You’ve made the decision to buy a new iPhone, but that decision isn’t as simple as it once was: while it was once a case of simply deciding on storage capacity and colour, now there are multiple models of iPhone available, each with its pros and cons.
So, which is the best iPhone to buy right now? In truth, it’ll depend a lot on what you want to get out of your smartphone.
iPhones come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of camera options and other unique features that set them apart from the Android competition, and here, we’ve ranked the best iPhones currently available to buy.
Best iPhone 2021
iPhone 12 – Best overall
Pros: Great performance | Super Retina XDR OLED display | Similar to iPhone 12 Pro
Cons: No telephoto lens | Can’t record [email protected] Dolby Vision HDR video | Middling battery life
The iPhone 12, simply put, is the best iPhone you can buy right now. It offers a significant upgrade from the iPhone 11, not only sporting a new angular look reminiscent of the iPhone 5, but the same Super Retina XDR OLED display tech as the iPhone 12 Pro range.
At the heart of the iPhone 12 you’ll find Apple’s latest and greatest chipset, the A14 Bionic. It offers significant upgrades on the already capable A13 Bionic, and our benchmark results back that up. It’s one of the most powerful smartphones on the market right now, that’s for sure.
You don’t get the triple-lens setup of the Pro models, lacking the 2x telephoto lens, but you do get an upgraded 12Mp wide sensor with better low-light performance, and the ultra-wide remains just as great as it was on the iPhone 11. You even get access to the same Dolby Vision HDR video recording tech as the Pro models, albeit capped at 30fps.
You will get an upgraded stainless steel body, Apple ProRAW support and other benefits from the 12 Pro, but with the iPhone 12 sporting many of the highlights of the range, the upgrade is harder to justify than ever.
Read our full Apple iPhone 12 review
iPhone 12 Pro Max – Best for photography
Pros: Sensor-shift OIS tech | Great photos in light & dark environments | Gorgeous 6.7in display
Cons: Very expensive | Large form factor
Unlike the iPhone 12 Pro, there are differences between it and the standard iPhone 12, making it a more tempting option than the 6.1in Pro model. It packs a larger 6.7in Super Retina XDR OLED display with an improved resolution for a gorgeously detailed experience, but like the other models, it’s still limited at 60Hz. There’s also the same A14 Bionic at its heart, although with a suspected bump in RAM compared to the other models.
It’s in the camera department that the iPhone 12 Pro Max truly shines: as well as sporting the same LiDAR sensor, Dolby Vision HDR support and Apple’s new ProRAW photo format as the 12 Pro, it boasts a unique sensor-shift OIS and an improved aperture on the main sensor, making it a great option for low-light photography and videography.
Simply put, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most capable iPhone Apple has ever made, so why isn’t it the top pick? It’s down to price: starting at £1,099/$1,099, it’s also the most expensive iPhone available right now.
Read our full iPhone 12 Pro Max review
iPhone 12 mini: Best small-screen iPhone
Pros: Stunning compact design | Affordable with no performance hit | Gorgeous OLED display
Cons: 12W limit on MagSafe charging | Limited battery life
If you’re put off by the giant screens of the rest of the iPhone 12 range, it’s likely that the iPhone 12 mini will be the model for you. It might not sound too small, sporting a 5.4in display, but thanks to the bezel-less design, it’s actually a little smaller than the iPhone SE. Smaller design, more screen real estate – what’s not to like?
Size aside, it’s near-identical to the iPhone 12, sporting the same Super Retina XDR OLED display tech, A14 Bionic processor, dual-camera setup, 5G connectivity and support for MagSafe accessories, albeit at a slightly reduced wireless charging speed of 12W.
It’s also the cheapest way into Apple’s flagship smartphone range, sealing the deal for those on the hunt for a small-screen iPhone.
Read our full iPhone 12 mini review
iPhone 12 Pro – Great for Dolby Vision video
Pros: [email protected] Dolby Vision video | triple-camera setup on rear | Stainless steel & glass design
Cons: Too similar to iPhone 12 | Expensive | No sensor-shift OIS like 12 Pro Max
The iPhone 12 Pro offers key improvements compared to the iPhone 11 Pro, with the most noticeable aside from the iPhone 5-esque design being an increase in size to 6.1in from 5.8in. No longer will you have to sacrifice screen real estate by buying the smaller Pro model!
There are also improvements in the triple camera setup on the rear, including an improved f/1.6 aperture for better low-light photography on the main wide lens, but this isn’t a feature unique to the Pro range. You can, however, record Dolby Vision HDR video at up to [email protected] on the Pro model.
Really, it’s the 12 Pro Max that’ll shine in the camera department, offering an upgraded setup compared to even the iPhone 12 Pro.
Like the rest of the iPhone 12 range, you’ll find the A14 Bionic, paired this time with an upgraded 6GB of RAM and 128GB of base storage. Performance is top-notch too, as with the iPhone 12.
The problem is that the iPhone 12 Pro is near-identical to the standard iPhone 12, and while the upgraded stainless steel body, third camera and features like 60fps Dolby Vision video may tempt some, it’s certainly harder to justify the £999/$999 starting price.
Read our full iPhone 12 Pro review
iPhone 11 – A solid performer
Pros: Solid performer | Similar camera tech to iPhone 12 | Affordable
Cons: No OLED display tech | Old form factor
The iPhone 11 didn’t need to rewrite the smartphone rule book to be a winner – it simply needed to build on the success of the Xr, and it has done exactly that.
The standard iPhone 11 sports a nice design with a glass rear and comes in various finishes. Face ID is faster than ever and the niche telephoto lens of the iPhone XS range has been swapped for a more useful ultra-wide-angle lens.
Unlike the iPhone 12, the 6.1in display isn’t OLED, but it still offers a decent experience and, with the same A13 chipset as the 11 Pro range, performance is top-notch here – even when playing demanding games like Oceanhorn 2.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 review
iPhone Xr – Big screen on a budget
Pros: Big 6.1in display on a budget | Face ID convenience
Cons: A12 Bionic is getting older | No OLED display | Single-camera setup on rear
The iPhone Xr is the iPhone 11’s predecessor, and while you might be tempted to go for the updated version with an improved camera setup, the iPhone Xr still offers great value for money – especially when you consider the large 6.1in display on offer.
Admittedly, the camera offering is basic, with a single 12Mp snapper on the rear and an 8Mp selfie camera, and the A12 isn’t quite as snappy as the A13 Bionic you’ll get in the iPhone 11, but it does offer the large display and the convenience of Face ID for slightly more than Apple’s budget-friendly iPhone SE, and the battery life is great too.
Read our full Apple iPhone XR review
iPhone SE – Best value iPhone
Pros: A13 Bionic chipset | Reliable camera performance | Touch ID
Cons: Dated design | Surprisingly short battery life | 720p LCD display
The iPhone SE is a phone devoted to function over form, prioritising raw performance and camera capabilities over design or aesthetics, all in the name of hitting the budget market. With the A13 Bionic and a single 12Mp rear snapper, the iPhone SE looks to offer flagship-level performance for around half the price, and largely succeeds.
However, the focus on performance over design makes it a very un-Apple iPhone, and there are a few disappointing elements including the rather budget 720p LCD display and the dated design. The biggest disappointment, however, is battery life – if you do need the small form factor of the iPhone SE, be prepared to carry a battery pack around all day.
Still, if you want a reliable camera, fast performance, and guaranteed iOS updates for years to come without breaking the bank then this is the iPhone for you.
Read our full Apple iPhone SE (2020) review
It’s worth noting that older models, including the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and even the iPhone X are still available from third-party retailers looking to shift leftover stock, and the iPhone 13 range is on the horizon too, so prices could drop soon.
What should I consider when buying an iPhone?
One of the biggest deciding factors when on the market for an iPhone is the screen size you want, or most feel comfortable using – we don’t all have huge hands to use the iPhone 12 Pro Max one-handed, do we?
If you’re suited to smaller displays, your best bet is the iPhone 12 mini with its 5.4in display. The 4.7in iPhone SE does technically have a smaller display, but it’s actually slightly bigger than the 12 mini because it has much larger bezels.
It then jumps up to the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, both at 6.1in following a jump from the 11 Pro’s 5.8in display. If you want the biggest display possible, you’d be better off with the iPhone 12 Pro Max at 6.7in.
Performance is another element to consider when buying an iPhone, as you’ll likely want to get the most out of your device – especially at Apple’s prices. The good news is that the entire iPhone range features Apple’s A12, A13, or A14 Bionic chipset, guaranteeing great performance regardless of the model you opt for.
The only device with an A12 is 2018’s iPhone Xr, and while it’ll still provide great performance, it’s not quite as snappy as what’s on offer from the A13 (found on the iPhone 11 and SE) or A14 Bionic (across the iPhone 12 range) chipsets.
If cameras are important to you, then you’ve got a tough decision to make as it’s one area where the iPhone collection differs greatly. If you want the best possible camera experience, the combination of a main 12Mp sensor, an ultra-wide sensor and telephoto sensor available on the iPhone 12 Pro range may be best for you. If you can live without the telephoto lens, you can opt for the standard iPhone 11 or 12, which features the same main sensor and ultra-wide angle camera as the 11 Pro and 12 Pro phones respectively.
The iPhone Xr has a single 12Mp camera on the rear, meaning it’s quite limited compared to the iPhone 11 and 12 ranges, and it’s the same with the iPhone SE. The single lens will do if you’re not too fussed about photography, but don’t expect the same level of detail on offer from Apple’s high-end options.
Traditionally, battery life has been a bit of a problem when it comes to iPhones, especially when compared to Android counterparts and their huge batteries. But with that said, Apple has come leaps and bounds over the past couple of years when it comes to battery life, with the 12 Pro Max offering all-day battery life with average use – and then some – and it’s a similar story with the rest of the iPhone 12 range.
Battery capacity is somewhat tied to display size, as that’ll dictate how large the battery can be, but battery life is also improved by power-efficient chipsets. On the flip side, if battery is important to you, then you should stay well away from the iPhone SE – in our review, we noted how it’d struggle to provide 5 hours of screen time without needing a top-up. Yikes.
Apple introduced 5G support with the iPhone 12 range, so if you want the fastest connection speeds you’ll have to buy one of the latest iPhones.
5G availability is still limited in many countries and regions, but remember that it is improving, so upgrading to 5G might be seen as futureproofing – so long as you expect to stick with the same iPhone for at least another two years.
Of course, the biggest factor to consider is your budget: how much do you want to spend on your iPhone? The iPhone 12 Pro is a phenomenal smartphone, but starting at £999/$999, it should be – and that’s not even the most expensive iPhone available. That award goes to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which starts at £1,099/$1,099 and goes all the way up to £1,399/$1,399.
The iPhone 12’s £799/$799 price tag is much more attractive if you want flagship specs, and the 12 mini is even better at £699/$699. Meanwhile the 11 has officially dropped down to £599/$599, making it an even more attractive bet if you’re not fussed on the latest upgrades.
If not, the iPhone Xr’s £629/$599 price tag offers great value, especially with that large display and Face ID support. The cheapest iPhone is the iPhone SE at £419/$399, and although it does offer the same A13 chipset as the iPhone 11 range, there’s a compromise not only in terms of battery life but other areas too.
But hey, if you want to get into the iOS ecosystem at the cheapest price possible, the iPhone SE could be the one to go for.
Before you take the plunge, we recommend taking a look at our selection of the best smartphones right now to get a better understanding of the wider smartphone market and be sure you’re making the right decision.
Related stories for further reading
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Learn more.