When the iPhone 14 Pro makes its debut next month — maybe at an Apple September event slated for September 7, if reports of that date are accurate — it's looking like a safe bet that the new Pro models will cost more than their predecessors. That would present Apple with a big challenge heading into the holiday shopping season — how do you convince people the iPhone 14 Pro is worth the extra $100 it's likely to cost?
We didn't just pull that number out of thin air. Rumors of an iPhone 14 Pro price hike have been circulating since the spring, with analysts settling on a $100 bump over the $999 starting price of the iPhone 13 Pro. The latest report claiming rising iPhone costs sounds particularly convincing — Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives called the $100 Pro model price increase "likely" in a research note last week on Apple's upcoming phones.
If true, that places the iPhone 14 Pro's price at $1,099, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max would come in at $1,199. Samsung charges the same amount for the Galaxy S22 Ultra, so Apple would be giving up a big price edge over a key rival for the title of best phone overall.
Even more significantly, the rumored price boost for iPhone 14 Pro models comes as prices are rising all around us. Paying more for gas and groceries is hard enough on our pocketbooks, but we're still going to make those purchases. Splashing out extra for a high-end smartphone becomes harder to justify, especially when there are cheaper options out there (including Apple's own iPhone 14, which figures to keep the same $799 starting price based on rumors).
In other words, Apple's going to need to spell out some significant changes for its new Pro phones, not just in an iPhone 14 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro face-off but also an iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro comparison, if it wants to convince people that the more expensive models are worth it.
More than your usual iPhone upgrade
The kind of basic improvements you'd expect in a yearly phone update simply won't cut it. Yes, the iPhone 14 Pro is likely to get the A16 Bionic chip, which figures to outperform its predecessor in any A16 Bionic vs. A15 Bionic head-to-head clash. But the A15 is already the fastest mobile silicon you can find in a phone, at least when it comes to benchmarks. If you opt for the standard iPhone 14, rumored to be sticking with the A15 chipset, it's not going to be noticeably slower than the A16-powered Pro models.
Other areas where Apple might improve the iPhone 14 Pro over its predecessors will be just as hard to pull off. The phone maker increased the size of the batteries on every iPhone 13 model, which improved how long those handsets lasted on a charge — the iPhone 13 Pro Max, in particular, stood out with a spot on our best phone battery life list. Any increase in battery capacity for the iPhone 14 Pro isn't likely to be a big one — there's only so much space inside a phone for a bigger power pack — and while the A16 could be more efficient, we can't see the iPhone 14 Pro lasting that much longer on a charge than its predecessor.
The design of the phones could change — a persistent rumor has Apple doing away with the notch on the iPhone 14 Pro and replacing it with a pair of cutouts to house the front camera and the sensors that enable Face ID unlocking. The standard iPhone 14 is expected to keep the notch. For some iPhone shoppers, that will be a big improvement, but not the sort of thing that would convince you pay up for a more expensive Pro model.
Major iPhone 14 Pro changes Apple could make
So where does that leave Apple? If it wants to convince people that a $100 increase to the Pro lineup is nothing to sweat over, it's going to have to find other areas to ratchet up the value of its phones.
One of those areas could be storage. Like all of last year's iPhones, the iPhone 13 Pro features 128GB of storage in its base model. Apple could convince us that the iPhone 14 Pro is a step above last year's model by doubling that amount of storage. Indeed, some rumors around the iPhone 14 Pro price suggest a 256GB iPhone 14 Pro base model could be in the works, though the latest word from the rumor mill is that the storage boost won't happen. We hope that it will, though, as it would be another area where Apple could make the Pro model stand out from the regular iPhone 14.
Cameras also seem like a prime candidate for a feature boost. For years, Apple has used 12MP sensors for every lens on its phones, whether it was the standard model or the pro version. A rumor suggests that will change with the iPhone 14 Pro, as both the 6.1-inch Pro and 6.7-inch Pro Max are in line to feature a 48MP main camera to go with the 12MP ultrawide and telephoto lenses.
More than megapixels are at play here. The improved camera lens is expected to produce brighter, more detailed images. It could even help Apple's Pro phones gain an edge in low-light photography where other best camera phones give Apple's devices a run for their money.
There's also the possibility of Apple adding other features new to the iPhone that we simply haven't considered. Even dating back to pre-iPhone 13 rumors, Apple was said to be looking to add satellite connectivity to its phones which would allow users to send out emergency messages in areas where cellular towers and Wi-Fi couldn't reach. That capability didn't make the final cut of iPhone 13 features, and while rumors have been quiet as of late as to whether that's destined for the iPhone 14, that's the sort of capability that would make the iPhone 14 Pro stand out from the crowd.
iPhone 14 Pro outlook
The iPhone remains an important part of Apple's business, accounting for more than half of the revenue the company tallies in a given quarter. As a result, it's not about to make its Pro phones prohibitively expensive without making some addition or improvement that enhances the value of the product itself, even if you do wind up paying a little bit more.
What that addition or improvement might be won't be known until Apple officially takes the wraps off its new iPhones. But there are plenty of possibilities out there for Apple to sweeten the pot for would-be iPhone 14 Pro owners.
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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.