You can now get two massive versions of the iPhone 14. One of them comes with Plus moniker, the other is denoted Pro Max.
Confused? That’s understandable; Apple is forever switching its product naming conventions and resurrecting old favourites. But in this instance, there are some clear differences between the iPhone 14 Plus and the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
If you know where to look.
Pricing and positioning
The iPhone 14 Plus costs £949 in the UK. You’ll need to find another £250 if you want the iPhone 14 Pro Max instead.
The question is: what does that extra spend get you? And, more importantly, who are each of these smartphones aimed at?
I’ve never quite understood Apple’s obsession with the word ‘pro’ outside of the Mac lineup. In that realm, it makes sense; if you want to buy a computer for professional duties, you’re often better off investing in, for instance, a MacBook Pro – particularly if you work in a creative industry.
But a smartphone? Really? What makes one smartphone more ‘professional’ than another?
At face value, it appears this relates to two things: materials and the camera. If you opt for the iPhone 14 Pro Max over the iPhone 14 Plus, you’ll get a device made from stainless steel rather than aluminium, one extra camera, and a considerably bigger image sensor.
That may not help your buying decision, though. So, let’s look at the key similarities and most important differences between these two phones.
Where they’re identical
Materials and camera aside, the iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro Max are strikingly similar. They have the exact same sized True Tone OLED screen that’s protected by a ceramic ‘shield’ and a display which is HDR10 ready and compatible with Dolby Vision.
They both have Face ID, 5G readiness, IP68 dust and water resistance, and MagSafe. Their dimensions are near identical, and the Pro Max is only marginally heavier – by an amount no human would ever notice.
Neither phone has swapped or dropped Lightning for charging, either – that port is still there, and they both run the exact same version of iOS.
So where do things get different?
Comparison 1: The display
The 6.7-inch display that appears on the iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro Max is lovingly called the Super Retina XDR Display. It has a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio and P3 colour.
However, dig in a little further, and there are some interesting differences.
Firstly, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has ProMotion, which means it can scale its refresh rate from a practically static 1Hz to a buttery-smooth 120Hz, depending on what you’re doing. The difference is significant when compared directly with the iPhone 14 Plus’ 60Hz display.
In reality, unless you’re A/B testing these phones, or coming from a high refresh rate screen on another device, you won’t notice the 60Hz panel on the iPhone 14 Plus as being an issue. Because it isn’t.
But the iPhone 14 Pro Max goes further. Apple has added an Always-on Display for the first time to its smartphone, which means the time, wallpaper, and widgets will always remain visible.
The professional iPhone also has a slightly higher resolution and pixel density, although it’s unlikely you’d ever notice those marginal gains.
Something you might notice is the increase in brightness over the iPhone 14 Plus. The cheaper of the two massive iPhones has a typical brightness of 800 nits. That’s no slouch, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max raises the game to 1,000 nits, and where the Plus can hit 1,200 nits peak brightness during HDR content, the Pro Max smashes it with 1,600 nits and then gets even brighter outdoors at 2,000 nits.
So, both iPhones have lovely displays; you won’t be disappointed with either of them. The Pro Max does successfully give you more bang for buck, though. ProMotion alone is a big upgrade and brings the iPhone in line with, let’s be honest, most other smartphones. The additional brightness is a nice bonus, as is the always-on display.
If the display is of ultra importance to you, those upgrades might just tempt you to spend more.
Comparison 2: Cameras
The 12MP camera system on the iPhone 14 Plus comes with a 26mm main camera, and an ultra-wide. On the iPhone 14 Pro Max, you’ll get a 24mm main camera, an ultra-wide, and a telephoto.
Those two extra millimetres of focal length are relatively insignificant, but it’s a different story when it comes to the sensor. The iPhone 14 Pro Max adds 36 more megapixels, up to a whopping 48MP.
I won’t get into the weeds with this and talk about pixel binning, surface area, and imaging pipelines because you probably don’t care. The important thing to bear in mind is that the larger sensor on the iPhone 14 Pro Max enables the camera system to capture far more light and produce much more detailed images. That means better low-light performance and the ability to crop your photos without losing as much detail as you would on the iPhone 14 Plus. That stuff has real-world benefits.
There are more zoom options on the Pro Max, too, and it also offers macro photography, night mode portraits, and the ability to shoot in Apple ProRAW if you want to enter the digital darkroom after shooting.
When it comes to video, both phones can shoot in up to 4K HDR with Dolby Vision, at a maximum of 60fps. They’re also both now capable of recording video in Cinematic mode at up to 4K.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max adds ProRes video recording and macro shooting, but that’s about it. The new 24mm focal length is nice for those who take an interest in that stuff, but for most iPhone users, the video capabilities are pleasingly consistent across the lineup.
Comparison 3: The chip
I’ll keep this simple.
The iPhone 14 Plus runs from an A15 Bionic chip, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro Max has been granted the brand-new A16 Bionic. The latter will probably perform slightly better in benchmarks but will offer no noticeable upgrade over the previous generation in everyday use.
Both phones will be super-fast because they’re iPhones, and they have chips built specifically for everything they’ll ever need to do.
Comparison 4: Storage capacity and battery
These two iPhones aren’t cheap, but they get an awful lot more expensive the more storage you add. Both start at 128GB, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max goes right up to 1TB if that amount of storage is your kind of thing.
The only time you’d ever need that much storage is if you’re keeping a tonne of media on the device, or investing lots of time shooting videos in ProRAW format. Which I don’t think many people are.
When it comes to the battery, it remains to be seen how these devices perform in real life, but my experience with the iPhone 13 Pro Max revealed a phone that is capable of at least two days of being away from a charger – it is epic. The iPhone 14 Plus loses an hour or two against the iPhone 14 Pro Max in Apple’s official battery duration estimates, but I still think it’ll be a serious performer given its size.
Comparison 5: Dynamic Island
Beyond the camera, materials, and marginal differences revealed in today’s guide, there’s one headline-grabbing point of comparison between the iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro Max. The latter comes complete with the brand-new and ridiculously-named Dynamic Island.
This feature results from Apple detaching the notch from the top of the display, moving it down, and adding a dynamic area of the screen to each side and below. The result is a floating camera housing that expands, contracts, and fills itself with all sorts of cool stuff.
The music you’re playing, Face ID confirmations, turn-by-turn navigation instructions, and incoming calls all appear in the Dynamic Island. It looks fun, playful, and genuinely useful.
I’m yet to get my hands on it, but the Dynamic Island is a brilliant two-fingered salute to those who have spent the last few years notch-bashing. Apple doesn’t feel that display technology has reached a point where they can do away with it entirely, and a hole punch cutout clearly isn’t desirable, either. So, they’ve taken what they trust and have done something with it that no one saw coming.
The Dynamic Island isn’t a reason to spend another £250 on your next iPhone, but, combined with the other upgrades the iPhone 14 Pro Max offers over the iPhone 14 Plus, it might just be enough to tip the scales.
As I always say, I can’t tell you which iPhone is right for you. The one you go for will depend entirely on your budget and desire to stretch that budget to obtain certain features.
At face value, the iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro Max are alarmingly similar but dig in, and it becomes clear that this year’s Pro devices are separated by a compelling bunch of advanced and debut features.
Which one are you going for? Get involved in the comments!