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iPhone 14 Review: Repackaging 101!

by Dewi Safitri


I’ve already reviewed the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. The Dynamic Island, the camera upgrade, all that. The bottom line is that is a far more interesting set of phones that has a few things that are new to the iPhone, which is kinda cool. The iPhone 14 on the other hand, is not that new! This is almost the same phone as last year. So do you remember those “s” series updates we used to get? We’d have the iPhone 5 and then the iPhone 5s. The “s” is for speed because it was the same phone, but just faster! This phone is even less of an update than those “s” upgrades used to be snd, so that’s what I wanna talk about in this review! That is the new repackaging strategy that Apple’s been doing, especially more lately with a bunch of their products. This year we do get an iPhone 14 and an iPhone 14 Plus. This 14 was out the last month and the 14 Plus is coming out this October. It’s the same thing but just bigger! 6.1 inches here, 6.7 inches there, and many things are the same as last year’s phone. On the outside, the design is the same. The iPhone 13 cases work with the iPhone 14. I have the new Ali Abdaal brand grip case on the iPhone 14. It’s pretty sweet, but then again, here is my iPhone 13 from last year, and yep! Fits perfectly! The squared-off sides, button placement, camera arrangement, antennas, speakers, ALL THE SAME! Then on the inside, it’s the same chip from last year. It’s the A15 Bionic again, technically it’s a slight bump up with the extra GPU core that was in the 13 Pro, but still last year’s chip, too. Technically you could say these are all things that I liked about the iPhone 13. 

That’s Apple! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? But that also means things that could have stood to improve and could have gotten better also didn’t change! It’s the same display with the same brightness and the same 60 Hertz refresh rate in an $800 phone. It would be so unlike Apple, but I really would’ve loved to have seen like 90 Hertz here, but the same storage options, the same battery size, the same charging speeds, and the same Lightning port. The way I see it, it’s an iPhone 13 again a year later with some tiny improvements. Here is a comprehensive list of every single thing that’s technically new. We got Crash Detection, satellite connectivity, display resolution, eSIM, new colors, better thermal design, better repairability design, a new primary camera, and a new selfie camera. Well, this should be easy. Crash Detection is cool. It uses some new sensors inside the phone and combines a bunch of data from the GPS and microphones to notice if you’ve been in a car crash. 

If you have, it’ll notify emergency services without you having to do anything. It’s cool! It’s a nice feature but I hope I never have to use it. And then if you’re out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, the iPhone 14 series can now communicate with satellites to help you get your location and connect you to someone at a dispatch center. That’s coming to the US and Canada in November. That’s another nice feature that I hope I never have to use. The display is technically a slightly higher resolution with slightly thinner bezels, but you will never notice that and the new lineup in the US is now also EIM only. To be fair, the setup process and transferring service from my previous iPhone’s physical SIM was super easy. It took maybe two minutes tops and most other phones coming out today new also support eSIM, so I’m hoping the transfer process in the future is also smooth, but yeah, no physical SIM card tray here in the states.

There also is this new blue color. Then again, most people have said that they use a case on their phone, so I wonder how many of those are clear cases. And then Apple did mention an improved thermal design inside this phone for the same A15 Bionic chip, which can help performance at the edges of normal use cases. So like playing a game for a long time or navigating with high screen brightness with the phone in your dashboard car on a hot sunny day, things that might get extra warm have an added layer of protection against throttling. I think that’s something the Pro users will care more about. But I definitely won’t complain that it’s also here and the better repairability design was mentioned also near the end of the keynote. It’s a little thing, but it’s pretty surprising from Apple, which is that the glass back is now a separate piece from the rest of the internals, making it easier to replace. Cool but easily the biggest physical change with these new iPhones is going to be the cameras! So there’s a slightly new 12-megapixel primary camera. The ultra-wide is the same hardware and a new 12-megapixel selfie camera with autofocus. Now I spent a bunch of time looking back and forth at pictures I took on the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 13 trying to pinpoint the improvements. It’s like a game of spotting the differences. There are some differences, but they are so slight! So this new camera is still 12 megapixels, but it is a larger sensor. The individual pixels are bigger and should let in more light, and then the max aperture went from F 1.6 to F 1.5. In regular daytime lighting, there is pretty much no difference, like the iPhone is perfectly capable of crisp, detailed, natural-looking photos when there are no challenges, just like every other $800 phone always has been.

The only difference I’m seeing is maybe color temperature. The iPhone 14 can take some occasionally cooler photos and is noticeable if you have the right colors in the picture. But here’s a shot from the iPhone 14 Pro with the 48-megapixel pro raw shot for context. Here you can see a bit of a difference. It’s a slightly different focal length and there’s lots more fine detail here, and just for fun, here’s the Pixel 6 Pro. Same shot, another great detailed photo, but just looks like a different style. As expected, most of the differences that I found were more on-the-edge cases of normal photography than more challenging or extreme lighting situations, mostly in low light. Some of them are enabled by the slightly larger sensor and faster aperture, while the others are enabled by the new image processing pipeline that they’ve tweaked and fiddled with that they also named Photonic Engine. 

On stage, they were saying things like 49% better low-light performance, which I’m not exactly sure what’s meant by 49%. Is it 49% faster shutter speed or 49% less noise in low light? Unclear! But as I go through the photos I took of both, I got to say there’s still remarkably similar, okay? Again, I was looking for the differences in the amount of noise in the shadows or dynamic range. But I mostly found slight differences in color temperature. Sometimes one might be a little brighter than the other and sometimes it’s really hard to tell them apart, even pixel peeping. I even looked at shutter speeds, which may sometimes reveal that you have a faster shutter speed from the bigger sensor because it’s taking in more light. And while I found that they were nearly the same for every shot, the iPhone 14 was typically maybe five to 10% faster. 

The one thing I did find was that in the absolute darkest shots in the worst conditions, there was sometimes a difference in how much time it would require to get a night mode exposure. For this one, it took three seconds from the 13 but two seconds from the 14, even though the 13 ended up focusing more correctly and had a bit of a sharpness advantage in this shot. Sometimes you just gotta get the shot a little quicker if possible. Then this one from the ultra-wide was a one-second night mode exposure from the 13 but just a regular snap from the 14, so it’s the same hardware! I guess that’s the difference between the Photonic Engine and image processing. Even so, the image is a toss-up, like it’s a little more processing happening on the iPhone 14 side. Maybe a little more sharpening, a slightly different color cast, but that’s it, and then on the video front, it’s even more similar. iPhone 14 does have a feature called Action Mode. 

That’s not coming to the 13s for some reason, even though it feels like a software feature, but it’s a super aggressive stabilization for running around and chasing stuff. And I will say the stabilization part works very well, but the video itself can be quite noisy. Also, it seems like in almost every environment, it’s just asking for more light all the time you get this dialogue box that says more light is required, but it still lets you shoot. After all the footage is super grainy and soft, especially from the ultra-wide that it defaults to.

But also, I’m in an incredibly well-lit studio, and sometimes it would ask for more light even in here. This is better lit than most people’s homes where you’re chasing around a baby or a pet at a hundred miles an hour, let alone sometimes going outside on a cloudy day and it’s asking for more light. That’s crazy! So this may get better over time. As of right now, it shows up less on the iPhone 14 Pro, which makes sense because this one has a larger primary sensor. The stabilization works well. It’s a software feature you might use. And then there is the new selfie camera. It is 12 megapixels and has autofocus for the first time instead of the fixed focal distance from before. You can get sharper shots in some less conventional selfie situations, which is great! It’s not game-changing different. It’s another incremental improvement!

It can still struggle with properly reproducing darker skin tones, which I mentioned in the 14 Pro review. Here’s the same shot from the Pixel 6 Pro, which specifically has their real tone optimization, so you can see what it means. So at the end of the day, what are we left with? A super incremental update in the same body as before and that’s what I wanna talk about that they’ve done a lot more recently. Some might call it the Tim Cook logistics touch. See what’s been the iPhone SE formula for years. I’ve talked about it in those reviews. So the first generation iPhone SE comes out. It’s the body of an old iPhone 5s but with new internals. Then the second generation iPhone SE comes out. It’s the body of an iPhone 8 but with new internals. And then the third generation iPhone SE again that we just got this year again is the body of an iPhone 8 but with even newer internals and there are rumors of the next-gen SE being like the body of an iPhone XR but the new chip and we even saw that with the MacBook Pro this year.

The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is the same body as the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro just with better internals. Now it’s not exactly some mystery why they do this. There are plenty of reasons behind the scenes why these things are good for Apple. It reduces risk, and it reduces cost because now you don’t have to develop as much new stuff and then prices go down and you can offer something more tried and true that already worked in the past but to an audience that will pay less. Also, it sort of insulates them a little bit from the supply chain challenges of trying to make a bunch of newer stuff. So the innovation, AKA the risk, is saved for the even more expensive phones. You watch that iPhone 14 Pro review and you see the Dynamic Island, which is a thing that’s new to the iPhone.

It’ll evolve. You see the new 48-megapixel camera system, which is new to the iPhone, and you’ll see the always-on display, which again is the first time they’ve done this. This is all just a long-winded way of saying the baseline iPhone with this strategy is just boring and that’s just the way it is. So now, for those who are thinking of buying one of these phones or thinking, oh, okay, I know everything about the phones, I know which one I wanna get. but one last wrench to throw into all of this is that the iPhone 13 is still on sale and it’s 699 from Apple, but you can probably find it even cheaper from other places and I think that would be a fine upgrade for a lot of people. The one extra year of software updates is maybe the only reason I would get a 14 over a 13, but aside from that, you gotta think about how much the new colors or the slightly new camera or satellite connectivity or Crash Detection means to you. And, hey, if efficiency means something to you, then definitely check out this video’s sponsor, Anker, who makes these chargers and cables that I like. 

This is their Nano 3 charger, which uses Gallium Nitride. That’s why it’s 70% smaller than Apple’s 30-watt charger and it’s still powerful enough to juice up an iPhone or an iPad or a MacBook Air if you wanted to. And this 541 cable, which is USBC to Lightning, is the first that I’ve seen that uses bio-based materials in the cable, so sugar cane and corn, but it’s still a high-quality cable that can withstand up to 20,000 bends and it’s more durable than a typical plastic cable and these both come in five colors for your choice to either match your iPhone 14 or mix it up a little bit. Check both of these out at the link below. But that’s been it. Thanks for watching. Let me know what you think of Apple’s, this repackaging regifting strategy that they’ve sort of leaned into more later. Either way, it’s Techtember, a lot more’s comin’ up. I’ll catch you guys at the next one. Peace.

Source: https://youtu.be/v94jRN2FhGo

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