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It looks like the iPhone 14 Pro could be in its own league

iPhone 14 renders by Front Page Tech and Ian Zelbo
(Image credit: Ian Zelbo | Front Page Tech)

Update - Jan 10: if the iPhone 14 Pro sounds too expensive for you, then perhaps you should check out the iPhone SE 3, which is rumored to be arriving in just a couple of months.

With each year, it seems Apple tries to differentiate its Pro line of iPhones more from the regular models. And the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max upgrades coming this fall could be the biggest yet, putting them in a whole other league.

It's not as if the regular iPhone 14 won't see improvements and contend for our best phone list. Thus far, we've heard about a more powerful 4nm A16 Bionic processor under the hood — which I'm sure will enable all sorts of capabilities —  and a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 modem. 

Another rumor points to Apple offering a sleeker iPhone 14 design with little to no rear camera bump in exchange for a slightly thicker chassis. This extra room may also allow for larger batteries and/or better cooling. And faster Wi-Fi 6E is reportedly coming to all iPhone 14 models. 

The biggest change for the iPhone 14 family could be the rumored death of the mini, as Apple will reportedly ditch that 5.4-inch size that apparently very few people liked for a new 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Max. So finally those on a budget could get a bigger screen without having to spend more than a grand. That's progress.

But the more I hear about the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, the more I start to feel like Apple is establishing a new class of flagship. For starters, the iPhone 14 Pros are tipped to offer under-display Face ID, which would allow Apple to finally get rid of the notch in favor of a punch hole camera. Presumably the regular iPhone 14 models would continue to have the same size notch as the iPhone 13 series.

In addition, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the 2022 Pro iPhone models will feature a 48-megapixel main wide camera, which would be a big boost over the current 12MP shooter. Plus, only the Pro models would offer 8K video recording capabilities.

There's been another juicy rumor that the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max could get USB-C connectivity. This apparently wouldn't be done to appease the European Union over Apple's unwillingness to adopt the industry standard but to offer faster connectivity for various Pro-level peripherals and for high-speed video and photo transfers to Macs.

This doesn't seem certain, but some reports say that Apple may continue to limit 120Hz ProMotion displays to the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. This allows for smoother scrolling and animations, as well as more fluid gameplay and better movie playback for supported titles. And once you've tried a 120Hz panel on a phone, it's hard to go back. 

I'm also assuming that the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will continue to exclusively offer a telephoto zoom. Some don't mind that absence and feel the ultrawide camera is good enough on the regular iPhones. But I personally wouldn't want to give up that flexibility when shooting, even if a more powerful periscope zoom isn't expected until the iPhone 15

Add it all up — including the possibility of a max of 2TB of storage — and the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max could literally be in their own league in 2022. On the one hand, that's a good thing in the sense that it better justifies the premium over the regular models. But I also get the sense that iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max buyers could feel shortchanged if they're still stuck with a notch, 60Hz display, a lower-res camera and Lightning port.

We'll have to see which of these rumors prove to be true, but right now I'd say the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max would be the phones I'd want — and they could wind up looking like the only truly new iPhones. 

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.