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