Best iPhone 2021: which Apple phone is for you?

Our guide to the best iPhones is packed full of options, including the new iPhone 13, though note that the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max aren't present yet, as we haven't finished reviewing them.

These four handsets include more powerful chipsets, longer battery life and new camera features, with the Pro models additionally having 120Hz displays for the first time on an iPhone. So while they're not the biggest upgrades ever, they're sure to rank high on our list.

That's not to say you shouldn't consider an older model though. Apple keeps it phones updated for years, so they remain viable for a long time, and if you're looking to save money then an older iPhone might be a great choice for you.

With Apple's phones typically being expensive, cost is one of the main things to consider when buying. Look not just as what you can afford but at what you'll get by moving to a more powerful model - you might get more cameras or a bigger screen for example, but is that something you need? The answer will be different for everyone.

To make things easier though, we've included a full specs list and overview for all the best iPhones below, so you can see at a glance which ones are the best fit for you.

Of course, if you’re not set on an Apple phone specifically then there are loads of other options. Check out some of our other guides below to see some of the best alternatives.

Best iPhone: which one should you buy today?

An iPhone 13 against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPhone 13

The best Apple iPhone bang for your buck

Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm | OS: iOS 15 | Screen size: 6.1-inch | Resolution: 1170 x 2532 | CPU: A15 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Battery: Up to 19 hours | Rear camera: 12MP+12MP | Front camera: 12MP

Strong battery life
Powerful internals
Minimal design changes
No 120Hz screen

The iPhone 13 isn’t the biggest yearly iPhone upgrade we’ve seen, but almost every aspect of it is a little better than the iPhone 12, which makes it a brilliant iPhone overall.

In our review we found that the battery life in particular was improved, with the iPhone 13 making it through every day that we used it without needing a top up before bed.

We were also impressed by the design, which now includes a smaller notch, and by the sheer amount of power this phone has thanks to its A15 Bionic chipset. Apple claims this has a 50% faster CPU than the competition, and while that’s hard to confirm, this is certainly a speedy phone.

The lack of a 120Hz screen which we’ve seen debut on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max is a shame, and we’re hoping for some bigger upgrades in the iPhone 14, but for now this is one of the very best iPhones you can buy.

iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

2. iPhone 12 Pro

The best of the 12 series

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

Varied color choices 
Clear and vibrant screen 
No charging block in box 
Battery could be better

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, and we found it did 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.

iPhone 12 Mini

3. iPhone 12 mini

The best cheaper mini iPhone

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

Smaller design looks great
Fantastic display
64GB isn't enough storage
Battery life only okay 

With the iPhone 12 mini, Apple introduced an iPhone mini for the first time in its history of making handsets, and it's almost exactly the same as the iPhone 12 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 high-end specs such as the powerful rear camera, 5G support and MagSafe support as well.

We found 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.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

4. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The best relatively affordable big-screen iPhone

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

Long battery life
Powerful rear camera
Feels too large
Camera not hugely better than the 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was once the best iPhone you could buy, and we loved everything it can do. It takes a lot of what makes the rest of the iPhone 12 range so good 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.

We found the battery life is better in the iPhone 12 Pro Max when compared to most of 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.

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

5. iPhone SE (2020)

The best budget iPhone

Weight: 148g | Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm | OS: iOS 14 | 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

Cheapest ever iPhone
Lightweight frame
Battery life could be better
Old 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 iPhone 11 range.

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 we found 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.

iPhone 12

(Image credit: Future)

6. iPhone 12

The best iPhone for 5G on a budget

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

Colorful OLED display 
Future-proofed with 5G  
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 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. 

We found the camera was a little too similar to the previous 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.

iPhone 11 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPhone 11 Pro

The best older iPhone

Weight: 188g | Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm | OS: iOS 14 | 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

Camera a real step forward
Sizeable battery upgrade
Similar to iPhone XS visually
Few non-camera upgrades

The iPhone 11 Pro is a more advanced smartphone than the base iPhone 11, but it arguably isn't a better iPhone if you factor in the higher price.

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 and iPhone 13 Pro though, so you may want to consider this over the latest handsets.

iPhone 11 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

8. iPhone 11 Pro Max

The best older big iPhone

Weight: 226g | Dimensions: 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm | OS: iOS 14 | 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

Three rear cameras
Still very powerful
Design isn't updated
Lack of clear innovation

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 was also the most expensive at a $1,099 starting price, which only went up if you expanded the storage. Of course, that price has gone down with the launch of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 ranges.

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.

iPhone 11

(Image credit: Apple)

9. iPhone 11

The best basic older iPhone

Weight: 194g | Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm | OS: iOS 14 | 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

Great value
Fast speeds at a discount
Still an LCD screen
Glass back attracts fingerprints

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

Before the introduction of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, this was our favorite iPhone. True, it misses out on a telephoto lens, but we find 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.

All in all then this phone is a lean, mean, photo-taking machine.

iPhone XS

(Image credit: Future)

10. iPhone XS

The best cheaper flagship

Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm | OS: iOS 14 | 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

Smart HDR helps the camera
Faster operation in one hand vs Max
Battery life not world-beating
Design not altered in a year

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 than it used to be when it was the latest and greatest iPhone.

How we tested

We've reviewed every phone on this list, so for each we've passed our expert verdict on them after extensive testing. From that we've then ranked them, factoring in price, value, and how they compare to each other.

What to look for when buying an iPhone?

A lot of iPhones are quite similar to each other, so choosing which one to buy mostly just means seeing what's different between them and finding the right fit. All iPhones are powerful, and Apple supports them for a long time, so age and chipset needn't be a big deal, but pay attention to the battery life, cameras and screen size.

What is the best iPhone?

The best iPhone is usually one of the latest numbered models, but which one specifically will depend on your needs. If you want a big screen, go for a Pro Max. For top specs in a smaller size, pick a Pro, and if you want to save some money then get a standard model or a mini.

  • Get the best price with our iPhone deals guide
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