But with so many current-gen and past-gen iPhones to choose from, the waters can easily get muddied when trying to make a decision. Whether you’re looking for the smallest iPhone, the cheapest iPhone, or simply the best iPhone, we’ve got you covered.
What to Look for in an iPhone
At this point, Apple has come out with so many different iterations of the iPhone and even the current-gen has a few different models to choose from. So, how do you choose the model that’s perfect for you? Here’s everything you need to consider before making your decision:
- Specs: The biggest spec you’ll have to think about with an iPhone is storage. Although a phone with less storage can mean a lower price, it’s wise to invest in more storage if you plan on having the phone for several years to account for the photos, videos, apps, and more you’ll accumulate. The only other major spec to consider here is Apple’s Bionic chip versions; all of the iPhone 14 models come with the newest A15 Bionic chip or better, but the iPhone 12 comes with the A14 Bionic chip. A newer chip means faster download speeds and processes, but it’s pricier; the iPhone 12 is incredibly affordable because its an aging model.
- Screen Size: Although it may not seem like it’s important, you should put some thought into how big you want your display to be. A larger display, like the 6.7-inch display on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, means you’ll have the max viewing area for streaming videos and playing games. But sometimes a larger display can be awkward to hold in smaller hands or fit comfortably in a pocket. On the other hand, a smaller display, like the 4.7-inch display on the iPhone SE or the 5.4-inch display on the iPhone 13 Mini, is much more comfortable to hold but means less viewing area. The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro both have a 6.1-inch display that falls somewhere in the middle of iPhone screen sizes.
- Price: When you purchase a new smartphone, you typically have the option of either paying a one-time fee upfront or paying a monthly amount over a set amount of time. Try not to let how you’re paying sway your decision and instead compare the specs and features to the total price. After all, a phone is expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment because you’ll be using it every single day.
- Cameras: Smartphone cameras have come a long way in the past few years. Current-gen phones are starting to take pictures that almost look professional. If taking photos and videos isn’t that important to you, this isn’t something you need to worry about. As for our list here, you’ll get the best cameras with either the iPhone 14 Pro or the Pro Max.
- Unlocked vs. Carrier: The last thing you’ll need to think about is whether you want to buy your iPhone unlocked—meaning it can be used with any carrier you choose—or locked with a certain carrier, like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint. If you love your carrier and don’t plan to switch anytime soon, you don’t have to stress about this too much. But if you have AT&T or T-Mobile as your carrier, strongly consider whether you want to stay with them before making your iPhone purchase because it can be hard to switch from those carriers specifically. If you want to read more about unlocked vs. locked iPhones, we’ve got you covered. The only place you can purchase unlocked iPhones from is directly through Apple.
Best Overall: iPhone 14
- ✓ Great balance of features and price
- ✓ Good size display
- ✓ Great battery life
- ✗ Cameras aren't as impressive as Pro/Pro Max
- ✗ Only 60 frames per second
For most people, the basic iPhone 14 model is going to be perfect. It has a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, an IP68 water-resistant rating, 6GB of RAM, and three storage options from Apple: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB. Also inside, you’ll find Apple’s A15 Bionic chip that’ll give you quick download speeds and quality video streaming.
The iPhone 14 boasts an advanced dual-camera system with 12MP wide and ultra-wide cameras, as well as a 12MP TrueDepth front camera. Both are equipped with Night mode and 4K Dolby Vision HDR video recording. There’s also a cinematic mode feature that adds a shallow depth of field to your videos automatically; and even after the video is shot, you can adjust the focus.
The battery life really varies based on how you use the phone, but Apple uses video playback as the metric to monitor how long the battery will last. The iPhone 14 can give you up to 16 hours of streaming video playback. And as you would expect with any new iPhone, the iPhone 14 is compatible with MagSafe accessories for fast wireless charging.
The phone is solid overall, but if you want better cameras, a larger display, and a slightly speedier phone, consider investing in the iPhone 14 Plus.
The iPhone 14 is perfect for most people, striking a great balance between price and next-gen features.
Best Midrange: iPhone 12
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Premium features
- ✗ Smallest iPhone display
- ✗ Two generations behind latest model
- ✗ Max storage of 128GB
We would normally recommend the iPhone SE in this spot. However, the latest generation of the budget iPhone missed the mark terribly. In its place, we think the now two-generation-old iPhone 12 is a great buy. Even though a couple of years old at this point, it still has some fantastic specs: 6.1-inch Retina HD display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB for storage, and it is equipped with Apple’s A14 Bionic chip. This is Apple’s proprietary chip that, although two generations old, still boasts decent speed for launching apps, playing games, and more.
When it comes to the 14’s cameras and video recording functionality, it’s fairly impressive for the price and on par with Apple’s newest smartphones. There’s a 12MP selfie camera and a 12MP rear camera. You can also record video in 4K at either 60 or 30 frames per second.
The SE’s battery lets you watch up to 17 hours of video on a single charge. Once the battery is depleted, you can use fast-charging to go from 0% to 50% in half an hour or less; the 12 works with MagSafe chargers too, just like the current versions.
For anyone who loves iPhones but can't swing the traditionally high Apple price tag, check out 2020 model.
Best Premium: iPhone 14 Pro Max
- ✓ Bigger 6.7-inch display
- ✓ Most impressive iPhone battery life
- ✓ Best iPhone cameras to date
- ✗ Display may be too big for some
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ No boost in frames per second
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the best smartphone Apple currently has to offer. It’s pretty pricey, however, with different price tags attached to four unlocked storage options: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB. It has an IP68 water-resistant rating, 6GB of RAM, and Apple’s A16 Bionic chip that provides speedy downloads and plenty of power for video streaming. Plus, it has a 6.7-inch OLED display with ProMotion that can perform at 120Hz.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max (and the Pro) have a fantastic camera system with telephoto, wide, and ultra-wide cameras. There’s a 12MP telephoto, wide, and ultra-wide camera, and support for macro photography, a 6x optical zoom range, and a pretty awesome Night mode that captures photos well even in low-light conditions. Then, there’s 4K Dolby Vision HDR recording and a cinematic mode that adds a shallow depth of field automatically, though you can shift that focus if needed after you’ve shot the video.
The Pro Max has the best battery life of any iPhone, with up to 20-29 hours of video playback in between charges. And although this is kind of a given, it’s compatible with MagSafe chargers and fast-charging.
It’s worth mentioning that, if you’re okay with shorter battery life and a smaller 6.1-inch display, you might want to consider getting the iPhone 14 Pro instead. You’ll get the same 6GB of RAM, the A16 Bionic chip, and the sweet camera setup for a lower cost.
iPhone 14 Pro Max
For a few extra hundred bucks, the iPhone Pro Max gives you a bigger display, better battery life, and awesome cameras.
Best Small: iPhone 13 Mini
- ✓ Most affordable current-gen iPhone
- ✓ High storage capacity options
- ✓ Decent battery life
- ✗ Display may be too small for some
- ✗ Cameras aren't that awesome
If most smartphones seem like they’re too clunky in your hands or you just want something smaller for your pocket, try out the iPhone 13 Mini. With a 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR Display, it’s not the smallest iPhone (that’d be the iPhone SE with a 4.7-inch display), but it is the most impressive small iPhone model.
Just like the iPhone 13, the Mini model has an IP68 water-resistant rating, 4GB of RAM, and the newest A15 Bionic chip for fast downloads and quality streaming. At 17 hours of video playback, the battery life of the iPhone Mini is also comparable to the iPhone 13 model, which has up to 19 hours of playback between charges. And charging is super fast and easy with MagSafe chargers and accessories.
Then, there are three different unlocked storage options to choose from: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB. And when it comes to cameras, the iPhone 13 Mini is, again, pretty much identical to the iPhone 13. It has an advanced dual-camera system with 12MP wide and ultra-wide cameras. And with 4K Dolby Vision HDR recording, you’ll have a cinematic mode that helps automatically focus your videos.
The reason we didn’t upgrade choose the iPhone 14 Mini for this year’s recommendations is because it doesn’t exist. Apple didn’t choose to continue the line that started with the iPhone 12 Mini. So, if small is what you want, you should probably get a Mini soon before Apple phases the model out completely.
iPhone 13 Mini
The iPhone 13 Mini is great for people who don’t want a big display but still want next-gen features.