The iPhone 14 hasn't even been announced yet, but it feels like people are already writing off the standard version of Apple's upcoming smartphone. And based on the rumors circulating about the iPhone 14 Pro models reportedly in the works, you can understand why.
As you'll see in our iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro preview, the Pro models are expected to get the more noteworthy changes, from a new A16 Bionic processor to a more powerful 48MP camera. Even the notch that dips down into the top of the display is likely to go away on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max while sticking around on the iPhone 14.
Meanwhile, the rumored iPhone 14 Max enjoys the benefit of being an entirely new model that will seemingly offer the larger screen that phone shoppers crave for a lower price than the similarly sized iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Stacked up against that, the iPhone 14 can't help but look underwhelming, at least based on the rumors we've heard so far. But with roughly a month to go before the rumored iPhone 14 release date, I think it'd be unwise to dismiss this phone sight unseen.
Apple has a way of surprising us, even with devices that are simple iterations on their predecessors. Even if the iPhone 14 that winds up shipping in September matches the one that rumors are currently describing, I predict people will be more than satisfied with this 6.1-inch handset. Here's why the iPhone 14 can hold its own against the flashier Pro models.
The iPhone 14 will ship with iOS 16
I've been spending a lot of time with iOS 16 since the developer beta arrived in June — pack yourself some provisions and dive into my iOS 16 public beta hands-on for my full impressions — and it's shaping up to be a pretty impressive update. There are some great additions, like the medications-tracking feature in Health and the new Fitness app, and updates to apps like Maps and Messages add some welcome enhancements.
And all this will be available on the iPhone 14 from the minute you take the phone out of the box.
It's worth remembering that the way Apple distinguishes itself in the smartphone world is not merely by hardware, but in how the software and hardware work together to create a complete experience. The same software that runs on the iPhone 14 Pro will be just as dazzling on the iPhone 14, so you're not getting short-changed in that department.
The iPhone 14 figures to be a top camera phone
While we're on the subject of software, let's not forget how good Apple's photo-processing software is at enhancing and improving the shots you've captured with your iPhone. Certainly, the Pro models enjoy a hardware advantage over the other iPhones thanks to that telephoto lens. But iPhones with two rear cameras instead of a trio of shooters produce perfectly fine pictures — peruse our list of the best camera phones, and I'm confident you'll find the iPhone 13 on there.
Features like Cinematic mode when shooting video, Smart HDR for adjusting dynamic range and Deep Fusion for calling out details and textures all live on the iPhone 13. (Heck, the last two are available to the iPhone SE 2022, and that phone only comes with one rear camera.) They'll work just as well on the iPhone 14, and while the rumor mill is silent on the software front, I'd wager that any new photo software enhancement introduced with the iPhone's launch is going to work just as well on the iPhone 14 as it does on the iPhone 14 Pro.
We've also heard that the front camera on the iPhone 14 is getting autofocus, which should help with sharper selfies. you're making some sacrifices by opting for a standard iPhone over a Pro model, chiefly giving up an optical zoom for sharper close-ups. The iPhone 14 Pro's rumored 48MP camera will likely take more detailed shots in lower-light, too. But otherwise, the iPhone 14 figures to be a formidable camera phone, capable of taking photos that outshine the competition.
The A15 processor is not exactly a slowpoke
One of the biggest arguments in favor of the iPhone 14 Pro over the iPhone 14 centers around the rumor that the former phone will benefit from a new A16 Bionic chipset while the latter will have to make do with the A15 that powers Apple's current phones. There's no dismissing that advantage — a new Apple processor is a sure bet to outperform an old one.
But will there be that much of a noticeable difference in an A16 Bionic vs. A15 Bionic face-off? Probably not, I'd reckon. And even if the A16 posts better benchmark numbers than the A15, Apple's current chip is still going to outpace whatever the top-performing Android phones can muster. And that's before you consider that the A15 Bionic likely to power the iPhone 14 is going to come with more RAM than the iPhone 13 had to offer.
Admit it, you like the notch
I don't doubt that the notch that's been a mainstay on Apple's flagship devices since 2017's iPhone X is divisive. But to hear the hosannahs being sung at the news that the iPhone 14 Pro is using a pair of cutouts to house a camera and Face ID sensors on its display, you'd assume that the notch is universally reviled. I don't think it is — in fact, I rather like the notch. And I suspect more than a few people reading this feel the same.
Reasonable people can disagree, of course, but I don't think a notch is more or less distracting than a camera cutout in a display. Both interrupt the edge-to-edge flow of a screen, but at least the notch has the advantage of making the iPhone look distinctive. Put a bunch of phones face-up with nothing to distinguish them except their displays, and Android devices will look like a see of cyclopses, staring back at you with their camera cutouts. The iPhone, with its notch, will stand out from the crowd.
The iPhone 14 Pro signals that we're moving to a notch-free design in future iPhones. I'm not going to lie, I'll miss that little sucker when it goes.
The iPhone 14 is going to come in brighter colors
This is an assumption on my part, based on how Apple's handled colors for previous iPhone lineups, but I'm willing to better the colors for the iPhone 14 will be brighter, more playful and more eye-catching.
Look at the current iPhone 13 models, and the Pro colors look more muted and toned down. That's probably appropriate — the iPhone Pro means Serious Business, and if you view the phone as an extension of your professional life, bright colors can come across as garish.
Personally, I prefer a more vibrant splash of color on my mobile devices. I remain one of the few people in the world who adored the candy-colored iPhone 5c, and I'm glad Apple has maintained some of that approach to color with the standard iPhone. I figure that the rumored iPhone 14 colors of black, white, blue, purple and Project [Red] will outshine whatever matte variations of silver, gold, graphite and purple the iPhone 14 Pro comes in. And that's going to make for a more eye-catching model.
The iPhone 14 won't cost as much as the iPhone 14 Pro
Carve this one in granite letters that are visible from space — the main appeal of the standard iPhone over the Pro version is that the former can be had for much less money than the latter. And that trend is likely to continue with the iPhone 14 lineup.
In fact, the value of the iPhone 14 over its Pro counterpart could be even more pronounced, if rumors about iPhone pricing pan out. It's widely assumed that the iPhone 14 Pro models are going to see a $100 price bump. For a while, it seemed as if the other iPhone 14 models might follow suit, but a recent rumor surfaced claiming that the iPhone 14 would remain at $799, the same starting price as the iPhone 13.
The importance of getting all the valuable things the iPhone 14 promises — great cameras, solid performance, a stellar design — without having to pay more for the privilege can't be overstated, especially at a time when prices are ballooning all around us. The iPhone 14 Pro may be getting some impressive enhancements, but in this environment, the attractive price of the iPhone 14 could wind up being the most compelling feature of all.
Next: A new rumor says the iPhone 14 launch could be a week earlier than expected on Sept. 6.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.