The iPhone 14 Plus proves the Pro Max really is for pros now

In a strange turn of events, Apple wants to give you more for less.

Pros

  • Early battery life is great
  • Still has strong performance
  • Cameras are impressive

Cons

  • eSIM growing pains

For the past couple of years, Apple’s iPhone lineup has offered a wide variety of sizes and features. The 5.4-inch iPhone Mini model has been for those who want an easily pocketable and affordable smartphone, while the standard 6.1-inch iPhone and iPhone Pro models were the same size but offered wildly different features — with the Pro model having a much better camera, battery life, and durability. 

Then there was the 6.7-inch Pro Max model, standing tall over the rest of the lineup, offering the most battery life, and the largest display of the group. 

This year, however, Apple has changed its approach. The iPhone 14 Mini isn’t an option. Instead, Apple went with a more uniform iPhone 14 lineup. There are now two 6.1-inch models in the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, and then two 6.7-inch models in the iPhone 14 Plus and the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Also: iPhone 13 Mini lives! The case for buying it in 2022

The iPhone 14 Plus was available for preorder alongside the rest of the iPhone 14 lineup; however, it wasn’t set to launch until Oct. 7. For the past few days, I’ve been using the iPhone 14 Plus as my daily device, replacing the iPhone 14 Pro Max. I’m not quite ready to give it a full review yet, but I have learned a few things so far.

iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus standing next to each other.

The iPhone 14 (left) and the iPhone 14 Plus (right). 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

More screen for less money

Ever since Apple moved to its standard iPhone and iPhone Pro mix of iPhone models, the only way to get an iPhone with a screen over 6.1 inches was to buy the most expensive iPhone model in that year’s version of the Pro Max. That meant paying at least $1,100 for an iPhone, just because you want a bigger iPhone with a bigger battery.

And yet, this year, the iPhone 14 Plus starts at $899 for 128GB of storage, or $999 for 256GB, or $1,199 for 512GB. 

That’s a steal for an iPhone with a display of 6.7 inches, and what Apple promises to be the longest battery life of any iPhone. 

A larger display doesn’t only mean more space for a larger battery (more on battery life in a minute), but it also makes the iPhone more accessible and easier to use for a lot of people. 

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With a bigger screen, there’s less scrolling when reading long emails or messages, and you have a larger viewfinder when using the Camera app. These are all obvious benefits to Android converts or those who’ve been paying the Pro Max premium for the last few years, but for those who’ve just wanted the cheapest iPhone with all-day battery life, a big-screen iPhone at an affordable price is a foreign concept. 

iPhone 14 Plus music app.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Battery life is king

In my review of the iPhone 14, I touted all of its new features and still-impressive performance, but I dinged it a bit on battery life. I could get through a full day of use, but just barely. This means that on days where I’m traveling for work, I’m going to have to rely on some sort of external battery pack or top off at the hotel — not a bad practice in general, but something I’d rather not have to do. 

Another area where the entire iPhone 14 lineup, including the 14 Plus, can cause frustration for some is with Apple’s switch to eSIM, instead of the more traditional plastic SIM card that’s used to facilitate communication between your phone and wireless carrier. The setup process with the iPhone 14 Plus and transferring my number over was easy, but traveling abroad will likely cause some headaches in the near term as more carriers adopt eSIM technology.

As I’ve already said, the iPhone 14 Plus, however, brings with it the promise of longer battery life than the smaller iPhone 14. 

After four days of use, I can confidently say the iPhone 14 Plus’ battery life is an improvement over the iPhone 14. I’ve been ending my days — which typically start around 6 a.m and end after 10 p.m — with 30% or more of battery left. That’s with around 5 hours of screen ontime, according to the Battery section in the settings app.

The real test, however, will come in the next few days when I hit the road for work. I’m traveling to New York and back to cover the Made By Google event where we finally learn all there is to learn about the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Watch. 

Also: Google’s Pixel Watch is a big deal

The iPhone 14 Plus is coming along with me as my only phone, putting the battery through its paces. 

iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus next to each other.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The iPhone 14 Pro Max really is for Pro users now

Prior to the iPhone 14 Plus, the Pro Max variant wasn’t really just meant for those customers who wanted or needed Pro features. There were two clear camps. You either wanted the Pro features, or you wanted the bigger display. 

Now you have a distinct choice to make: a bigger iPhone with the core features or a bigger iPhone with Pro features. 

I’m already questioning whether or not I need the Pro Max now that the iPhone 14 Plus exists. 

Review: iPhone Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Which new iPhone should you buy?

iPhone 14 Plus photo samples.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The iPhone 14 Plus uses the same camera system as the iPhone 13 Pro, which, by the way, still takes fantastic photos. Performance, too, is the same if not slightly better than the iPhone 13 lineup due to Apple using the A15 Bionic in the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus — with the only difference being an extra core in the five-core GPU. All for $899.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max offers more, with the new Dynamic Island, an upgraded camera system, and even longer battery life. But that also comes with a starting price tag of $1,099. 

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I wish we had access to sales numbers to see the exact breakdown of units sold by the model at launch, and then again a few months from now. I suspect that the Plus and Pro Max will end up being the two most popular models. 

Plenty more iPhone 14 Plus coverage to come. What’s one feature you want me to test or what kind of questions do you have about the iPhone 14 Plus I can answer in my full review? Let me know in the comments below!

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