The iPhone 14 was Apple’s biggest consumer disappointment in a decade

May 5, 2023
Wally Nowinski

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A meta-analysis by PerfectRec of more than 669,000 user-generated reviews finds that consumer ratings of the latest iPhone declined sharply from the previous generation for the first time since 2012. 

Economists and data scientists at the new product review website PerfectRec have analyzed 13 years of user-generated iPhone reviews, tracking consumers’ changing perception of the world’s most successful technology product over time. We found that from 2012 to 2021, starting with the iPhone 5, consumers rated every new generation of iPhones better than the preceding one. 

But with the iPhone 14, released in September 2022, that changed. For the first time in a decade, consumer reviews of the latest iPhone fell from the previous generation—and fell sharply. The data show that this was not true just of the base model iPhone 14 - reviews for most of the iPhone 14 family, including the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, paint a similar picture of consumer disappointment. 

From the release of the iPhone 5 in 2012 to the iPhone 13 in 2021, consumers consistently rated each new iPhone model better than the previous generation

We looked at the base model iPhone released each year between 2011 and 2022 and charted what percentage of all user-generated reviews that were five stars. The base model iPhone is typically Apple’s best-selling model of each generation and gets the most user-generated reviews. Over this period, the proportion of five-star reviews for the base model iPhone steadily increased from a low of 65% for the iPhone 5 to a high of 80% for the iPhone 13.


That changes with the iPhone 14

The proportion of consumers giving the iPhone 14 five stars fell dramatically. 


The decline wasn’t limited to the iPhone 14 base model

You see a similar decline in the percent of five-star reviews for the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max as well. 


What happened? 

For years, the percentage of five-star user reviews for the latest iPhone model steadily increased. We believe this is likely due to two factors. The first is simple: The phones got better. With every new generation of phone, Apple introduced some substantial improvement or new feature. In some years, there were big improvements to speed and performance. In other years, it was better cameras or new, larger sizes. It’s reasonable to assume that consumers appreciated these improvements and reacted with increasingly favorable reviews.

The second factor that may have contributed to gradually improving reviews is that consumers have generally been reviewing things more favorably over time. The trend of Reputation Inflation was first identified in online marketplaces by PerfectRec CEO Joe Golden in a 2022 economics paper co-authored with professors John Horton of MIT and Apostolos Filippas of Fordham University. It is possible that the habit of rating everything five stars –  taught to consumers by apps like Uber, Airbnb and Etsy – has also spilled over into general product reviews. 

These trends make the decline in five-star ratings for the latest phone more surprising.  

At PerfectRec, we analyze hundreds of consumer products in order to make personalized product recommendations. We suspect what happened with the iPhone 14 is that the rate of improvement simply didn’t match customer expectations. There wasn’t a big new, must-have feature and consumers didn’t view the incremental improvements as worth it, so fewer of them rated it five stars as a result. Mainstream critics generally described the iPhone 14’s performance improvements as “modest” and “a teeny upgrade.” This perception was likely reinforced by Apple’s decision to re-use the A15 chip from the iPhone 13 Pro in the base model of the iPhone 14-a decision usually reserved for their lower-priced offerings. This was the first time Apple reused a chip from the previous generation in a new flagship phone, and it wasn’t the only reused component that disappointed fans. Apple didn’t upgrade the 60hz refresh rate of base model iPhone 14 or replace the much maligned “notch” with a true holepunch lens many observers hoped they would. Instead the notch remained on the iPhone 14 base model and got a slight upgrade to the “dynamic island” on the 14 Pro and Pro Max.  

Other takeaways: The iPhone 5c is Apple’s least-loved phone, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max is its most-loved


You love what you pay for: consumers consistently rate more expensive pro models more favorably


Methodology & limitations 

This meta analysis is based on 669,543 user-generated reviews posted on Google. The data was collected in April, 2023 and may change over time. 

The number of reviews per model varies from a low of 2,304 to a high of 56,832. 

It is possible that reviewer sentiment may change over time.

For any inquiries, please contact Wally Nowinski (

PerfectRec is a phone recommendation site where you can find the best phone for you unique needs.

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