You might recall me asking for help with my iPhone 14 Pro Max review a couple of weeks ago.

It was a genuine request; I couldn’t think how to cover what was, on the surface, just another iPhone.

You lovely lot are increasingly lovely, and really got involved. So, thank you. The result was a huge influx of requests for specific features to be tested, suggestions for how to conduct those tests, and several indications of where other reviews seemingly fell short.

I can’t answer all of those wishes and requests I’m afraid but rest assured they are all buried deep into my second brain and ready to recall when needed. More importantly, I was able to identify some commonalities within the stuff you sent me.

It boils down to three things, I think. When it comes to the iPhone 14 Pro series, people want to know:

  • Is it better than older iPhones (i.e. iPhone 12 Pro and earlier)?
  • What is the new camera system really like?
  • What makes the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max feel different to older phones?

A lack of answers to – or, at least, public opinions on – those three questions are clearly preventing a lot of people from committing to the upgrade. So, I’m going to give you my thoughts after two weeks of living with the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

I’ll be covering the camera side of things in next week’s video review, so make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel to catch that!

Better than iPhone 12 Pro?

I don’t have an iPhone 11 Pro to test, but I do have access to an iPhone 12 Pro, which will form the basis for this particular comparison.

The answer to the above question is pretty simple, you’ll be glad to hear. If you’ve got an iPhone 12 Pro, or an 11, or, as many seem to have within the comments section on my Youtube channel, an even older iPhone, the iPhone 14 Pro will be a massive upgrade.

More importantly, it will feel like a massive upgrade. That tangible sense of money well spent will immediately become apparent when you unearth your new iPhone from its packaging.

I’ll turn to bullet points again for this, just to make your life easier. If you’re upgrading from an earlier iPhone, you’ll be treated to the following:

  • a better camera;
  • better battery life;
  • a ProMotion screen that is much brighter in direct sunlight; and
  • two immediately noticeable new features (more on that in a moment).

The stuff above has a value attached to it. The new camera system will help you capture your life in better detail, regardless of the conditions. The battery life will surprise you in the best way possible. That screen will be an absolute delight – particularly when you experience ProMotion for the first time.

If you’re moving up from the iPhone 11 or 12 Pro, the 14 may not look particularly different, but its new capabilities will not leave you feeling shortchanged at all.

What FEELS new?

It’s worth remembering that installing iOS 16 on your current iPhone will make it feel considerably newer, thanks mainly to that new Lock Screen.

Equally, your older iPhone probably won’t feel any slower than the iPhone 14 Pro, because Apple silicon is so damn good.

But that’s not the point. The point is that moving from those older iPhones to the new version gives you access to a couple of features beyond ProMotion and better battery life that deserve special mention.

The first is Dynamic Island. It’s early days for this much-talked-about reimagining of the notch, but it feels totally at home. It doesn’t intrude during landscape video viewing, and you barely know it’s there while using the phone day-to-day. For me, it only really catches my eye during Face ID transactions, charging, AirDrop transfers, and when I need to access the Apple TV remote (our niece tried to eat the physical one).

What Dynamic Island does at the moment, it does well. I have a feeling it’s going to get far more interesting once live activities go… live, and when third-party developers get stuck into it.

The always-on display is arguably grabbing more headlines, though. I’m not sure why everyone is so obsessed with it. Sure, it’s an interesting talking point, and there have been some odd choices made by Apple, but this is Apple and you can turn it off. Plus, I think we’ll see several tweaks arrive over the coming months.

It’s a slightly weird always-on display, I agree, but it does at least live up to its name because it is literally always on. Too much so, for some people, clearly. I quite like the fact you can easily glance at the time, your notifications and even the music currently playing – and I love how it turns itself completely off when you leave the room (only to switch back on when you re-enter).

Does the always-on display impact battery life? Yes. I’ve done some tests, and there’s a noticeable difference with the always-on display turned off. My iPhone 14 Pro Max seems to get through the first half of the day barely dipping below 80% with the always-on display disabled, but when enabled, it does lose a few more percentage points. It’s not enough to get angry about, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

These are cool new features, though, and that’s the point – it’s what gives the iPhone 14 Pro that elusive ’new’ feeling. It comes close if you’re switching from the iPhone 13 Pro, because of the Dynamic Island and the always-on display, but it is nowhere near as tempting an upgrade as it is for those with older devices.

Wrapping up

The new camera (spoiler – it’s a lot better) and the screen features alone make the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max wonderful upgrades over older iPhones.

I’ve made no secret about my feeling that Apple has hit an innovation ceiling with consumer-ready smartphone tech, but that isn’t their fault. Regardless, very few people upgrade their phones every year, and for those who have been waiting around for something to replace their current multi-year iPhone, the 14 Pro series will be a hit.

This has been confirmed by a few people I’ve spoken to who have made the leap to the 14. They absolutely love it and don’t feel short-changed by Apple (as you almost certainly will if you’re coming from the 13).

I’ll keep you updated with my thoughts on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but I hope this has settled any questions you had about an upgrade. And don’t forget to tune in to next week’s video to see that camera comparison!