The 4 Best iPhones of 2021

Apple
🕚 Updated October 2021

What's the best way to make someone super happy this holiday season? Buy them a new iPhone! Anyone who gets an iPhone as a gift will be ecstatic because, hello, it's an expensive new phone, but also because it's an upgrade to something they use every day.

Scroll Table to Left
  Best Overall Best Midrange Best Premium Best Small
 
  Apple
iPhone 13
Apple
iPhone SE
Apple
iPhone 13 Pro Max
Apple
iPhone 13 Mini
 
Our SummaryThe newest gen iPhone 13 hits that sweet spot between great features and a relatively affordable price point. The iPhone SE is an affordable alternative to current-gen models. If you want the best of the best with your next iPhone, go for the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Sometimes bigger isn't always better; if you love a smaller display, check out the iPhone 13 Mini.
Pros✓ Great balance of features and price
✓ Good size display
✓ Great battery life
✓ Incredibly affordable
✓ Still has 4K recording functionality at low price
✓ Bigger 6.7-inch display
✓ Super impressive battery life
✓ Best iPhone cameras to date
✓ Most affordable current-gen iPhone
✓ High storage capacity options
✓ Decent battery life
Cons✗ Cameras aren’t as impressive as Pro/Pro Max
✗ Only 60 frames per second
✗ Smallest iPhone display
✗ Only has A13 Bionic chip
✗ Max storage of 128GB
✗ Display may be too big for some
✗ Expensive
✗ No boost in frames per second
✗ Display may be too small for some
✗ Cameras aren’t that awesome
Scroll Table to Right
Review Geek's expert staff has decades of experience testing and reviewing products. Our recommendations come from countless hours of digging into every product to find its strengths and weaknesses. We then compare that with other related products to help you find the best one for your needs. All of our reviews and product recommendations are done without bias, and we never accept payment in exchange for a review or recommendation. Read More »
Happy Holidays! This article is part of our Holiday 2021 Gift Guide where you can find the best-of-the-best recommendations from Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and How-To Geek to help you pick the perfect gift for everyone on your list!

The 4 Best iPhones of 2021

Apple

For years now, Apple’s iPhone has been a staple for many people across the globe, and for good reason. iPhone’s iOS is easy to use, Apple has many amazing proprietary programs, and these smartphones always look super sleek.

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 13 models come with the newest A15 Bionic chip, but the iPhone SE comes with the A13 Bionic chip. A newer chip means faster download speeds and processes, but it’s pricier; the iPhone SE is incredibly affordable because it uses the older chip.
  • 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 13 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 13 and 13 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 13 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 13

Apple

Pros

  • Great balance of features and price
  • Good size display
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Cameras aren't as impressive as Pro/Pro Max
  • Only 60 frames per second

For most people, the basic iPhone 13 model is going to be perfect. It has a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, an IP68 water-resistant rating, 4GB 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 13 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 13 can give you up to 19 hours of video playback. And as you would expect with any new iPhone, the iPhone 13 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 Pro Max.

Best Overall

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13 is perfect for most people, striking a great balance between price and next-gen features.

Best Midrange: iPhone SE

iPhone SE in product red
Apple

Pros

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Still has 4K recording functionality at low price

Cons

  • Smallest iPhone display
  • Only has A13 Bionic chip
  • Max storage of 128GB

The iPhone SE is Apple’s most affordable smartphone on the market right now. It’s not super incredible spec-wise, with only 3GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB for storage, but it is equipped with Apple’s A13 Bionic chip. This is Apple’s proprietary chip that, although two generations old, still boasts decent speed for launching apps, playing games, and more.

The 4.7-inch Retina HD display looks great and helps the phone fit comfortably in your hand. For people who are used to modern smartphones with screen sizes around six inches, the iPhone SE could feel pretty small. But for the bargain price, it’s worth it.

When it comes to the SE’s cameras and video recording functionality, it’s fairly impressive for the price and comparable with Apple’s newest smartphones. There’s a 7MP 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 13 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; the SE works with MagSafe chargers too, which is nice. And despite its low price, the iPhone SE has Wi-Fi 6 and Gigabit-class LTE that can deliver impressive download speeds wherever you are.

Best Midrange

iPhone 13 SE

For anyone who loves iPhones but can’t swing the traditionally high Apple price tag, check out the SE model.

Best Premium: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple

Pros

  • Bigger 6.7-inch display
  • Most impressive iPhone battery life
  • Best iPhone cameras to date

Cons

  • Display may be too big for some
  • Expensive
  • No boost in frames per second

The iPhone 13 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 A15 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 120 frames per second.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max (and the Pro) has an all-new pro 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 22-28 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 13 Pro instead. You’ll get the same 6GB of RAM, the A15 Bionic chip, and the sweet camera setup for a lower cost.

Best Premium

iPhone 13 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

Apple

Pros

  • Most affordable current-gen iPhone
  • High storage capacity options
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • 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.

Best Small

iPhone 13 Mini

The iPhone 13 Mini is great for people who don’t want a big display but still want next-gen features.

Sarah Chaney Sarah Chaney
Sarah Chaney is a professional freelance writer for Review Geek, Android Authority, MakeUseOf, and other great websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Creative Writing concentration. Her degree, paired with her almost two years of professionally writing for websites, helps her write content that is engaging, yet informative. She enjoys covering anything Android, video game, or tech related. Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support Review Geek.