I don’t think 2022 will go down as a particularly barnstorming year for Apple.
They’ve thrown development resources into features no one asked for like Stage Manager – and paid the price in what has been a poor reception (and, I’d guess, limited user uptake). They’ve also launched new iPads which have gone down like multiple farts in a crowded lift due to needless feature gimping and a frustrating, continued absence of innovation.
This is such a shame during a year when we also received the brilliantly over-the-top but massively desirable Apple Watch Ultra and the surprisingly superb AirPods Pro 2.
Sitting among these wins and losses is the iPhone 14. As I’ve said many times in the past, we’ve hit the smartphone innovation ceiling; finding interesting things to say about these devices is getting harder by the day.
Ironically, it’s also the best iPhone I’ve ever owned and used. As much as I miss my iPhone 13 mini, I can’t deny what a technical marvel the iPhone 14 Pro Max is.
It’s just a bit boring.
Alas, I know some of you are still wondering whether or not to buy one. So, I’d like to share eight things I’ve learned about Apple’s biggest smartphone during six weeks of ownership.
1. It isn’t too big
Having spent twelve months marvelling at the perfection of the iPhone 13 mini form factor, the thought of wielding a 6.7-inch display genuinely concerned me.
Would I get fed up with the finger gymnastics required to operate the device one-handed? Would I continually drop the damn thing? Would I hate the presence of it in my pocket?
As it turns out, all of those fears have quickly washed away – I love the size of the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Sure, I have to occasionally use my nose to press stuff on the screen if one of my hands is otherwise engaged (stop laughing at the back), and it isn’t particularly trouser-friendly in some instances, but the size of that display does trump all of that stuff.
2. I should have picked a different colour
I don’t like the Deep Purple colour I opted for on my iPhone 14 Pro Max. It’s nice to have the new colour, and all, but this one just isn’t for me.
This is entirely subjective, and I must stress that I’m not losing sleep over it (I’m using a wonderful case from Pitaka that hides the unsatisfyingly not-particularly-deep-Deep-Purple) but it does illustrate that it’s definitely worth going to check out the colours in store before you commit to the purchase, if possible.
It also reveals that I’m an idiot for purely choosing the colour of a smartphone based on the rock band it’s presumably named after.
If you’re wondering, I’d opt for the silver colour if I had my time again.
3. The battery life is fine
I remember spending some time with the iPhone 13 Pro Max earlier this year, and I was absolutely blown away by its battery life.
The battery life on the iPhone 14 Pro Max hasn’t hit me quite as squarely between the eyes. It’s still a two-day phone if used normally, but there are times when I look at the battery indicator and wonder why it has drained quite so quickly.
Oddly, this appears to happen during the first half of the day. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why, and I don’t use my phone any more heavily during the morning, but I suspect it might be more OS-based than anything to do with the battery itself.
The battery life of the iPhone 14 Pro series has indeed been questioned by other users – particularly those who have the regular Pro. My Pro Max is just fine, but I think my continued experience with the incredible battery performance of most modern Android phones has tempered my delight in that area.
4. I like the always-on display
Apple was so late to the party with the always-on display, and their entrance has been largely mocked.
It’s too bright.
It looks like you’ve left the display on by mistake.
It drains the battery.
It should be more configurable.
The complaints go on, and on. But I’m actually pretty happy with it. I agree that Apple’s take on this form of screen tech is a bit weird; it desperately needs some tweakability and I do occasionally find it distracting, but there are some nice trade-offs.
The ability to glance at the notifications you’ve received without having to interact with the device is regularly useful. Similarly, seeing my son smile back at me whenever I look at my phone resting on the desk makes my day every single time.
My guess is that we’ll see some tweaks to the always-on display in the next big point release of iOS. That might silence the critics – or it might simply be the case that Apple was too late to this particular party.
5. Dynamic Island isn’t a big deal
If there’s one feature that has been discussed more than any other when it comes to the new Pro iPhones, it’s the stupidly-named Dynamic Island.
Let me explain how it impacts you as a user, for anyone who hasn’t experienced it yet.
You buy your iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max. Once set up, the first thing you check out is the Dynamic Island, because it’s new and cool. And it is cool; those lovely fluid animations are fun to play with, and there is some genuine utility on offer.
This wears off – quite quickly.
After a couple of weeks, Dynamic Island simply becomes part of the device. It doesn’t get in the way any more than the notch, and its limited feature set at this moment in time means it rarely makes itself known throughout the day.
6. The MOFT Snap-On Stand and Wallet is ESSENTIAL
I’ve never been that much of an iPhone accessories guy, but the Snap-On Stand and Wallet from MOFT has been absolutely game-changing.
For the uninitiated, this is a MagSafe-compatible wallet that doubles as – you guessed it – a mini stand for your iPhone. It means you can place it on your desk in landscape or portrait orientation while consuming content or keeping an eye on notifications. It also doubles as a phone grip, which is particularly useful for a device that’s as massive as the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
It’s so well made and thought-out, that it’s one of those accessories which Apple really should be making itself.
7. It’s not my smartphone of the year
I won’t labour the point here because I feel like I’ve gushed about Google’s latest flagship smartphone far too much recently.
That’s for good reason, though. The Pixel 7 Pro is £350 cheaper than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It has the same sized display, feels just as fast, and is built to the same high standards with which Apple has always led.
This is why the Pixel 7 Pro is my smartphone of the year. The iPhone simply cannot compete with it due to that price differential and the fact that Google’s device is on level par in every area bar video shooting.
This brings me conveniently to my last learning about the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
8. It’s too expensive
I paid £1,309 for my 256GB iPhone 14 Pro Max. That’s an eye-watering sum for a smartphone that has, as we’ve just discovered, some serious lower-priced competition breathing down its neck.
In the UK, we’ve been hit with price hikes across the board from Apple, due in no small part to the absolute mess our government has made of the value of our currency on the world stage. Regardless, Apple’s smartphones are rapidly becoming too expensive for many people. They’re saved by carrier subsidies, but if these prices go any further north from here, I’m going to struggle to recommend an iPhone at all if you’re the sort of person who buys your device off-plan.
I can’t get excited about the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It might be the best iPhone I’ve ever used, and it remains an essential tool for both my personal life and business, but it’s ultimately dull.
That might simply be a reflection of where we are with smartphones these days, and I don’t blame Apple for the increasingly uninteresting space the iPhone occupies within its product arsenal.
However, at this price, and with so many Android manufacturers vying for the attention of increasingly bored iPhone users, we do need to see some innovation next time. Whether that happens within the iPhone lineup itself, or with the arrival of an accessory that raises its utility into a brand-new era of immersive tech, I think we’ll find out during 2023.
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