The iPhone 14 series is in the middle of it’s lifespan, as Apple launches a new iPhone series every year, and 2023 will be the year of iPhone 15. Until then, if you’re looking to pick up the latest generation iPhone, you’ve actually got 4 different models to choose from, including the iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max. What do all of these labels mean, and which one should you buy? This comparison will help you decide.
2 Product Lines
So although there are 4 models of iPhone 14, it’s basically split between 2 product lines, the regular iPhone 14, and the iPhone 14 Pro. The words Plus and Max refer to larger versions of the phone, with some special differences we’ll go over in a bit. This can be seen by Apple having 2 different marketing pages, one in white for the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, and one in black for the 14 Pro and Pro Max.
Design and SIM card
On the outside, all 4 iPhone 14 models look pretty similar, with a Ceramic Shield front. The non-Pro models have a glass back and uses aluminum, while the Pro models have a textured matte glass back and uses stainless steel.
One thing you’ll notice if you compare it to previous generation iPhones is that there is no more physical SIM card slot on the iPhone 14 series, at least in the United States. That means you’ll need to ensure your carrier can support eSIM.
The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus come in 6 different colors: Blue, Purple, Yellow, Midnight, Starlight, and Product Red, which is just red, except a part of the sale goes toward the Global Fund to fight AIDS and COVID-19, although Apple doesn’t say exactly how much.
The 14 Pro and Pro Max come in 4 different colors that are slightly less colorful: Deep Purple, Gold, Silver, and Space Black. Color options are a personal preference, but Apple has unsurprisingly reserved more professionally looking colors for the Pro line.
Dynamic Island vs Notch
The primary difference you’ll notice on the front of the phone between the Pro and non-Pro versions is near the top of the screen. The non-Pro iPhone has the same notch from previous generations, while Pro versions have a slightly smaller cutout called the Dynamic Island. Besides it looking a bit different, Apple has actually infused it with some interesting interactions as well, making it potentially easier to bear with than the notch.
The iPhone 14 series now comes in 2 stated screen sizes. The 14 and 14 Pro have 6.1″ displays, while the Plus and Pro max have 6.7″ displays. However, they actually aren’t exactly the same size. The iPhone 14’s 6.1″ display is actually 6.06″ at 460 ppi, while the 14 Pro’s 6.1″ display is slightly larger at 6.12″, also at 460 ppi. The 14 Plus’s 6.7″ display is actually 6.68″ at 458 ppi, while the Pro Max’s 6.7″ display is just a bit larger at 6.69″ and 460 ppi.
Although the physical size difference is a diagonal length increase of about 10%, it actually results in an increase of screen real estate by about 20%. That may or may not be a big deal for you.
ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate
Another feature that may be a big deal is the ProMotion tech on the Pro and Pro Max models, which allows up to 120Hz refresh rates. The non-Pro iPhones are still limited to 60Hz. This varies depending on how sensitive your eyes are, but personally, I find scrolling on a 60Hz phone to be a poor experience, and having at least a 90Hz display makes things so much smoother. For me, this is definitely an advantage for the Pro models.
The other difference between the Pro and non-Pro displays is the brightness. Apple says the 14 and 14 Plus models have 800 nits of max brightness, going up to 1200 with HDR, while the Pro models have 1000 nits of brightness, or 25% more, going up to 1600 nits with HDR, or 33% more. One of the times when peak brightness can help is when using the phone outdoors in sunlight, and the Pro models have an even bigger advantage here, being able to double the peak brightness to 2000 nits. Although be careful of using the phone in high temperatures, which can cause the display to auto-dim as well.
Even when the phone is not actively being used, the 14 Pro and Pro Max models have a feature called Always-On display. This lets you see some information on the lock screen at a glance without needing to turn the phone on, which can be handy, for example, if you’re always using your phone to check the time.
Dimensions and Weight
If your hand gets tired from holding a heavy phone, then the non-Pro iPhones have an advantage. The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro have similar dimensions, but the weight is 6.07 ounces versus 7.27 ounces, which is 20% more. Similarly, the dimensions of the Plus and Pro Max models are similar, yet the weight is 7.16 ounces versus 8.47 ounces, which is 18% more.
An advantage of having a larger body is battery life. 25-33% more battery life, in fact, and that’s true for both the Pro and non-Pro models. Interestingly, video playback battery life is also longer for the Pro models by as much as 25%, while Audio playback is slightly longer on the non-Pro models.
For charging those batteries, all iPhone 14 models support both MagSafe and Qi wireless charging, along with being able to fast charge, reaching up to 50% charge in 30 minutes when paired with a 20W or higher adapter.
One of the big contributors to the heavy Pro phones is the additional telephoto camera that gives 2x and 3x zoom options, making the Pro models have a triple rear camera setup versus the non-Pro models’ 2 rear cameras. In addition, the Main and Ultra Wide cameras that in all iPhone 14 models are better in the Pro versions. This is especially true for the Main camera, which is 48MP versus 12MP in the non-Pro.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get images that are 4 times better. I’m not going to try to cover detailed photography concepts here, but if we look at DXOMark’s scores, we can see that the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max camera scores 146, while the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus score 133, so there is a difference in favor of the Pro models as you would expect.
There are a few photo capability differences worth calling out as well. The Pro models support night mode portraits, which lets you use portrait mode and night mode together to get that blurry background effect in dark settings. There’s also macro photography and macro video recording, letting you get as close as 2 centimeters to the subject, along with Apple ProRAW format support for photos, and ProRes for videos.
The front cameras on all the iPhone 14 models, which Apple calls the TrueDepth Camera, are basically the same at 12MP and with all the same features, except that the Pro models have support for taking photos in Apple ProRAW format and videos in ProRes. Picture quality is very comparable between models, as evidenced by the DXOMark scores being 145 and 144, only 1 point higher for the Pro models due to “some minor differences between the two models in terms of texture and noise, in both photo and video modes.”
Speaking of video recording, new to all iPhone 14 models is action mode to smooth out shaky handheld videos.
Also, be aware that storage capacity affects ProRes video recording, a feature only available on the Pro models. If you want to record at 4K in ProRes, you’ll need at least 256GB of storage. On the 128GB model, you’ll be limited to only 1080p video at 30 fps when using ProRes, the same limitation as on the iPhone 13 Pro series where the feature was introduced.
Taking photos and videos are one of the primary use cases for phones these days, and Apple uses it as one of the main differentiators of the Pro lineup in order to charge a higher price.
Another differentiator for prices is storage capacity. All iPhone 14 models start at 128GB, and it costs $100 to upgrade to 256GB, and an extra $200 to jump to 512GB. The non-Pro models stop there, but the Pro and Pro Max allow you to pay another $200 to go all the way to 1TB of storage.
Just like with their Macs, storage upgrade prices are the most ridiculously priced upgrades you can get. If you don’t need to take tons of videos on the go, you can save a lot of money if you stream your content and offload your photos regularly to cloud storage or your home network.
Emergency SOS via satellite & Crash Detection
If you are away from home frequently in potentially dangerous and remote areas, I do want to give a special mention to iPhone 14’s new Emergency SOS via satellite and also Crash Detection features, which can call for help when you’re in a bad situation and has saved many lives already. It’s one of those things that you’ll probably never need, but you’ll be super glad to have it the one time that you do.
Finally, let’s talk about the heart of the phone, the chip that drives it. The reason I bring this up last is because performance in phones is generally not that important these days. Sure, new chips are getting faster all the time, but they are already so powerful that only a niche set of users, such as hardcore phone gamers, would actually benefit much, if at all, from upgrading on a yearly basis.
Most care more about the features and capabilities that the phone offers, and it’s certainly true that a new chip can bring new features. However, we’ve already covered the major feature differences, so whether they exist because of the chip or not is most academic.
That said, the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus use the A15 Bionic chip with 6-core CPU and 5-core GPU, which is the same as in the previous year’s iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, while the 14 Pro and Pro Max use a newer generation A16 Bionic chip. If you are averse to feeling like you’re buying “last year’s tech,” then you’ll want to learn toward the Pro models.
Summary of Differences and Pricing
Alright, let’s summarize the various differences and pricing for the iPhone 14 lineup. The iPhone 14 starts at $800, the 14 Plus at $900, 14 Pro at $1000, and Pro Max at $1100. That means you pay $100 extra for the larger size phones, and $200 extra for the Pro features.
For $100, the larger phone gets you 1) a 6.7″ display with 20% more pixels, 2) up to 25-30% more battery life, and 3) a bigger device that is 20% heavier.
For $200, upgrading to the Pro version gets you 1) a different set of color choices, 2) 120Hz ProMotion display, 3) more brightness, especially in sunlight, 4) the Dynamic Island instead of a notch, 5) an always-on display mode, 6) up to 25% more battery life, 7) a more powerful and higher quality triple rear camera system with an additional telephoto lens, a 48MP main camera, and additional photo and video recording features, 8) the option to go up to 1TB of storage, and 9) the latest generation A16 Bionic chip.
Which iPhone 14 Model Should You Buy?
So which iPhone 14 model should you buy, and are the upgrades to the larger size and Pro models worth it?
Well, a phone is an extremely personal device, even more so than a personal computer. Therefore, it’s hard to quantify whether upgrades are going to be worth it for most people, since it’s likely everyone will have some features that they consider extremely valuable while others are worthless.
This is especially true for phone size. I personally think the larger 6.7″ phones are too big and heavy, and prefer the smaller size. In fact, I had previously owned an iPhone 12 mini, and generally enjoyed being able to use it one-handed quite a bit. But for some people, the larger the better. So for the size, choose the one that is, literally, the best fit for you. And if you don’t know, go to the store and try holding it yourself.
For the $200 Pro upgrade, I think it’s worth it if you fall into either of 2 categories. First, if you’re a tech enthusiast and want the niceties of having the 120Hz display, most powerful chip, and new features to play with like the dynamic island. And second, if you’re into photography or taking videos and your phone is your primary way of doing it, so you really want the better quality camera system with more features.
Of course, the other consideration is whether you are paying for the phone upfront, or if you are planning to use some carrier deals or trade-ins, which could make the value comparison meaningless.
For the value minded, you might be better off avoiding both carrier contracts and the latest model iPhones, and instead go with a previous generation device, which Apple is now keeping around to fill the lower price points, the more budget iPhone SE if you don’t care about the modern iPhone design or really like Touch ID, or even an Android phone that can offer great value for money if you aren’t tied to iOS.