Ameya DalviMay 08, 2023 10:55:48 IST
– Premium design and rugged build
– IP68 ingress protection
– Excellent performance across all cameras
– Topnotch video quality
– Sharp OLED display with a variable refresh rate
– A16 Bionic chip is a solid performer
– Multiple OS updates guaranteed
– No bundled charger, no real fast charging
– Telephoto camera underwhelms in low light
Price: Rs 1,19,999 onwards
The most popular Apple product in India currently is the Apple Store they recently opened here amid a lot of fanfare. Now that all the random clapping and selfies have subsided on my social timeline, it is time to look back at a slightly older product from the company, the Apple iPhone 14 Pro. We have been using the device for a good six months and would like to share the experience with you through this long-term review.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Design: Elegant, sturdy, and compact but feels heavy
You already know what the iPhone 14 Pro looks like, so I will skip the details like the placement of buttons and ports. Barring the dated notch at the top of the screen being replaced by a Dynamic Island here (more on that later), the design is pretty much identical to that of the iPhone 13 Pro. The phone is built like a tank when it comes to sturdiness, thanks to its stainless steel frame. You also get IP68-rated protection against dust and fluids.
It weighs in excess of 200 grams and does feel heavy in hand due to its compact size. It should be able to survive a few drops, though I did not test that aspect given its price tag. I did drop it accidentally on my toe from a foot above, and the swelling took a day or two to subside.
The glass back and the rounded corners give it a touch of elegance that you associate with Apple devices. Even better, the matte finish at the back makes it smudge resistant. However, the glossy metal frame does attract a lot of fingerprints and smudge marks and needs to be wiped from time to time.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Display: Sharp high-res display with a variable refresh rate
The screen size is the same as its predecessor, and the resolution is only marginally higher, but you now get an LTPO display with a variable refresh rate.
The Apple iPhone 14 Pro sports a 6.1-inch LTPO Super Retina XDR OLED display with a resolution of 2556 x 1179 pixels and a peak brightness of 2000 nits. It is HDR10 and Dolby Vision compliant with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz for flicker-free operation.
The refresh rate automatically throttles between 1 Hz to 120 Hz depending on the content being displayed on the screen. For instance, the screen refreshes faster when scrolling through content for a smoother motion, and the refresh rate drops in the lower two digits when watching a still image on the screen to save battery.
It probably drops closer to 1 Hz when using the always-on display on the lock screen, which explains why the battery reserves aren’t impacted much even when the feature is switched on.
The screen sharpness, colour reproduction and contrast are excellent. Given the size of the screen, a single-handed operation is still an option; I don’t get to say this about most phones these days… for the past few years actually.
One thing missing here, and something nobody will miss is the famous notch at the top of the screen which was introduced in the iPhone X. Well, it hasn’t vanished completely but has transformed into a pill-shaped cutout on the screen called Dynamic Island.
Such a fancy name for an aberration; only Apple can pull off something like this, and pull it off it does. Technically, the Dynamic Island is pretty much the notch with some parts missing which detaches it from the top edge and makes it an ‘island’.
While it is an improvement over the dated notch, Apple could have come up with something more innovative after half a decade. But instead, they have tried to make this limitation cool and fun, and believe it or not, it actually works. More on that in the OS section.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Performance: A16 Bionic chip is potent with ample headroom for the foreseeable future
Unlike the non-Pro models from the 14 series, the iPhone 14 Pro is powered by Apple’s latest A16 Bionic chip and is accompanied by 6GB RAM and a choice of internal storage ranging from 128GB to 1TB.
Unlike Android phone makers, Apple has never played the specifications card when it comes to processing hardware, and I won’t bore you with synthetic benchmark scores and stuff like that. But I would like to add that the Bionic A16 is an incredibly powerful processing hardware with ample headroom for the foreseeable future.
There has been absolutely no slowdown after six months of use. Day-to-day tasks like browsing, chatting, switching between multiple apps, photography or gaming are simply as smooth as they were on day one. It looks well poised to handle another 3 or 4 major OS updates that the iPhone 14 Pro is expected to receive over the years. The phone runs perfectly cool during general use.
It does get a little warm after half an hour of gaming, but there’s no cause for concern. The hardware is powerful enough to let you play all the recent games on it at the highest settings at a solid frame rate. You get two speakers on this phone – one behind the earpiece and the other along the bottom edge.
They are amply loud and offer good clarity with acceptable stereo separation. You don’t get a 3.5 mm headphone jack here, and you will need a separate adapter if you intend to use your old wired headphones.
Alternatively, there’s Bluetooth 5.3 here to connect wireless earphones and speakers. High-end codec support is still limited to AAC; this really needs to change soon. You get dual-band WiFi with support for a/b/g/n/ac/6 standards. The call quality and reception have been perfectly fine on this phone; well, as good as your network provider can manage these days.
Like all Apple flagship phones over the past several years, the iPhone 14 Pro does not have a fingerprint scanner, and Face ID takes care of your biometric security needs. Face ID is easy to set up, and is brisk at its job.
You can even configure it to recognise your face with a mask on; a useful addition during and after the pandemic era. I cannot say for sure if it is better than its previous generation in reality, but it is certainly more secure than the face unlock feature on most Android phones.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Battery performance: Decent battery life, slow charging, no bundled charger
The battery life of the iPhone 14 Pro sees a marginal improvement over the 13 Pro, probably because of a slightly higher capacity battery used here, among other things. The 3200 mAh battery keeps the phone powered for over a day of moderate use comfortably.
When at home on WiFi all the time, it even lasted close to two days with standard use and no gaming involved. Your mileage may vary depending on your usage pattern. The battery’s health is still 100 per cent after six months of use, which is great.
The Apple iPhone 14 Pro supports wired and wireless charging but the company does not bundle a charger in the package; no surprise there! The charging speed is nowhere close to what some of the Android phones (not sold under the Google brand name) offer these days. The peak fast charging supported using a USB-PD charger stands at 27W. Thus, chargers offering more than 30W output won’t charge it any faster.
We tried a handful of compatible chargers over a period of time, and the fastest charging time we recorded was about 90 minutes to take the phone from 5 per cent to 100 per cent. We achieved that using a 30W USB-PD charger and the bundled USB-C to Lightning port cable (yes, Apple provides one in the package).
Half an hour of charge fills up about 55 per cent of the tank. We also tried a Raegr RapidLink 1160 charger with 65W output, and the charging time was in the same ballpark as what a 30W charger clocked. We didn’t stop at that. We also borrowed a not-so-old Apple 20W charger.
The good part is it only takes about 10 to 15 extra minutes to charge the iPhone 14 Pro fully. So in case you have that one already, there is no need to invest in a new charger right away. If not, a good 30W USB-PD charger from a reliable brand is advisable. Older Apple chargers and those offering less than 20W output take forever to charge this phone.
Another thing to note is ‘USB-PD’ is the keyword, so popular 30W/65W/100W+ fast chargers that charge certain Android phones in no time may only offer 10W output when used with an iPhone, and won’t charge it fast enough.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Camera performance: Good variety, great performance in photos and videos both
You get three cameras at the back that cover all the key bases. You get a new 48MP primary camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS) and dual-pixel PDAF, a 12MP telephoto camera with OIS for 3X optical zoom and a 12MP ultra-wide camera with 120-degrees FOV and dual-pixel auto-focus.
The ultra-wide camera also doubles up as a macro camera. You also get a 12MP front camera for selfies and FaceTime. Each of the cameras has a distinct KRA, and they excel in their respective departments.
The main camera captures impressive shots in bright as well as low light conditions. The colours feel slightly saturated at times, which has been the case with iPhones over the years, but a lot of users prefer it that way.
In comparison, similar images captured on the Google Pixel 7 Pro have colours a lot closer to the actual subject, but ironically when you compare images from the two phones side by side, many may vote in favour of the iPhone 14 Pro, unless they have the subject in front of them.
The contrast is excellent, and the same goes for the level of detail and dynamic range. The low-light performance is equally impressive with great detail and low noise. When the light drops below a certain level, the phone automatically switches to Night Mode which brightens up the image just enough without compromising on the details.
That is applicable to the ultra-wide camera too, which happens to be one of the finest around. In good light, the image quality is comparable to the main camera, and it can hold its own in low light too.
As I mentioned earlier, the ultra-wide camera lets you capture macro shots too from up close. When you get closer to a subject, the phone automatically switches to macro mode. The macro shots come out quite well with very good detail, colour and exposure. This is one area where you can see a noticeable improvement in comparison to the iPhone 13 Pro.
The portrait shots have always been impressive on iPhones over the years, and they are great here too with near-perfect foreground and background separation. You now get 2X and 3X zoom options that are worth a try.
I quite liked the 2X option in addition to the standard 1X mode for portraits. It works well not just with humans but also flowers, other objects and birds. Furry animals can be a hit or a miss though. Also, it is best to take portrait shots in well-lit conditions.
On the subject of zoom, it is time to move on to the telephoto camera that provides you with up to 3X optical zoom. The presence of OIS compensates for minor shakes quite well, resulting in impressive clicks, especially in good light.
The colours and details are excellent in captured shots in well-lit conditions. The results aren’t as impressive when the light drops. While it is still usable in low light, the images feel noisy and have average detail.
You also get digital zoom up to 15X but I wouldn’t bother going beyond 5X. This is an area where the Pixel 7 Pro wins with its 30X digital zoom backed by crazy good AI and ML algorithms. The 12MP front camera does a very great job with selfies, with fairly natural skin tones and a broad FOV. Needless to say, it excels in FaceTime and video calls. Just like the rear cameras, the front camera can also record videos in 4K resolution at up to 60 fps.
Video recording has been the forte of iPhones for years now and the iPhone 14 Pro carries the legacy forward with excellent video capture across the board that’s best in the segment. Each camera can record 4K videos at 24, 30 or 60fps, and can shoot 1080p slow motion videos up to 240fps.
While I tried using all the cameras for videography, I settled on the main camera for the best results. In addition to OIS and EIS, you also get 10-bit HDR and Dolby Vision support. The captured 4K footage is sharp, with lively colours and wonderfully stabilised.
Click here for lots of unedited photos clicked on the Apple iPhone 14 Pro.
OS and user interface: Love it or hate it, it’s still iOS
This can be a separate series of articles in itself if time permits. But I will try and keep it short here. Nor will I get into the Android vs iOS debate. Both are perfectly polished operating systems and people like what they like at the end of the day. I will just touch upon a couple of things that caught my eye while using this device.
For starters, iPhone 14 Pro launched with the iOS 16 and now runs the latest version of the OS – 16.4.1. For iPhone users, there is no new learning curve here as you get the standard user interface.
The UI is smooth and lag-free as it has been. While iOS 16 doesn’t bring forth anything drastically different as compared to its predecessor, there are some evolutionary updates in several departments. The OS combined with the aforementioned Dynamic Island presents something fresh on the 14 Pro.
I already told you about the island bit, and iOS 16 takes care of the dynamic part. It smartly adds things on either side of the screen cutout with a black backdrop and even below it to create an optical illusion of the island growing bigger or smaller or changing shape.
Certain apps like the music player use a black background to encompass the island, giving an impression that the phone has a completely notch-less display; that’s quite smart! You now get an always-on-display for the lock screen that isn’t power-hungry at all.
It dims the screen brightness, drops the refresh rate and displays the basic info without draining the battery much. Notifications management has also seen an improvement in the new OS. I still miss an app drawer though to clear the clutter on the screen.
The overall experience with the Apple iPhone 14 Pro over the past six months has been positive and enjoyable. Would I buy the phone for myself? Well, I am not that rich yet. The iPhone 14 Pro debuted at Rs 1,29,999 for the 128GB storage variant going all the way up to Rs 1,79,999 for the top variant with 1TB storage. The selling price has come down by a good 10K over the past six months, which is good, but it’s still a stiff price tag.
So should you buy it? If you have that kind of money to spend on a phone, then why not! The Apple iPhone 14 Pro is equipped with a powerful A16 Bionic chip that should take care of things for close to half a decade with new OS updates coming in.
Then you have the rugged and signature Apple design, stutter-free software experience and last but not the least, the cameras. The camera department has all the key bases covered from macro to ultra-wide to optical zoom, and the cameras excel in capturing photos and videos both.
Though you will be paying a huge sum, you do get something special to brag about. And as weird as this may sound, it actually makes better sense to spend those tens of thousands extra and buy the 14 Pro instead of buying the iPhone 14 at its current price. The iPhone 14 is pretty much the iPhone 13. All the novelties were reserved for the Pro models this time.
As for alternatives, you have the usual suspects from the Samsung Galaxy S23 series and the Google Pixel 7 Pro with comparable performance. In fact, the Pixel 7 Pro is going for Rs 69,999 at the moment, which is a great price for what it offers, but you will have to make do with 128GB of internal storage.
You will end up saving a good Rs 50,000 in comparison to an iPhone 14 Pro with similar storage, and the camera performance of the two is equally impressive (photos, not videos). For a better deal on the iPhone 14 Pro, you may have to wait for the festive sales, but the wait might be worth it.