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Apple iPhone 14 Review: Yep, It’s an iPhone

Rating:
8/10
?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price:
Starting At $799
A man holding an iPhone 14
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek
Meet this year's iPhone, same as last year's iPhone.

The iPhone 14 is the latest iteration of Apple’s flagship device. Since its launch, the iPhone has set the standard of what a smartphone is, what it does, and how it looks. Fifteen years later, it’s still doing that. And while the iPhone 14 is better than ever, it paradoxically feels stuck in the past.

Here's What We Like

  • Top-notch cameras
  • Amazing display
  • Snappy performance
  • Great battery life

And What We Don't

  • It's just "this year's iPhone"

Review Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Is an iPhone More Than Just a Number?

My first iPhone was the 3GS back in 2009. It was my first slate-factor smartphone. Before that, I used candybar phones. And I haven’t used any other smartphone brand since buying that first iPhone 3GS. Over the years, I’ve owned an iPhone 4S, 5S, 6S, X, and 11 Pro Max. So, I’m very familiar with how the iPhone has evolved over the years.

If there’s one thing that I’ve noted over the ensuing decade, the models don’t change year over year (with the iPhone X being a big exception). You generally get gradually faster speeds, a marginally better camera, and one or two new features, mainly dealing with iOS.

So, it’s become my standard advice for anyone buying an iPhone to get whatever the current model is and use it until it just doesn’t work anymore. And that’s when you should upgrade.

I adopted this philosophy when I bought my iPhone 11 Pro Max, and it’s served me well. And my weeks of using the iPhone 14 have validated that practice. Because even though the iPhone 14 is an excellent phone, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading unless your current iPhone is totally and completely spent.

Design: As iPhone as an iPhone Gets

The locked touch screen of an iPhone 14
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

  • Storage Capacity: 128-512GB
  • Dimensions: 5.78 x 2.82 x 0.31 inches (146.7 x 71.5 x 7.8mm)
  • Display: 6.1-inch HDR, True Tone
  • Contrast Ratio: 2,000,000:1
  • Brightness: 800 nits max (typical), 1200 nits peak (HDR)

Every time I bought a new iPhone, I had a tinge of excitement. Apple does a great job of roping you into the yearly upgrade hype. But, after a while, you realize, “oh wait, this is basically just like that iPhone I used for a couple of years before this.” There may be slight differences in the form factor, button locations, number of lenses, notch shapes, and more, but it all comes together the same way almost every time.

This is how I felt using the iPhone 14 alongside my iPhone 11 Pro Max. Obviously, the difference in the screen size is undeniable, but outside of that, the experience of using the devices was very similar. The touch screen of the 14 is a lot smoother, however. My finger glided across it effortlessly, and it has a much silkier feel and slightly snappier response time. But I chalk that up to my 11 Pro Max being a few years old at this point.

None of this is to say that the iPhone 14 is inferior to my iPhone 11 Pro Max. It’s probably the superior device, all things considered. It’s difficult to detect the big differences, even when one is brand new and the other has a few years of mileage. The bottom line is that the iPhone 14 embodies the “this year’s iPhone” motif Apple has been going with since the introduction of the iPhone X.

Performance: Screamingly Fast

A woman showing the profile view of an iPhone 14.
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

  • Processor: A15 Bionic
  • CPU: 6-core (2 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores)
  • GPU: 5-core
  • Neural Engine: 16-core

If you’ve ever driven away in a brand new car, you know the feeling of the first time you open up the engine on the freeway. That’s precisely the feeling you get when you load up all your apps onto the iPhone 14. Everything just feels fast, new, bright, and shiny. Most of that is due to its A15 Bionic processor and the 6.1-inch OLED display.

Granted, the A15 is the same processor used in the iPhone 13, but it’s still a lightning-fast phone. If you want something faster in an iPhone, you’d have to upgrade to the iPhone 14 Pro, which comes equipped with the A16 processor. But, at this point, it’s like adding another five horsepower to a car that goes 220 mph on the freeway. How much of that will you use and notice the difference?

Speakers: Surprisingly Listenable

One aspect of the iPhone 14 that really stood out to me was the quality of the speakers. Granted, nothing beats a good sound system. But given the size and form factor of this device, the sound quality that comes out of the iPhone 14 is phenomenal. I performed my typical sound test by playing the entire Beatles compilation album Past Masters. You don’t get the full experience with the multichannel mixing, but it’s very listenable and has great volume. Listening to audiobooks and podcasts was a great experience. I ditched my earbuds for non-music listening during the day.

Cameras: Outstanding Quality in a Mid-Range Phone

A woman holding an iPhone 14 showing the rear cameras.
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

Of all the features of an iPhone, the cameras are among the ones you’ll use the most. So, it’s no surprise that Apple pays a lot of attention to them. The quality of both still pictures and videos taken with this smartphone is outstanding. Everything is crisp, clear, and highly detailed. Of course, this is to be expected, but just because something is the standard doesn’t make it less impressive.

Front Camera

  • 12MP camera
  • ƒ/1.9 aperture

The front-facing cameras of the iPhone 14 are an impressive 12MP with a ƒ/1.9 aperture and record video in up to 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second. Just a few years ago, this kind of quality in a front-facing camera would have been unthinkable, but now it’s standard equipment in Apple’s midrange smartphone.

Selfies taken with the front-facing camera are quite good-looking and accurate to what you’d see in real life. Plus, this year’s model includes autofocus, a great touch for getting your selfies just right. Autofocus is one of those slow-march-of-progress features in this year’s iPhone line.

Rear Cameras

  • 12MP Main: 26 mm, ƒ/1.5 aperture
  • 12MP Ultra Wide: 13 mm, ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view, five‑element lens

The business-end cameras on the iPhone 14 are also outstanding, and you likely won’t find much better on a mid-range phone. And, like the front-facing camera, they perform magnificently. Both lenses come equipped with 12MP sensors, one wide-angle and the other ultra-wide, with a maximum 120-degree field of view. They produce real-to-life colors and stunning clear, crisp, and detailed images. The only thing that these cameras lack is a telephoto lens. You have to upgrade to the higher-range models to get that.

It’s worth noting that I never missed the telephoto lens while using the iPhone 14. And I don’t think any of the photos I took suffered from not having it. However, I generally don’t use a mobile device to take pictures that require a telephoto lens. I have a DSLR and a set of professional lenses for that. But, if you want the power of the telephoto lens in a smartphone, it’s probably worth shelling out the extra money for the iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max.

Battery Life: All Day and Then Some

  • Video playback: Up to 20 hours
  • Video playback (streamed): Up to 16 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 80 hours
  • Fast-charge capable: Up to 50% charge in around 30 minutes with 20W adapter

Another aspect of the iPhone 14 that stands out is the battery life. Throughout my weeks of using the device, I was never in danger of running out of battery, even when I used it as my only mobile device all day long. In fact, it generally took days at a time before I needed to recharge it. I usually clock in three to four hours of screentime a day on a typical weekday, and on the weekends, that can get up to six to seven hours.

Should You Buy the iPhone 14?

A woman holding an iPhone 14, showing the back
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

Everything about the iPhone 14 is outstanding, especially considering that it’s the entry-level model of this generation. And it’s sure to last several years before you need to upgrade. However, do you need to upgrade from the iPhone you’re using now? The tough answer is “probably not,”–especially if you have an iPhone X or newer model. Those iPhones are still excellent devices, and unless they don’t work anymore, I’d recommend you hold onto those for at least one more year.

Of course, that advice doesn’t apply if you’re an Apple acolyte that needs the unique features introduced in the iPhone 14. If things like crash detection, satellite SOS and Photonic Engine are what make you salivate, then the iPhone 14 is the device for you.

Another exception to my recommendation is if you’re considering buying an iPhone SE. We’ve detailed why you should skip this generation of the budget iPhone, and the iPhone 14 is your next best bet if you want a new, less-expensive iOS device.

Rating:
8/10
Price:
Starting At $799

Here’s What We Like

  • Top-notch cameras
  • Amazing display
  • Snappy performance
  • Great battery life

And What We Don't

  • It's just "this year's iPhone"

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »