Review: The good and bad about the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro

The iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14. Photo credit: Newshub.

The iPhone has consistently been one of the most hyped tech releases each year for well over a decade now.

This year the iPhone 14 range was announced with the usual fanfare that generated the usual mix of excitement and mockery - although more unusually, Steve Jobs' daughter joined in with her own jibe

But are the critics justified this time? Do the new phones do enough to deserve their high price tags? Should the average Kiwi upgrade to one, or wait and see what 2023 brings?

I've used the iPhone 14, iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max a bunch over the past week and here are my thoughts.

iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus

Every iPhone released so far has been a quality smartphone and this year's range is no different, but I'm finding it hard to recommend the standard iPhone 14 over an older, cheaper model.

I'd sooner recommend a friend or family member looking to upgrade from a phone that's a few years old (or older) instead get the iPhone 13, which would save them a couple of hundred bucks.

Here's what you'll get today for spending $200 more than you would on last year's model, as far as I can tell:

  • Slightly better standard photos from the back camera, more noticeably so if taken in low light
  • Slightly better photos with the selfie camera, now with added autofocus
  • A cool new stabilisation mode for videos taken in shaky conditions
  • An ever-so-slightly lighter device that is somewhat more efficient, meaning a slightly longer lasting battery
  • Car crash detection.

That last feature could be especially attractive to people who drive alone on rural roads. It'll automatically contact emergency services, unless you tell it not to, after you've been in a serious accident.

But the other features? Not so impressive. You get the same chip as last year powering the thing and the same display with a refresh rate still capped at 60Hz.

You miss out on the most exciting new features offered in this year's Pro models and don't even get much of what the 2021 Pro models offered.

The iPhone 14.
The iPhone 14. Photo credit: Newshub.

There are camera improvements, but when I've taken photos with the iPhone 14 alongside the iPhone 13, there are only certain situations where those improvements are noticeable and I think they won't matter much for most Kiwis - the ones who really care probably want to go Pro.

New Zealanders also appear to have got a harsh deal on the price.

In the US, the iPhone 14 is launching at the same price the 13 did - both started at US$799. That's impressive given the high rate of inflation and increased costs Apple will have faced over the last year.

But in New Zealand, the iPhone 14's launch prices start at NZ$1599, a year after the iPhone 13 started at NZ$1429 (that base model has dropped now to NZ$1399 on the Apple NZ website).

Perhaps the year-to-year difference is due to the exchange rate. When the iPhone 14 was announced, a US dollar cost NZ$1.65, so US$799 would be just under NZ$1320. When the iPhone 13 was announced, a US dollar cost NZ$1.4, so US$799 would be just under NZ$1120.

Whatever the reason, the price hike is rough.

If you're keen on the bigger screen size and aren't fussed about the better camera tech and other bells and whistles that come with the Pro Max model, then the iPhone 14 Plus is likely a good buy.

But the standard iPhone 14 feels like an uncomfortable middle sibling to me. If I were in the market I'd avoid it and go for either a cheaper, older but largely imperceptibly inferior model, or pay the extra for a Pro.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max. Photo credit: Newshub.

iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max

This is a much easier couple of phones to recommend. If you generally go for Pro models, or want to for the first time, the iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max is the right choice over any previous version, for sure.

This year the difference between the standard iPhones and the Pro models is starker than ever.

The iPhone 14 Pro experience is noticeably better than that of any previous iPhone, largely because of the 'Dynamic Island'. Sure, that's a funny name that earned a lot of giggles in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park when it was announced, but when you actually use it, it's really great.

Not only is it a new, surprisingly pleasing visual flourish added to most of what you do on your smartphone, it's also quite handy as a multi-tasking tool you can use to quickly switch between active apps, and it's extra visual information about various things you have going on, too.

But it's not the only new feature added to Apple's Pro smartphones.

So what do you get for paying extra for an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max over last year's models? A lot:

  • The aforementioned Dynamic Island, which I like to think of as a 24/7 party island sort of like a tiny little Ibiza on your phone's screen
  • Awesome always-on display that's satisfyingly customisable
  • New A16 bionic chip - Apple's most powerful smartphone chip ever
  • Super duper bright screen - 2000 nits outdoor peak, which should mean always being able to see it even in blinding bright sunlight
  • Best iPhone camera set ever, including its first megapixel upgrade since 2015
  • A cool new stabilisation mode for videos taken in shaky conditions
  • Car crash detection.

The display upgrades coupled with the iOS 16 update make this a much better smartphone experience than we've had before with iPhones, even before you consider the Dynamic Island.

Yes, other brands have had always-on displays for years, but I'd argue few if any have done them as well as Apple has with their first go. It's really good.

The faster chip and better cameras are harder to measure against previous models because those previous models were already so good in terms of performance and photo quality. Basically you can rest assured that this phone will not let you down regardless of how hard you push it while playing demanding games or multi-tasking with dozens of apps, and the videos and photos you can take with it are very, very nice.

The base Pro model also has a higher launch price in Aotearoa than last year's did - it starts at $1999. That is a lot, but if you're in the market for a flagship smartphone you're definitely getting your money's worth.

That's the exact same NZ launch price of both the Samsung S22 Ultra and Oppo Find X5 Pro, the two most significant iPhone rivals released in Aotearoa this year.

The Pro gives you everything a Pro Max does, but the latter has a bigger screen and longer lasting battery, for an extra $200 start price - so choosing between them should be easy, based on your own preference.

But whichever you choose of the two Pro models, you're getting a truly fantastic device that's about as good as smartphones get.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max. Photo credit: Newshub.


I haven't mentioned the emergency SOS via satellite feature that is coming to all iPhone models because it is not available in New Zealand and we don't know when it will be.

Likewise, the SIM card tray removal you may have heard about is only an issue for iPhones sold in the US - here in Aotearoa you get eSIM support and a SIM card tray.

The verdict

  • iPhone 14 (standard): Unless car crash detection is a hugely attractive feature, I'd recommend the iPhone 13 to most people instead.
  • iPhone 14 Plus: I haven't had a review model to play with, but given it's just a bigger version of the standard 14, I'd say this is a good option if the bigger 6.7-inch screen size is the main thing you want - but waiting for the iPhone 15 Plus next year will likely mean a better deal.
  • iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max: I wholeheartedly recommend either if you're keen on and willing to pay for a premium, flagship device.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've partying to do on Dynamic Island.

Newshub was supplied an iPhone 14, iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max for this review.