Apple’s latest iPhone 14 Pro line brings some of the most significant upgrades in years. Between the Dynamic Island, Always-On display, 48MP camera, and more, there’s a lot of fresh innovation to unpack. Here’s an in-depth scorecard reviewing the hits and misses of Apple’s efforts to push the iPhone forward.
By transforming the front camera cutout into a dynamic, shape-shifting UI element, the Dynamic Island represents one of the most ambitious Apple design ideas in recent memory. Expanding, contracting, and adapting in real time to provide at-a-glance information, notifications, and controls, the Dynamic Island aims to make the notch intrusion not just tolerable, but useful.
While it remains to be seen how developers take advantage of the Dynamic Island for third-party apps, the seamless integration with system functions like Face ID, alerts, timers, calls, and media controls shows enormous potential. The animations alone make the whole concept a joy to interact with. This is Apple design magic at its best.
One of the most requested iPhone features finally arrives with the Always-On display. Allowing the lock screen to stay gently illuminated 24/7 to show widgets, wallpaper, notifications and the time, the AOD marks a big upgrade in convenience and customization.
Yes, Always-On already existed on Android phones, but Apple took their time implementing it until the technology was ready to meet their standards for visual quality, responsiveness and battery efficiency. The results are gorgeous. The AOD experience is well worth the wait, especially with iOS 16 lock screen widget possibilities.
48MP Main Camera
The jump to a 48MP main sensor from 12MP is one of the largest resolution leaps ever for iPhone photography. Sharpness and details in images are taken to the next level. And Apple intelligently utilizes the extra data to enable features like 2x zoom and Pixel Binning without losing excess quality.
This upgrade brings iPhone cameras closer to pro photography territory. Enthusiasts will love having the extended headroom to crop and enlarge. Pair it with the Photonic Engine computational boost and the iPhone 14 Pro’s photo capabilities start looking outstanding.
Satellite Emergency SOS
One of the most trailblazing safety features on any smartphone, Satellite SOS connectivity allows iPhone 14 owners to connect to satellites and emergency services when outside cellular or WiFi coverage. This provides vital reassurance when adventuring off the grid.
While we hope the SOS functionality never needs to be used, having it available is absolutely clutch. The fact that Apple developed a groundbreaking solution to expand emergency access, then made it available at no extra cost, deserves applause. Satellite networks bring peace of mind.
Emergency detection via Crash and Fall
Expanding on existing features like Medical ID, Crash and Fall detection uses built-in sensors, AI, and 911 integration to identify severe crashes and hard falls. Your iPhone can then auto-dial emergency services if you are unresponsive.
There is huge, lifesaving potential with automatic crash and fall monitoring. However, time will tell just how accurate and effective it is in real-world scenarios. The tech is promising, but still needs to be carefully vetted in practice across varying users and mishap circumstances before being deemed a homerun.
In a bid to simplify carrier onboarding and pave the path for future hardware innovation, Apple made the bold decision to remove physical SIM card slots from the iPhone 14 models in the United States. Only digital eSIM is supported.
While eSIM adoption is gaining steam, carrier rollouts still have a long way to go globally. By going US-only eSIM for now, Apple is casting a wider net than the current eSIM infrastructure can support. This risks frustrating consumers used to the reliability of physical SIM cards.
Satellite WiFi hotspot
Along with Satellite SOS, your iPhone 14 can utilize satellite connectivity to provide a remote WiFi hotspot when you’re off the grid and without cellular data. This expands emergency options by allowing you to access key map services, messaging tools and emergency instructions.
Beaming a WiFi lifeline from space is innovative, but its limitation to emergencies only in order to preserve expensive satellite data makes this feature very narrowly applicable. The WiFi hotspot depends on clear skies and ideal satellite positioning. We need to see it in practice.
The new Photonic Engine is an upgraded image processing system in the iPhone 14 Pro lineup. It uses machine learning to apply complex rendering that enhances detail and color for better low-light photos across all cameras, including selfie cam.
Early camera testing confirms the Photonic Engine makes a visible difference in improving exposure, color, and sharpness in dim indoor and night shots. It lives up to Apple’s claims, and pushes iPhone photography another big step forward. The Photonic Engine alone is a compelling camera upgrade.
Action Mode video stabilization
Recording high-intensity action just got smoother with the new Action Mode. It applies advanced video stabilization powered by the A16 chip to deliver gimbal-smooth footage even in shaky high-motion scenarios.
Action Mode is a game changer for recording bike rides, athletic endeavors, and more. But the heavy cropping required to achieve that buttery stabilization stops it from being a homerun. There is a noticeable quality tradeoff. Still, it opens new creative possibilities.
A16 Bionic chip
The iPhone 14 Pro line debuts Apple’s newest system-on-chip, the A16 Bionic. Fabricated on an enhanced 5nm process, A16 boasts a 6-core CPU and 5-core GPU that deliver up to 40% faster processing than the previous A15 chip. It promises industry-leading power efficiency.
Benchmarks confirm the A16 chip extends Apple’s lead in mobile processing speeds over rivals. It provides plenty of overhead for demanding new camera features as well as future iOS capabilities. The A16 gives the Pro models an edge that will only widen with time.
Car Crash Detection
Using onboard sensors and smart algorithms, the new Car Crash Safety system can identify severe collisions and automatically notify emergency services if a driver is unresponsive. It aims to expedite aid when every second counts.
This could be a real lifesaver following devastating accidents. However, the Car Crash Detection capabilities remain largely theoretical, with unlikely broad testing. We will have to wait and see how well it performs in actual crash events across vehicle makes and models before deeming it a homerun.
48MP Raw Image Format
For those who want maximum editing flexibility, the iPhone 14 Pro models gain the ability to capture massive 48 megapixel images in raw ProRAW format. This allows fuller access to the sensor data for refinement. The extra resolution enables huge zoom flexibility.
In the right hands, 48MP ProRAW images provide incredible detail. But the large file sizes and editing complexity make it a niche feature. Processing the ProRAW images requires beefy apps and serious photographic skills more suited to professionals. It’s powerful but not universal.
New Ultra Wide Camera
The updated 12MP Ultra Wide camera on iPhone 14 Pro has a brighter f/1.8 aperture and larger pixels compared to prior models. This promised improvements to low-light performance and more vivid detail.
Unfortunately, early testing found the new Ultra Wide hardware does not actually deliver noticeably better quality versus past generations. The improvements appear mostly incremental and undramatic, both in ideal and night conditions. Apple oversold expectations here.
Faster Wi-Fi 6E
Support for the cutting edge Wi-Fi 6E standard unlocks faster theoretical wireless speeds up 1.2 Gbps. It allows iPhone 14 models to connect to the newly opened 6 GHz band when using compatible routers.
There’s huge upside to Wi-Fi 6E in the future. But networks are still sparse, and real-world speed gains are moderate currently. This feels more like the first phase of a longer transition. We’ll have to see how Apple capitalizes on 6E capabilities down the road.
Crash Detection for Passengers
The iPhone 14 lineup expands Crash Detection features to also detect severe crashes when the user is a passenger in a vehicle. This provides greater peace of mind for all your journeys.
Many serious accidents involve passengers, so expanding sensing capabilities to secondary riders is logical. However, accuracy when not the driver remains unproven. The iPhone may struggle to discern passenger crashes due to varied positioning. Still, any extra safety is welcome.
Emergency SOS via Satellite
One of the most hyped features, Emergency SOS via Satellite allows connecting to orbiting satellites to send emergency messages and share your location when outside cellular or Wi-Fi coverage.
Shared location means faster rescue team dispatch, but actually conveying complex distress details solely through short text messages will pose challenges. Transcribing back and forth with emergency responders will be tedious and imprecise. Calling this a homerun seems premature based on practical limitations.
Larger battery capacities
Apple boosted the battery capacities on the iPhone 14 lineups, citing up to 20 hours of video playback or 80 hours of audio – some of the longest runtimes ever on an iPhone. The extended battery aims to deliver all-day endurance.
In an era of power-hungry mobile processors, eking out longer battery life on devices is no small engineering feat. Early testing confirms the larger iPhone 14 batteries generally meet Apple’s performance claims, keeping the phones running for days on a single charge. This is a huge quality-of-life upgrade.
To help juice up the larger batteries quicker, Apple has finally embraced faster-charging speeds up to 20W over Lightning on the iPhone 14 series. This promises 50% charge in just 30 minutes.
Here’s the kicker – the faster 20W USB-C wall charger required to achieve those accelerated charging speeds remains sold separately! Apple still includes the old 5W brick in the box. Withholding the vital charger is a unacceptable and cynical move to force upgrade purchases.
Crash Detection on Apple Watch
Now your Apple Watch Series 8 or Ultra can detect severe crashes and automatically connect you with emergency services if you are unresponsive. This issubclassroom provides potentially life-saving assistance.
Since you are likely wearing your Apple Watch at all times, crash detection goes beyond just driving to cover any dangerous falls and accidents. The closer proximity to your wrist makes the Watch’s crash detection very reliable. It further cements the Apple Watch as an invaluable health and safety companion.
Low Power Mode
To help your battery last even longer, iOS 16 introduces a redesigned Low Power Mode that reduces power consumption by temporarily disabling select features like background app refresh.
Previous Low Power modes were too disruptive. But iOS 16 thoughtfully balances power savings with retaining core functions for a still-usable experience. Just toggle when needed for hours of extra runtime. The flexibility and options put it over the top.
iOS 16 makes your personalized Memoji avatar even more distinctive with dozens of new customizable hairstyles, headwear, eyewear and sticker poses to choose from.
These additions feel superficial rather than substantial. Adjusting fringe or adding glasses don’t meaningfully expand self-expression compared to Bitmoji. It’s fluff lacking any killer new dimension. Apple should just allow importing other virtual avatars into Messages at this point.
Interaction detection for Apple Watch
A small but smart new Apple Watch feature – it can now detect collisions and prompty start a countdown timer in case you are disoriented or immobilized, triggering an emergency alert if still motionless after the timer.
The tiny Apple Watch senses what big iPhones can miss in accidents, especially falls. Starting an automatic timer after impact is genius, as is connecting to emergency contacts after a failed response. It provides a critical safety net.
In closing, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max represent one of Apple’s most ambitious leaps yet for the iPhone. Though the standard models are more iterative, the Pro line delivers multiple standout additions that meaningfully enhance the experience. From the Dynamic Island’s ingenuity to big camera upgrades, Apple shows it can still deliver fresh innovation that sets the pace.