Apple iPhone 14 review: Does it warrant an upgrade from last year’s phone?

Standardization is a special aspect of industrializing product design. On the one hand, it wants to assure you of a benchmark that you can expect from a product. On the other hand, standardizing a product can also make it appear lukewarm in terms of innovation. Witnessing this is the increasing upgrade cycle of smartphones in India – while the average lifespan of a smartphone was estimated at around six months in 2015, the same period is currently around 30 months.

Among other factors is the fact that users today don’t see any features that would force them to upgrade to a new phone, making buying new phones a purely discretionary expense – something that users would choose from a lifestyle standpoint. The new Apple iPhone 14 is the personification of that.

Also read: Apple iPhone 14 Pro review: Is the new display a ‘dynamic’ new step?

At first glance, the iPhone 14 is as incremental an upgrade as it could have been. It uses the same processor as before, the A15 Bionic – a sign that Apple itself doesn’t really consider it a true ‘upgrade’. It uses the same screen – still without a fast refresh rate that you’d find in even the least expensive Android smartphones these days. The cameras keep the same sensor as before and the battery is 1.2% larger than the iPhone 13.

Based on this, users who upgraded to the iPhone 13 last year would be well advised not to upgrade again — at least not to the iPhone 14.

But since the iPhone still has an ambitious tag, unlike most other (even premium) smartphones, it still gets users who are at least curious about the next generation of the lineup.

Then come and have a look first. The iPhone 14 is identical to the iPhone 13 on the outside, unless you keep a close eye on the iPhone colors. On that basis alone, if social credibility is something that appeals to your gadget purchase decision, the iPhone 14 wouldn’t exactly attract jealous glances from your neighbors.

Apple has swapped the green and pink options for a purple one this year, while the dark shade of blue has been replaced with a light and rather pleasant shade of blue that I really like. Other than that, the diagonal camera layout looks the same and the new notch design only came to the ‘Pro’ model this year. The thickness differs by a tenth of a millimeter – and frankly you are kidding yourself if you say you can tell the difference.

The iPhone 14’s screen feels smoother, as the new phone has been given more memory to handle heavier apps and games. The difference isn’t that big, and it’s something you only feel when you compare it to an iPhone 12. Practically speaking, the iPhone 13 feels just as smooth. It feels faster to game, and even without a new processor, Apple seems to have marginally improved performance thanks to more memory on hand.

This, in terms of performance for most mainstream games and photo/video editing apps, makes the iPhone 14 feel just as smooth as the iPhone 13 Pro. This may be the biggest win for the iPhone 14, but the lack of a ‘ProMotion’ fast refresh panel on this one means that once the iPhone 14 is at least over a year old, the minor flickers and stutters will start to show. .

But this also means that if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, the iPhone 14 could be a wise purchase. Developers have yet to start building use cases for the Dynamic Island notch on the iPhone 14 Pro, and for most, the quality of the main camera should be enough for makers and hobbyists alike.

This brings us to the camera, where you will probably feel some difference from before. Apple’s use of a revised machine learning technique, which it calls the ‘Photonic Engine’, will give you noticeably brighter and sharper photos at night. But the cost of these brighter images falls on image noise — large and prominent grains that completely eat up dark shadows in a dimly lit photo.

The main camera lens is a tad faster, with an aperture of f/1.5 this year. In simple terms, this means that your new iPhone can take more stable photos with the same level of weakness than older “vanilla” iPhones. You’ll notice this difference most clearly if you frequent grungy bars every weekend and really want to show how the new iPhone is better. It’s clearly better, but could do well with improving the noise reduction algorithms.

Also better is the front camera, which now has a noticeably faster lens that can take in more light in darker conditions, and also has autofocus. As a result, self-portraits tend to be sharper and retain better detail when you’re partying.

The new ‘Action Mode’ in the video window tries to take over action camera areas, and companies that have tried to miniaturize professional-level video stabilization have usually had to either make a device very expensive, use a miniaturized gyroscope motor that a phone, or compromise on the video quality.

While cost isn’t really a factor here, Apple hasn’t expanded its phone. Instead, it uses an age-old trick of cropping in a sensor, while using software to fit the video to a horizontal plane. However, the results are not really impressive in terms of video fidelity, as objects in a stabilized video look quite softened.

The ‘Action Mode’ also constantly asks you to find a brighter environment – ironically even in very brightly lit office interiors. This essentially proves that Action Mode, like Cinematic Mode, remains a work-in-progress. They have huge potential and hopefully a future software update will improve the mode as well. But they are not yet ready to be the compelling buying factors for the mighty iPhone.

So, what is the iPhone 14 like and who is it really for? First, if you’re looking for a bit of social glamor and spunk, nothing under Apple’s “Pro” three-camera models would work — which makes the iPhone 14 a moot point anyway.

But if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking of the iPhone 14 anyway. If you upgrade from the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, the new iPhone 14 will definitely feel smoother and one with a better camera. iPhone 13 users would be well advised to skip this one (or the iPhone 14 Pro too), and for new iPhone buyers, the price of 79,900 makes it a new enough, good enough and reliable enough to buy.

Certainly, it is the iPhone that offers all its improvements in the fine print. But for what it’s worth, the incremental improvements make it feel like a new phone — as long as you’ve spent at least two or more years with your older iPhone.

Also read: The Apple MacBook Air riddle: M1 or M2?

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