The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro go on sale today (with one exception), which means a lot of people are wondering whether it's time to upgrade and--if so--which one to buy. Obviously that answer depends on a lot of things, like which phone you currently have, and what features are most important to you.
This guide is designed to help you sort through that and figure out the best iPhone for you:
In some ways, the iPhone 14 suffers from the same problem I wrote about with Apple's new M2 MacBook Air, a product that is fantastic, but not so fantastic that I'd give it an automatic recommendation over the model it replaced. The iPhone 14 is one of the best smartphones you can buy, but it's just not much better in the ways people care about than the model it replaces.
To be fair, the camera system is improved. Considering that's one of the most common things people do with their iPhones, that's a welcome update. And, it's not just the rear-facing cameras--the front-facing "selfie" camera has better low-light performance as well.
That said, there is very little that would make me recommend the iPhone 14 over its predecessor unless you think you'll need the new crash detection or emergency services via satellite features. I certainly hope you never need them, which means I really can't think of anyone this is the best option for unless you just want the latest non-Pro iPhone and don't care about the price. The iPhone 14 starts at $799.
iPhone 14 Plus
This is easy--it's an iPhone 14 but bigger. It's the same size, in fact, as the Pro Max version. While it has the same drawbacks as the regular-size version, it's a lot easier to recommend. If you want a big iPhone, the iPhone 14 Plus is probably the one you want (there is no iPhone 13 Plus).
In some ways, the iPhone 14 Plus is a much better value than the normal-size version. In the past, if you just wanted a big screen, you had to go with the top-of-the-line Pro Max version, which came with a top-of-the-line price tag. That's no longer the case. The iPhone 14 Plus starts at $899, which is $200 less than the Pro Max.
The one important thing to note about the iPhone 14 Plus is that while you can pre-order one today, it won't be available until October 7. Apple didn't say why, but it's likely because even the largest company in the world isn't immune to the fact that processors and components are hard to come by these days.
iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 14 Pro is for people who want the very best iPhone you can get. And, this year, it's very good. The most immediately noticeable change is that it looks different. Gone is the notch, replaced by what Apple calls the Dynamic Island--a new notification area surrounding a small pill-shaped cutout for the camera and FaceID sensors. It's honestly one of the best software/hardware design elements Apple has given us in a long time, even if it does have some room to improve.
Speaking of improvements, the Pro gets a better display--making it brighter. (It's also a few pixels larger, but not enough to notice unless you're comparing it with a previous version.) The display also stays on all the time, showing your Lock Screen and any widgets you set up without having to pick up your device or tap the screen.
Finally, the camera system gets a major update, with a new 48MP main camera. It's very, very good. Apple isn't the first company to move to a larger sensor, but--in its typical style--it's doing it really well. It's using a technology known as "binning" to deliver 12MP finished images that are able to take advantage of the increased light gathering of all of those pixels.
If you want the very best camera system you can get, and the fastest smartphone available, the iPhone 14 Pro won't disappoint. It starts at $999.
iPhone 14 Pro Max
There have been years in the past when the Pro Max version of whatever iPhone Apple released got some extra feature. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, for example, had a better main camera and optical image stabilization that didn't exist on the non-Max version.
That's not the case this year. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is an iPhone Pro but bigger. The display technology is the same. The Dynamic Island is the same. Most important, the camera technology is the same. That makes it relatively easy to decide if this is the phone for you. If you want the biggest version of the best iPhone you can get, this is it. For obvious reasons, it's also the most expensive iPhone, starting at $1,099.
iPhone 13/13 mini
You may not have realized that Apple is still selling brand new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 minis. For that matter, Apple will still sell you a new iPhone 12, though at $649 for only 128GB, it's probably worth spending the extra $50 for the iPhone 13, which starts at $699.
I mention it because for a lot of people, the iPhone 13 might be the best option available at a reasonable price. It's still a great device. It has almost the exact same processor as the iPhone 14, with the same basic camera system.
And, if you really like smaller phones, the iPhone 13 mini is it, friends. There is no mini version this year. The writing is on the wall--it's all big and bigger phone from now on. Get one while you can.
That is, of course, unless you don't mind a TouchID instead of FaceID. In that case, there's the iPhone SE. Just the other day, I was talking with someone looking to upgrade a family member's iPhone who still used an older generation iPhone with TouchID. I actually found myself recommending the iPhone SE, which is basically an iPhone 8 with iPhone 13 components inside.
You obviously don't get nearly as powerful a camera system, but as a first iPhone--or, as a device for someone who really doesn't care about or need lots of fancy camera features, this is still a great option at only $429. That said, I'd spring for the 128GB version for $50 more, just to be safe.