Hands on with Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max and its Dynamic Island 

It’s here! Apple has just unveiled its latest iPhones and the new 14-series lineup brings quite a bit to the table. The Cupertino giant has ditched the mini model this time, but instead, there’s a new Plus model that ups the screen size for a more immersive experience. The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus follow in the footsteps of their predecessors for the most part, but Apple has reserved the biggest upgrades for its Pro range. The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro not only come with the latest SoC from Apple, they also bring some much-awaited upgrades to the camera system, feature always-on displays, and ditch that wide notch in favour of a smaller pill, along with some intriguing new animated notifications that introduce a new way to interact with the device. This feature is termed Dynamic Island, and that’s something I checked out as soon as I got my hands on my review unit of the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

In some sense, not much has changed. The unboxing experience remains the same, with the phone packed inside the same slim box that skips the charger and just contains a Type-C to Lightning cable along with the usual documentation. The overall design DNA is also the same, with the blocky glass chassis featuring Ceramic Shield on the screen, and a frame made of surgical-grade stainless steel, the IP68-certified smartphone is a solidly-built device. At the back, the familiar-looking camera module with three large lenses sits on the top left, with the iconic logo placed in the middle of the back panel. The placement of ports and controls is the same as in the previous models are well. Like last time, you get a 6.7-inch (6.1-inches on the 14 Pro) Super Retina XDA display (2,796 x 1.290 pixels, 460 ppi) that supports adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz, along with HDR, Dolby Vision, and True Tone. The brightness levels are now much better, going up to a whopping 2,000 nits outdoors.

The biggest change, however, has to be the new pill-shaped notch up on top. Replacing the wide notch from before, this new pill now houses the front camera and the Touch ID hardware. Not only is this notch smaller and sleeker, it even comes with what Apple is touting as a whole new way to interact with the device.

Folks, welcome to Dynamic Island. The moniker refers to animated notifications and mini apps that pop up on and around that pill notch and can be interacted with as well. For example, when you play a song using the Apple Music app and exit/minimise the app, it shrinks to a black bar overlaid on top of the pill notch, displaying tiny album art on the left side and a waveform on the right. Long pressing on it expands it to a slightly larger window that gives you playback controls for your music. In a similar vein, many other first-party apps have their own implementations for these alerts, notifications and activities, and each is supposed to have its own signature characteristic as well.

In fact, Apple is letting app developers make use of Dynamic Island as well, so you’ll see many third-party apps putting their own spin on the concept very soon. It’s too soon for me to judge how well the system works, but based on my brief usage, it does look like a fun new addition to the iOS interface. I will say that at first glance, it looks like a clever way to hide that black pill notch, but I’m not complaining. And while I’m on the subject of the display, worth mentioning that the iPhone 14 Pro Max finally brings an always-on display feature… something that has been awaited ever since the Apple smartphones switched to OLED screens.

The other big news is on the camera front. With the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, Apple has made the leap to a higher-resolution sensor, moving up to a 48-megapixel primary sensor after sticking to 12MP snappers for a long time. The quad-pixel sensor is larger and promises even better photos and videos than before, generating 12MP images by combining four pixels into one. The ProRAW 48MP mode promises better creative control, and Apple is also promising significantly better low-light shots. The iPhones have always been known for their superb video-shooting skills, and on the 14 Pro models, the Cinematic mode can now shoot in 4K HDR at 24 fps, and among the tons of other improvements, there’s an Action mode that lets you shoot smooth handheld videos too. Also, the 12MP front camera now supports autofocus. This is just the tip of the iceberg though, and I’ll be taking the device on a test drive to figure out how well the cameras really work and take a more leisurely trip to that Dynamic Island too.

There’s more. A new crash detection feature is now on board, capable of detecting if the user has been in a car crash and sending out emergency alerts so that help can be dispatched immediately. As per Apple, this has been optimised for personal vehicles like cars and pickup trucks and detects sudden speed shifts, changes in cabin pressure, abrupt changes in direction, loud impact sounds etc. In fact, the new iPhones will even get an Emergency SOS feature that works over satellite, without needing a mobile network. It remains to be seen if this will make its way to India.

The new Apple A16 Bionic SoC powers the device, promising tons of performance improvements. This chip features a 6-core CPU with two performance and four efficiency cores, while graphics are handled by a 5-core GPU. A 16-core Neural Engine is also on board. On the software side of things, the new iPhone comes with iOS 16 out of the box, the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile OS.

The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max also inherits some not-so-great things from its predecessor. The charging speed, for example, is still at 20W, with 15W MagSafe Wireless charging support. Also, the Lightning port is still around — I was really hoping Apple would transition to a Type-C this time. Well, there’s always next time.

Prices start at Rs 1,29,900 for the 128GB model for the iPhone 14 Pro, going all the way up to Rs 1,89,900 for the 1TB model of the iPhone 14 Pro Max. All said and done, the features like the new notch, Dynamic Island, camera improvements, always-on display, crash detection etc, make the new iPhone 14 Pro Max seem like a noteworthy upgrade and one that definitely warrants an in-depth inspection to see how it fares in real life. So I’ll get on that right away. Watch this space for more.