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Apple iPhone buying guide: Which iPhone is right for you?
We don’t want to admit it, but here goes: the Apple iPhone is a good smartphone. It’s even a great one, as long as you’re comfortable with iOS and aren’t overly attached to Android. The iPhone is also a trendy smartphone, particularly in the United States. According to Counterpoint, Apple accounted for 56% of US smartphone shipments during Q4 2021. But there are a lot of iPhones around — which are the best iPhones?
Let’s make your buying decision a bit easier with our iPhone buying guide.
Choosing the best iPhone for your needs
Before we get into all the best iPhones and what makes them different from one another, we’d like to remind you that there are some great Android phones out there. However, if you’re reading this, you’ve likely already decided to move to iOS. With that in mind, there won’t be any Android phones on this list. It’s all Apple phones, all the time.
Generally, the most recent iPhones are almost always the best. Today, the iPhone 13 series is the latest within the primary line. Older iPhones will invariably have weaker specs and lack the newest features. However, they are also likely cheaper than the latest models.
After a certain amount of time, Apple stops selling older iPhones. Obviously, they will still be available from third-party sellers, but we’re just making sure you’re aware of this limitation.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the best iPhones you can get at the moment!
The best Apple iPhones
- Absolute best: The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the cream of the crop for modern iPhones. Nothing can top it.
- Best for most: For most people, the iPhone 13 Pro is the best device for balancing features, price, size, etc.
- Good enough: If you don’t need fancy camera features, the regular iPhone 13 does the job without breaking the bank.
- Best compact: Do you like your phones small? The iPhone 13 Mini is what you’re looking for.
- Best budget: If you’re looking to save money, the iPhone SE (2022) is super basic but also super cheap.
- Oldie-but-goodie: If you want to save money but also don’t want the iPhone SE (2022), the iPhone 11 is what you need.
iPhone 13 Pro Max: The absolute best
The cumbersome title of this phone matches what it offers. It’s the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and it has everything the iPhone 13 has, everything the iPhone 13 Pro has, and then takes it all to the max.
The star of the show for this iPhone is its massive 6.7-inch display, which has a 120Hz refresh rate. That display features a smaller notch than we’ve seen in previous iPhones. You’ll also find a huge three-lens camera module on the rear that houses wide, ultrawide, and telephoto lenses.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the most powerful iPhone yet.
Notably, all that extra oomph makes this the biggest and heaviest iPhone ever. But that physical size allows for the largest battery of the iPhone 13 series, which should help prevent the phone from dying on you before the end of the day.
Unsurprisingly, this is the most expensive model in the iPhone 13 lineup, with a starting price of $1,099 for the 128GB variant. If you want a whopping 1TB of storage, you’ll spend no less than $1,599. No one said the best iPhones would be the cheapest iPhones!
- Huge display with 120Hz refresh rate
- Best-ever iPhone camera system
- Biggest battery in the iPhone 13 series
- Biggest and heaviest iPhone
- Most expensive model
iPhone 13 Pro: The best iPhone for most folks
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the unrivaled winner for iPhones. However, there might be buyers out there who think it’s a bit too overbearing. For them, there’s the iPhone 13 Pro.
The iPhone 13 Pro features the same camera system, the same build materials, most of the same specs, and the same storage configuration options as the Max. However, it’s physically smaller — the same general size as the iPhone 13.
As its name suggests, the iPhone 13 Pro is like the iPhone 13 Pro Max, just a bit less intimidating.
That smaller size does necessitate a few trade-offs. For example, the iPhone 13 Pro has a smaller battery than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It also has a smaller display, but it is of the same quality as its bigger sibling.
The price is also a bit smaller, thankfully. The entry-tier iPhone 13 Pro will set you back $999, netting you 128GB of storage. If you’re a data hog, you can get the 1TB model for $1,499.
- Same camera system as iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Same display quality, too
- Smaller, more manageable size
- Battery not as big as one in iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Still pretty expensive
iPhone 13: Best for those who like simplicity
The two major “Pro” aspects of the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are the triple-lens camera system and 120Hz display. When you take these two aspects away, you’re left with the vanilla model, which is the iPhone 13.
The iPhone 13 has just two lenses on the rear: a wide and an ultrawide. It also has a standard 60Hz display refresh rate, which will prevent you from getting that silky smooth feel a 120Hz rate offers.
If you like the iPhone 13 Pro's size but not its price, this is a good option.
There are a few other trade-offs, such as the inability to shoot ProRAW footage, no Night Mode portraits, and the lack of a 1TB storage option. All in all, though, the iPhone 13 is an excellent option for people who want a terrific iPhone but don’t need all the fancy photography features of the Pro models.
Going this route saves you a lot of cash. The vanilla iPhone 13 starts at $799 for the 128GB model. The most you’ll spend on an iPhone 13 is $1,099, which is for the 512GB variant. As far as the price/value ratio goes, this is one of the best iPhones you can get.
- Same size and battery capacity as iPhone 13 Pro
- Comes in a wider variety of colors than Pro models
- Lower price
- No telephoto lens
- Stuck with 60Hz display
- Fewer features as compared to Pro models
iPhone 13 Mini: For folks who like ’em small
The last model in the iPhone 13 series is the iPhone 13 Mini. As its name suggests, it is the smallest model in the lineup. It’s even smaller than the iPhone SE (2022) and the iPhone 6!
Don’t let its size fool you, though. Inside, it has almost all the same specs as the iPhone 13. That includes the processor, storage options, camera lenses, wireless charging, etc. The only thing that doesn’t match up is the battery capacity, which makes sense since it’s so much smaller.
This is one of the smallest fully-powered smartphones on the market.
Thankfully, even the price of the phone becomes minified. The iPhone 13 Mini starts at just $699 for the model with 128GB of storage. The 512GB model will set you back $999.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 12 Mini was reportedly the lowest-selling model in that line. Unless this year’s Mini turns the tide, this will probably be the last Mini model we see in Apple’s iPhone lineup. So, if you think this is one of the best iPhones for you, better grab it while you can!
- Same specs and features as main iPhone 13
- Lowest price of all models in the line
- Same color options as main iPhone 13
- Smallest battery in iPhone 13 lineup
- No telephoto lens
- Stuck with 60Hz display
iPhone SE (2022): The budget king
The iPhone 13 series launched in 2021. The iPhone SE (2022), as its name suggests, launched in 2022, making it the newest of the best iPhones you can get. As with the iPhone SE (2020), this iPhone is essentially a carbon copy of the iPhone 8 but with the innards of an iPhone 13. And yes, that includes 5G support!
That also means the phone looks like an older iPhone but is powerful enough to keep up with its more modern siblings. Its unassuming form factor also keeps the price down.
This is the cheapest iPhone on Apple's current roster.
Of course, it looking like an older iPhone makes sense because a lot of its features are straight out of 2018. It only has one rear camera lens, for example, and is made of polycarbonate instead of glass. It has huge bezels on the front, which could make for a cramped display if you’re used to phones with higher screen-to-body ratios.
Still, you can’t argue with the price. The iPhone SE (2022) starts at just $429 for the model with 64GB of internal storage. That’s the lowest you’ll pay to enter the Apple ecosystem with a new phone!
- Low price
- Small form-factor
- Has 5G support and powerful processor
- Unremarkable camera
- Very low screen-to-body ratio
- Dated design
iPhone 11: Low price, good specs
Apple’s two cheapest modern iPhones are pretty small. The iPhone 13 Mini is a lot fancier than the iPhone SE (2022), but they both will feel pretty small for folks who like their phones bigger.
Thankfully, if you want a phone that’s larger than those two without wanting to venture into iPhone 13 pricing territory, you can grab the iPhone 11 instead. Now that it is over two years old, it’s significantly reduced in price.
Apple still sells it brand new, so it's a cheap way to get yesteryear's flagship.
Remember that this used to be a flagship phone from Apple. While it won’t match something like the iPhone 13 Pro when it comes to specs and camera prowess, it’s still going to do a great job for folks who love the iPhone 13 but think it’s a tad out of their price range.
The iPhone 11 currently starts at $499 for the model with 64GB of storage. It comes in various fun colors and will continue to get iOS updates for a few more years.
- Priced even lower than iPhone 13 Mini
- Great dual-lens camera system on the back
- Still has years of iOS updates ahead of it
- Specs and features won’t match iPhone 13 models
- Won’t support MagSafe accessories
Picking the best iPhone accessories
Now that you have an idea of the best iPhones to spend your money on, it’s time to round out your setup. That means adding the best accessories to the equation. Here are some roundups of our current favorites:
- The best iPhone holders and mounts for your car
- The best wireless iPhone earbuds you can currently buy
- Our guide to the best Apple iPhone chargers
Don’t forget that one of the best iPhone accessories available is the Apple Watch. Check out that and many other smartwatches in our ever-expanding smartwatch hub.
iOS vs Android — Which OS is right for you?
You’ve just finished reading about the best iPhones, so we have an idea of where you stand in the iOS vs Android debate. However, nothing is ever set in stone. Maybe you feel stifled by the iPhone’s lack of customizability, or perhaps you wish there were more types of phones available than just what Apple creates. If so, it might be worth checking out what Android has to offer.
Check out more on the long-standing iOS vs Android debate right here.
Other frequently asked questions
Q: Which iPhone has the best camera?
A: The best iPhone camera at the moment is the one on the back of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. You can pick whichever one you like as the camera systems are the same on each.
Q: Which iPhone has the best battery life?
A: Technically, the battery in the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the biggest of all iPhones, so it has some of the best battery life we’ve seen yet from the line. However, smaller iPhones with weaker specs and less power-hungry displays can also have stellar battery life, so don’t always think bigger is better.
Q: When is the best time to buy an iPhone?
A: The best time to buy an iPhone is when the newest ones launch, usually in September. Carriers will usually have deals related to the new iPhones, and Apple will simultaneously start discounting older iPhones. However, we’ve begun to see carriers hold their deals for months following launch.
Q: When will the next iPhone come out?
A: The next flagship iPhone will likely be the iPhone 14. We don’t expect it until September 2022.
Q: Which iPhone is best for kids?
A: If you have a responsible kid and know they’ll take care of it, the iPhone 13 Mini would be a great option. However, if that seems too expensive, the iPhone 11 or SE (2022) are cheaper options.
Q: How long will an iPhone last?
A: Apple issues software updates to its iPhones about five years after launch. That means an iPhone launched in 2021 should see updates into 2026, or maybe even beyond. The physical lifespan depends on how well you take care of it. A well-tended iPhone could last you even longer than the five years Apple will send it software updates.