FYI: We reckon the iPhone 14 Max is heading in the right direction — here's why.
When stacked up against the array of rumored features for the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 14 slated for release later this year sounds pretty underwhelming. And with each new round of leaks, the iPhone 14 Pro seems to pick up more promising features while the iPhone 14 fades just a little more.
I'm here to tell you with less than six months to go before the possible iPhone 14 release date to not believe the hype — or lack of hype in this case. Yes, the early word on the iPhone 14 has not been encouraging, especially in light of all those rumors surrounding the Pro model. But Apple's not about to sacrifice its more affordable flagships just to build up iPhone 14 Pro buzz.
Certainly, you can be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The latest rumor surrounding Apple's fall phone release, courtesy of a report in Bloomberg, paints a really picture of haves and have-nots. The iPhone 14 Pro is forecast to get the A16 Bionic processor, an upgraded 48MP main camera and a new design that finally jettisons the iPhone's distinctive notch. The iPhone 14 is expected to get... none of those things.
In fact, this fall's standard iPhone will reportedly be powered by the same A15 chipset found inside the current iPhone 13 Pro models. That's not exactly the sort of the thing that gets people beating a steady path to the door of their nearest Apple Store.
Not many other iPhone 14-specific rumors have emerged to get the pulse racing either. The standard phones could get more RAM than the iPhone 13's 4GB of RAM — apparently part of Apple's plan to improve performance even if it sticks with a variation of the A15 processor. And the front cameras on the iPhone 14 are tipped to be getting auto-focus so that FaceTime calls will be sharper looking. Of course, that last feature is rumored to be coming to the iPhone 14 Pro models as well.
Why the iPhone 14 still matters
All told, that's not a lot of meat in that iPhone 14 sandwich. So why do I think Apple's standard flagship will be a perfectly fine upgrade, even if the iPhone 14 Pro turns out to be demonstrably more feature-packed?
It's simply a matter of Apple's acumen combined with its track record of phone releases. Yes, the company will be properly incentivized to make the iPhone 14 Pro stand out when it launches its new handsets later this year. But it's not going to forget about the iPhone 14 in the process.
Apple doesn't break down its iPhone sales by unit, but I imagine the $799 model is one of the more popular options among the best iPhones, given that it provides the 6.1-inch screen that most phone users prefer at a price that's $200 less than the cheapest Pro model.
The features that currently separate the standard and Pro versions — a telephoto lens here and a fast-refreshing display there — certainly appear to a not-insignificant percentage of iPhone shoppers, but most people are willing to accept a sub-$800 phone that still delivers great photos and long battery life, even it's missing some of the more elaborate bells and whistles. The rumored iPhone 14 Pro additions, while impressive, aren't going to change that calculus dramatically.
For that reason, it simply won't make sense for Apple to put all its eggs in the iPhone 14 Pro basket. It's still going to want to introduce changes with the iPhone 14 that convince people who skipped the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 12 that it's time to upgrade.
I imagine between now and the likely September launch date for the iPhone 14, that we're going to hear leaked details about a lot more features aimed specifically at Apple's less expensive flagships. That will include the variant of the A15 that's likely to power the iPhone 14, which I imagine will offer a modest performance boost over what's already the best performing mobile silicon we've tested. Yes, the iPhone 14 Pro figures to be even faster, but for most people, the iPhone 14 performance will be good enough.
In the coming months, we're also likely to hear more about the kinds of features that really motivate people to buy a new phone — software and battery life. Some of those improvements will be software-based and therefore less likely to leak out early, unlike the hardware changes that Apple's supply chain will blab about to anyone who's listening.
But Apple doesn't ignore its lower-cost phones on the camera and battery front — the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini added a bigger main camera sensor to let in more light and a bigger battery. You'd be correct to argue that both of those changes are a big reason why those phones turned out to be so well-received. I wouldn't count out the iPhone 14 making similar changes that don't necessarily grab headlines but still have a big impact on how that phone performs.
The iPhone 14 Max's big role
There's also the not-so-small matter of the rumored iPhone 14 Max. Apple is rumored to be replacing the mini model it's included in the last two years of iPhone updates, with a 6.7-inch model that will cost less than the equally sized Pro Max version. How much less is unclear, but we'd guess it's in the ballpark of that $200 difference between the standard iPhone and the Pro version.
Currently, if you want an iPhone with the biggest screen possible, you have to pay up for the $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro Max. Should the iPhone 14 Max turn out to be a reality, you'll be able to get more screen space for less money, possibly $899.
The significance of that can't be overstated, given how popular big screen phones have become. So while I don't think we've heard the last of iPhone 14 improvements coming to the non-Pro models this fall, the arrival of the iPhone 14 Max in itself would be a pretty big development for Apple's smartphone lineup.
Plus, the iPhone 14 price rumors point to a possible $100 price hike for both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. That means they could start at $1,099 and $1,199, respectively.
So yes, the iPhone 14 Pro is all but certain to offer more to phone shoppers this fall than the iPhone 14. The tipoff would be that "pro" in the name. But write off the iPhone 14 at your peril, especially when we've got five more months for new features and enhancements to emerge.