Best iPhone 2021: which Apple phone is the top choice for you?

Best iPhone 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

There’s never been a better time to buy an iPhone, as the iPhone 12 range is Apple’s biggest and best iPhone range yet, complete with four models to choose from. 

There’s the basic iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, the massive iPhone 12 Pro Max (which is Apple’s biggest phone yet), and for the first time a mini model in the form of the iPhone 12 mini.

That’s on top of the budget iPhone SE (2020) which was launched slightly before them, plus a selection of older iPhones that you can still get a hold of. Given that Apple keeps its phones supported with software updates for a long time, buying an older model can often be a great way to save some money.

So there’s a lot to choose from, covering a range of sizes, designs, budgets, and features. To make your decision easier though we’ve ranked all the iPhones that Apple currently sells, as well as older models that can still be found from other retailers. You’ll find all that below, with a detailed overview of each model, so you can see what makes them tick.

Between the 12 options below there should be something for almost everyone – as long as you want iOS. But if you’re open to Android then it’s also worth checking out some of our other smartphone guides, linked below and to the right.

And it’s worth remembering that Apple always has new phones on the way. Next up will probably be the iPhone SE 3, which might land in or around April, then there’s the iPhone 13 range, which will almost certainly be announced in September. So if nothing catches your eye now, keep an eye on this guide to see what comes next.

Best iPhone: which one should you buy today?

iPhone 12

(Image credit: Future)

1. iPhone 12

The best Apple iPhone bang for your buck

Specifications

Weight: 164g

Dimensions: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm

OS: iOS 14

Screen size: 6.1-inch

Resolution: 1170 x 2532

CPU: A14 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB

Battery: Unknown

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Colorful OLED display  Future-proofed with 5G  

Reasons to avoid

Cameras are similar to last year Battery life only okay 

More expensive than the iPhone 11, the iPhone 12 makes up for that price hike with a wealth of new features that should prove useful in the coming months and years. 

That includes future-proofing courtesy of 5G support and the addition of MagSafe connectivity which enables you to attach things to your phone such as a charger or a case. 

The camera might be a little too similar to last year’s iPhone and the battery life remains merely okay, but there’s no denying that the iPhone 12 is a superior beast than the phones that have come before. 

Design wise, it’s returned to some of the stylings of the iPhone 4 or 5 and that’s actually a good thing, feeling comfier in your hands. There’s also the overdue switch to a colorful OLED display which reminds us again that Apple knows how to create a stylish looking as well as future-proof device. 

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 review

iPhone 12 Mini

2. iPhone 12 mini

The same as above, but smaller

Specifications

Weight: 135g

Dimensions: 131.5mm x 64.2mm x 7.4mm

OS: iOS 14

Screen size: 5.4-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2340

CPU: A14 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB

Battery: Unknown

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Smaller design looks great Fantastic display

Reasons to avoid

64GB isn’t enough storageBattery life only okay 

Apple has introduced an iPhone mini for the first time in its history of making handsets, and it’s almost exactly the same as the iPhone you’ve just read about above but it’s smaller.

There are a number of tiny spec differences – for example, wireless charging is notably slower on the iPhone 12 mini – but otherwise you’re getting top-end spec such as the powerful rear camera, 5G support and MagSafe support as well.

The design makes this phone easy to hold in a single hand, so if you’ve been crying out for a smaller iPhone that doesn’t lose out on the top-end specs that you get from other Apple devices this may well be for you.

As with the iPhone 12, the display is also fantastic on this handset too. You may not enjoy the battery life as that isn’t fantastic on the iPhone 12 mini, but if that’s your main focus you’ll like one of the phones coming up below.

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 mini review

iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

3. iPhone 12 Pro

Our third favorite iPhone

Specifications

Weight: 189g

Dimensions: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm

OS: iOS 14

Screen size: 6.1-inch

Resolution: 1170 x 2532

CPU: A14 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB

Battery: Unknown

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Varied color choices  Clear and vibrant screen 

Reasons to avoid

No charging block in box 5G still an expensive luxury 

More advanced than the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro is also more expensive and has better specs than the standard model. The internals are better, and there’s a superior camera. 

A fourth sensor alongside the standard iPhone 12 fare in the form of a LiDAR scanner makes it easier for the iPhone to work out what it’s looking at, doing a great job of detecting faces in low light situations. 

The iPhone 12 Pro also has a RAM boost – up to 6GB from 4GB – and that’s sure to help you get the most from whatever you’re doing on your phone. If you’re looking to edit videos on your phone, the iPhone 12 Pro is ideal for such a purpose. 

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual for the iPhone 12 Pro offering much of what the iPhone 12 already has for less, but if you want that extra oomph, it’s an impressive upgrade. For a price. 

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro review

iPhone 12 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

4. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The very best iPhone when it comes to spec

Specifications

Weight: 228g

Dimensions: 160.8mm x 78.1mm x 7.4mm

OS: iOS 14

Screen size: 6.7-inch

Resolution: 1284 x 2778

CPU: A14 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB

Battery: Unknown

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Long battery life Powerful rear camera

Reasons to avoid

Feel too largeVery, very expensive

After the very best iPhone that money can buy? The iPhone 12 Pro Max is exactly that, and we loved everything it can do. It takes a lot of what makes the three phones you can read about above and just tweaks a few elements to make it even better.

So why is it so low in our list of the best iPhones? This is an expensive handset, and the sheer size of this handset means it won’t be for everyone.

If you’re happy to spend money on it, and you want a phone with a mammoth 6.7-inch screen then you’ll be happy with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in your pocket. A lot of what we’ve said about the iPhone 12 Pro is true here, but there are a few benefits.

The battery life is better in the iPhone 12 Pro Max when compared to the other iPhones on this list, and you’ll also find it has a slightly more powerful rear camera than even the iPhone 12 Pro.

If you want the very best, you’ll have to pay for it. If you’re happy to, this is the best iPhone for you right now.

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro Max review

iPhone 11

(Image credit: Apple)

5. iPhone 11

Once the very best iPhone

Specifications

Weight: 194g

Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm

OS: iOS 13

Screen size: 6.1-inch

Resolution: 828 x 1792

CPU: A13 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/128/256GB

Battery: Unknown

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Great value Fast speeds at a discount Ultrawide lens is far better than telephoto

Reasons to avoid

Still an LCD screenGlass back attracts fingerprints

The iPhone 11 isn’t the highest-spec Apple phone, but it supersedes the iPhone XR ‘budget flagship’ in better ways to become the standout phone of its generation in terms of sheer value. 

Before the introduction of the iPhone 12, this was our favorite iPhone. True, it misses out on a telephoto lens, but like we found with the Samsung Galaxy S10e, a coupling of main and ultrawide lenses serve most photo needs. 

While it doesn’t get an OLED display, its LCD screen at least allows the phone to keep its best-in-generation battery life crown. And it even gets a bit more RAM – up to 4GB from its predecessor’s 3GB.

Add in iOS 14 and all the new tweaks coming in the iPhone 11 series and this phone is a lean, mean, photo-taking machine.

Read our in-depth iPhone 11 review

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

6. iPhone SE

The choice for those who want a cheaper iPhone

Specifications

Weight: 148g

Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm

OS: iOS 13

Screen size: 4.7-inch

Resolution: 750 x 1334

CPU: A13 Bionic

RAM: 3GB

Storage: 64/128/256GB

Battery: 1,821mAh

Rear camera: 12MP

Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

Cheapest ever iPhone Lightweight frame

Reasons to avoid

Battery life could be betterOld screen technology

Unveiled in April 2020, the new iPhone SE may look like an older iPhone but it comes with a lot of benefits over the rest of the range. The chief reason you may want to buy this is it’s the cheapest iPhone you can buy from Apple right now.

It comes with the same design as the iPhone 8, but this has upgraded internals such as an A13 Bionic chipset that is the same we’ve seen powering the three phones you’ll find above in this list.

It also comes with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which is something we haven’t seen on recent iPhones. The camera is good on this phone, but won’t compete with the very top iPhones and it has an average battery life too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the devices you’ve read about above you’ll love the iPhone SE.

Read our in-depth iPhone SE review

iPhone 11 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPhone 11 Pro

Once the best, but a bit too pricey

Specifications

Weight: 188g

Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm

OS: iOS 13

Screen size: 5.8-inch

Resolution: 1125 x 2436

CPU: A13 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/256/512GB

Battery: 3,046mAh

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Camera a real step forward Sizeable battery upgrade

Reasons to avoid

Similar to iPhone XS visuallyFew non-camera upgrades

The iPhone 11 Pro is a more advanced smartphone than the base iPhone 11, but it isn’t the best iPhone just because its price is a big step up too.

Sure, the smaller screen is one-hand-friendly, the screen quality is a bonus, and it’s Apple’s most affordable handset with three rear cameras, so it’s a decent phone all in all – that’s why it once sat in the second spot on this list of our best iPhones.

But money is a concern for most people when they’re looking for a new smartphone, and the big price step up may be questionable for most people when you put the stats side-by-side with the iPhone 11.

You can now find it cheaper since the debut of the iPhone 12 Pro though, so you may want to consider this over the latest handset.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review

iPhone 11 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

8. iPhone 11 Pro Max

Big phone, top price

Specifications

Weight: 226g

Dimensions: 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm

OS: iOS 13

Screen size: 6.5-inch

Resolution: 1242 x 2688

CPU: A13 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/256/512GB

Battery: Unknown

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

Three rear cameras Fastest, best iPhone out there

Reasons to avoid

ExpensiveMostly unchanged

The iPhone 11 Pro Max was not only a confusing shift in naming convention – it was once the biggest, fastest, baddest iPhone out there. It’s was also the most expensive at $1,099 starting price, which only goes up if you expand storage.

Not much changed from the iPhone XS Max, aside from the upgraded camera suite – but then again, adding an ultrawide lens is a big upgrade. The photo software has been upgraded, too, and switching between zoom levels is far smoother here than in other phones.

The battery level has been improved a staggering 4 hours over the iPhone XS Max, which holds true in our testing. And if you can get beyond the weird-looking triple-lens rear camera block, this is a slightly cheaper version of the iPhone 12 Pro Max above.

Read our in-depth iPhone 11 Pro Max review

(Image credit: Future)

9. iPhone XS

Another option for those looking for something compact

Specifications

Weight: 174g

Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm

OS: iOS 12

Screen size: 5.8-inch

Resolution: 1125 x 2436

CPU: A12 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/256/512GB

Battery: 2,659mAh

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

Smart HDR helps the camera Faster operation in one hand vs Max

Reasons to avoid

Battery life not world-beatingStill very expensive

Believe it or not, the iPhone XS was once Apple’s best ‘small’ phone. It has a 5.8-inch screen, so it’s more one-hand-friendly than a lot of the larger phones on this list, but it still packs a punch in terms of spec.

The iPhone XS may be a little older now, but it has a Smart HDR-capable 12MP camera, enhanced TrueDepth front-facing camera, and a fast A12 Bionic chipset, exactly like the larger iPhone XS Max.

In fact, this all-screen phone is pretty much the iPhone XS Max in a smaller form factor. It does have a smaller battery than the Max and obviously a smaller screen, but you will still capture the same great photos and videos on this device and play the same games. 

Plus, it’s cheaper that is used to be when it was the latest and greatest iPhone.

Read our in-depth iPhone XS review

(Image credit: Apple)

10. iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS Max is still a big, speedy phone

Specifications

Weight: 208g

Dimensions: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm

OS: iOS 12

Screen size: 6.5-inch

Resolution: 1242 x 2688

CPU: A12 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/256/512GB

Battery: 3,179mAh

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

Great big screen for games and movies Camera is strong for an iPhone

Reasons to avoid

Price: most expensive iPhone everSize can make it tricky to handle

This was once the very best iPhone if your hands and wallets were large enough. It has an expansive 6.5-inch OLED screen with HDR10 support to make colors pop. It’s the perfect phone if you want a giant screen, but it has now been replaced by the iPhone 11 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max we’ve mentioned above.

Behind that huge screen is a dual-lens 12MP camera. Apple outfitted it with Smart HDR and increased the sensor size to capture larger pixels. Don’t let that static 12MP number fool you. The iPhone XS Max (like the XS) has depth-sensing capabilities for adjustable bokeh (background blur) during and after a shot.

The TrueDepth camera returns with faster Face ID recognition, and your 7MP selfies get better depth control and Smart HDR, too. This is now cheaper than at launch too, so it may be a good option if you want lots of spec but don’t want to get the absolute latest iPhone.

Read our in-depth iPhone XS Max review

(Image credit: Future)

11. iPhone XR

Cheaper than ever

Specifications

Weight: 194g

Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm

OS: iOS 12

Screen size: 6.1-inch

Resolution: 1792 x 828

CPU: A12 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/128256GB

Battery: 2,942mAh

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

Great battery life for an iPhone Lower price tag and fun colors

Reasons to avoid

Some apps still not fully optimizedLower-res screen

The iPhone XR is a great upgrade for the average consumer who doesn’t want to pay for the most expensive iPhone money (a lot of money) can buy. This was Apple’s ‘cheap’ iPhone until the iPhone SE 2020 came along. 

It stands out with a variety of iPhone XR colors: Blue, White, Black, Yellow, Coral, Red. This contrasts heavily with the rather muted colors of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Yet it shares the same internal specs: Apple’s A12 Bionic chipset and a 12MP dual-lens camera with a single lens on back. 

You don’t get the dual-lens camera like you do on a higher-tier iPhone, so you miss out on telephoto shots. But Smart HDR is the real perk to taking great photos, and that’s here.

It’s cheaper, it’s more colorful and it has a big 6.1-inch screen. That’s enough for most people, especially those who aren’t insistent on an impressive OLED screen.

Read our in-depth iPhone XR review

(Image credit: Apple)

12. iPhone X

The iPhone that changed the range

Specifications

Weight: 174g

Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm

OS: iOS 11

Screen size: 5.8-inch

Resolution: 1125 x 2436

CPU: A11 Bionic

RAM: 3GB

Storage: 64/256GB

Battery: 2,716mAh

Rear camera: 12MP 12MP

Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

Brilliant screen Powerful innards

Reasons to avoid

Smart TrueDepth cameraIncredibly expensive

The iPhone X is as impressive as it is expensive, but if you really want a great modern iPhone without buying a newer device, this is the one to get today. 

It has a large all-screen display, except for a notch cutout at the top that houses a new TrueDepth Camera. This takes selfies to another level and can also map your face to an iPhone X-exclusive Animoji. If you don’t know what that is by now you probably won’t care.

The iPhone X is Apple’s 10th anniversary smartphone and has just about everything iPhone users have been asking for, from a more forward-leaning design to faster specs and new features. You’ll just have to get used to Face ID instead of reaching for that non-existent fingerprint sensor.

Read our in-depth iPhone X review

January 15, 2021
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