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iPhone 14 Review: A great phone that's hard to recommend

The iPhone 14 is a great iPhone I can't recommend to anyone while the iPhone 14 Pro rules the roost.

iPhone 14 Review
(Image: © iMore / Stephen Warwick)

Our Verdict

Limited upgrades make the iPhone 14 a tough sell when it comes to upgrading, and the device is largely overshadowed by the iPhone 14 Pro.

For

  • + Improved A15 chip
  • + Slightly better battery life
  • + Improved cameras
  • + Photonic Engine
  • + Crash Detection and SOS via Satellite

Against

  • – Limited upgrades over iPhone 13
  • – Glossy back feels cheap and is a fingerprint magnet
  • – Lacking in hardware over Android rivals
  • – 60Hz display in 2022
  • – Overshadowed by iPhone 14 Pro

It’s hard to deny that 2022 is the year of the iPhone 14 Pro. With a new processor, design, and massive camera upgrades all reserved for Apple’s premium iPhone, the iPhone 14 feels like a bit of an afterthought. That’s a real shame when you also consider how incremental the iPhone 13 already was over the iPhone 12. 

Make no mistake, the iPhone 14 really is one of the best iPhones the company has ever created. But it improves on the iPhone 13 in only a couple of key areas, which means Apple is relying heavily on small changes to convince people to upgrade. 

Perhaps even more so than last year, the new iPhone 14 is truly an S-type stop-gap upgrade on the iPhone 13, which was arguably an S upgrade on the iPhone 12. Yet these were both fantastic devices, so there’s still a lot to like. But convincing anyone who has bought an iPhone in the last couple of years to upgrade is going to be a tough sell. That said, if you’re not an iPhone user and thinking about making the leap, iPhone 14 is the best phone you can buy without breaking the bank for the iPhone 14 Pro. With a focus on what’s different, here’s our comprehensive look at whether the iPhone 14 is worth your hard-earned cash.

iPhone 14: Price and availability

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

In the U.S. Apple has not changed the price of its “entry-level” flagship iPhone from last year. However, the entry-level model is now the iPhone 14, not the mini. This means prices start at $799, or $899 for the iPhone 14 Plus. 

StorageiPhone 14iPhone 14 Plus
128GB$799$899
256GB$899$999
512GB$1,099$1,199

Be warned, while the iPhone 14 remains the same price in the U.S., there is a very good chance that if you live elsewhere the price may have changed. Prices in the UK, for example, are higher than last year and may push more users towards carrier plans as opposed to buying the phone outright. The iPhone 14 can be purchased from Apple.com or any Apple store, as well as premium resellers and carriers.  

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

iPhone 14: Hardware and design

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)
CategoryiPhone 14
Operating SystemiOS 16
Display6.1 inches, 2532x1170 (460 ppi) resolution, Super Retina XDR OLED display (iPhone 14) | 6.7 inches, 2778x1284 (458 ppi) resolution, Super Retina XDR OLED display (iPhone 14 Plus)
ProcessorApple A15 Bionic
Storage128 | 256 | 512GB
Rear Camera12MP, 26mm ƒ/1.5, 1.9μm (wide) | 12MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0μm (ultra-wide)
Front Camera12MP, ƒ/1.9, Autofocus
Battery3,279 mAh (iPhone 14) | 4,325 mAh (iPhone 14 Plus)
ChargingQi wireless charging up to 7.5W | MagSafe Wireless charging up to 15W | Fast wired charging over Lightning with 20W power adapter
Water ResistanceIP68
Dimensions146.7 x 71.5 x 7.80mm, 172g (iPhone 14) | 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.80mm, 203g (iPhone 14 Plus)
ColorsStarlight | Midnight | Blue | Purple | (PRODUCT)Red

I could really have copied the section from our iPhone 13 review into here. The iPhone 14 looks identical to the previous model in terms of chassis. It sports the same squared edges, aerospace-grade aluminum casing, and Ceramic Shield Glass, which Apple says is the toughest of any smartphone. Like all iPhones in recent years, this tougher glass can scratch more easily than some, but the trade-off is it’s much harder to break. Likewise, Apple’s glass back is nice and tough, and the whole outfit comes with up to 6 meters of water resistance for 30 minutes and protection against all the spills life has to offer. 

This back glass is also separate from the main housing for the first time, making it much easier to repair internal components from the back of the phone, rather than the front. Replacing the glass itself is also cheaper for out-of-warranty repairs. This is a welcome, if rare, step towards more repairable devices from Apple and should be commended. 

The iPhone 14 has had a fresh lick of paint and comes in midnight, blue, starlight, purple, and (PRODUCT)RED. Green is gone, the Blue is much lighter this year, and in press photos Apple’s (PRODUCT)RED option also looks to have changed to a more vibrant red. As always, if you aren’t sure which color is right for you, it’s worth dropping by a store to see them in person if you can.

If I had one complaint about the iPhone’s design, it would be the glossy back, which feels rather less premium than the frosted back of the iPhone 13 and 14 Pro, and is a nightmare for fingerprints. While you probably keep your iPhone in a case, there is a noticeable difference in the quality and finish of the iPhone 14 over its Pro counterpart, and you’re going to spend a lot of time cleaning it. 

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The biggest design change is the new Plus model. Apple has dropped the mini iPhone in favor of a large 6.7-inch display called the iPhone 14 Plus. This is the same size as the iPhone 14 Pro Max and promises vast screen real estate and enviable battery life. Whether the iPhone 14 Plus is popular, only time will tell. Initial reports suggest that demand may be just as weak for the Plus as it was for the mini in previous years. If battery life or a larger screen is essential, however, that is definitely the option to choose, and one of the few reasons why you might choose this year’s model over an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13. 

Not pictured here is the lack of a SIM tray that comes with all of Apple’s iPhone 14 models this year. If you live in the U.S., it’s eSIM or bust from here on out. As a UK user, this change doesn’t affect me at all, but if you’re someone who likes to use multiple SIM cards or multiple devices for travel or otherwise, then you might find yourself reconsidering the iPhone 14 lineup altogether. That being said, Apple is going to keep moving in this direction, whether you like it or not. 

Under the hood, Apple has made improvements to the iPhone’s internal design to improve thermal performance and heat dissipation, which should hopefully reduce overheating when charging and under heavy loads such as gaming, improving the responsiveness of the tweaked A15 chip. 

There’s also 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB, which again will improve multitasking headroom if you’re someone who likes to run lots of apps. 

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The iPhone 14 sports the same A15 chip as the iPhone 13 Pro. That means it comes with one more GPU core than the A15 of the iPhone 13 which will improve performance when it comes to gaming and dealing with larger video files. For many, the lack of A16 and a new processor might be disappointing, but the A15 is already so far ahead of the class that it really isn’t much you’re missing out on. The processor of the iPhone hasn’t been a limiting factor in performance for several years, so don’t be put off by what’s on paper, or indeed the benchmarks we’ll get to below. Apple says the extra GPU core is worth an 18 percent performance boost. 

iPhone 14 features new custom antennas that can connect your phone directly to a satellite for use in case of emergency. The spicy new internals power a new feature called Emergency SOS via satellite which is set to debut in November. Surprisingly, this rather important life-saving feature will be subscription-based and comes free for two years with the purchase of an iPhone 14. This is a U.S.-only feature at the time of writing and hasn’t been released yet, so you won’t find any tests of it online. To overcome the quirks of satellite connection, users will be guided with prompts to answer quick questions about the situation they’re in need of rescue from to minimize back-and-forth messages over the incredibly limited bandwidth, and a fun mini-game-esque interface keeps users pointing their phone in the right direction so they don’t lose connection. If you like to take your iPhone into the wilderness or rely on it for connectivity wherever you go, Emergency SOS could be a feature you’ve been waiting for. 

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

iPhone 14 also features new internal parts for detecting crashes. It has a new dual-core accelerometer that can detect crashes of up to 256 g’s, as well as a new high-dynamic-range gyroscope that can detect movements associated with crashes such as side impacts, front and rear impacts, and rollovers. Apple says it has used 1 million hours of real-world data to develop algorithms that work with all of the most popular types of cars including SUVs and sedans. Thankfully, we had no cause to test this feature, but this is another excellent safety addition (provided it works as described) and one of iPhone 14’s few standout features. 

The iPhone 14 retains the same Super Retina XDR display as the iPhone 13 with up to 1200 nits of HDR brightness, great pixel density, incredible colors and blacks, and support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG, as well as True Tone technology for adjusting white balance. It’s still a good-looking display, but it hasn’t been upgraded over the previous years. Sadly, that means a return of the 60Hz display, which is a huge let down in my opinion. I’ve been spoiled by the 120Hz display of the iPhone 13 Pro and my iPad Pro, so putting the iPhone 14 through its paces has felt like a real step back in time. There are a swathe of Android devices in the same price bracket and cheaper that offer more Hertz for your money. Apple also offers more Hertz for more money, and the 120Hz ProMotion display in the iPhone 13 Pro and 14 Pro is one of several reasons I would probably tell you to make the stretch and buy a Pro iPhone if you can afford it. If you’ve only ever known 60Hz iPhone displays, you won’t notice this point, and I can see that leaving out LTPO and the 120Hz display is a big cost saver. But a 60Hz iPhone in 2022 is super disappointing when rivals like the Pixel 6 Pro, Galaxy S22+, and OP10 all offer 120Hz displays.  

iPhone 14 also features exactly the same 5G and cellular capabilities as the previous generation iPhone, Emergency SOS via satellite notwithstanding. Other returning features include MagSafe charging and the range of accessories to go with it. 

iPhone 14: Software and performance

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The performance of the iPhone 14, like its predecessor, continues to be largely impressive. The upgraded A15 chip remains leaps ahead of the competition, and using the iPhone 14 is an absolute breeze with fluid multitasking capabilities and gaming performance. In our testing, the new iPhone 14 offered slightly improved single-core benchmarks over iPhone 14, and a lower score than iPhone 13 in the multi-core test. As in previous years, the iPhone has never been about benchmarks, and nobody uses their phone to do benchmarking. It’s just a number for reference. iPhone 14 remains one of the most processor-capable smartphones money can buy. Where you’ll really notice this performance is in intensive actions like photo image processing with the new Photonic Engine and cool iOS 16 features like Live Text. 

As you probably know, the iPhone 14 runs Apple’s latest mobile software, and you can read more about our full thoughts on this in our iOS 16 review. Importantly, there are no iOS 16 features available on iPhone 14 that are exclusive, which means staying on iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 won’t see you miss out on anything that new device users will. The only notable exclusive features this year are the new Dynamic Island and the Lock Screen powered by the Always-On display of the iPhone 14 Pro. Yet another reason why I’ll be recommending that phone over this one at the end of the review. 

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

iPhone 14: Battery

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The iPhone 14 comes with improved battery life over the iPhone 13 and prior models. Gains are marginal, but the company says you’re good for 20 hours of video playback compared to 19 in previous models. As noted, the iPhone 14 Plus has a massive 4,325 mAh battery good for 26 hours of video playback, so if battery life is key for you, the iPhone 14 Plus is definitely worth considering. Both also support fast charging so you can get 50% battery in around 30 minutes of charging with a 20W adapter that doesn’t come with the phone. You’ll also still get the same USB-C to Lightning cable. Rumors indicate Apple is reserving USB-C for the iPhone 15 next year, and it seems a shame we’ve had to wait so long for this. Owning a Lightning iPhone alongside multiple USB-C Apple devices continues to be a massive pain. 

Overall, the battery on the iPhone 14 continues to be really good, as it has done in previous years. Between all-day battery life and fast charging it’s definitely not a limiting factor, and Apple has done well to make improvements to battery life while improving the camera and upping the processor. 

iPhone 14: Cameras

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The camera is one of the only places where the iPhone 14 shines over its immediate predecessors, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. We’ll start with a brief technical rundown of what you can expect on paper, and then fire out some test shots. 

The iPhone 14 has a new main camera with a larger sensor and bigger pixels. It also has a new True Tone Flash. That means better lighting in all your photos, especially low-light shots. The Photonic Engine, exclusive to iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, delivers 2.5x low-light gains according to Apple, and 2x in the Ultra Wide camera, which hasn’t been upgraded. 

The front-facing camera now supports autofocus, which should up your selfie game, especially for group shots. The aperture is also faster for better low light focus and lighting performance, again helped by the Photonic Engine. 

Briefly, the Photonic Engine applies Apple’s Deep Fusion process earlier in the image processing chain to bring out more detail in photos, and better and brighter colors. 

Another upgrade this year is video, with an all-new action mode for super smooth video and cinematic video now in 4K 30 FPS, a big jump over 1080p from last year. 

As for a direct comparison with iPhone 13, look out for a standalone article on iMore in the near future. 

iPhone 14 Test Shot

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The iPhone 14 handles color in strong lighting really well. 

iPhone 14 Test Shot

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

iPhone 14 Test Shot

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

Portrait modes does well with solid subjects like this rock, but struggles with "softer" edges like hair. 

iPhone 14 Test Shot

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)