The most expensive iPhone isn’t always the best option. In this guide, we’ll show you which is the best iPhone for your exact needs. Apple makes a fair few models now, so even if you’re on a tight budget, there’s still plenty of options when it comes to picking up a new iPhone…
Best iPhone Guide 2021
Apple’s 2020/21 iPhone models all feature 5G and come with OLED displays. You also have some of the best camera tech Apple has ever created present on its iPhone 12 range.
But what is the best iPhone 12 model you can buy in 2021? We’ve listed our top picks below, based on our extensive testing of all the models. As always, we choose this order based on performance, value for money, and usability.
Later on this year, Apple will announce the iPhone 13. Generally speaking, these phones shouldn’t be too dissimilar to the iPhone 12.
They’ll be incremental updates but nothing too drastic. This means the iPhone 12 will still be a good (and cheaper) option towards the end of the year.
Apple’s iPhone 12 range has something for everybody – from cheaper models to premium models, and even small iPhone models.
Right now, these are our top three models from Apple’s iPhone 12 range based on that specific criteria.
#1) iPhone 12 Pro Max
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is Apple’s most expensive and advanced model. It has the best camera setup, the best battery life of the range, and the largest OLED display.
With the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you’ll pay a considerable amount of money for the phone. But the phone itself, thanks to its 5G connectivity, will be future-proofed for years to come.
Technically speaking, you could buy this phone now and still be running it just fine in five years’ time. This is a testament to just how powerful and well-supported Apple’s iPhones are.
#2) iPhone 12
If you can live with fancy cameras and just want a solid, reliable phone for quite a bit less than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 – the entry-level model – is the one to go for.
Like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 has an OLED display, comes with 5G, and it has a very impressive camera unit too, although it does lack the finesse of the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s setup.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max’s sensor is 47% larger than the one of the iPhone 12 and this brings massive performance boosts – low light photography is improved by 87% on the Pro Max model.
Still, I’d argue the iPhone 12 is the one to get for most people. It costs less than the Pro models, is just as good from a performance perspective, and it has all things you need from a modern smartphone – stuff like an OLED screen and 5G.
#3) iPhone 12 Mini
The iPhone 12 Mini has not sold well which is really surprising given how popular Apple’s original iPhone SE was. If you want a smaller iPhone option in 2021, however, the iPhone 12 Mini is the one to buy.
The iPhone 12 Mini has the smallest display of the range (5.4in versus 6.1in on the iPhone 12 and 6.8in on the iPhone 12 Pro Max). It packs in the same spec as the iPhone 12, though, so you don’t need to worry about performance or its camera.
It does run a smaller battery, however, so if battery life is something that is important to you, you’ll want to go with one of the larger iPhones. Either the iPhone 12 or the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Battery life is decent enough; the iPhone 12 Mini will see you through a full day with moderate usage. Heavy users may find themselves needing to top up the iPhone 12 Mini’s battery, however, especially if you’re making a lot of video calls.
Best iPhone Guide 2020
In 2020, Apple released several phones. You had the iPhone 11 range which include the standard model and the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the cheaper iPhone SE 2020.
With the release of the iPhone 12, the iPhone 11 range is now a lot cheaper – you can pick up the iPhone 11 for considerably less now than you could 12 months ago.
And if you can live without 5G, then the iPhone 11 is still very much worth getting in 2021 – all of the phones are still great.
Which iPhone is Best For Me? An Overview of All The Options…
The above-listed iPhones are our #1 recommendations based on extensive testing, value for money, and months of usage. Apple makes several, distinct iPhones are the moment inside its iPhone 11 range. Choosing the right iPhone for your exact needs is the most important thing, however, and this will depend on a range of factors – from your budget to the kind of specs and performance you want.
Below, we’ll examine each of Apple’s latest iPhones in more detail, covering off how they’re different and why you’d want to go with that particular model.
Check out our iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone XR: How Do They Compare to see which iPhone might be right for you.
#1) iPhone 11
iPhone 11 Pros:
- Cheaper Than iPhone XR Starting Price – Just $699
- Amazing Performance
- New Color Options
- Excellent, Updated Camera
- Outstanding Battery Life
- No OLED Display, But Who Cares!
The iPhone 11 base model is the perfect iPhone for 99.9% of people. Prices start from £30-£40 per month, making it cheaper than the iPhone XR. And you get updated internals, a significantly larger battery, and, of course, Apple’s new A13 chipset which is one of the most powerful processors ever created.
The iPhone 11 doesn’t have a triple-lens camera and it doesn’t have an OLED display. But so what? For £699, you’re getting one hell of a phone at a very good price (for an Apple product). The big deal here, however, is the camera; Apple’s updated it with a dual-lens setup, and the difference between it and the iPhone XR’s is like night and day.
And if you’ve ever wondered, where is my phone? Well, all iPhones – and Apple products – come with iCloud, and inside iCloud you can do just this, find any device, anywhere in the world!
For all intents and purposes, this is probably the best iPhone Apple has made in years. For performance, for battery life, for the camera – it’s all top-notch. And for me, that’s what an iPhone update should be about: taking something already excellent (the iPhone XR) and just making it better (and, in this context cheaper as well).
Bottom line? If I were in the market for an iPhone, this is the one I would be getting. Why? It’s well priced, it has brilliant battery life, and the camera aboard it kicks ass. What more could you want?
#2) iPhone 11 Pro Max – The Best For For Everything (Except Price)
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is Apple’s fully-loaded flagship phone. It has a large, 6.1in OLED display with XDR visuals which pretty much makes it the best phone display on the market right now. Again, the star of the show here is its camera; only here you have a triple-lens camera system.
And it is this new, updated camera system, along with the OLED display, that you’re paying for. Apple says the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s camera is the best on the market. Plenty of reviewers seem to agree with it too. But the Google Pixel 4 isn’t here yet – and that phone could well change everything.
For now, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the best option for those looking for optimum camera performance. Performance and internal spec are the same as the iPhone 11. Here, you’re paying for the OLED panel and the triple-lens camera system. If you can live without that, get the iPhone 11. If not, you might as well pick up the best of the best and get the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
iPhone 11 Pro Max Pros:
- Stunning 6.1in OLED Display
- Best-In-Class Triple-Lens Camera
- Outstanding Performance
- Mega Battery Life
- Beautiful Design
- 100% Water-Proof
#3) The iPhone SE 2020 – AKA The “Budget King”
If you want value for money and the latest Apple processor, the A13, then 2020’s iPhone SE release should be high on your hit-list. Essentially a redux of Apple’s iPhone 8, the iPhone SE 2020 packs in the latest A13 CPU, an updated 12MP camera, and the same, classic design as Apple’s now-discontinued iPhone 8.
The iPhone SE 2020 is also Apple’s cheapest iPhone to date – you can pick it up for hardly any money at all on contract compared to Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models. Prices start from as little as £25 a month, as you can see inside our dedicated iPhone SE 2020 Deals Page which pulls in all the latest offers from the UK’s best phone networks.
The iPhone SE 2020 brings back TouchID and the home button too. There’s still no headphone jack, sadly, but if you’re after a small iPhone – the SE 2020 has a 4.7in display – with the latest and greatest Apple specs for an unbeatable price, the iPhone SE 2020 is definitely worth a look in 2020.
iPhone SE 2020 Pros:
- Small, Compact Design
- It Has A Home Button
- Updated 12MP Camera
- A13 CPU – Same As iPhone 11 Pro Max
- Cheapest iPhone You Can Buy
Which iPhone Should You Buy?
Apple’s iPhone has developed a lot during the last several years. The iPhone X introduced a new form-factor, ditching the home button and adding OLED displays into the mix. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max iterated on this design, taking things a step further with improved performance and better camera setup. But it was the iPhone XR that broke all the records last year.
Beyond this, Apple’s iPhones are still the most secure mobile device on the planet. And now, thanks to big investments in imaging technology, Apple’s iPhones possess some of the best cameras around. Couple this with the company’s market-leading A-Series CPU, massive App Store, and it is easy to see why millions of people switch to the iPhone every year.
In 2019, we had the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, all amazing phones. But for the vast majority of people, what is the best iPhone you can buy right now? And more importantly, out of Apple’s new iPhone 11 range, how much do the iPhone 11 phones actually cost?
In 2020, Apple released the iPhone SE (2020), and, as you can see inside our review of the iPhone SE 2020, this phone is one of the best options right now when it comes to value for money. It features Apples’ A13 CPU and is based on the iPhone 8’s design, so it is not only supremely portable but also hugely powerful – it runs the same CPU as Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max. And this is very significant from a user perspective.
All Current iPhone 11 Models + How They’re Different
- The Flagship (Best Features, Highest Price) – If you want the best of the best with respect to cameras, display technology, and battery life, you’ll want to get either the iPhone 11 Pro or the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The Pro Max model has a larger display (6.1in versus 5.8in on the Pro) and a larger battery. The cameras, internal spec, and design are identical, though, save for its larger dimensions – (VIEW LATEST DEALS)
- The “Jack of All Trades” Option – If you just want a solid iPhone experience with great battery life and a decent camera, the iPhone 11 is the one to go for. It has Apple’s new modern design, a 6.1in LCD panel, and very impressive battery life. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper than the iPhone 11 Pro models; prices start from $699.£699 – (VIEW LATEST DEALS)
- The “Budget” Option – If you want an iPhone that is small, portable, and ultra-powerful for less than $400/£400, the iPhone SE 2020 is the one to go for. Based on the iPhone 8’s design, the iPhone SE 2020 packs in the same processor as the iPhone 11 Pro Max and is extremely powerful. It’s also the cheapest iPhone Apple has ever released – (VIEW LATEST DEALS)
- The “Other Way” Option – If you want to save some money on an iPhone, but you want a flagship model, you could think about buying a refurbished iPhone; doing so will save you around 40-50% compared to buying a brand new iPhone. Interested? Check out our Complete Guide All About Buying Refurbished iPhones for more information. Spoiler: I always buy my iPhones refurbished for the simple reason that I like to own my phone outright and I cannot afford new iPhones!
Best iPhone 2018/19 – Our #1 Picks…
#1) The iPhone XR is The Best iPhone – And The Reason is Value For Money!
iPhone XR Pros
- Great Design, Totally Unique
- Cheaper Than iPhone XS and iPhone XS MAX
- Brilliant Battery Life
- Similar Performance To iPhone XS MAX Flagship
- It Will Get iOS Updates For Years To Come
- Click Here For The Latest Deals
An unpopular opinion? Maybe. But the iPhone XR, if I were in the market for a new iPhone, is the one I’d go for. Why’s that? Simple: it is practically the iPhone XS MAX’s equal in all areas, save for the fact it doesn’t run an OLED display. And for this reason, I would say it is the best iPhone you can buy right now.
If you can live without an OLED display, you’ll save A TON of money on the retail price and still get the same camera and software performance. Another bonus? The iPhone XR comes in a range of color options and, for me, this makes it way more unique than Apple’s iPhone XS Max. Couple this with the iPhone XR’s amazing specs and performance, and it’s easy to see why many view the iPhone XR as the best iPhone for 2019.
The iPhone XR, thanks to its lower-resolution display, has some of the best battery life performance of any iPhone ever made. If battery life, design, camera tech, and performance are important to you, the iPhone XR is very hard to beat. For me, it is the #1 iPhone for value for money, good looks, and performance.
iPhone XS MAX Pros
- Best In Class Camera Tech
- Best In Class Performance
- It’s Big (And This Can Be Good & Bad, Depending On The User)
- Display is Fantastic (Stunning OLED Panel)
- Up To 512GB of Storage Available
- Click Here For The Latest Deals
If your motto for life is, Go BIG or go home, then the iPhone XS MAX is just what the doctor ordered. The iPhone XS Max is the biggest iPhone Apple has ever built; it packs in an enormous 6.5in OLED display with a resolution of 1242 x 2688. The iPhone XR is also the best iPhone money can buy too – it’s just you’ll need A LOT of money to buy one.
Inside, you have Apple’s A12 Bionic chipset, 4GB of RAM, and one of the best cameras in the business. And while it is only a 12MP sensor, Apple’s image processing software combined with Smart HDR is extremely impressive, resulting in some of the best mobile camera experiences around. With respect to performance, the iPhone XS Max, like the iPhone XR, is an absolute monster. Apple’s iPhones have consistently wiped the floor with Google’s Android phones during the past few years and this is all down to Apple’s monumentally impressive A12 chipset.
For this reason, it is, arguably, the best iPhone you can buy now, providing you don’t mind paying extra. And this is its only real downside. The iPhone XS Max is VERY expensive – but what did you expect from the company that brought the world’s first $1000+ phone to market!
iPhone XS Pros:
- Great Design, Just Like The XS Max
- Smaller, More Compact (5.8in OLED Display)
- Brilliant Camera
- Immense Power From Apple’s A12 CPU
- As Good As iPhone XS Max, Just Smaller
- Click Here For The Latest Deals
If you can’t stomach a phone with a 6.5in display, then Apple’s iPhone XS could well be right up your street. This phone is more or less identical to the iPhone XS Max, save for battery performance and screen size, and that’s a very good thing indeed.
The imaging is identical. You have the same dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, the same Smart HDR software, and the same overall performance when snapping and shooting images. Only this time, all of that kit is housed inside a smaller package.
The iPhone XS’ battery life isn’t quite as good as the iPhone XS Max on account of its smaller-sized battery. But that’s to be expected. You do get the same amount of RAM and the same storage options – 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB.
If you want a smaller iPhone that has an OLED display, the iPhone XS is hard to beat…
Best “Budget” iPhones
iPhone X Pros:
- Solid Design, Looks Just Like iPhone XS
- Great OLED Display
- Very Good Camera Performance (Front & Back)
- Performance is Still Stellar (Even By 2019’s Standards)
- Go Reconditioned Route & You’ll Save a Ton of Cash
- Click Here For The Latest Deals
The iPhone X is now kinda old. But that’s a good thing because you can pick one up for A LOT less than both the iPhone XR and iPhone XS. And the best way to do this is to go the reconditioned iPhone route – I use Gazelle for this.
Why reconditioned? Simple: you’ll save upwards of 40% on an iPhone X and it will look and work as good as new. No one will know it’s reconditioned and Gazelle has extremely stringent tests that it puts all of its handsets through so as to ensure they’re fit for resale.
By 2019 standards, the iPhone X is no longer the best iPhone you can buy. However, it is still a VERY good option. The processing power under the hood, the design, and the camera are all still top-notch, so if you want that all-screen iPhone experience, just at a fraction of the cost the iPhone X could well be the best iPhone option for you right now.
The iPhone X is still a very solid option too. It’ll get iOS updates for years to come, it looks more or less the same as Apple’s most current phones, and it has a great camera and display. But you can get one for about $300 less than the price of a new iPhone XR, and if you’re in the market for value for money, that’s a helluva deal!
iPhone 8 Plus Pros:
- TouchID – I Actually Prefer It To FACE ID
- Plenty of Power – Apple’s A-Series Chipset is Brilliant
- Up to 256GB of Storage
- Solid Design, A Classic-Looking iPhone
- 70% Faster Than iPhone 7 Model
- Click Here For The Latest Deals
What if you want a powerful iPhone, but you don’t want to pay close to $1000 for the pleasure? Simple: you get the iPhone 8 Plus. This handset, which retains TouchID, is still impressively powerful and, despite modern design changes, still looks really smart. If you’re using an iPhone 4 or 4s still, the iPhone 8 Plus will feel like a MAJOR update. Also: stop using iPhone 4 models; Apple no longer supports them!
And because the iPhone 8 Plus is older, you can pick one up for very little money, which means you can buy outright and avoid expensive, restrictive phone plans altogether. Go the reconditioned route, and you can grab a fully-loaded iPhone 8 Plus for $469 – that’s dirt cheap for a phone of this quality.
And don’t be put off that it’s reconditioned; phones from Gazelle are rigorously tested, look and perform like brand new, and even come with a robust 30-day returns policy, so if it isn’t up to chalk, you simply send it back for a replacement or your money back.
Things To Keep In Mind When Buying An iPhone…
Tens of millions of people buy iPhones every single quarter. This fact alone is why Apple is the most profitable company in the consumer technology space. Tack on the fact that its phones are VERY expensive and it’s easy to see why Apple’s consistently #1 in the profitability stakes…
But just because everybody buys iPhones, with 90% getting them on contract/plans, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. You can do things differently and save some money in the process. This is why I did this article; to emphasize that there is another way to get iPhone performance without breaking the bank.
It’s also why I put the iPhone 11 as the #1 iPhone you can buy right now. In terms of raw specs and performance, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the outright best – at least from a marketing perspective. But when you’re talking about consumer advice, you have to consider more than this – things like value for money just aren’t talked about enough these days.
And this is why I’ve brought up reconditioned iPhones. For value for money, going this route when buying an iPhone pays dividends in the long run. The most notable of which is that you can actually buy an iPhone outright and then shop around for the best plan. And when you do find that plan, it’ll be dramatically cheaper than if you bought it to support the purchase of a $1200+ iPhone XS Max.
Recap: What’s The Best iPhone For You?
Bottom line? If you’re rich – or someone else is buying you this phone, and they’re rich – get the iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max; they’re the best for overall performance and specs. You know, all the shiny stuff that allows Apple to constantly charge more for its phones even though you mostly do the same things with all of them…
On a budget, but keen on going the contract/plan route? Get the iPhone 11; it’s cheaper than both the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max and, in my opinion, is just as good. Personally, I’d take the iPhone 11 over the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max any day of the week. But I’m a sucker for value for money!
On a budget and want to buy your iPhone outright? Go the reconditioned route; Gazelle sells iPhones (as well as iPads, MacBooks, and Samsung phones) for 40% less than Apple’s official program. Getting an iPhone this way will save you money and allow you to shop around for the best deal for your plan.
I’ve had multiple phones from Gazelle over the years and they’ve all functioned perfectly. If you like value for money and want a properly good iPhone, just for 40% less… it is the #1 option available to you right now. Period.
An Overview of Apple’s OLD iPhones – Just In Case You Wanna Go Ultra-Cheap on Cost…
It’s fair to say that if you’re shopping for a new iPhone, even the cheapest iPhone, you’re not really “on a budget” by any stretch of the imagination. In other words, all new iPhones are expensive. The iPhone SE, however, is certainly the most affordable of the entire range – it costs as little as $159!
This makes it potentially the best choice if you do insist on partaking in Apple’s ecosystem – as well as its unique blend of design, hardware, and software – but also want to spend as little as possible; something more in mid-rage Android price territory.
Or if you just want that Apple logo on your device at the lowest possible outlay. That said, another good reason why you might find the iPhone SE the best iPhone for you, is if you’re an Apple fan, want in on its services, software, and the level of polish it brings to its phones, but are absolutely sure you want a smaller screen.
The iPhone SE is the only model available with the older size 4in display, making it much more pocket-friendly than the rest of the line-up, which range from 4.7in on the regular editions, up to 5.5in on the Plus models, and up to 5.8in on the iPhone X (though admittedly squeezed into a smaller shell in an edge-to-edge arrangement).
The iPhone SE has been on the market for a little while now, but as with many Apple products, the hardware has been engineered carefully and the firm continually refines new editions of the iOS software to be just as well optimized to it now, with added features, services, and interface tweaks, as it was at launch.
This smaller iPhone with a less demanding touch display is much kinder to battery life than many modern “phablet” size devices, which require enormous battery cells just to keep in the same ballpark. Being a lower-cost model doesn’t mean it holds back in key areas where things really matter either, the camera quality on the iPhone SE is superb, as is the sharpness, color, and clarity of the Retina display.
Processor performance is decent too, thanks to Apple’s carefully curated software ecosystem. To give you an indication of what’s good about the iPhone SE, here are some excerpts from our original review: “Where this phone really comes into its own is the performance, imaging, and battery life. Plus you get all the rich trappings of Apple’s brilliant ecosystem, which, in many ways, cannot be equaled. The iPhone SE is a solid, solid performer across the board. It does everything you want it to and performs like an absolute champ! I have no qualms recommending this handset to anyone that is looking for a smaller, but equally powerful handset.”
iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus: Best Value iPhone
If you’re not in the market for the very latest and greatest – and most expensive – but still want an iPhone, and yet don’t want an itty-bitty 4in touchscreen from the iPhone SE, you’re left looking at the rest of Apple’s legacy range. And you can pick up a reconditioned iPhone 7 Plus for around $300!
This basically consists of the iPhone 6s series, the iPhone 7 series, and the newer iPhone 8 series. We find it pretty much impossible to recommend the iPhone 8 and its larger sibling, the iPhone 8 Plus. Essentially, Apple really dropped the ball here on a number of fronts. It clearly spent too much time focusing on the iPhone X, as the specs and features between the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 7 hardly seem like an upgrade at all.
At the same time, the iPhone 8 cost considerably more than the iPhone 7 at launch – $699 and $799 for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus respectively, versus $549 and $669 for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus – while not offering much that is new for that hiked price point. However, the iPhone 8, as well as the iPhone 7 series, are now both VERY affordable if you get them from the right place.
And lastly, on the subject of bashing the iPhone 8, it is riddled with bugs and production faults, according to multiple widely circulated reports from users and reviewers alike. That being the case, you could and probably should follow the tune of millions of other consumers who turned their noses up at the iPhone X and iPhone 8 after launch and opted instead for an older iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.
You’ll save a ton of money, get most of the same features (particularly the really good ones), and all with fewer headaches. And if you want to save EVEN more cash, check out reconditioned units via Gazelle – they’re around 40% cheaper than new RRP.
Choosing Between The iPhone 7 vs the iPhone 7 Plus
Ah well, that’s a much trickier question. Swings and roundabouts, I’m afraid. On the one hand, the iPhone 7 is much cheaper than its larger stable-mate, and it’s also smaller and easier for your hand and pocket. However, the iPhone 7 Plus has a superior dual-sensor camera and, more importantly in our view, a substantial difference in battery life.
The iPhone 7 Plus (indeed, most iPhone Plus models) will see you going far longer than their smaller counterparts. Here at KYM, we’d likely take the iPhone 7 Plus first every day of the week, because we’re used to bigger phones by now and we love high-end cameras and BIG battery life – saying that in a hypothetical “money no object” sense, otherwise we probably wouldn’t be in the market for an iPhone at all!
Ultimately for us that means if you’re stumping up the money for a new iPhone you might as well go hard or go home. And hard in this context, means the iPhone 7 Plus – Plus models are ALWAYS better. They have better battery life and, in some cases, better specs and performance. Bottom line: both the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone 7 Plus are now seriously cheap.
What About Apple’s iPhone 6 & iPhone 6s series?
The iPhone 6s series was great when it first launched. But that was A LONG time ago now. And for this reason, I would avoid getting the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s in 2019 – too much time has passed.
Things have moved on and, despite excellent hardware, you’re going to be missing a lot of features and performance running one of these older handsets.
Applications move with the times, and so do web standards, things change, usually for the better, every year. But these changes to apps and web standards require more raw processing power and newer GPU technologies to run them smoothly and securely. An iPhone 6/iPhone 6s in 2019 just ain’t up to the task.
If you do want to save a ton of money, but still get yourself an iPhone, have a look at Gazelle – it sells reconditioned iPhones for 40% less than Apple. You can get pretty much any model, though the newer ones – the iPhone 11 Pro, for instance – are obviously more expensive. But then again, the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are the best iPhones Apple has made to date.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.