6 months later, iPhone 14 is Apple’s worst upgrade ever: Tim Cook’s big apology - new iPhone 15!

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
6 months later, iPhone 14 is Apple’s worst upgrade ever: Tim Cook’s big apology - new iPhone 15!
It’s now been six months since the launch of the iPhone 14 (and iPhone 14 Plus), which means it’s time to check how Apple’s most affordable flagship phones are ageing. Furthermore, the six-month mark in a phone’s lifecycle is crucial for users who are on the fence about buying the latest iPhone or waiting another six months for the new one.

With that being said, this story isn’t really meant to be an iPhone 14 review, or the ultimate iPhone buying guide, but one where I get to talk about the iPhone 14 in the context of all other iPhone upgrades in history. In other words, despite being a great device when judged in isolation, the iPhone 14 might not be the most impressive new iPhone for those looking to upgrade from an older model.

In fact, not to spoil the verdict but let’s just say that the iPhone 14 is on the bottom of my list when it comes to iPhone upgrades throughout the years. Oh, of course, there’s also the iPhone 14’s bigger brother, the iPhone 14 Plus, which might actually be the most ignored iPhone in history…

iPhone 14 easily the least impressive upgrade in Apple’s history: Less impressive than the iPhone XS

If we don’t count different versions of the same release, and the SE (Special Edition) iPhone, there are exactly 14 different iPhone flagships in history - despite all the “S” models, the upcoming iPhone (15) is indeed going to be the 15th version of the legendary device.

So, for nearly 15 years of making 15 different flagship iPhones, Apple’s learned the importance of “slow innovation”, which might as well be Cupertino’s actual motto - although “Think Different” also holds up pretty well for the company about to remove all the buttons from its phone.

Hence, there have been plenty of relatively small (at least on the surface) upgrades throughout the years…

  • iPhone 4S (from the iPhone 4)
  • iPhone 5S (from the iPhone 5)
  • iPhone 6S (from the iPhone 6)
  • iPhone 8 (from the iPhone 7)

But with that in mind, the only iPhone upgrade that comes to mind when I try to think of a potential iPhone 14 competitor for “the smallest iPhone upgrade ever” might be the iPhone XS. Being an “S” model, it’s already clear that the iPhone XS will look exactly the same as its predecessor (the iPhone X), but it’s on the inside what matters.

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For one, the iPhone XS arrived with a new A12 Bionic chip, built on the 7nm standard (versus 10nm for the A11 Bionic on the iPhone X). Joined by 4GB of RAM (vs 3GB on the iPhone X), this was a notable upgrade (at least on paper), for the iPhone XS. Apple also moved from IP67 water and dust-resistance to IP68.

However, most notably (and only few will remember), despite looking exactly like the iPhone X, the XS was one of the biggest shifts in the way Apple approaches photography on iPhone. Little did we know that the aggressive HDR processing of the iPhone XS would (re)define the way iPhone photos look for years to come. (include X vs XS HDR shot). This alone makes the iPhone XS one of the biggest iPhone camera upgrades ever and thus (automatically) gives the title of “most insignificant iPhone upgrade ever” to the one and only iPhone 14.

iPhone 14 took two big steps in a very controversial direction

  • 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB
  • Slightly camera improvements (f/1.5 aperture vs f/1.6), slightly better detail in low-light photos

The above is more or less what upgrades you can expect when switching from the iPhone 13 to the iPhone 14, indicating, once again, that this is the most insignificant upgrade we’ve ever witnessed coming out of Cupertino. But the iPhone 14 wasn’t just a small upgrade - it was also a rather controversial one.

One of the reasons has to do with the fact that Apple (for the first time ever), decided to reuse an old chip for a new phone, giving iPhone 14 the same SoC we saw in the iPhone 13 (Pro) from 2021. This was met with huge backlash online, and although it’s unlikely to have a big (negative) effect on sales, it only makes the iPhone 14 harder to recommend.

The second controversial move? iPhone 14 became the first iPhone ever to ship without a physical SIM card tray (in the US only, but only for now), and six months later, this is just as divisive of a move as it was on day one.

Apple’s decision to do away with the physical SIM card tray sparked an outcry on social media, as to this day, there are Tweets from unhappy iPhone users, who have found themselves in a tricky situation when trying to swap SIMs (most of them travel abroad).

Despite offering some excellent hardware, good battery life, and (still) the longest software support on any flagship, the iPhone 14 still earns the well-deserved title of “least exciting upgrade ever” - maybe “the most controversial” one too, (in my book) becoming the hardest iPhone to recommend.

With that in mind though, iPhone 14 sets the bar for iPhone 15 about as low as possible, which means Apple's chance to "apologize" is a pretty good one!

iPhone 14 Plus is part of Apple's failed plan; whatever you do, do not buy an iPhone 14 unless you’re getting a great deal

In the end, it’s worth touching on why I said (in one of the headings) that iPhone 14 is a modern iPhone XS story. One of the reasons, of course, is that the iPhone 14 is an “S” upgrade in disguise (we’ve established why), but the other one is called… iPhone 14 Plus. Yep, this iPhone exists! Remember?

Now, you might not immediately recall, but in reality, there was something that (literally) made the iPhone XS a huge upgrade over the iPhone X, and this “feature” was the iPhone XS Max. In a similar fashion, for the 14 series, Apple tried to wow everyone with a new big iPhone - the iPhone 14 Plus. Long story short, poor iPhone 14 Plus sales numbers are telling us the plan didn’t quite work, and it’s not too hard to see why...

  • Many (smart) people are choosing the iPhone 13 over the iPhone 14 as the former is cheaper and… pretty much the same device
  • The global financial crisis means majority of the people upgrading their phones are those in a better financial situation, making it more likely for them to choose the iPhone 14 Pro/Pro Max over the iPhone 14/ 14 Plus
  • The more capable iPhone 13 Pro can be found at the same price as the iPhone 14 Plus

Looking to buy a new iPhone? Six months after the launch of the iPhone 14, the only sensible choice is to wait for iPhone 15 or iPhone SE 4

So, what do you do if you need a new iPhone?

  • Wait for the new iPhone 15 - the Dynamic Island, a 48MP primary camera with 2x optical-quality zoom, a more comfortable (curvy) design, and USB-C (!) are features that can change the way you use your iPhone

  • If your current phones allows it and if you're after the most affordable new iPhone, wait for iPhone SE 4 - this one is expected to be an iPhone 14 at a much lower price - the catch here is that this one’s expected to arrive in the spring of 2024

Finally, I have a question for Cupertino... What is your plan for the vanilla iPhone model, Apple?

  • Bring back the “S” model, so people would be less likely to buy an iPhone that's not really new, without knowing?
  • More exclusive features for the Pro/Ultra models to make the vanilla iPhone even less appealing (the upsell strategy)?
  • A biannual release for the vanilla iPhone? Why not!

I guess we’ll never know. Until we do. Anyway, what do you think the future of the standard iPhone is? Remember, that’s Apple’s most popular phone.

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