Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max Review, Check iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera, Specs: Having seen smartphones evolve for well over a decade, I am convinced manufacturers are now losing sleep over what features to add to new devices, which are already solving most problems for users. And this thinking is resulting in some interesting new features, even as the phone itself does not change much with each iteration. The Apple iPhone 14 Pro series for me showcases such features that improve capabilities but also find some new problems to solve.
While the iPhone 14 itself was just a new name for what was essentially an old phone, Apple pushed a handful of new features into the premium Apple iPhone 14 Pro series to make it look like a flagship among flagships. This was very different from how Cupertino had tackled its flagship series earlier, as it used to offer the same processor for all devices coming out in one cycle. This year, the Apple iPhone 14 Pro series stands out because of its new A16 Bionic processor, 48MP camera system and unique software features like the innovative dynamic island.
But if I keep this phone next to last year’s iPhone 13 Pro Max, the only physical change I could see was the slightly larger lens rings and a more prominent camera bump at the rear.
The camera pill on the front is significantly larger and shows up when sunlight shines on it, but then this is the challenge Apple has converted into an opportunity with the Dynamic Island concept. Another aspect that you will notice soon after starting to use the phone is the brightness of the new display which can go up to 2000 nits when needed. The new Always-On display also opens up new ways to see the iPhone.
The whole package of the iPhone 13 Pro series was great. The iPhone 14 Pro improves on that and gets better with most aspects. But since things are getting better from a place that was already good, you will not notice dramatic changes when using the iPhone 14 Pro, especially if you switch here from the iPhone 13 Pro like me.
But I am an exception as a reviewer, a person who has used the earlier version of this phone. Regular users won’t have that context. For instance, if you switch from an iPhone 11, the improvements will look mind-blowing.
And even for me, the changes were significant in the camera. I used to think the iPhone 13 Pro Max camera is superb, but the new version improves on that too. For instance, low-light images are faster and better. It shaves away a second at least while calibrating each click in long shutter mode.
Now, this I think is more a function of how fast the processor is and how well it syncs with the new Photonic Engine that Apple is using to capture images with its brand of computational photography. The capabilities of the A16 Bionic processor are on show across the phone, but they are significant in relation to the camera functionalities.
For instance, a ProRes video I recorded of the Mumbai Marine Drive could save with edits and style changes almost instantly. Even MacBooks take some time to process this. For creators, the new processor makes the iPhone Pro series a complete package that lets them shoot, edit, process and publish. Quite a big deal.
Now, if someone like me picks up the iPhone 14 Pro Max, it will be for its better camera. That said, I have to reiterate that the iPhone 13 Pro Max camera was good enough to cater to my needs. Yes, the photos are saved faster now, even when it is a low-light shot that needs a lot of processing in the background. In fact, the iPhone 14 Pro Max does such a good job in low light that I sometimes have to tweak the exposure down a bit to make it look like a low-light shot.
The camera now incorporates many improvements, many of which stem from the fact that this phone now has a 48MP sensor. This means Apple can use it to give you a combo of .5x, 2x and 3x zooms along with the regular frame. However, 3x optical zoom is a crop of the primary lens result, as you have more megapixels to play with now.
Where I think the iPhone stands out from other cameras is in preserving the detail where there is a play of light in the same frame as you can see in the photo below. The iPhone 14 Pro cameras do a good job with shadows and highlights.
The 0.5x frame is the ultra-wide lens in action, and Apple uses it also for macro shots. Now the AI identifies potential macro shots and alerts you as it switches lenses and the results are stunning, to say the least.
One aspect that most users will want to try out is the Action Mode. I tried it during a jog along Marine Drive, and the effect was as if I had mounted the iPhone on a gimbal. The camera flowed smoothly, and the jerk of my strides has been negated. And all this was being done using software and saved in real-time.
But you have to remember that the 48MP is only turned on if you chose the RAW mode and is not the default. This is also to save space, as the images taken in 48MP mode are at least 20MB and above.
The one feature that has captured the popular imagination with the iPhone 14 Pro series, however, is the new Dynamic Island. And after using the phone for well over a week, I am convinced this will have a lasting impact on the smartphone industry. This is a feature that can, and has, changed the way I use the phone. And to think this is actually a coverup for the larger camera pillbox the new phones have upfront reflects Apple’s sheer genius.
This new interface comes into action across a lot of functions, from unlocking an app using FaceID to the more visible music showcase and turn-by-turn navigation on maps. In fact, I used this more than the display itself when switching between apps working in the background. It will be fun to see how third-party developers adapt Live Activities in the future.
The battery life is also impressive given that this now has a brighter display which is always-on and a more powerful processor. In fact, on my recent trip to Mumbai, I was without a charger one night and managed to make the phone last till I got hold of one the next day. The phone with a combination of low-power mode and flight mode while I was sleeping got me over 30 hours of juice. This would have been impossible on an iPhone a few years back.
Often this section has to be written for the sake of balance, and this is especially true when you are reviewing top-end phones these days, which don’t have any glaring issues.
But on this iPhone, I did take some time to get used to the Always-On display, which shows you blank blocks like for Apple Music on some widgets, for a few seconds till it recognises your face. I thought this was a loading issue until I understood that this was a privacy feature. Might be nice to not show those blocks at all until the phone has been unlocked.
Yes, if you are a Pro user who will need the iPhone for creative purposes and is using an older phone currently. No, you really don’t need to get the Pro series if you are not an avid photographer, and this iPhone is not a replacement for the camera you used to lug around everywhere. For the second category user, a regular iPhone is all that is needed.
The Pro is clearly for power users and that too primarily of the camera and processing power. That distinction is now becoming more visible with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But then Apple will hope this top-of-the-line phone has enough aspirational pull to make regular users line up for an upgrade they might not actually need.