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iPhone 14 Pro Max

Why the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a showstopper

Apple has made a phone that’s ready for whatever technical innovation the industry develops

Mathures Paul | Published 25.09.22, 03:07 AM
iPhone 14 Pro Max is a reminder that hardware and software are equally important when it comes to creating meaningful interactions.

iPhone 14 Pro Max is a reminder that hardware and software are equally important when it comes to creating meaningful interactions.

Pictures: The Telegraph

In the city, it’s easier to feel and become isolated than on an island where one is made to feel a part of a community. City life is such that you can’t connect with everyone, and, in the process, you may end up connecting with no one. But on an island, connections run deep. That’s where the iPhone 14 Pro Max lives — in the midst of connections. Apple’s latest phone is also the fastest money can buy and it’s a device that’s sure to keep you happy for years. It’s not a year-on-year upgrade but an overhaul of the iPhone, be it the display or camera. The changes are dynamic. No wonder, one of the biggest features on the phone is called the Dynamic Island.

Island life

At a time when only a couple of Android phone makers are innovating, Apple has quietly revolutionised how we interact with phones. It’s also about how different parts of the phone’s software interact. At the moment, we live in a world of overlays. You connect the phone to a power socket, there is an overlay on the screen to inform you that. You connect wireless earbuds, there is another overlay. On the other extreme, a lot of the important aspects in many apps run in the background. The music streaming service works in the background and while you tweet, you may not know what’s playing. Or when you are on a messaging spree, you don’t know where the Uber driver is because that app is running in the background and requires you to switch between apps. Another example. You are watching a cooking video after sliding the cake pan into the oven. The timer is running in the background but to access it, you have to shift from YouTube to the timer app.

The new 48MP camera has been married to the new Photonic Engine and the already-present Dynamic Engine

The new 48MP camera has been married to the new Photonic Engine and the already-present Dynamic Engine

Apple has unified all those experiences into a pill-shaped area on the phone called Dynamic Island. Earlier, there was the Notch, which was basically dead space to accommodate sensors and the front-facing camera. All these hardware have been miniaturised and put on this Island that can also be used for other activities. The Dynamic Island is like a system that floats over iOS. It is supposed to feel like hardware even though this is a lot of software.

At the moment, a number of Apple features are supported on the Dynamic Island and also apps like Spotify, Audible, YouTube Music and Amazon Music. In the coming weeks you will see a lot more on the Island from third-party developers, making innovations run deep. You can expect something like live football scores on this pill-shaped area while you are at a meeting. Then there are flight timings… it can be an endless list. But at no point does the Dynamic Island feel separate from the main phone. The Island is well connected to the mainland.

To ensure the interaction is meaningful, there are two more things that can be done with the Island. For example, if you are listening to Apple Music, you can tap on the Island and at once you are taken to the full app. What if you don’t want to dive into the app? Press down on the Island and a widget-like version is shown with controls and cover art.

The Island, in fact, can support two apps simultaneously. For example, Apple Music and Timer. This is when the Island separates into two (more like a horizontal ‘i’) with the larger section showing Apple Music and the dot transforms into a timer.

Colours are true-to-life and there is slight sharpening to add a lively touch to photos

Colours are true-to-life and there is slight sharpening to add a lively touch to photos

You can tap anywhere on the Dynamic Island, directly on the front camera or on the sides and in my time of usage I didn’t notice any problems with the functionality or the camera. Fingerprints didn’t hamper the functioning of the Face ID sensor.

Earlier, we told ourselves that after 10 minutes of usage, the Notch on the iPhone would not be noticeable. It’s true. Now, Apple wants us to see what’s happening on the re-engineered version of the Notch all the time. The Island life is truly a relaxing one when it comes to multitasking.

Image quality multiplied

Shifting attention from the Dynamic Island, Apple has completely changed the camera system on the new iPhone 14 Pro (and Pro Max). In 2015, Apple moved to a 12MP rear camera with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Since then, the company has made drastic improvements in computational photography but not megapixels. This year, Apple has overhauled the camera system on the Pro models with a 48MP snapper, done the Apple way.

Android phones have been using higher megapixels for a long time but the implementation has more or less remained uneven on most phones.

The new 2x optical zoom (besides 1x and 3x) brings photographs alive

The new 2x optical zoom (besides 1x and 3x) brings photographs alive

It’s not about megapixels but what you can do with the data that’s being captured. There are three rear cameras. The main wide-angle 48MP camera. Then there is the optical telephoto camera and an ultra-wide. The main camera has received the most hardware changes. For example, its focal length is wider, going from 26mm equivalent on the previous iPhone to 24mm. That allows you to get more into the frame. The main camera gets a larger 48MP sensor; it’s a 65 per cent larger sensor. More megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean you get better photos; it’s about how Apple uses those extra pixels.

When you take a photo, groups of four pixels are combined into one big pixel. The result is a 12MP photo that’s brighter, has less image noise and has better detail. And in use, the main camera takes excellent photos; image quality and details are great, especially for a phone. But the place where I see a very high degree of improvement is in the medium and low-light situations. Colours are excellent, textures are great. If you pixel peep, the textures on buildings, ripples on the water… the 14 Pro does a solid job at creating different textures. In case you want to take it further, you can capture 48MP full-resolution photos using ProRAW. The files will be huge but these can used to crop in on a small part of the photo without losing clarity. Remember, files are huge when taking ProRAW shots and thus it’s not possible to do a burst mode.

The ultra-wide camera also gets a boost with a sensor that has more focus pixels and it’s a much sharper ultra-wide than ever before. The ultra-wide now offers several times better low-light performance and for me that’s a very big deal because the ultra-wide was earlier a step behind the main and second, it’s also the camera I personally use all the time. It’s easy to use it for Instagram Story for example.

Making pictures shine is how Apple implements the photo processing pipeline with something new — called Photonic Engine —coming into play. The Deep Fusion (which was already there) pixel by pixel analysis that happens in mid and low light now happens earlier in the process on uncompressed data. All this results in very sharp images.

Look closely to notice how far the camera lenses on the iPhone 14 Pro protrude from its body.

Look closely to notice how far the camera lenses on the iPhone 14 Pro protrude from its body.

Macro photos have received a boost. Macro mode is triggered when you try to take a photo with the main camera but when you get really close to a subject, the 14 Pro changes to the ultra-wide camera and then crops in to mimic the same frame as the main camera but allows you to get a closer focus.

Finally, the telephoto camera, which is identical to last year’s but gets a big boost from the Photonic Engine processing. The image quality in dim lighting has improved drastically.

Moving to videos, there are several updates. The new lenses and sensors give image quality a boost, even in low lighting. Cinematic Mode can now record 4K videos at 24fps. There is also super-stable video stabilisation called Action Mode. When you shoot a video, toggle this feature on and it crops in a bit to keep the image centred on the horizon level. If you are shooting in 4K, the mode drops the resolution to 2.8K. It’s so impressive that I wonder whether the gimbal would be needed in the near future.

Locked screen but info unlocked

The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max finally have an always-on display, which lets you see certain information even when the screen is locked. Android phones have had always-on display for a while and Pixel phones have so far offered the best implementation of the technology. Apple has got it right.

When you lock the screen of your phone, everything dims and only the info that’s important to you gets highlighted. When the iPhone 14 Pro is in your bag or face down or in your pocket, the always-on display doesn’t turn on. Also, there is the option to turn it off completely. It’s the most accessible phone when it comes to managing alerts and notifications. A quibble: the always-on screen appears slightly brighter than it should.

The 14 Pro runs iOS 16 and gives you several ways to customise the lock screen. You can even have multiple lock screens and you can quickly switch between them.

The Dynamic Island will lead the way as to how we interact with phones

The Dynamic Island will lead the way as to how we interact with phones

Processor and battery life

What I didn’t mention so far is the processor because, needless to say, Apple has once again delivered the fastest chip you can get on its Pro models. This year, there are two processors in the iPhone 14 series. The fastest chip on the market — A16 Bionic — is on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. On the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus there is the A15 Bionic, a chipset that also remains miles ahead of competition.

The iPhone 14 Pro phones are the fastest money can buy. During everyday use, everything feels like smooth sailing. Gaming is an absolute delight and subtle things like animation around the Dynamic Island are super smooth.

In terms of battery, I’ve been consistently getting at least a day and a half with always-on option toggled on. I didn’t get around to checking battery life with the option off but it should be substantially higher, taking you closer to the two-day mark.

Should you buy it?

If you have last year’s iPhone 13 Pro Max, chances are that you won’t upgrade. There is a lot of sizzle on the new phone and you will feel it if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 12 Pro or below. With the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple proves its biggest strength — the home to an endless stream of creativity. We live in an era when every brand jostles for attention and approval while Apple celebrates resilience and endurance. No wonder, the iPhone Pro Max is a showstopper of a phone.

At a glance, the rear camera module looks the same as last year’s iPhone 13 Pro Max

At a glance, the rear camera module looks the same as last year’s iPhone 13 Pro Max

At a glance

Device: iPhone 14 Pro Max

Price: Upwards of Rs 139,900

Colours: Deep Purple, Gold, Silver and Space Black

High notes

  •  The Dynamic Island is an innovative experience
  •  Performance is unmatched
  •  48MP main camera produces incredibly sharp images
  •  You will easily get a day and a half of battery even with always-on display

Muffled note

  •  The always-on display is slightly on the brighter side
Last updated on 25.09.22, 03:07 AM
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