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Apple iPhone 14 Pro review: new ideas in a familiar package – The Guardian

Animated notch, always-on screen and camera upgrade make a similar design feel fresh, but at high cost
Apple’s latest top smartphone model, the iPhone 14 Pro, features upgraded cameras, a new always-on display and some funky animations around a new smaller, floating notch design. It also features a substantial price rise as a result of currency shifts.
Weak currency rates against the dollar mean the new phone is £150 (A$400) more expensive than its predecessor, coming in at £1,099 (A$1,749) despite costing the same $999 in the US.
The 14 Pro has the same 6.1in OLED display and premium stainless steel and glass design as previous models, but the large notch at top of the screen containing the cameras for Face ID has been replaced by a 31% smaller pill-shaped design Apple calls the “dynamic island”.
The pill is animated, expanding and contracting to accommodate system alerts and ongoing notifications, such as charging status, album art and a little waveform when playing music or a countdown timer. Tapping and holding the notch reveals more of the notification, such as music playback controls, and just a tap opens the app.
It is surprisingly useful for at-a-glance information, with one minor annoyance. The 3/4/5G indicator is hidden when the notch expands, making it difficult to tell when you’re in a data black hole.
The pill acts as a focal point for other animations such as the Face ID logo appearing when authenticating purchases. The whole experience feels fun and alive, which is the broad theme of the iOS 16 software running on the 14 Pro and all other iPhones as old as the iPhone 8.
The other significant development is the ability to have the screen always on, even when in standby. Android devices have had always-on displays for years, but Apple’s approach is slightly different. It displays a dimmed version of the lock screen, including notifications and widgets in full colour rather than a simple clock or similar.
The 6.1in display is the very best on the market. Rich, crisp, smooth and incredibly bright, hitting 2,000nits of peak brightness – a standard measure of screen brightness – beating the previous record holder, the Samsung S22 Ultra. The brighter the display can get, the easier it is to see in direct sunlight, and you certainly won’t have an issue seeing this screen in any condition.
Screen: 6.1in Super Retina XDR with ProMotion (120Hz OLED) (460ppi)
Processor: Apple A16 Bionic
Storage: 128, 256, 512GB or 1TB
Operating system: iOS 16
Camera: 48MP main, 12MP UW and 12MP 3x zoom; 12MP front-facing
Connectivity: 5G, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5.3, Lightning, ultra wideband and GNSS (dual-band)
Water resistance: IP68 (6 metres for 30 mins)
Dimensions: 147.5 x 71.5 x 7.85mm
Weight: 206g
The 14 Pro has Apple’s latest A16 Bionic chip, making it the fastest iPhone available by about 10% over the previous A15 chips. It is easily capable of handling everything you might want to do with a smartphone and will stay fast for years to come.
The battery life is solid but more variable than other iPhones. Leaving the 14 Pro flat on a desk for most of the day, the battery lasts about 39 hours with 5.5 hours of active use. Keep the phone in a pocket, which shuts the display off, and it lasts about 45 hours between charges.
In the US the iPhone 14 line ships without a sim card tray, relying entirely on eSim, a purely digital version of the sim. In the UK, it will continue to have a sim tray. Emergency satellite SOS is rolling out in November, but only to phones sold in the US or Canada.
Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the battery, but it should last in excess of 500 full-charge cycles with at least 80% of its original capacity and can be replaced for £105. Out-of-warranty screen repairs cost £349. The specialist site iFixit gave the 14 Pro six out of 10 for repairability.
It contains recycled gold, plastic, rare earth elements, tin and tungsten. The company breaks down the phone’s environmental impact in its report. Apple offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
The 14 Pro ships with iOS 16, which is a more playful version of Apple’s software and has a revamped lock screen among many other new features. You can expect at least five years of software and security updates and potentially as many as seven.
New for the iPhone 14 line is car-crash detection, which senses the high impact force of a traffic collision and automatically calls the emergency services if you do not respond within 20 seconds.
The 14 Pro has one the biggest under-the-hood changes to an iPhone camera system in years. A new processing system boosts lowlight performance across all cameras front and back two- to three-fold, which helps particularly when shooting indoors in dim, artificial light.
The main camera’s sensor is 65% larger than the one on last year’s 13 Pro and is higher resolution at 48 megapixels, up from 12 last year. By default it shoots 12MP images combining four pixels on the sensor into one pixel in the final image, which boosts light sensitivity and helps remove artefacts. Samsung and others have been using the technique, known as pixel binning, for years.
The camera can also shoot full 48MP images in ProRaw mode and produce a 2x zoom by shooting only on the centre of the image sensor, which is handy but struggles a little in lower light conditions.
The 3x telephoto and ultrawide cameras remain 12MP, but the latter has a sharper lens that produces crisper macro shots. The selfie camera has been upgraded with better low-light performance and auto-focus for the first time, which makes closeup selfies a bit sharper. Portrait mode can now blur the foreground as well as the background of an image, which is more realistic, but still struggles with hair and other fine elements more than competitors.
Videography is still class-leading with an impressive new action mode that stabilises footage like an action cam, but it requires bright light to work effectively.
Overall, the main 48MP camera is certainly more capable in middling to poor light and a little crisper on fine detail, but otherwise is very similar to the 13 Pro, as are the other cameras. That still means the 14 Pro has some of the best cameras available, but it is not a night-and-day upgrade.
The iPhone 14 Pro costs from £1,099 ($999/A$1,749) with 128GB of storage.
For comparison, the iPhone 14 costs £849, the iPhone 14 Pro Max costs £1,199, the Samsung Galaxy S22+ costs £949, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 costs £999 and the Google Pixel 6 Pro costs £849.
At first glance it would be easy to dismiss the iPhone 14 Pro as just the same as previous models. But look beneath the surface and you find Apple exploring new – for it at least – ideas, or new for it at least.
The animated interface makes the phone feel more reactive and alive. The pill-shaped dynamic island grows and expands in a fluid fashion, bringing together system alerts and on-going tasks with the potential to transform how the phone works. The always-on display with the redesigned lock screen from iOS 16 feels similar with its live notifications and widgets.
But both features need developers to buy into Apple’s ideas and to update their apps to make them really sing. For now the notch is a handy place for Spotify, timers and other bits to live.
Even if I wouldn’t call it a massive upgrade on the already excellent 13 Pro, embracing a higher-resolution sensor for the cameras is a new approach for Apple, too, with good results, particularly in challenging light conditions.
On top you get everything that is good about an iPhone: strong battery life, very fast performance that lasts years, long software support, a truly stunning screen, Face ID, recycled materials and a large ecosystem.
It is just a shame about the price rise outside the US – £1,099 is an awful lot to spend, particularly in a cost of living crisis. A new battery for your old phone might be a better buy this year.
Pros: novel dynamic island notch with Face ID, great cameras, 3x optical zoom, very long battery life, great performance, brilliant 120Hz screen, 5G, long software support.
Cons: not a major upgrade, no USB-C, need your own charger, heavy, very expensive, not cutting edge compared with folding-screen devices.


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