Apple iPhone 14 review

Groundhog day…

from ₹ 79,900

What happens when you reach the pinnacle of premium smartphone supremacy? Well, Apple surely knows that Android smartphones are not scratching the same itch that Huawei did a few years ago. Google’s Tensor adventures are complicated, to say the least, and Samsung’s still trying to help you capture the moon to make the proposition more valuable. Xiaomi and Vivo have realised their customers care about the value proposition more than premium goodness and OnePlus is still trying to find its bearings after the exit of Carl Pei. Where does that leave our trusty ol’ entry-level Apple iPhone? At the mercy of rebranding… A classic strategy adopted by the very competition Apple supposedly fights — Chinese-made Androids. 

If this monologue didn’t make it clear enough for you, here’s a simple way to put the entire review into perspective. The Apple iPhone 14 is an S-upgrade over the Apple iPhone 13 with itsy-bitsy upgrades here and there. You won’t even notice it if we don’t list it out.


It’s the iPhone 13. That’s it, that’s the design of the 14. I wish I could end this sentence by writing ‘jokes aside’ but that’s the harsh reality of the Apple iPhone 14 design. It’s the same. It’s still one of the most premium pieces of tech to carry. Although personally, I still don’t prefer the flat edges because it digs into your skin. The curved edges of any smartphone are pleasantly plush on your mitts. Case and point — Google Pixel 6, OnePlus 10T, Vivo X80 Pro and even the Apple iPhone 11 are all very comfortable to hold. For something that we hold all day, the squared-off design choice still feels like an attempt to look different rather than sensible.

The matte finish on the aluminium sides is still better compared to the Pro models that have a glossy finish. Either way, you may want to put a cover on this. We don’t doubt Apple’s display strength, which they call Ceramic Shield, but trusting a pavement to not kiss it inappropriately if it falls is still a gamble. Especially when you don’t have AppleCare+ which, by the way, is now offering unlimited repairs for accidental damage! Also, the rear glass panel is now a single unit which means it’s easy to repair and replace.


Accidental oopsies aside, the performance is still the very best. Doubting the A15 Bionic chip in any way is insulting Apple’s chip-designing legacy. It’s still way ahead of the competition. To put things into perspective, we ran Geekbench 5 on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 and the Google Pixel 6a and the iPhone 14, even with its year-old A15 Bionic chip, the Apple iPhone pulls ahead of the competition’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 (in the Samsung) and Google Tensor (in the Pixel). It’s almost laughable that the A15 Bionic is almost 37% faster than Google’s Tensor chip and 22% faster than Qualcomm’s chip in these benchmark results. Although benchmarks are a fiddly way to find performance, real-world use is always a better way to gauge and for that, we have another result. The Apple A14 Bionic in the Apple iPhone 12 Pro was still buttery smooth as my daily smartphone. It was so good that I personally never felt obligated to jump to an iPhone 13 or its Pro model. And that’s still the case. The Apple iPhone 14 doesn’t make a tempting offer to jump from 13, 12 or 11 in terms of everyday performance. If you’re a hardcore user then you may notice the slight difference because of better thermal management on the 14. The camera, however, is another story which we’ll come to in a bit.


The display is identical to the 13. It’s a wee better than the Apple iPhone 11 and older models but that’s about it. You get marginal gains within the already established resolution, pixel count, colour quality and even HDR support. You can forget about the high-refresh rate. Apple has only reserved that for the Pro models. So in a world where Android smartphones are delivering refresh rates faster than gaming monitors, Apple’s 60Hz is rather lacklustre. To an i-loyalist, that seldom hurts as long as the smartphone performs well and the colours look good. Well, I am happy to report, it’s as you expected. Everything familiar but nothing new. 

Even the always-on display is available only on the Pro models. So if you’re out of a lakh and some for the Pro models, the display on the 14 is pretty much a year-old affair. Maybe two because the 12 was similar too. Although, this display is brighter than the 12. 

The quality of the display is still the gold standard among smartphones. Immaculate and natural colours with mindblowing consistency across all Apple devices.


Here’s where the Apple iPhone 14 makes strides over its predecessors. The rear dual camera set-up may look unchanged to the untrained eye but stick your nose to the rear glass and you’ll see the lens protruding further away from its housing. Compared to the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, this base iPhone 14 has far superior camera smarts. Apple loves naming its things and so we got the Dynamic Island for the Pro models, which is all the rave on social media, yes? But it’s the Photonic Engine that actually makes a lot more sense as a software-powered upgrade in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, Dynamic Island is a fun little software trick but this base iPhone 14 is notch having one…

Speaking of which, the notch now houses a new TrueDepth front camera which comes with autofocus for the first time. So even though Apple has put an f/1.9 (lower) aperture compared to the f/2.2 on the iPhone 13, the autofocus makes things a wee bit faster and takes sharper photos regardless. FaceID is also a bit faster but unless you’re sitting with a high-speed camera, there’s barely any real-life difference in the experience of using the two iPhones. However, Apple has included its Photonic Engine (fancy for AI photography) in the front camera too. The HDR composition of the selfies is incredible but it falls short when compared to the portrait mode on the selfie camera. So the iPhone 14 camera takes selfies as usual but with a little bit better processing than before. Although nothing over-the-top and definitely nothing that will give Google Pixel’s software smarts a sleepless night. However, switch to portrait mode on the front camera and the whole colour dynamic shifts to an incredible amount of realism. The skin tone, colour accuracy and exposure control are remarkable. It’s almost similar to the Google Pixel in terms of skin tone and colour accuracy. Apple’s front camera is not consistent across modes and the Pixel still beats the iPhone here. In the comparison shot, even though the pose is different, the lighting is unchanged and even if you argue that the lighting is tough to master, remember, the Google Pixel stays consistent no matter what pose you strike and that’s where the Photonic Engine reveals its shorter work resume.

Apple’s Photonic Engine is trained slightly differently as well so it’s a matter of preference rather than folly. In the image above when the light source is directly behind the subject, the red figurine, the green mangroves and the blue sky are all artificially made brighter on the Apple. Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 6a absolutely nails the colour accuracy in a single try. It neither overexposes the subject nor crushes the blacks. The Apple iPhone 14 does the opposite and takes a different route. It’s a matter of seeing the subject clearly rather than correctly. It’s fine because most iPhone users just want to see their faces I guess…

That’s us giving the Photonic Engine a sweet pass because even though it continues with Apple’s decision to bathe subjects in artificial light, the Apple iPhone 14 can actually rub shoulders with the Google Pixel when it comes to still photography. I have not included the smartphone names in the above photo samples, but one of them is from the Apple iPhone 14 and the other is shot on the Google Pixel 6a. If you can guess which is shot on which, pat yourself on the back. Here’s a hint, the Google Pixel has deeper shadows.

Moving on, compared to the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 14 is in a league of its own. At every step of the way, the Apple iPhone 14 dramatically takes better shots. Tighter highlights, better tone mapping, deeper blacks and life-like colours. The iPhone 14’s Photonic Engine makes leaps of progress over the previous generation smartphones. It’s all down to smart machine learning and neural gobbledegook. In short, it’s genuinely better.

Take this photo of a tiny yellow flower. We simply reduced the exposure from the Apple iPhone 14’s viewfinder before pressing the shutter button and now the photo looks like it’s shot on a DSLR or as the youth like to call it — wallpaper material! Night mode is faster, better and sharper than before. The iPhone 14 takes way less time to shoot and process Night Mode shots than an Apple iPhone 12 Pro or older. Oh and there’s no Macro mode here. Apple has plonked a great ultra-wide camera but sadly it can’t do Macro shots. The colour consistency across the lenses, front and back, is still the best in class. Only Google’s Pixel manages to keep up but it's still not as good as Apple.

The iPhone 14 also gets an Action mode which is essentially what the GoPro has been doing for ages. It crops into the frame while staying at 2.8K resolution and 60 fps and maintains horizon level while you run with your smartphone. It needs a lot of light to get a crisp quality but hey, even action cameras like GoPros are duds in the dark. So cookie points to Apple for adding another feather in the cap. It works as advertised and is a welcome addition to Apple’s untouched video capabilities.


The Apple iPhone 14 feels like a stock clearance attempt. Almost all of its improvements are software-based which means the older and same-chip (A15 Bionic) bearing iPhone 13 should be able to do some things too but it cannot. There is definitely a new camera sensor here but that doesn’t change the fact that the Photonic Engine is the main champion. We can see the smartphone readjust the tones after taking the shot. It’s that split-second shift where the Photonic Engine jumps in and polishes the shot. Crash Detection is a nice addition as well but we all hope to never use it and even the Emergency SOS via satellite which is available only in the US and Canada at the time of writing this review.

The display is unchanged, there’s no high refresh rate and no always-on display either, the processor is the same but with one extra GPU core which feels like pocket change and the phone only supports up to 20W fast charging. You still have the Lightning port which is awfully slow for data transfer and oh, there’s no Macro mode. 

Here’s my personal take on the iPhone 14 dilemma. So far the Apple iPhone 14 feels like a repackaged iPhone 13 because Apple needs to get rid of all of the excess materials lying around so if and when the 15 arrives with USB Type-C, the aluminium shell and everything else will change dramatically. Knowing Tim Cook’s history as an exceptional Operations Head, it won’t be surprising if this is purely a business decision. On the flip side, Covid and its many silicon issues may have scratched the Cupertino giant, eh?

Whatever the underlying story is, the iPhone 14 is a small upgrade over the previous generation. Its camera smarts are top notch but we rather hold our wallets for the 15.

Stuff Says

This small step ahead over the last generation isn’t convincing enough but the Photonic Engine is shaping up to be a real threat to the competition.
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Fantastic performance

  1. Camera quality has genuinely improved

  1. Photonic Engine is great

  1. Overall premium quality

  1. No Macro mode

  1. No high refresh rate

  1. No fast charging

  1. One year old processor

  1. No USB Type-C port

  1. No always-on display