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It's official: iPhone 14 Pro is way better than iPhone 14

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: Watch out for these bugs if you're setting up an iPhone 14

We had a very good feeling that the iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro comparison would introduce the biggest differences in years, and our testing now backs that up. 

As you'll see in our iPhone 14 review as well as our reviews of both the iPhone 14 Pro  and iPhone 14 Pro Max, these are all very good phones — all of them earn a spot on our best phones list.

But that doesn't mean the regular iPhone 14 is right for you. In fact, if I were spending my own money, I'd definitely save up for the iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max. Here's why. 

Where iPhone 14 Pro beats iPhone 14

Always-on display 

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 14 Pro series's ProMotion display can scale all the way down to 1Hz to deliver an always-on display experience. So you can see the time, battery status, notifications and iOS 16 lock screen widgets in a low-power state.

I didn't think I would like this feature as much as I do now. Even just getting in the morning being able to peek at the time without having to turn on the phone is super convenient. Alas, the regular iPhone 14 doesn't have this feature, probably because it lacks the dynamically refreshing screens featured on the iPhone 14 Pro models. The iPhone 14, like its predecessor, is locked at 60Hz.

Dynamic Island is awesome (and will get better)

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple's replacement for the notch on the iPhone 14 Pro is dubbed Dynamic Island, and it's a fitting name given everything that part of the display can do. This pill-shaped area changes shape as it displays everything from music playback status and timers to your next direction in Apple Maps. You can also display two so-called Live Activities at once.

But Dynamic Island will get even better once developers can tap into this new feature. For example, you'll be able to check the score for your favorite team at a glance or see the status of your Lyft ride — without having to dive into the app itself. That's potentially a real time-saver. 

48MP camera and optical zoom

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro Max back cameras

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max pack a new 48MP camera that groups images into quad-pixel for better results in all sorts of lighting conditions. Or you can shoot in true 48MP ProRAW mode for the highest resolution possible, though you have to enable this feature in settings.

The iPhone 14 Pro series also adds a 2x zoom option on top of 3x optical zoom, with a max digital zoom of 15x. The iPhone 14 is still stuck on 5x digital zoom with no telephoto zoom lens. That's a bit nuts when you can get a Galaxy S22 with 3x optical zoom and 30x digital zoom for the same price as the new regular iPhone. 

Reasons to get iPhone 14

The iPhone 14 certainly has some things going for it, and these are the main benefits. 

iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14 display

(Image credit: Future)

Lower price 

iPhone 14

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 14 starts at $799 while the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max start at $999 and $1,099, respectively. So there's at least a $200 delta between prices. If you prefer more storage, you could get a 256GB iPhone 14 for $899, still $100 less than the 128GB iPhone 14 Pro. 

Regardless of which model you ultimately pick, there's plenty of good iPhone 14 deals to be had for all the models. 

iPhone 14 cameras are still good (including Action mode)

While the iPhone 14 doesn't get the resolution bump to 48MP, its 12MP wide, telephoto and TrueDepth sensors are all solid enough to land this phone on our best camera phone list.

Just check out this comparison with the Galaxy S22. The dipladenia flowers look a lot sharper through the iPhone, complete with water droplets on the petals. 

What iPhone should you buy?

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I'm telling you that the iPhone 14 is good. But I'm also telling you to skip it and get the iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max this year if you can afford those models. The 120Hz ProMotion display and 3x telephoto zoom were already valid reasons to go Pro last year, and the new Pros take Apple's premium flagships to the next level.

Between the always-on display, Dynamic Island and beefier camera system, I think you'll find the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max a lot more future proof than the iPhone 14. 

Another reason to go Pro? The power difference between the two phones, as seen in our iPhone 14 benchmarks

Next: If you have just bought an iPhone 14, you can check out our guide to the best iPhone 14 cases.

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 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, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. 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.