This is a challenging time if you’re in the market for the best iPhones. It’s not that the current crop of Apple phones disappoint — they still rank among the best phones overall. And if you do need an iPhone right now, any one of the current models would be a great pick-up.
But we’re about a month out from the iPhone 14 announcement, with the iPhone 14 release date looking like it will happen around mid-September. If you can hold out until then, you cannot only consider Apple’s new phones but also see what kind of price drops Apple institutes on its current phones.
Speaking of those phones, you’re not hurting for choice if you do want to get the best iPhone right now. All of the iPhone 13 models impress, with different sizes and prices available to meet everyone’s tastes. And Apple supplements those newer phones with older models available at a reduced cost.
Whether you’re a long-time iPhone fan or just making the switch from Android to iPhone, we can help you find a phone you’ll be happy to use. Here’s how we rank the best iPhones currently available.
What are the best iPhones?
For the next month at least, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best iPhone you can buy — a nearly perfect phone thanks to its stellar cameras, adaptive display and long battery life. Pick up this $1,099 phone (the same price Apple charged for last year’s champ, the iPhone 12 Pro Max), and you won’t be disappointed.
Want something a little less expensive? At $799, the iPhone 13 is the best iPhone for most people. While it lacks the dynamically adjusting displays of the iPhone 13 Pro models, its cameras are powerful enough in their own right. Throw in an improved battery, brighter display and that powerful A15 chip, and Apple’s got another great choice in its iPhone 13 lineup. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 mini have their own distinct appeal, although it sounds like mini iPhones are on their way out.
Apple’s kept around two members of 2020’s iPhone 12 family. You can buy either the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini for $100 less than their iPhone 13 counterparts. The iPhone 12 mini, in particular, stands out as a great value, as it now costs less than $600. The iPhone 11 ($499) gives you a low-cost option, while the $429 iPhone SE (2022) is now Apple’s least expensive 5G phone. Here’s a look at reasons to buy or skip the new iPhone SE.
If you can wait until the fall before getting a new iPhone, the iPhone 14 figures to bring more improvements, particularly to the iPhone 14 Pro models. Here’s a closer look at potential iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 13 differences along with an explanation of why we’re excited about the entirely new iPhone 14 Max model that’s rumored to be in the works.
Back to school and the best iPhones
School will be back in session before you know it, which means that you should check out any back-to-school sales to see if there are any discounts on the best iPhones. While Apple’s back-to-school promo concentrates on Macs and iPads, other retailers and wireless carriers may offer iPhone deals for anyone looking to pick up a new iPhone, whether you’re a student or not. With new iPhones coming in the fall, you might find deals on current models as retailers and carriers look to clear space for the iPhone 14. Be sure to follow our back-to-school guide for all of your shopping needs this season.
The best iPhones you can buy right now
There’s no topping the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the best iPhone Apple currently offers and a near-perfect device. Pick a category, and the iPhone 13 Pro likely dominates it. The phone adds an adaptive display that can automatically scale its refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz depending on what task you’re performing. That, combined with a larger battery and efficient AT 15 Bionic processor, help the iPhone 13 Pro Max last more than 12 hours on our battery test — an outstanding time.
Those features are all impressive, but the truly great thing about the iPhone 13 Pro Max may be its cameras. The setup is the same as before, with three rear lenses, but Apple has turned to bigger sensors to let in more light, with the ultrawide angle shooter particularly adept at teasing color and detail out of the dark areas of shots. The telephoto lens is better too, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max now supporting a 3x optical zoom.
You’d have to search pretty hard to find many flaws with this phone, and they’re mostly about thing we wish Apple would have added like some form of Touch ID. But the iPhone 13 Pro Max features that are there impress and reaffirm Apple’s place as the industry-leading phone maker.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.
The best iPhone for most people will be the $799 iPhone 13, which properly balances a more affordable price with some stellar features. By skipping the more expensive Pro line, you won’t get the fast-refreshing displays, but there are enough great features here to make the iPhone 13 a worthy upgrade from any past iPhone.
One of the best things about this new model is its storage — Apple finally includes 128GB with the base model, so you don’t necessarily have to jump to the next storage tier just to fit everything on your phone. The A15 processor — the same one found in the iPhone 13 Pro models — continues to set the pace for mobile processors, allowing the iPhone 13 to outperform any Android device.
As with any iPhone 13 model, the real story here is the cameras. The iPhone 13 still features two rear lenses, but they have bigger sensors which should translate to improved low-light photography. What’s more, Apple includes a number of computational-powered features like Cinematic mode to automatically shift focus when you’re shooting video. It’s an impressive array of features in a phone that’s affordable priced.
Read our full iPhone 13 review.
The iPhone 13 Pro is every bit the great phone that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is, only slightly smaller and $100 less expensive. Unlike in past years, where the larger Pro Max was the clear superior phone, there’s little separating the two iPhone 13 Pro models. So you’re free to get the size you prefer, and for many, that will be the 6.1-inch Pro option with its $999 price.
For that money, you get the dynamically refreshing display found on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Like its bigger sibling, the iPhone 13 Pro also features a larger battery — how big Apple hasn’t said, but it translates to more than 11.5 hours of battery life in our test. The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera improvements are on hand in the iPhone 13 Pro, too, including powerful software features like Cinematic mode.
Get the iPhone 13 Pro if you want the best features Apple offers in a smartphone, but in a more slender package than the massive iPhone 13 Pro Max model.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review.
The iPhone 13 mini is the most powerful compact phone Apple’s ever made, thanks to that A15 Bionic chip that powers all the iPhone 13 models. That means the best performance in a smartphone can also be found in Apple’s 5.4-inch model, which also happens to be the least expensive entry in the iPhone 13 lineup.
Compact phones aren’t for everyone, and you won’t find the dynamically refreshing displays featured with the iPhone 13 Pro models, but the iPhone 13 mini has plenty to recommend it. It’s got the same camera setup as the iPhone 13, with larger sensors that let in more light than before. The display is also brighter than the iPhone 12 mini’s screen, and battery life is improved, if ever so slightly.
This may be the last mini phone Apple makes if rumors about future iPhone plans are ture. If so, the iPhone 13 mini goes out with style.
Read our full iPhone 13 mini review.
The iPhone SE (2022) is the most budget-friendly option in the modern iPhone lineup. Starting at $429 for the 64GB model, the latest SE is a veritable powerhouse that runs laps around anything else at this price point. You will not find something that performs better under $500.
With the same A15 Bionic chipset that’s in the iPhone 13, the iPhone SE (2022) can power through any task you set before it, all in an incredibly compact body. However, the 4.7-inch LCD is a bit of a letdown with a low resolution by today’s standards (1344 x 750). The chunky bezels of the classic iPhone design also look incredibly dated.
Perhaps the most egregious omission from the new SE is the lack of Night mode. It’s even sadder because the phone takes great photos in daylight. And it also lacks mmWave 5G, so people hoping to take advantage of Verizon’s Ultra Wideband network will be left out in the cold with the latest iPhone SE. Apple’s phone certainly came up short in our Google Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE 2022 comparison.
Read our full iPhone SE (2022) review.
The iPhone 13 mini may be a great compact phone, but for something a little bit cheaper, try the iPhone 12 mini. It may be a year older, but the iPhone 12 mini doesn’t skimp on features. You get the same A14 processor found in the other iPhone 12 models, and the rear cameras on the iPhone 12 mini are every bit as impressive as the ones found on the larger iPhone 12. Even better, it’s now $100 cheaper, as it makes way for the iPhone 13 mini.
Like the rest of the iPhone 12 lineup, the iPhone 12 mini offers 5G connectivity, supporting all flavors of the faster networking standard. That includes mmWave 5G, which is particularly impressive given the number of antennas Apple had to fit inside such a compact phone. And the mini has the most attractive price of any new iPhone, now starting at just $599.
Overall, the iPhone 12 mini is one of the best iPhones yet because its design is so refreshing. And the addition of a purple option to the original five colors gives you yet another way to get an iPhone that matches your particular tastes.
Read our full iPhone 12 mini review.
The iPhone 12 features many of the best aspects of the iPhone 12 Pro, but for less money — this model now starts at $300 less than Apple’s Pro handset after a price cut triggered by the iPhone 13 launch. But you’re not making too many compromises to get this more affordable iPhone.
After all, the iPhone 12 has the same A14 Bionic processor and comprehensive 5G connectivity as the more expensive Pro model. You only get two rear cameras on the iPhone 12, but they perform better than ever, thanks to software improvements Apple made. A new 7-element lens on the main camera combined with a wider aperture than before means better photos in low-light and sharper images overall.
The LCD panel Apple used on the iPhone 12’s predecessor is gone, replaced by an OLED screen that offers the same 6.1 inches of display real estate as before. You’re still confined to 64GB of storage in the base model and there’s no charger included with the phone, but otherwise, this remains a stellar addition to the iPhone lineup.
Read our full iPhone 12 review.
The iPhone 11 hasn’t been the new kid in town for a while, with Apple releasing two subsequent generations of phones after this device’s 2019 debut. But it’s still available and it’s the least expensive it’s ever been at $499. That price, combined with the fact that the A13 Bionic processor is still more powerful than contemporary Android phones, makes this a good buy.
As with the iPhone 12, you are giving up a dedicated telephoto lens, as the iPhone 11 features a 12-MP wide angle and ultra wide angle shooters. But it’s capable of the same camera effects as the rest of the iPhone 11 family, including portrait shots, ultra wide angle selfies and Night Mode for better low-light photos. You can also expect more than 11 hours of battery life from the iPhone 11, though you’ll have to spring for a separately-sold fast-charging adapter to juice back up at the quickest speeds.
The iPhone 11 lacks 5G. If that’s important to you, you may want to turn to the new iPhone SE or one of the cheap iPhone 12 models. Even with those phones, there are still reasons why you’d want to buy the iPhone 11 instead.
See our full iPhone 11 review.
How to choose the best iPhone for you
Once you’ve figure out when is the best time to buy an iPhone, take stock of the features and capabilities that matter most to you. If battery life is especially important, seek out a larger iPhone, as they tend to have bigger batteries to match their screen size. What’s more, because iOS is known to be generally efficient in terms of energy consumption, even the smaller models tend to last longer than average on a charge.
If you’re basing your next iPhone purchase off camera quality, the top-tier Pro variants are easy recommendations, thanks to triple-lens designs that allow you to capture multiple different perspectives, from zoomed-out ultra wide-angle images to shallow depth-of-field portraits. They’re also remarkably good in challenging lighting scenarios, like when shooting in a dimly-lit indoor space, or outdoors at night.
All that said, if price is king, and saving the absolute most on your next smartphone purchase is your top priority, you should have no reservations about nabbing an iPhone 11; we’re still evaluating the iPhone SE 2022 that Apple just announced. those two phones may be on the cheaper side of Apple’s range, but they’re still made of flagship-quality materials, with enough power and performance to sustain years of use.
However, be mindful of storage. The $499 iPhone 11 and $599 iPhone 12 mini only come with 64GB of space at those prices; if you want more capacity, be prepared for that price tag to go up. The iPhone 13 addresses that problem by bumping base storage to 128GB.
If you buy your iPhone through Apple, you may be able to save money by trading in your current phone. Apple’s trade-in rebates promise anywhere from $90 up to $600 off if you have an iPhone 8 or newer. (The trade-in value increases for newer models.) Note that those trade-in values are smaller than they were earlier this summer, a sign that we’re getting closer to the fall iPhone launch.
We also track special offers from carriers and retailers to find the best iPhone deals by model:
When Apple releases new iPhones, it cuts the price on the models it keeps around. That’s why you’re paying less for the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 11 since the iPhone 13’s arrival.
Apple’s current lineup is expected to stay in place for some time. The iPhone 14 likely won’t debut until this fall. When it comes, we’re expecting four models with the iPhone 14 Max replacing the mini option. The iPhone 14 Pro models figure to get the most high-profile changes with a notch-free design and potentially a faster processor. Our iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro comparison looks at the likely differences.
All of the iPhones mentioned here can run iOS 15, which is currently up to iOS 15.6 is now available. Still, the focus will be on iOS 16 going forward as Apple preps that version for release in the fall. If you’d like to explore iOS 16, currently available as a public beta, check our our guide to the iOS 16 features, including tips and tricks on the iPhone software’s latest features.
How we test iPhones
As with any smartphone we test at Tom’s Guide, we evaluate iPhones for days in real-world use cases. We also benchmark Apple’s phones using a gamut of performance-measuring apps that allow us to compare iPhone performance to what Android devices are capable of. In addition to synthetic benchmarks, we also run real-world tests, including a video transcoding test in Adobe Premiere Rush that compares the iPhone’s processing speed with other devices.
In our lab, we use a light meter to ascertain display quality data, like brightness and color accuracy to help us evaluate the display of the best iPhones. Our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by endlessly streaming webpages over an LTE network; we then recharge the iPhones to see how quickly they charge in 15-minute intervals.
To compare cameras, we take any iPhone we review out and shoot photos in a variety of settings. We also bring along a comparable smartphone to see how the iPhone’s photographic output measures up.
We explore Apple’s iOS improvements, test gaming performance and evaluate the phone’s speakers — and each of these factors play a part in our final verdict.