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iPhone 14 Plus: The cheapest iPhone with all-day battery life (and other reasons you'll love it)

Review: Want better battery life, a big screen, and fantastic photos for less money? Then this is the iPhone for you.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on
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 didn't launch until a few weeks later, on Oct. 7. I've now been using the iPhone 14 Plus as my main phone for the last week, replacing the iPhone 14 Pro Max. And, well, it's clear to me that Apple's move away from the Mini to the Plus is the right call. 

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. 

Also: Bad iPhone battery after installing iOS 16? Don't panic! Do this instead 

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. 

I've really enjoyed using the iPhone 14 Plus and it's larger display over the last week. It brings the main feature that attracts me to the Pro Max -- the screen size -- to a price point that, while still more expensive than the base model iPhone 14, is more affordable than the Pro Max. 

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. 

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 on time, according to the Battery section in the settings app.

Review: Apple Watch 8 is a sleeper hit, even if it doesn't match Samsung's sensors  

The real test for any phone's battery, though, is traveling with the phone. So, I took the 14 Plus with me to New York to cover the Made By Google event where the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Watch were announced. 

My first day of travel started at 3:15 am with a 100% charge of the iPhone 14 Plus battery. I used the phone for the typical travel tasks: showing my boarding pass when required, browsing news, checking email, sending messages to loved ones and colleagues, FaceTime calls, streaming music and keeping tabs on flight delays. I got stuck in Dallas for a few extra hours thanks to what was left of Hurricane Ian delaying flights in and out of New York City airports. 

At this point, I started to wonder if the iPhone 14 Plus would have enough battery to get me to my hotel in Williamsburg. After the delay, which involved more FaceTime calls, some transferring of video from the DJI Osmo Action 3, and plenty of streaming of my favorite Apple Music playlists, I was able to get on my final flight 40% of battery left. 

During the over 3-hour flight from Dallas to New York, I caved and paid for Wi-Fi so I could get some work done. And then I ended up streaming some live TV (thanks, Southwest), which eventually triggered my fear of running out of battery before arriving at my hotel, so I connected an Anker MagSafe battery pack to the iPhone 14 Plus to top it off. This was after around 5 hours of screen on time, but even more background use. Essentially, I didn't stop using the phone in some form from 4:30 am Mountain time to 5 pm ET. If I wouldn't have given in to the Wi-Fi temptation, I have no doubt that the battery would have made it until I arrived at the hotel around 6 pm that night; though it would have been practically empty. 

Also: Google's Pixel Watch is a big deal

Moral of the story? The battery life on the iPhone 14 Plus is more than enough to get you through a rough day of travel, and probably even longer if you're not someone who is constantly on their phone like I am. 

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. 

After a few days of testing the iPhone 14 Plus, I was questioning whether or not I need the Pro Max now that the iPhone 14 Plus exists. I've since settled on the fact that I enjoy having the extra telephoto camera too much not to have a Pro Max model in my pocket. 

The iPhone 14 Plus uses the same core camera system as the iPhone 13 Pro. You're limited to a 12MP main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide camera, both of which take fantastic photos thanks to the A15 Bionic processor and Apple's new Photonic Engine. It's easy to make jokes about the names and marketing terms Apple comes up with for new products, but I've shot some exceptional photos with the iPhone 14 Plus. 

Also: iPhone Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: How to choose

Here's one of a storm as my plane made its approach for landing at La Guardia Airport:

iphone-14-plus-photo-sample-nyc-1
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Or this one of a random building I found in Williamsburg with NFTs pained on it:

iphone-14-plus-phot-sample-nfts-in-nyc-1
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

I posted a few more photos on my Instagram account, all of which I was pleasantly surprised by. 

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. 

About that eSIM

One 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.

Also: eSIM vs. SIM: What's the difference?

Bottom line

In my iPhone 14 review I said it wasn't worth upgrading to the iPhone 14 from the iPhone 13. The exception to that statement is if you're switching to the 14 Plus, because you're getting more screen and battery.

The 14 Plus slots nicely into Apple's lineup and makes more sense to me than the Mini ever did, and I have a feeling that's going to resonate with users, be it this year or in the years to come. 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 iPhone 14 Plus and Pro Max will end up being the two most popular models.     

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