Skip to main content

Why Apple's New Flagship, the iPhone 14, Is Underwhelming

Mitchel is a tech enthusiast and a dogged internet researcher. His opinions on any topic at all are also quite insightful

The iPhone 14 launch didn't garner much enthusiasm from both reviewers and customers alike

The iPhone 14 launch didn't garner much enthusiasm from both reviewers and customers alike

The iPhone 14's Unenthusiastic Launch

On September 16th, 2022, Apple released the iPhone 14 lineup along with other latest gadgets and updates in their very elaborate but simple launch event. Almost instantly, the device was in the hands of tech reviewers from every platform.

There definitely were mixed feelings about the flagship device. From all reviews, however, one thing was clear: The iPhone 14 launch didn't garner much enthusiasm from both reviewers and customers alike. Here's why...

An Uncanny Resemblance

Before the article proceeds, it should be stressed that the iPhone 14s—especially the pro versions—are by no means average. They are still the highest end phones in terms of performance and photography. Their design definitely makes a statement (the excruciating similarity to its direct predecessor aside) and... let's be frank; it's an iPhone 14. That's good enough a reason for anyone to be excited.

The first downward thumb for the iPhone 14 is in its uncanny resemblance to the iPhone 13 lineup. This is, in itself, not that big a caveat and might even go as far as being an advantage for the company in terms of having to put less effort in recycling old phones into new ones and other minor perks like the novelty factor ("It's Apple's way").

In real terms, though, no one is going to watch an Apple trailer to see what the new phone looks like. If you look at the previous flagship, you'll get a clear enough picture of what its successor will look like. Apple tends to keep its design constant for a couple of years, adding little twists and turns to the camera setup and subtle changes in display like reduced bezel border and notch as the lineup increases.

One downside to this was in the 14 and 14 plus. Everyone was expecting the dynamic island on these two models, but what we got was breathtakingly underwhelming. More on that in a bit.

If they weren't labeled, there's a good chance you wouldn't be able to tell the difference

If they weren't labeled, there's a good chance you wouldn't be able to tell the difference

The A16 Bionic Chip: Here's the Deal

Another factor in the sheer 'unimpressiveness' of the lineup is in its performance. The iPhone, as stated earlier, is a good phone, arguably even the best in the smartphone market today. But talking about mind-blowing performance, the iPhone 14 pros' a16 bionic chips aren't on that tier.

To be clear, the a16 bionic is currently the fastest processing chip running on a smartphone. The a15 bionic literally comes next. But if you observe the difference between the a16 bionic and the a15 bionic, you'd realize that the gap is not particularly trailblazing. It's just 0.22GHz faster.

When you compare this to the gulf that was created between the a15 bionic and the a14 that made it well over 50% faster, you'd see that the a16 isn't breaking any records.

About That Battery Life

Did you know also that battery life is weaker in the iPhone 14 Pro Max than the 13 Pro Max? It could be a factor of relaxation here. Apple might have realized that they're too far ahead in the game and may want to slow down to make what they already have worthwhile. The "b" part of the previous statement sounds like an 'Apple' thing to do, but the "a" part, not so much.

All the same, whether they have a lead or not, Apple is aware of the dominance they have on the market and doesn't seem to be bothered by the insignificance of not making a novel peak performance over their previous generation.

A "Repackaged" Flagship

Back to the display, stressing specificity on the design, it was a real shock to the public when the base models of the iPhone 14 was announced. Swapping the mini for the plus was a good idea (better than the mini idea at least) but the display was heart-stopping.

A lot of people, tech reviewers and consumers alike, expressed their heartfelt disappointment when Apple announced that the iPhone 14 and 14 plus wouldn't come with the all new dynamic island. They even suffered a greater blow when the tech giant further stated that these same phones will not use Apple's a16 bionic processing chip. The term 'repackaging' was very widely used to describe the iPhone 14 and 14 plus and that basically just about sums up correctly. There is no new chip or new display feature.

The design? Oh, that too is same as last year's, so, you're basically getting yourself and iPhone 13 Pro Max, without premium features like cinematic mode and pro raw picture editing, but packed as a base model phone. How cool is that?

The iPhone 14 Plus and the iPhone 14 Pro Max

The iPhone 14 Plus and the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Obsolescent Flagships

The reason for this though is simple. For a long time, it has been clear with most flagship devices that companies try to make their base phones as pedestrian as possible to promote sales for the pro versions, which is where the highest profit margins are and where they expect to sell the most devices.

In 2021, the iPhone 13 sold well. Maybe even too well. It made the best global sale of the year accounting for 5.5% of the market share against the Pro Max's 3.4%. A good look on this scenario may be that Apple is deliberately nerfing the quality of the base model iPhone by a huge gap in 2022 so that people will only focus on the Pros. So far, it's working, but in the books? Bad, bad rating. Thumbs down, Apple. Well played, but thumbs down.

One thing I would also love to suggest is that flagships devices should have more time between them before a new launch comes up. From the way these phones are coming up, it's almost too obvious that they're slowly but surely running out of ideas. Apple is best at idea management because it manages to not jump on any new trend until it can do it well. That's the 'Apple' way.

Refresh Rates

Remember 120Hz refresh rate? That was out on almost all flagship phones by 2020? It was on Samsung S20 line up, the Note 20 Ultra, Realme x3 super zoom, Oppo's find X2 series, One Plus 8 Pro and of course, the Asus ROG Phone 3. It was even available in the Poco X3 NFC, which is a budget phone that can be purchased for almost five times less than the average price off all the aforementioned devices but for some reason, Apple didn't include it in their iPhone 11 at that time or the iPhone 12 a year later.

When they announced it in the iPhone 13 as 'Pro-motion' though, everyone saw the beauty in Apple's timing. It was like a bamboo that was only a shoot for years, but sprouted massively at the end. At that juncture, they were able to merge the battery swallowing 120Hz refresh rate with adaptive display and went further than any phone in its immediate competition to be able to dial refresh rate to as low as 10Hz, which gave it an incredible performance-to-battery ratio improvement.

An exceptional competitor to the iPhone in this category is Samsung, whose competing flagship also had the same ability to dial refresh rate to 10Hz, but the iPhone's chip was so well optimized for that purpose that Samsung was completely flattened in this competing category.

The iPhone 13 pro max really held its own against its bigger, bossier rival: the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The iPhone 13 pro max really held its own against its bigger, bossier rival: the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The (Lack of) Anticipation Is Killing Us

It's the same thing they've done with the "notch." They have been on the notch since the iPhone X lineup and only got rid of it four years later in the 14 pro versions with the innovation of the dynamic island. No other phone has the option to use its camera notch as a whole new information tracking feature (even though it's still a bulky shaped notch as compared to other competing devices).

All in all though, I still really hold the opinion that if smartphone flagships are well spaced, they'd not only give room for a wider sales margin, they'd also be allowing time for more ideas, more updates to be made to their current phone to allow it keep leading the edge and even the allow for the factor of anticipation.

You see, a lot of people were really caught up with the launch of the iPhone 13 lineup and how great they were. We barely had enough time to anticipate the iPhone 14s before it was upon us. If they, as well as every other smartphone company in the flagship arena, can give that spacing, they'd be able to crank up the consumer enthusiasm and ensure that people are ready to spring on their devices—not only because they are bored of the previous one (which, by the way is a very good pain point!) but because there has been a reasonable amount of time in which to anticipate and expect and tease and build awareness. I'm sure it will help a lot. This will also allow people really use their phones and develop that connection to the device and brand alike.

Well that about sums it for this article! It's also my first one yet on this platform, so there's the excitement for me. If you noticed, this was somewhat of a stylish comparison of the iPhone 14 to its predecessor. I really also cannot overemphasize my disappointment in the base models of the 14s, but at the same time, it is cancelled out by the unending joy of the pro versions.

What do you think of them? Leave your comments in the comment section below and I'll see you in my next article (probably unrelated to this one though).

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Mitchel Graey