Bottom line: Is the iPhone 14 worth the price?




Whether you're a hardcore techie who follows all the top influencers in this space or a casual phone user who simply wants to know if new gear is worth it, no doubt you'll read varying opinions on Apple's just unveiled iPhone 14 family.

And if you believe Apple's own marketing hype, this is the greatest collection of devices that ever was.

So, which is it?

Based on what we saw at the "Far Out" event in Cupertino, California on Wednesday - that is, not hands-on with the products in our own environment - the following should help you decide if this is for you based on what we know now.

First thing's first

While some years yield a bigger leap over its predecessors than others, my general rule of thumb with iPhone remains the same: don't buy a new iPhone every year, as you won't notice much difference over what you're used to.

iPhone 14 is no exception. Impressive? Sure. But you shouldn't have phone envy if you own an iPhone from, say, 2019 or 2020.

To truly appreciate the evolution of the country's no. 1 smartphone, space out your upgrades so it feels more like a major upgrade.

Unless you have deep pockets and want to be the first among your friends with the latest iPhone, buy a new phone every three years or so.

As for Android users, it may be a bit challenging to switch to iPhone - especially accessing the Control Center and swiping to close apps, and so on - though generally speaking, I think Apple's iOS is easier to use.

Except for the larger iPhone 14 Plus (at 6.
Except for the larger iPhone 14 Plus (at 6.  

iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Plus?

From a design standpoint, there doesn't appear to be much different with the new 6.1-inch iPhone 14 over the iPhone 13, except for the larger iPhone 14 Plus, at 6.7 inches.

They look nearly identical to last year's model - notch and all - and Apple did not announce a new iPhone 14 mini, likely due to lackluster sales with the smaller (5.4-inch) size.

What's new, however, are the cameras - both the main camera and front (TrueDepth) camera - along with an improved A15 Bionic chip (with 5-core GPU), a longer-lasting battery (though Tim Cook stopped short in saying how much longer), new colors (including a nice shade of purple), and eSIM support, which eliminates the need to pop in a SIM card.

An eSIM-only approach raises two potential issues, however. While all major mobile carriers in the U.S. support eSIM, not all of them do - including some MVNO providers. Apple has published a list of U.S. carriers that support eSIM, but travelers may run into problems when in another country if you can't rent a SIM while abroad, which is typically much cheaper than roaming with your existing carrier.

One of the most interesting additions to the iPhone 14 family?
One of the most interesting additions to the iPhone 14 family?  

Most impressive, however, are new safety capabilities of iPhone 14, such as Crash Detection - which may prompt you to call emergency services if it detects a car accident - and a nod to the "Far Out" event name, perhaps, an Emergency SOS via satellite feature, a first in the industry, in the event you need to reach someone and there's no cellular service available (free for two years, says Apple).

Pre-orders begin Friday, Sept. 9. iPhone 14 will remain at $799 to start, with availability for iPhone 14 beginning Friday, Sept. 16, and while iPhone 14 Plus (from $899) availability begins Friday, Oct. 7. Decent price for a large iPhone.

The reimagined Lock Screen in iOS 16 offers several new features, which compliments Apple’s decision to introduce an Always-on display on iPhone 14 Pro.
The reimagined Lock Screen in iOS 16 offers several new features, which compliments Apple’s decision to introduce an Always-on display on iPhone 14 Pro.  

Should you go Pro?

It was the iPhone 14 Pro (and Pro Max) that stole the show.

While we didn't see the "pill" or "Tic-Tac" cutout at the top of the screen as many of the rumors suggested, there is a somewhat smaller notch for the camera and various sensors, though it doesn't seem to be 30% smaller than before, as Apple touted at its event.

Called the very Apple-sounding "Dynamic Island," this area at the top of the screen can show animated alerts by cleverly morphing into different shapes based on the notification (like an incoming message), app (such as showing album artwork for music), or action (like pairing AirPods). Plus, it's interactive: Tap and hold to see more options or tap quickly to open the app it's connected to.

Making use of Apple's upgraded lock screen (unveiled with iOS 16), a new Always-On display will be a welcomed addition to many. Surprisingly, Apple says it won't impact battery performance, perhaps due, in part, to its new and energy efficient A16 Bionic chip.

There is also support for the abovementioned Emergency SOS via satellite service, and Crash Detection.

One of the biggest improvements in iPhone 14 Pro is the camera optics (and processing power behind it).
One of the biggest improvements in iPhone 14 Pro is the camera optics (and processing power behind it).  

Those who love photography and videography will appreciate the first-ever 48-megapixel Main camera on an iPhone, featuring a new quad-pixel sensor that lets in more light and Photonic Engine, which works to increase the quality of photos through imaging processing.

Photo lovers will like the iPhone 14
Photo lovers will like the iPhone 14's new ability to filter and play with light.  

You can now shoot ProRAW images and take advantage of 2X Telephoto shots. On the video front, there are Pro Video modes like Action (gimbal-like stabilization) and Cinematic mode, in 4K resolution at 24 frames per second (not 8K, as many had predicted).

Available in four colors, iPhone 14 Pro (from $999) and iPhone 14 Pro Max (from $1099) can be preordered beginning on Friday, Sept. 9, with availability stating on Friday, Sept.16.

The iPhone 14
The iPhone 14's camera includes a new 48-megapixel Main camera, with larger sensor, to help capture more breathtakingly vivid photos and videos.  

Final thoughts

Those looking to buy an iPhone at the very least should trade in their existing model to save on costs - unless you're handing it down or donating - as it's rare to use an old phone ever again (even though you think you might someday).

The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro don't seem wildly different than their predecessors, but the Crash Detection and Emergency Service via satellite could be a lifesaver.

Between its significant camera updates, clever Dynamic Island feature, and Always-On display, the iPhone 14 Pro devices are a leap forward from last year's iPhone 13.

Budget permitting, this is where we see's Apple's latest innovation.

The lack of a physical SIM may be an issue, though, so it's best to check with your carrier about support before you buy.

Follow Marc on Twitter for his "Tech Tip of the Day" posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Apple iPhone Upgrade program can help, but is the iPhone 14 worth it?

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