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How the iPhone became the most boring phone you can buy in 2023

It says a lot about a phone when the most-talked thing about its next iteration is its new volume buttons. That’s what the Apple iPhone is in 2023. It doesn’t fold, it doesn’t have a periscope zoom lens, it doesn’t fast charge, the design has been the same for years, it’s uncomfortable to hold, and its cameras are no longer the best — something proved most recently in our Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro camera test.

In the past few years, iPhones haven’t seen any kind of big new innovation. The Dynamic Island had the potential to be the innovation we’d been waiting for, but that hasn’t come to fruition. When you add all that together, it makes the iPhone the most boring phone you can buy in 2023. Here’s why.

The iPhone has a folding problem

iPhone 14 Pro Max with Honor Magic 5 Pro and Galaxy Z Flip 4 in background.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

Samsung has been in the foldable segment for four years now. Moreover, several Chinese smartphone manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi are making foldable designs that are better than Samsung’s. Heck, even Honor and Tecno are breaching the foldable niche with the Honor Magic Vs and Tecno Phantom V Fold.

Apple is just playing safe at this point by ignoring the folding market. The company has all the money in the world for R&D to develop a folding iPhone. Apple fans, please don’t tell me, “Apple will release it when it’s ready” or “Apple never releases a half-baked product.”

The argument that Apple releases products when they’re matured is … well, false. Just one look at the buggy mess that was iOS 16 at launch is easy proof of that. Plus, foldables have been in the market for four years now, which is enough time for a segment to mature, in my opinion.

Apple not releasing a foldable iPhone for the next couple of years is simply riding on the success of the iPhone to deliver average products until it comes out with one big leap. We might already be on Galaxy Z Fold 7 or so by the time the first foldable iPhone releases.

The argument that Apple releases products when they’re matured is … well, false.

And if Apple is intent on sticking with the slab phone design, it needs to come up with a better one. The move to flat edges with iPhone 12 is one of the most unergonomic design decisions from Apple in the past few years. And surprisingly, the company has stuck with the same design ever since.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, OnePlus 11, and Xiaomi 13 Pro are all more comfortable to hold, thanks to the curves on the sides. I have used the iPhone 12, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Pro Max as my primary devices, and all of them were uncomfortable to hold. For a company so intent on only making “regular” smartphones, its current design direction leaves a lot to be desired.

Apple’s camera crown has been stolen

iPhone 14 Pro Max surrounded by other flagship phones.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

Most people in the U.S. don’t realize that the iPhone camera isn’t the best anymore. It lags behind the Vivo X90 Pro in night mode. The telephoto lens is of limited use when compared to the Galaxy S23 Ultra with 10x optical zoom. The Xiaomi 13 Pro’s natural depth of field has no competition, thanks to its 1-inch sensor. Oppo and OnePlus have the fun XPan mode to discover more perspectives with wide shots. Xiaomi and Realme phones have a wide range of options with long exposure and star trails.

By contrast, an iPhone doesn’t have any standout camera feature. There is a 48MP camera with ProRAW, which is amazing for someone who has the time to play around with details in Lightroom but not so much for an average user. It’s the most boring set of cameras you can carry with you.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra has also narrowed down the iPhone’s video lead immensely with its super steady mode. Any Chinese-made or Galaxy phone focuses faster in portrait mode than the iPhone. Does any of this matter when iPhone sales are at an all-time high? Maybe not. But for those of us who have access to products outside of Apple, we see how far behind the company is right now on the camera front.

No fast charging in 2023 is a big miss

iPhone 14 Pro Max surrounded by flagship phones.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

I stuck with the iPhones because the Pro Max series used to be the longest-lasting smartphone on a single charge; the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the gold standard for battery life. But that’s not the case in 2023.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra lasts just as long — if not more — as the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Combine that with the fact that you are still stuck with slow charging standards on the iPhone, and the battery/charging situation isn’t the best. We have smartphones that charge to full in under an hour or offer 50% battery life within 15 minutes. And that’s not taking into account the bonkers 240W fast charging on the Realme GT 3 that delivers a 0% to 100% charge in less than 10 minutes.

There is a misconception that fast charging degrades battery life in the long run. But I’ve used the 2019 OnePlus 7T (with 30W charging, which was considered fast back then) for three years, and didn’t face an issue with battery life until I updated the OS. The same goes for OnePlus 8T with 65W fast charging; It’s still going strong. Saying that Apple isn’t providing fast charging above 27W due to safety reasons is a lame excuse when the industry has clearly figured out a way for it.

Apple, please make the iPhone exciting again

iPhone 14 Pro Max in the middle with Galaxy S23 Ultra on the left and Honor Magic 5 Pro on the right.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

The latest iPhones are still among the best smartphones in 2023. The shutter speed on the camera is top-notch, and it processes the image swiftly, while the competition takes a few minutes to get in the details in processing. I love the fact that I can easily and quickly edit photos in Lightroom without lag.

But that’s about it. I can’t use multi-window on iOS, and in day-to-day use, the Galaxy S23 Ultra feels more responsive. The OnePlus 11 is more comfortable to hold, and Xiaomi 13 Pro has a better primary camera sensor.

There is not one outstanding feature on an iPhone. It’s an average phone or even mediocre in some areas, which makes it the most boring phone you can buy in 2023. I hope we get exciting new features with the iPhone 15 this year, but if rumors are any indication, we are in for disappointment.

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Prakhar Khanna
Prakhar writes news, reviews and features for Digital Trends. He is an independent tech journalist who has been a part of the…
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