Deciding which iPhone to buy has always been tricky. Which screen size is best for you, and how much storage do you need? Should you save money by selecting an older model, or should you splash out on the latest iPhone 13 or 13 Pro… or even the 13 Pro Max? Is the iPhone SE or the 11 the best compromise between specs and value for money?
In this article we talk you through each of the phones currently available from Apple, to help you decide which is best for you. We discuss price, specs and features, and you should leave feeling much more confident about your buying decision. Read our iPhone deals roundup for more advice on getting the lowest possible price.
Here’s your grand overview of Apple’s current iPhone range:
It’s an okay time to buy. If you can, we’d recommend waiting until September, when the iPhone 14 is expected to launch and any current models that survive will drop in price, but that’s still four months from now. There won’t be any changes to the line-up–no price cuts, no new models–until then.
This is tricky. The eight models of iPhone feature four different screen sizes:
iPhone 13 Pro Max: 6.7 inches
iPhone 13 Pro: 6.1 inches
iPhone 13: 6.1 inches
iPhone 13 mini: 5.4 inches
iPhone 12: 6.1 inches
iPhone 12 mini: 5.4 inches
iPhone 11: 6.1 inches
iPhone SE (2022): 4.7 inches
The size which suits you best is going to come down to personal preference: a larger screen is obviously nice to have, and will make games and videos look much better, but you’ll pay for it in terms of price (the 13 Pro), price and a bulkier handset (13 Pro Max) or older tech (the 11). You will probably need to compromise.
There are those, on the other hand, who value portability, and were disappointed when Apple discontinued the 4-inch iPhone SE from 2016. The 2022 version of the iPhone SE is a little bigger, but it’s the most portable iPhone currently available.
If you’re really unsure which iPhone size is going to suit you best, we’d highly recommend visiting an Apple Store and trying them out in person. If that’s not an option, try mocking up the sizes with cardboard. You’ll find the full dimensions of each phone listed below.
How much storage do I need?
Each iPhone is available in between two and four capacity options. It’s important to consider how much you need before buying because iPhones don’t have a microSD card slot that will allow you to add additional storage at a later date; but these days, with the minimum allocation a very respectable 64GB, this may be less of a worry. It all depends how much stuff you like to put on your device.
To be honest, 64GB will be enough for most people; consider carefully whether you need any more than that before you cough up extra cash. Have a look at your current phone’s usage (go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage) and think about how much space you really need. Read How much storage do you need on an iPhone? for detailed advice.
The new terabyte option added to the iPhone range for the first time in fall 2021, and available on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max only, is one for the most demanding buyers of all. If you record, and need to have continual easy access to, large quantities of high-resolution video, this may be a boon. But for most it will be overkill.
Which iPhone should I buy?
With the preliminaries completed, here’s a breakdown of each iPhone model to help you decide which is best for you.
This is the emperor: the flagship at the top of Apple’s phone range. You cannot currently find a better iPhone than this. Or a costlier one: it starts at $1,099 for the 128GB option, and tops out at an astonishing $1,599 for 1TB. (Most people will be fine with 128GB, but it’s nice to have the option of a terabyte.)
Still, you get what you pay for. In this case that means a glorious 6.7-inch, 458ppi, True Tone OLED screen with ProMotion, the dynamic tech that lets the refresh rate get as high as 120Hz in contexts where the very smoothest of screen movement is called for, but drops it at other times to preserve battery life. Lack of ProMotion was one of the big disappointments in the 12-series, but the 13 Pro Max (and the 13 Pro) have got it at last.
The A15 Bionic processor is of course the fastest Apple has made (that is true every year) but Apple appears to have focused more on battery performance than overall speed. The 13 Pro Max should last around 2.5 hours longer than the 12 Pro Max under typical usage conditions. The camera lenses have been upgraded (there’s also a cool new feature that functions a little like Portrait mode for video), and Apple promises that 5G support has been widened.
iPhone 13 Pro Max specs
6.7-inch OLED (2778 x 1284 at 458ppi) with ProMotion
A15 Bionic processor
12MP/12MP/12MP triple-lens camera, f/2.8, f/1.5 and f/1.8, OIS
Largely identical to the 13 Pro Max, the 13 Pro suffers by comparison only in terms of its screen (6.1 inches rather than 6.7 inches) and battery life (up to 22 hours of video playback rather than 28). For those reasons it’s cheaper, but these things are relative; it starts at $999, and tops out at $1,499 for the 1TB version.
So you still get ProMotion on the OLED screen, the super-fast A15 Bionic processor, the upgraded triple-lens camera with its various photographic upgrades, the improved battery performance compared with the previous generation, the wider 5G support. And even though the screen is smaller, it shares the 13 Pro Max’s exceptional brightness and contrast.
iPhone 13 Pro specs
A15 Bionic chip
6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2532 x 1170 at 460ppi), 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 1,000/1,200 nits max brightness (typical/HDR), True Tone, ProMotion
Triple 12MP rear-facing cameras (f/1.8 Ultra Wide, f/1.5 Wide and f/2.8 Telephoto), flash, 6x optical zoom, OIS, Portrait Mode, Night mode portraits, Photographic Styles, Smart HDR 4, Apple ProRAW, 4K video recording at 24/25/30/60fps, Cinematic mode, ProRes video recording at up to 4K and 30fps
The iPhone 13, inevitably, misses out on the flagship ProMotion feature that for now is limited to the Pro and Pro Max editions of Apple’s newest iPhone generation. That’s a shame, and there are a few other compromises, but this remains an extremely high-class, well-specced mid-size smartphone.
The notch is about 20% smaller than on the iPhone 12 (read our iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 comparison for a deeper head-to-head), the A15 Bionic is the fastest mobile processor on the market right now–although it has one fewer GPU core than on the Pro models–and the cameras have been upgraded, including a new Cinematic mode.
The display may not have ProMotion but it is 28% brighter than the one on the previous generation, and of course has more screen space because of that shrunk-down notch. And battery life has been given a big boost: Apple says it should last around 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12. This phone won’t let you down.
iPhone 13 specs
A15 Bionic chip
6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2532 x 1170 at 460ppi), 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 800/1,200 nits max brightness (typical/HDR), True Tone
We weren’t sure Apple would go back to the mini well after the sales disappointments of last year–indeed we didn’t think the company should–but the 13 mini accompanies its three larger siblings at a lower price and with an impressive feature set. This will be the final iPhone mini.
The raison d’etre of the mini line, of course, is a combination of power with portability. And while the former is definitely present–the 13 mini gets the same state-of-the-art A15 Bionic chip as the iPhone 13–it’s worth mentioning that, like the rest of the 13-series, this model is slightly thicker and heavier than its predecessor. We’re just talking an extra quarter of a millimeter and 7g, so you shouldn’t notice, but we want you to have the full picture.
The rest of the iPhone 13’s upgrades are present here too. You get Cinematic mode, for playing with focal distances in video; you get a smaller notch; you get a brighter screen; and you get much-improved battery life.
We think it’s a hugely appealing package. But perhaps there aren’t enough iPhone buyers out there who agree.
iPhone 13 mini specs
A15 Bionic chip
5.4-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2340 x 1080 at 476ppi), 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 800/1,200 nits max brightness (typical/HDR), True Tone
The inbetweener of the 2020 generation got a nice price cut to celebrate the launch of the 13 series, and remains an excellent choice.
You get the biggest feature of the 12-series generation, 5G, so can expect fast away-from-home internet speeds where coverage is available. And unlike in previous generations, this slightly cheaper model’s screen is just as sharp as those of its costlier siblings, at an impressive 460ppi, although it isn’t quite as bright as either the 12 Pro or the iPhone 13.
The camera setup is twin-lens on the rear; for triple you’ll need a Pro model. You lose the telephoto, which among other things means weaker optical zoom.
The 12 misses out in some other photographic areas such as Night Mode portraits (because it hasn’t got a LiDAR scanner), Apple ProRAW, and the new Cinematic mode available on all four 13-series handsets.
Apple claims you’ll see better battery life from the iPhone 13, too (perhaps this is why the 13 is a shade thicker and heavier), and the 12’s notch is a bit wider. But on the whole this should provide almost as good an experience as its newer sibling, even if it is obviously less future-proofed.
Like its larger sibling, the baby of the 2020 generation got a price cut to celebrate the arrival of the 13 series. Will that be enough to shift some units? Maybe.
Other than screen size, battery life and price tag, the 12 mini matches the iPhone 12 feature for feature and spec for spec. It’s the cheapest and smallest iPhone to support 5G (albeit only fractionally smaller than the iPhone 13 mini). If you want 5G and a fast processor–the A14 remains fast enough for any task you throw at it, although it’s less future-proofed than the A15–then this is the most accessible way of getting them.
Read our iPhone 12 mini review for more information and in-depth speed, graphics, battery and camera testing.
iPhone 12 mini specs
A14 Bionic chip
5.4-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2340 x 1080 at 476ppi), 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 625/1,200 nits max brightness (typical/HDR), True Tone
Dual 12MP rear-facing cameras (f/2.4 Ultra Wide and f/1.6 Wide), flash, 2x optical zoom, OIS, Portrait Mode, Smart HDR 3, 4K video recording at 24/30/60fps
When the iPhone XR was discontinued, the iPhone 11 dropped into its space as the oldest phone in Apple’s stable. Following another price drop (by a further $100/£110) the iPhone 11 looks like an appealing deal. It’s all a question of whether you can stomach the compromises.
For one, you get an LCD screen rather than the nicer OLED of the 12 and 13 series, which means you’re missing out on deeper blacks and superior color reproduction. And, at 326ppi, resolution is far lower than you’ll get on a newer iPhone.
Camera performance in the most demanding conditions won’t match the latest phones, based as it is on Apple’s older ‘next-generation Smart HDR’ rather than the Smart HDR 3 and Smart HDR 4 versions that have come out more recently. And of course you miss out on some of the newer camera features such as Cinematic mode, Photographic Styles and Night Mode.
Physically the iPhone 11 is more susceptible to damage than its newer siblings, missing out on the Ceramic Shield feature that was launched in 2020 and offering water resistance to a depth of 2m rather than 6m. And it doesn’t support MagSafe accessories.
But the greatest worry may be the A13, which seemed so fast at launch but may start to seem sluggish in the next few years, particularly if you use graphically demanding games or video editing suites. The newer phones may be intimidatingly expensive, but their superior future-proofing means you won’t need to replace them so soon.
The iPhone SE is a brilliant concept. Recognizing that there’s a huge market for people who can’t afford the typical price of a new iPhone (or just don’t want to spend that much), Apple takes a somewhat outdated model, replaces the processor with the latest one, and sells it at a greatly reduced price.
The third-gen SE, Apple’s latest iteration of that concept, is the least expensive new iPhone you can buy, but it’s $30 more expensive than the previous SE was when it came out. That’s strike one. It’s also more outdated than we’re used to: instead of putting the state-of-the-art A15 chip in a two-generations-old iPhone 11, or even the iPhone XR, Apple is once again using the body of the ancient iPhone 8.
So we’ve got some caveats. With both price and chassis age going up, this isn’t the bargain we’re used to from Apple’s SE line. But it’s still a fairly appealing option, combining new silicon with a (comparatively) affordable price tag.
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
Buying an iPhone on contract
The two most common ways to buy an iPhone are SIM-free from Apple itself or a third-party reseller (which is where the pricing information throughout this information fits in, because you’ll be paying upfront for the phone, you will own it, and you will then need to pay for a SIM-only contract for minutes, texts and data), or buying an iPhone on contract.
A contract usually starts with an upfront payment that will vary depending on the iPhone model you go for and also how much you’ll be paying each month. That upfront payment is followed by monthly payments, normally for a total of 24 months, after which you own the phone (in most cases). Those monthly payments also cover data, minutes and texts.
The following networks are worth checking for their contract offers:
Apple offers a scheme called the iPhone Upgrade Programme, which works with your carrier and starts at $35.33 per month. You can then upgrade to the new iPhone each time one is announced, staying on the same or a very similar plan.
You should be cautious about the value this offers, but in some circumstances it may be the right approach for you.
The scheme works slightly differently in the UK, where you make an upfront payment of £69 followed by regular monthly payments of between £38 and £64. It’s also important to note that this is for a SIM-free iPhone. You will then need to get a SIM-only contract for your data, minutes and texts.
You do get AppleCare+ included in the Upgrade Programme, though, which is a two-year insurance for your iPhone that will cover you for two incidents of accidental damage. You’ll still have to pay an excess fee should you need to use it, but it’ll be much cheaper than having to cough up the full price of a repair.
You can find out more about the iPhone Upgrade Programme on Apple’s website.
You’ll have noticed that buying an iPhone doesn’t come cheap. However, if you’re strapped for cash you don’t have to dismiss the idea of buying an iPhone completely. You may be able to get a good deal on one of the older handsets if someone is looking to sell their current handset. Here’s how to buy a second-hand iPhone.
Bear in mind that if you want to run iOS 15 (the current version of Apple’s mobile operating system, although that will change this fall) you’ll need an iPhone 6s or later; the same was true of the two previous versions, iOS 13 and iOS 14. iPhones reaching back to the iPhone 5s can run iOS 12, but that really is quite an old operating system to be running and some features such as AR won’t work properly on older models anyway.