There was a time when the camera system on an iPhone Pro was what defined its “pro-ness,” or professional designation. People who needed the best possible shots from their phone opted for the Pro, while others could get a regular iPhone to save money knowing there was less difference between their features. Starting with iPhone 14 Pro, however, the separation between Pro and non-Pro models extends far beyond the camera.
Is there a scenario where a highly skilled professional needs a permanent display to do their job? Maybe, but I can’t think of just one. It’s just a cool feature that could make parts of everyday life more enjoyable for most people. The same goes for the dynamic island, which is the new notch at the top of the screen that groups system alerts into a playful area.
After spending time with the iPhone 14 Pro, I found that Apple could have called it the most fun iPhone 14. The Pro phone has always been the best, but now it’s also the most interesting to use. Everyone is now a pro if they want to.
Shop at Best Buy.
There are plenty of reviews that focus on everything the phone can do, academically. Instead of touching on every detail, I think it’s worth discussing the things I’ve noticed in day-to-day use. Which features break the hype and which don’t? Let’s start with the highlights.
The Dynamic Island area permanently displays a padlock (or open padlock) symbol on the lock screen to indicate its secure status. As minor as it may sound, it’s these types of details that provide useful data. More impact is when the audio currently playing on the phone is displayed in this space.
I was listening to a Padres baseball game through the Major League Baseball (MLB) app and when I exited the app, its icon and waveform appeared at the top. It followed me while I browsed other apps. If I long-pressed the dynamic island, it gave me quick commands to pause or jump. If I tapped on the area, it took me back to the MLB app. The same goes for Apple Music or Spotify while you are streaming songs.
More apps will be able to integrate into the dynamic island after the release of iOS 16.1. The ability to see system alerts displayed consistently has already been great, but I think future uses could make it a multitasking powerhouse.
Overall brightness levels are higher on the iPhone 14 Pro compared to the standard iPhone 14 (and older iPhones). HDR brightness has also increased, and there’s even a very high brightness level of 2,000 nits listed that’s possible outdoors. Not only did I notice the brighter screen throughout the day, but it really seemed to offer a nice quality of life improvement where I didn’t know I wanted one. Conversely, I didn’t notice the phone darkening as quickly due to internal heat, as the 13 Pro seemed to do very quickly when outdoors in direct sunlight.
On the iPhone 13 Pro, 1x zoom was sometimes too far from the subject and 3x was too close, so I really liked the option to shoot natively between those two settings. On the 14 Pro, Apple zooms in on the middle of the 48MP and crops it to produce a closer 12MP image. Is it digital or analog zoom, since the company isn’t artificially adding pixels like digital zoom usually does? The answer will depend on who you ask. Either way, the result is more zoom options with higher quality images.
The random snapshots I took throughout the day looked a bit better than the iPhone 13 Pro. Other photos I took in dust or poor lighting conditions looked noticeably better. Overall, I think this new 14 Pro camera system improved most types of images.
Instead of illuminating just a few pixels of the always-on display to show the time, Apple shows your entire lock screen, just grayed out. I didn’t hate it at first, but it was instantly weird. This can often make you think you have a new notification. Give it some time before turning it off, which you can do in the settings.
Personally, I prefer this way of making a permanent display. I was constantly tapping on my phone to see the time, date, notification count, and other information on older iPhones. I especially liked being able to see the song playing while I’m driving without needing to touch the screen to turn it on. Some people noted that the always-on display seemed too bright. I didn’t feel like that.
Despite a brighter screen and constantly visible display, the iPhone 14 Pro’s battery life was on par with last year’s Pro phone. It was uneventful, and it was great.