The excitement around the new Apple iPhone lineup hasn’t died down since the company launched a series of products, in early September. I got my hands on the boldest and the brightest of the lot - the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max - to see what other superlatives this flagship Apple smartphone truly deserves.
Visually, there’s little that differentiates the iPhone 14 Pro Max from its predecessor - the iPhone 13 Pro Max. At 6.7-inches across, both weigh the same 240 grams, and if not for the Deep Purple colour, I’d bet good money that passersby wouldn’t be able to tell it’s the latest flagship. Although the form factor, at 3-inches across, is a bit wide for my liking, I do enjoy the real estate that the iPhone 14 Pro Max offers - great to doomscroll and play games on!
The OLED display is impressive, and with brightness levels amped up to a mind-boggling 2,000 nits, the phone has great visibility even under harsh sunlight. Just for the record, outdoor visibility wasn’t really an issue with older models either. The company has retained the Ceramic Shield front glass, which it claims is tougher than any other smartphone cover glass. However, that didn’t exactly save the screen from a tiny scratch while inside my handbag.
One unique feature that has been making headlines, yet no reviewer hopes to try out, is Crash Detection. Apple has tweaked the internal sensors to know when you’ve been in an accident. In the event of a crash, the phone will first ask you if you’re safe. If you don’t respond within 10 seconds, it will automatically dial 112, the Indian emergency response helpline.
The ‘Always On’ feature on the lock screen makes its debut in the iOS ecosystem with this phone and honestly is nothing to write home about. With space for about 2-3 widgets at a time, it feels a bit restrictive. You can choose which widgets to display among weather, time, date, battery levels, upcoming calendar events, alarms, time zones, and activity ring progress. I had it on during the entirety of my review period I didn’t really miss it when I finally turned it off.
Shaped like a sleek speech bubble, the Dynamic Island is located at the place where the camera notch used to be. Fluid and intuitive, it pops up as Face ID unlocks the phone. I can minimise an ongoing phone call into that strip and tap it to maximise the number pad on-screen again.
Sound waves rise and fall on one tiny corner of the Island with Spotify on, as I go through my to-do list for the day.
On Apollo for Reddit, I even get to choose a virtual pet that wanders all over Dynamic Island as I cackle through user comments on Reddit.
The lock screen background and fonts can be personalised a lot more with the new iOS 16. I could choose the ‘Photo Shuffle’ mode which automatically uses pictures I’ve shot as wallpapers on the Lock Screen. The Focus modes, with new filters, are fun to use and vastly customisable. I tweaked Personal Focus to allow calls only from a few family and friends, and mute Outlook notifications for the weekend.
Editing an iMessage, after sending it to another iPhone user, is genuinely impressive. I could edit it anytime within 15 minutes after sending it, and the recipient was able to see subsequent edits made to the message. You can also unsend a message within 2 minutes of hitting send.
Apple has introduced its first 48-megapixel camera setup on an iPhone with the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, although you need to have the ProRaw mode on for this resolution. This is a significant upgrade considering they’ve stuck to the 12-megapixel setup for the last six years. Easy to activate, the ProRAW mode is available on the front camera as well but doesn’t work on Portrait mode.
The 12-megapixel selfie camera now has auto-focus and does a great job of capturing skin texture in great detail. However, with both the primary and secondary cameras, there’s this niggling feeling after clicking many portraits - indoors and outdoors - that it doesn’t do an consistently accurate job of capturing the right Indian skin tone. Even during the day, with ample light, it darkened the skin tone just a shade or two, especially if the subject wasn’t standing in direct sunlight.
This iPhone 14 Pro line-up also has a new sensor that offers a better depth of field, even outside of Portrait mode. Each ProRAW image took up about anywhere between 25 to 75 MB, so be ready to back-up photos, unless you’re planning to invest in the 1TB variant.
The upgraded image stabilisation on the video mode is impressive. When I shot a video, running down the stairs, the final output looks way smoother than the movement was in real life.
Cinematic mode, a carry-over from the iPhone 13 models, does a good job of blurring the background slightly to have the subject in sharp focus while capturing video. The only upgrade to this feature now is that I can record video in 4k Dolby Vision HDR at 30 frames per second, instead of at 1080p.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max I reviewed houses the brand new Apple A16 Bionic chipset and had 1 TB storage space. On AnTuTu benchmarking, the iPhone 14 Pro Max scored about 8,86,189 points, landing in the same league as the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 and the Galaxy S22 Ultra. There was no lagging ever, and minimal heating issues only once when I played games for more than an hour, and once while shooting outdoors in the afternoon.
Functionally, the iPhone 14 Pro Max kept me company for almost 12-14 hours a day - with long hours of tiring honest work managing my luxury properties on Hotel Empire Tycoon, responding to emails, minimal calling, clicking photos, and browsing Instagram - all of this with brightness set to about 50 per cent, and Wi-Fi and mobile data on.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the best that Apple has to offer this year. With a stellar screen, upgraded camera, PRO Raw photography, Dynamic Island and Crash Detection, this iPhone offers a bunch of meaningful updates. Does that make it absolutely the best smartphone available? Not necessarily. At this price point - and lower - Indian consumers do have smartphone options that offer great photography, battery life, and powerful processors. However, we all know well by now, Apple products have a certain appeal that is hard to ignore, and much easier to be charmed by if your pockets run deep enough.