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We’ve been hands-on testing the iPhone 14 over the past few days, and it’s time to share our learnings–as well as a few considerations if you’ve been in the market for a new phone. While it’s not night and day over the iPhone 13, since it offers many of the same features in a pretty much identical build, Apple’s managed to improve a few key areas.

Our main takeaway: Apple continues to work with what they’ve got. The already great cameras are improved with new software handling, and the low light shots are more detailed. There are also two new safety favorites—car crash detection and Emergency SOS via Satellite. So let’s unpack the iPhone 14 and determine who it’s best suited for.

Two Cameras and Excellent Stabilization

Apple’s iPhone camera has always been about simply pointing and shooting. Whether you’re camping or boating, or just want to snap a vivid sunset, the iPhone camera has improved drastically over the last few years. Designed with the idea that you shouldn’t need to fiddle around with menus and manually adjust the shot, the iPhone 14 continues this trait.

The iPhone 14 does this successfully with two cameras, one of which is new and one of which is familiar. The 12-megapixel camera is a physically new module, and is most similar to the main camera on the 13 Pro. It boasts a wider sensor, similar to Samsung’s Z Fold 4, which allows it to capture more light to better create an image. This is paired with Apple’s upgraded Photonic Engine—the image capture pipeline—and is better equipped to handle low-light shots since it factors in Deep Fusion and Smart HDR earlier as well.

The second camera is the 12-megapixel ultrawide which benefits from the improved software to yield crisper, more detailed shots as well. It still allows you to capture more in the shot without physically needing to move. You can see a few examples below, but I framed a shot of my family’s pup (a Bernadoodle named Charlie) for a dynamic shot along with capturing a wide ranging landscape and the Hudson river in the background.

It’s not a night and day change with every type of image over last year's iPhone 13, but in low light situations the iPhone 14 does manage to show more improvement. We found during testing night mode that pops of color could be brought to life. Still though, while a modest improvement year over year, it still hosts a pair of versatile cameras to capture almost anything. You can also still get jaw-droppingly good Portrait Mode shots here as well.

Our favorite upgrade is a new Action Mode during video filming, which is really quite handy for capturing furry friends, a sports game or even a trip down a particularly bumpy road. Much like a GoPro, this is a stabilization technique which uses horizon leveling and smoothing to make a video smoother. It removes a hefty amount of shakiness and locks onto whatever is in focus. The result is a drastically reduced need to use a gimbal or a specialized tripod. 

My gut says we’ll see a lot of Action Mode on TikTok. You do need to turn it, however, when you’re shooting, so it’s unlike Cinematic Mode (a dedicated shooting mode that enables rack focused on a subject) in that you reverse or reapply the effect. Once captured in Action Mode, the end result is only in Action Mode.

Satellite Connectivity Comes to iPhone

The much-rumored satellite calling connectivity is finally arriving on the iPhone in the form of a new Emergency SOS feature. When you’re out of cell service or Wi-Fi coverage, the iPhone 14 can tap into specialized built-in antennas to get you help. It will let you text key details, like location and type of injury, to emergency responders. The iPhone 14 will walk you through instructions, like telling you where to physically point your device to get line of sight to transmit the data.

It’s pretty neat feature and another potential reason to bring an iPhone with you during your adventures. Similar to the Apple Watch Ultra, for folks who are adventurers, avid hikers or rock climbers, this could be invaluable should you need to call on the service. Emergency SOS will be launching in November and Apple will give it to iPhone 14 owners for free for two years. There is no word on pricing after that as of yet though.

The satellite functionality can also be used in more everyday scenarios as a tool to update your location within the FindMy app. During my testing, you can select the option to share via satellite within the app and it will walk through instructions on where to physically hold and move your iPhone, then wait for a visual cue that the location has been received. Equally as helpful, especially in really any scenario where you need a beacon for your location.

And rounding out Emergency SOS is crash detection, a feature that will be available at launch. This function turns your iPhone 14 into a detector for car crashes and if it senses one, it can automatically call the authorities as well as notify your emergency contacts. I haven’t been able to test this yet, but it works by listening for sounds associated with a crash and detecting force through gyroscopes and accelerometers onboard.

Speedy, All-Day Performance in a Familiar Design

For the first time in quite a while, the iPhone 14 doesn’t sport a fancy new processor designed by Apple. That’s reserved for the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max which get the A16 Bionic. Meanwhile the iPhone 14 (and October’s 14 Plus) gets the A15 Bionic, which is the same chip as the iPhone 13. It’s a slightly more powerful version, however, with an extra GPU core to help with tasks and likely photo processing.

All this to say that the iPhone 14 performs very well and can still roll with the punches of other flagship smartphones, both below and above the $799 starting price. You can quickly capture images or record video with almost no wait to view or play them back, and blaze through 3D worlds in games like Asphalt 9, Tower of Fantasy and Real Flight Simulator Pro. Similarly, you can easily take advantage of all of iOS 16’ new features.

Battery life

The iPhone 14 lasted wickedly long during our battery test.

  • Our iPhone 14 battery test: We ran a 4K video on a loop with the 6.1-inch display set to 50% brightness and with connectivity turned off.

During this test, the iPhone 14 lasted for a full 15 hours–which blazed past the iPhone 12 by two hours, and nearly 45 minutes past the iPhone 13. And when it comes time to recharge the iPhone 14, you can plug in via a Lightning cable, place it on a Qi-enabled wireless charge or charge it wirelessly through MagSafe.

iPhone 14 design and display

All of this performance is packed into a familiar build that iPhone 12 and 13 owners will feel right at home with. The iPhone 14 still opts for a 6.1-inch Super Retina display that’s a full OLED panel for deep blacks and punchy colors. Additionally, it still has the classic Face ID notch up top that works in both vertical and horizontal orientation, a welcome update thanks to iOS 16.

The new iPhone still features a durable design with strong glass on the front and back courtesy of proprietary processes of treating the material. The rear panel is still a glossy glass that will attract fingerprints and show off the color of your iPhone 14. It comes in (PRODUCT) RED, purple, midnight, starlight and blue. I’ve been testing the latter and it’s really a lovely shade that also appears on the matte aluminum edges.

Last but not least, the iPhone 14 is both dust and water resistant. It can handle a splash of liquid, be it water, wine or beer. In fact it can handle being submerged in up to six meters of water for up to 30 minutes. Similarly, you can use it in the rain—drizzle or downpour—and it should be just fine (without the agonizing rice treatment of the past).

Is the iPhone 14 Worth It?

The iPhone 14 doesn’t change a lot, especially at first glance, but it makes some key improvements that gives it the reputation of the best iPhone for most folks. If you don’t need the Dynamic Island or versatile camera array on the iPhone 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max, you’ll be more than satisfied with the iPhone 14.

That being said, if you have an iPhone 13 and aren’t sold on the satellite connectivity or itching for a new camera, you’re likely fine with your current phone for a while longer. If you have an iPhone 12 or older, though, you’ll be getting a slew of updates. From a sharper, more vibrant OLED display to a big jump in performance, content capturing and battery life. There’s a lot to like about the $799 iPhone 14.

iPhone 14, starting at $799 (amazon.com, att.com, t-mobile.com, walmart.com, and verizon.com)

Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.