Here’s why I’m giving the iPhone 14 a free pass on design changes

iPhone 13 mini
(Image credit: TechRadar)

One of the big reasons I’d never buy an iPhone is their antiquated and blocky design – if I wanted a phone that looked like a brick, I’d buy a feature phone. 

I’ve long criticized Apple’s lack of innovation, and what I consider frequent steps backward; regarding the design of its phones. When some mobiles have delightful appearances – or bodies designed to feel great in the hand – Apple seemingly shies away from such concepts.

But with the iPhone 14, I’m willing to give Apple a free pass – this year, I think the company is okay in sticking with the same slab stylings it's used on the iPhone 13

More of the same

According to all the leaks and rumors that we've heard so far, the iPhone 14 sounds like it'll be a dead ringer for its predecessor.

That means it'll be a standard chocolate-bar-style smartphone with an angular flat edge and square camera bump on the back. There will likely be a notch on the front and Lightning port on the bottom edge.

You might have heard that the phone will get a 'punch-hole' cutout in the screen for the front camera, but those rumors are actually talking about the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, not the standard model.

iPhone 13

(Image credit: TechRadar)

So why is a lack of change acceptable?

Design isn't the only area where Apple seems reluctant to things up – it does the same in most departments.

Take, for example, cameras. Since the iPhone 11, all the brand's standard phones have used a 12MP main, 12MP ultra-wide and 12MP front-facing camera. Changes between these are almost always iterative, and sometimes non-existent. Sure, we might see a sensor with a slightly larger pixel size, or a different lens aperture, but it's rarely noticeable when you're using the phone.

For the iPhone 14, though, it sounds like Apple is actually changing some things (although rumors aren't clear whether the standard, or only Pro, models are the ones enjoying changes).

We've mentioned the screen cutout, and there are also rumors of a new 48MP main camera, satellite connectivity and faster charging than before (on the Pros, at least). That's a wider selection of updates than we normally see between iPhone generations.

This year, Apple is bringing enough new features that it doesn't need to change the design

Because the list of changes between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 is quite long for one year, I'd say that Apple can be forgiven for sticking to its beleaguered hardware aesthetic. Engineers don't want the hassle of fitting all those new components in a body, and changing the size or shape of that body.

Compared to most years, however, where an unchanging design is the disappointing cherry on top of a general lack of updates, this year, Apple is bringing enough new features that it doesn't need to change the design too.

That's based on all these rumors being true, of course. If they aren't, then Apple really does need to pull an appearance reshuffle out of the bag – and even if they do, the iPhone 15 still better wow us, if the 14 doesn't.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.