Previously on “iPhone 14 Reviews”: The Pro models won our hearts—and wallets. Things got hot and heavy on the Dynamic Island. And camera bumps sought world domination. Oh, and crash detection worked.
On today’s season finale: A bigger iPhone is…well, a bigger iPhone.
Yep, me again. Just three weeks after reviewing the iPhone 14, 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, I’m back with a review of yet another iPhone. Starting at $899, the iPhone 14 Plus ships on Friday. Did
delay the Plus to give the Pro Max an early boost? Apple just said it ships products when they are ready.
What’s different this time around? This one brings a larger screen and longer battery life to people who don’t want to take out a new mortgage. (Good thing, since it’s a really bad time for mortgages!)
See, there are two iPhone 14 groups:
iPhone 14 ($799 and up) and iPhone 14 Plus ($899 and up): What I like to call the “regulars,” these have two cameras and colorful designs. The 14 has a 6.1-inch screen, and the Plus has a 6.7-inch screen. Because the Plus is bigger, the battery is also bigger. Otherwise, they’re as identical as the Olsen twins.
iPhone 14 Pro ($999 and up) and iPhone 14 Pro Max ($1,099 and up): These are the phones I told people to buy a few weeks ago. These also have 6.1- and 6.7-inch screens, respectively, but have a more premium design and a trio of cameras, including a new 48-megapixel main camera. They also have an always-on screen and the “dynamic island” multitasking bar.
With four choices instead of three, it isn’t exactly a Goldilocks situation. But the Plus may be the “just right” option for those who have long wanted a bigger screen but didn’t want to pay a couple hundred extra for a Pro Max’s premium features. Plus, Apple claims the iPhone 14 Plus has the “longest battery life ever” in an iPhone.
According to my tests, it does keep going and going and going…but so does the Pro Max. When deciding on which big honking phone to buy, you must weigh the other major differences:
OK, great, you’ve decided you want a phone with a screen the size of a tractor trailer. The good news is the quality of the 6.7-inch screen on the Plus and the Pro Max is nearly impossible to tell apart. Both are plenty bright and crisp, and the extra space allows you to see more messages in your inbox or enjoy the latest episode of “She-Hulk” on a wider screen.
The Plus, however, is stuck in Notchville, miles from Dynamic Island. That is, on the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus you’ll find that familiar little black notch housing the selfie camera and the Face ID sensors. On the Pros, Apple shrunk the area down to a pill shape, gave it some multitasking abilities and, yes, gave it a memorable marketing name.
As I said in my reviews of the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, the dynamic island is helpful. You can quickly jump into another app or see information—such as the length of a call or remaining timer time—without stopping what you’re doing. While using the Plus, I missed those new Pro tricks.
What didn’t I miss much? The Pros’ always-on display, which always shows the time, date and notifications. No need to tap to see what’s going on. On the Pro, I find myself getting increasingly distracted by the info on the screen. Plus, disabling it improves battery life.
There’s normal all-day battery life, and then there’s insomniac all-day battery life. While the smaller 6.1-inch iPhone 14 and 14 Pro can last a full day without any power-saving tricks, the Plus and Pro Max can make it well into the next day.
On one day of testing, I pulled the 14 Plus off the charger at 7 a.m. At my 11:30 p.m. bedtime, I was still in 40% territory. Even after a day of heavy phone calls (at least five hours), messaging, emailing, watching TikTok, taking pictures of my kids and more, I wasn’t even close to the red 20% danger zone. The Pro Max has also lasted well past my bedtime.
In an effort to see if the Plus really has the “longest battery life ever” in an iPhone, I turned to my go-to video-streaming test. It gives a sense of raw battery power, not everyday endurance, which can be affected by how you use the device.
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The smaller 6.1-inch phones conked out after about 15 hours. The Pro Max went for 21 hours, while the 14 Plus went for just over 20 hours. Apple explained that video streaming is one area where the Pro Max can last longer, because it adapts the refresh rate of the display during playback to preserve power. But in my testing, it was basically a wash.
The Plus has two cameras—a main and an ultrawide—while the Pro Max has those and a telephoto lens. For most, the decision between the two phones will come down to that telephoto, which lets you get closer to a scene without moving. I can’t imagine raising my kids without it. Really, it has been very helpful for preschool graduations, soccer games and more.
As I said in my previous review, any phone is great at taking photos in good lighting now, which is why Apple is focusing on low light. Yet when comparing low-light shots between the 13 and the 14, I didn’t see that kind of improvement. If you’re coming from an iPhone X or 11, you’ll be far more likely to get noticeably better shots.
(There’s another, less visible difference between the Plus and the Pro Max. The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus can be repaired more easily, which could save you time and money.)
With all the new iPhone 14 models, Apple removed the SIM card slot. No more drawer for that little chip when you want to switch phones or cellular carriers. I didn’t have an issue with swapping my phones virtually, in Settings, until my
account wouldn’t activate the Plus. Other Verizon customers have reported similar problems. A Verizon spokesman said an issue affected a small number of customers, and it has been resolved.
So what’s the answer to the big phone decision? Do you shell out the extra $200 for the iPhone 14 Pro Max with the dynamic island and the extra camera? According to analysts, the Pro models have been the bestselling iPhones since the launch in September. But would they have been if the Plus had been available as an alternative from the start?
Next up on “iPhone 14 Reviews”: conspiracy theories on Apple’s hardware-release timing!
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