So here’s the deal. I’ve already used the 12 Pro Max for a year, and while the experience was good, it wasn’t necessarily my favorite. I picked it because it had the best cameras of the time, but as much as I also wanted a larger phone, I did find it a bit too heavy for my taste. iPhones have always been the personal work horse that I use most for a couple of reasons. They do the best video, and they also handle social media apps better, so, as a creator, I always need to carry one even if I’m reviewing another phone. I solved my needs for the best cameras on a lighter build last year with the iPhone 13 Pro, but then I landed into a bit of a personal problem.
See, I wasn’t expecting that since I’m now in my 40s (and thank you for that surprised look on your face) the idea of carrying a larger phone was gonna be better than needing to carry reading glasses. It left me wanting an iPhone with the screen size of the Pro Max, but the weight of the smaller Pro, and it turns out that this iPhone 14 Plus is actually lighter than both. The only question left is if the things its missing will make or break the experience.
Alright, I can already read your comments saying that other phones do more for the same price. I won’t say your points aren’t worth considering, but I think you’re missing the bigger picture. See, those other phones run Android, and for a vast majority of people, spec arguments don’t really matter. Try convincing a teenager to pick an Android phone over an iPhone to see what I mean. The fact of the matter is that Apple created this as a new alternative for iPhone users, and I would’ve been the first to agree with you, had I not been part of the audience this phone is targeting.
So, for example: my daughter wants the larger iPhone, but I do have a problem going over the thousand dollar bracket for a teenager. I don’t wanna give her an Android phone because I feel Parental controls on iOS are better, and I will admit I love the idea her using a phone with crash detection, cause you never know. In a similar way, people my age or older might not want the Pro cameras, Pro Motion or Pro pricing, but they do want a larger display. That’s where this iPhone 14 Plus kicks in.
I think one of the things I like the most about this phone is actually its design. Call me a weirdo, but I’m a fan of Apple’s approach to aluminum, regardless if it’s on an iPad, Mac or iPhone. It strikes a good balance between heft and durability, with the matte rails handling fingerprints better. The result is a phone that shares the same footprint as the 14 Pro Max but is a whopping 37 grams lighter, and even 3 grams lighter than the smaller 14 Pro. I’d even say weight distribution has improved because I find it easier to handle than even the old iPhone 7 Plus. It’s hard not to praise this design because even if it looks nearly identical to last year, we’ve seen continuous praise from iFix-it and others given how repairability was dramatically improved.
Obviously the lack of ProMotion has been a topic of debate given the price when compared to Android phones. Thing is, if we’re real, those less expensive Android phones don’t necessarily have great displays. Just take a photo with them under sunlight to notice how you wish they were brighter or handled color better. Apple’s Super Retina XDR is still one of the best OLEDs in the market when it comes to color accuracy, viewing angles, and since it goes up to 1200 nits of brightness, you can use it anywhere. Any gamers looking for that high refresh rate can always go for the Pro Max, but if we’re fair, not all mobile games take advantage of it. If we’re real, most people care about the content consumption that this larger panel with these dual-firing speakers excel at.
If we look at the bigger picture, endurance is actually what most consumers care about, and so far the list of large phones with high refresh rate that provides that is limited. By contrast, this iPhone 14 Plus is seriously a two-day phone, regardless of how you tax it, which only helps me prove my point that specs aren’t everything. The battery on this phone is actually smaller than average, and yet it shows how this A14 Bionic is not just more efficient, but also still more powerful than some of the newer 2022 chips. Starting storage is more than enough, RAM isn’t really a topic of debate on iPhones, and then we have all the latest forms of connectivity. I tested it mostly on AT&T’s 5G network and reliability was great, eSIM activation took minutes on the settings app, and phone calls were what you’d expect from an iPhone.
iOS 16 is also responsible for a lot of that speed and efficiency. Even without LTOP, there’s nothing in the experience that feels slow. Navigating through menus is smooth, and I still continue to believe Apple’s implementation of widgets is far more cohesive than on other platforms. The new lock screen has proven to be one of my favorite changes, where I love this idea of having a different one when I work, another on my day off, and another when I travel. My needs for information vary a lot depending on the scenario, so being able to choose different widgets for each is genius. Sure there’s no Dynamic Island here for a couple of those extra visual perks, but if you saw my first impressions on the 14 Pro Max, let’s just say I’m perfectly fine with this notch as is. If there were one thing I’d change about iOS 16 is the ability to fully utilize this large canvas with multi-window. There are moments where I feel expanding the experience of a smaller phone onto this one was a missed opportunity for enhancements.
Now, an interesting place where I didn’t have much high hopes was in the camera department. Judging the book by its cover its easy to consider that the spec sheet is going on its second year, there’s one less camera sensor than most phones at this price, and where the differences are just night and day when compared to the 14 Pro Max. Thing is, this isn’t the first time I compare results between a Pro iPhone and a regular, and where I’ve learned that the differences are mainly in capabilities, not in quality.
The extra GPU core on the chip and the camera hardware pretty much have this phone on par with an iPhone 13 Pro, and it shows. All my photos are in the rich contrast picture profile, and this phone tackles scenarios like a champ. Color is balanced, saturation is not overdone, and I love the dramatic feel of the results. We lack a macro mode, sure, but I actually prefer the kind of closeups this phone allows, where shallow depth of field is preserved if close enough. We lack a telephoto, sure, but 2X digital photography is still good enough for social media, and I like that this iPhone is not trying to re-invent the wheel with fake zoom capabilities. 5X is as good as it’ll perform, so it’s as far as it goes. Obviously no complaints on the Ultra-wide or primary since again, it’s like a 13 Pro.
Things get interesting in low light. I took a few comparison shots with the 14 Pro Max and the differences weren’t as pronounced as expected. The 14 Pro Max just takes one or two seconds less to take the same shot given its new optics, but the results were nearly identical in both the ultra-wide and primary. Obviously the Pro Max wins in its extra detail or once you zoom in because of course physics matter.
Portraits and selfies are also what you’d expect from an iPhone with great skin tones and separation thanks to how deep fusion is able to interpret what it sees.
And then there’s video, which is the main reason an iPhone is always in my pocket. Apple’s video codec is still second to none for anyone’s memories. And sure there are extra things the Pro Max does, but for most people, the quality is on point, stabilization is still great, and it’s awesome to see that there is no sort of degradation even from switching to the selfie camera.
To conclude, I think it’s once again important to reference the bigger picture. I could sit here and be hard about everything the iPhone 14 Plus doesn’t offer for the money when compared to other phones, but the reality is that the name was well picked. It’s a Plus version of the iPhone 14, and after weeks of using it, I realized the things it lacks are not necessarily things that broke the overall experience, and that’s even for me as a creator.
If the added perks it misses are important to you, then there’s always the choice to go 14 Pro Max. I just think Apple didn’t just build this phone to test the waters. I was one of those people that wanted a larger iPhone with less heft to serve as more of a work horse, and that’s where the iPhone 14 Plus shines.
At first, I’ll admit I didn’t walk into this review expecting much, and it only reminded me that it’s never good to think that numbers directly correlate to a better experience. If you’re in the market for a large iPhone with great battery life, a lighter feel and an easier price, I have no problem in recommending this phone. Yes, it doesn’t live in a bubble, but then no iPhone ever has, and if they’ve driven so much loyalty among consumers, it might just be because implementation matters more than capabilities for a price. The only way to find out if I’m right or wrong is if you also give one a try to see what I mean.
Apple iPhone 14 Plus
iPhone 14 Plus enters as the device to pick over iPhone 14 if you want the same high-tier performance and great cameras, with the added advantage of a screen that will help you see more at once and longer battery life.