It’s not the improved cameras or battery life either.
For the first time, it’s what an iPhone does when you’re not using it that sets it apart.
Both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max have an always-on screen.
Always-on displays are nothing new.
Apple first used them on its Watch Series 5 in 2019, but was reluctant to bring the technology to the iPhone as Android phones surrendered.
The change is shocking at first.
Apple’s standby lock screen is surprisingly bright, and it often catches my eye when I assume I’ve left it unlocked or on.
It continues to display your wallpaper behind a bold digital clock and widgets available thanks to the iOS 16 upgrade, as well as the detail and color of vibrant notifications; a stark contrast to the dead black screen and muted icons in Google’s always-on solution for Pixel 6.
My immediate reaction was to assume this would be a huge drain on the iPhone 14 Pro’s battery and – while there is an impact – it’s barely noticeable.
According to the Battery Health settings on my iPhone 14 Pro, my home and lock screens were responsible for 5 percent of my battery usage in the past 10 days.
When I always turned the screen off, my home and lock screens accounted for 3 percent of my battery usage on any given day — similar to what my wife and I were recording on our iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pro models.
An increase of 2 percent is negligible, but it remains an increase.
Mobile phones from the past 30 years
For me, that sacrifice is worth it to be able to casually check the time and notifications, and even continue to navigate discs (this works with Apple Maps but not Google Maps) while my phone is locked.
Apple talked about the efficiency of its new A16 bionic chip when unveiling its iPhone 14 Pro models, but went on to compare its power to the A13.
Upgrading from an iPhone 13 Pro, the change isn’t dramatic.
On two days—Monday and Wednesday last week—I had to reach for the charger during particularly demanding work shifts with heavy use of hotspots, draining more than 100 percent of the iPhone 14 Pro’s battery capacity.
Apple knows most people don’t upgrade every year, and if you’re still rocking an iPhone SE, X, or older, improvements to MagSafe and brighter, smoother screens will mean just as much as the new dynamic island.
Apple has finally ditched its “eyebrow” notch on its iPhone 14 Pro models.
The new cutout looks like a solid black pill, but it actually disguises two separate pieces of hardware; one for FaceID and one for an improved selfie camera.
The pixels between the two have been left black so that – from most angles – everything blends into each other.
On its own, the “pill” is still big and can hinder videos, but it’s the software around it that makes it magical.
Apple has cleverly animated the “pill” to grow to different sizes and show certain notifications.
Apple calls it the Dynamic Island.
It’s the definition of nice to have, rather than a must-have, but it becomes infinitely more practical once you learn to use it.
Swipe up on your music app, a timer, Apple Maps and more and they’ll bounce off a larger dynamic island — critical information stays at the top of the screen while you do other things.
Two apps can be displayed on the dynamic island at the same time.
You can access them like you always have (swipe up and hold from the bottom of the screen) or you can just tap their icon on the dynamic island.
It takes some getting used to, but works at best as a taskbar.
This is great for screenshots and voice memos (which I always use for work), and a few pixels light up in different colors to indicate when your mic or camera is also on.
Speaking of cameras, Apple has improved two in particular: the selfie camera can now auto-focus to different lengths and the main camera now has a 48mp sensor.
By default, the iPhone 14 Pro models still capture 12MP images, but with much greater color accuracy using a process called “binning” — essentially four pixels on a 48MP shot are condensed into one pixel on a photo of 12 mp.
Its addition finally allows for a fourth optical zoom as well; 2x merging 0.5x, 1x and 3x options.
Like the iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 14 Pro makes beautiful HDR images.
Apple’s ability to fuse multiple images (taken at different exposures) to preserve detail in dark and bright spots continues to work wonders, like in this tricky photo of my dog Apollo with harsh sunlight streaming through the glass door; the hot concrete hasn’t blown out and there’s still a lot of texture in his shaded fur.
More importantly, it’s fast.
There’s virtually no lag in processing these shots, and thanks to the A16 bionic chip, the same goes for low-light photography.
Yes, in some cases we’re only talking fractions of a second, but it makes a noticeable difference when you’re taking multiple shots on a night out and (with my hands trembling) struggling to keep the phone quiet enough (long enough) to get a to get a clear shot.
If you’re fond of filming sports or chasing your kids around the house, there’s a new action mode that keeps videos remarkably stable, even during a sprint.
Apple has also added the ability to film at 24 and 25 frames per second (the Australian, PAL standard) to Cinematic mode if you’re after a movie-like look.
That extra power is packed into a noticeably thicker camera bump on the back of the iPhone 14 Pro models, but both still fit just fine in cases designed for their iPhone 13 counterparts.
While the shape of the phones may not have changed, Apple has changed the way they are built.
The back glass is no longer stuck to the inside of the phone, which should make replacing a broken back panel much easier and (thankfully) much cheaper.
Apple has also packed in new accelerometers and G-force sensors that — coupled with the sound of screeching metal — can detect whether or not you’ve been in a car accident.
The new Apple Watch Series 8 can do this too.
If you have both, a notification will appear on your wrist (assuming it’s closer to you after a smash) and if it doesn’t get a response, it will automatically call emergency services and repeatedly play a recording of your location.
It’s a very cool feature that I (hopefully) won’t try anytime soon.
Later this year, Apple will also update its line of iPhone 14 phones to communicate with satellites in an emergency when they are out of normal phone range.
This is currently only planned for the US and Canada, so shouldn’t be a major factor in your purchasing decisions.
iPhone 14 Pro starts at $1749 AUD.
iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at $1899 AUD.
Both are now available in four colors: Space Black, Silver, Gold and Deep Purple.
Each one is beautiful to the touch with a solid matte finish, but you’ll likely slap a cover over it and still spend your time looking at the screen.
At maximum brightness, iPhone 14 Pro can hit 1200 nits when playing HDR content, which is 33 percent brighter than last year’s model and a great boost if you’re out and about competing with the sun’s glare.
Is it a huge leap forward? No.
Is it better than last year’s models? Absolute.
That depends on what phone you currently have — and how much you’re willing to spend — but these are Apple’s best for a reason.
For this review, Apple provided 9news.com.au with an iPhone 14 Pro and an iPhone 14 Pro Max.