When looking at the best iPhones, you may be surprised how many options there are. While the iPhone 13 is the latest model, both Apple and mobile carriers keep older stock on hand for users who want to spend less money. And since all of these models were among the best phones at launch, if not the top phone around, they’re still great to buy and keep today.
If you’re not based in the U.K., you can check out our best iPhones guide for the U.S. Spoiler alert: we still like the same iPhones. However, due to pricing differences, and the extra choices available among the best U.K. Android phones, evaluating iPhones for a U.K. shoppers is a little bit different.
Take a look at our rankings of all the iPhones currently available to buy new below. And if you get convinced to abandon your current Android phone, be sure to check out our guide on how to transfer contacts and data from Android to iPhone.
What are the best iPhones?
You might be surprised, but the newest iPhone 13 series, specifically the iPhone 13 Pro Max, is our top pick. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 mini also make the best iPhones list if you want smaller handsets but with near-identical features and performance.
If the latest iPhones are out of your price range, then you’ve still got plenty of choices. The iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 11 are all still on sale and offer similar capabilities albeit at the expense of likely having a shorter iOS update life, meaning you’ll want to update your phone sooner if you want the newest software possible.
If you don’t mind an older style of smartphone, then your cheapest option is the iPhone SE, although we expect this model is going to be updated with a 5G-ready iPhone SE 3 soon, possibly in just a matter of days if rumors of the phone appearing at the Apple Peek Performance event are true.
The best iPhones you can buy right now
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the biggest and best iPhone you can buy today. Its cameras are outstanding, it’s more powerful than any Android rival with its 5G-ready A15 Bionic chipset. With its larger battery and 120Hz OLED display, the iPhone 13 Pro Max provides some of the best video streaming and gaming experiences on any phone
About the only thing letting down this iPhone is its charging speed. Apple has some of the slowest charging standards of any mobile device maker around right now at 20W, and with that new larger battery, it can take a while to power up. Fortunately, the battery life is so good you’re unlikely to need a quick refuel in the middle of the day.
One other possible drawback is the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s design. This iPhone is particularly wide, and like the other iPhone 13 models it has flat sides, making it hard to navigate with just a thumb if you’ve got small hands. Take a look at the smaller iPhone 13 Pro if you think you’ll find that an issue.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.
The basic iPhone 13 doesn’t have all the fancy features you’ll find on the Pro models, but it’s still got more than enough going on to make it the most suitable iPhone for the average user.
The iPhone 13 display is a step-up from the iPhone 12 thanks to increased brightness and improved color performance, although it still lacks the 120Hz refresh rate that’s become a standard among Android phones of a similar price. While the iPhone 13 offers only two rear cameras, you still get excellent shots and video from them and new ways of using them thanks to Apple adding new Photographic Styles and Cinematic modes. Plus, it’s still got the super-powerful A15 Bionic running the show, and 128GB of storage by default, rather than Apple’s previous stingy 64GB basic memory capacity.
The iPhone 13 does suffer from the slow charging speeds common across the iPhone 13 family, but the battery’s a bit bigger than last year and the phone runs a bit more efficiently. So with a bit of careful use you shouldn’t struggle to get a full day’s use out of it.
Read our full iPhone 13 review.
The iPhone 13 Pro is the model to go for if you want almost the same performance as the iPhone 13 Pro Max at the top of the best iPhones list but prefer something slightly cheaper or more compact.
The iPhone 13 Pro features the same main/ultrawide/3x telephoto camera combination as well as the 120Hz display that the Pro Max has — two of the best parts of the phone. The only real area you may notice a difference between the Pro models in is battery life, but it shouldn’t impact your usage that much since Apple’s done a great job of improving the efficiency of the iPhone 13 Pro’s power consumption compared to the iPhone 12 Pro.
Again, watch out for how slow the battery charges even at the 20W maximum speed. Charging iPhones is still best left for overnight rather than a quick 20-minute top-up. If you can handle that, there’s not much else to stop you from buying the iPhone 13 Pro.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review.
If you like your phones small, then the iPhone 13 mini offers you that plus basically everything else that makes the iPhone 13 series great. At 5.4 inches, you’ll struggle to find a smaller phone with a better display, chipset or cameras.
In essence, this is a miniaturized version of the base iPhone 13, only with a smaller display and battery. That does mean you won’t get a 120Hz display or a telephoto camera, since the iPhone 13 lacks those features, too.
Battery life was the biggest problem with the iPhone 12 mini last year, and the good news is it’s better on the iPhone 13 mini, though it’s still below average. Even with that caveat, the unique size of the iPhone 13 mini might be enough to convince you it’s right for above all the other recent iPhones.
Read our full iPhone 13 mini review.
Although the iPhone 13 has superseded it, the iPhone 12 is on sale at a reduced price and still makes for a great phone. This model introduced 5G compatibility and the current flat-edged design that helps the iPhone stand out from the curvier Android competition.
The 6.1-inch OLED display, combined with the still powerful A14 Bionic chipset makes the iPhone 12 a great phone for enjoying all types of apps and games. Meanwhile on the back, the dual main and ultrawide cameras are capable of high-quality photos, including night mode and portrait mode shots.
There are two issues you should know about when buying this model, though. First off, the basic iPhone 12 comes with a paltry 64GB of storage, likely not enough for all your apps and photos if you don’t back them up to a cloud storage service. Also, the display lacks a high refresh rate option, meaning you’re stuck with the aging 60Hz standard. But if your priority is a relatively new, well-priced and capable phone, you should still be happy with the iPhone 12.
Read our full iPhone 12 review.
The iPhone 12 mini is the original small full-screen iPhone and remains a great and fairly cheap way to get in on the iPhone action. Its 5.4-inch size means it’ll fit in any pocket or bag while still offering the same photography and computing performance and software you get on larger iPhone 12 models.
Before you get too excited, the diminutive size means you get unusually bad battery life for an iPhone. That could mean you struggle to get a full day’s use out of the 12 mini without a trip to the charger plug, a pretty sizeable negative for some users. It’s also got the lower basic storage of 64GB by default too, which translates to paying for cloud storage or a higher capacity model if you have a fair number of apps and photos already.
Otherwise though, the OLED display, the cameras, the chipset and the 5G compatibility is the same as the iPhone 12, and that’s fantastic news. Plus it’s a touch cheaper too if you want to get as much iPhone 12 for your money as possible.
Read our full iPhone 12 mini review.
Now two generations old, the iPhone 11 is the cheapest model you can still buy new that offers Face ID. It may lack a few of the features that appear on the iPhones above it in the list, but there’s still much to like about it.
The A13 chipset that runs the iPhone 11 is still incredibly powerful for a two-year-old phone, and it actually uses the same pair of cameras on the back that you get on the iPhone 12, so you will still have access to some of the best photography in the business.
Where you lose out is the display. The iPhone 11 still uses an LCD panel rather than OLED, meaning you get worse power efficiency and color accuracy (although it’s only a small difference). There’s also no 5G, which deprives you of the current fastest possible mobile data speeds. But as a stop-gap until your next big phone purchase or an iPhone that gives you enough up-to-date features without breaking the bank, it’s still worth keeping the iPhone 11 on your shortlist.
See our full iPhone 11 review.
The entry-level iPhone SE is thought to be getting an imminent replacement (the iPhone SE 3). But until a new phone arrives, the iPhone SE is the cheapest way into the iPhone life. The phone is looking very dated these days, but don’t write it off for its old-fashioned design.
While its body is the same as the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE features the same A13 chip that runs the iPhone 11, making it far more powerful than even Android flagship phones twice the price. Its single rear camera isn’t as versatile as the dual and triple-camera arrays on the more expensive iPhones, but it’s still using Apple’s processing algorithms to produce fantastic images. It’s just a shame it is missing Night mode, one of the most useful additions to phone cameras in recent years.
The defining feature of the phone is perhaps its big bezels at the top and bottom of the display. Perhaps you won’t mind this, since it means you get a physical Touch ID home button for convenient navigation and unlocking of your phone. However, it does mean the display’s only 4.7 inches, less than ideal for viewing video or playing games with.
There’s no doubt that the iPhone SE offers the best iPhone value for money of any iPhone on this list. But we’d still recommend waiting for the SE 3 if this model appeals to you so you can get the best possible specs for your money.
Read our full iPhone SE 2020 review.
How to choose the best iPhone for you
The first thing you need to consider when picking one of these iPhones is the size you need. The smallest iPhones are the iPhone SE and the mini models of the iPhone 12/13.
Next up is the 6.1-inch gang, consisting of the iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. Note that the iPhone 11 has curved sides, whereas the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models have flat ones.
Lastly are the two largest 6.7-inch models, the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Consider which size is most comfortable for your hands and pockets, but also how they impact display quality and battery size.
All current iPhones with the exception fo the iPhone SE use Face ID to unlock the phone. That has been tricky in an era where we’re encouraged to wear masks, but iOS 15.4 is going to change that.
The third thing to consider when shopping for the best iPhone is weighing up whether it’s better to save money by buying an older iPhone, or get a longer life out of your phone by buying a newer one. While Apple supports the iPhone for longer with software updates than Android companies typically do — often for five years or longer — you’re going to hit the end of those full updates sooner if you buy a phone that was released. You’ll have to take into consideration when you might replace your phone, and then decide if that makes it worth going without a year or two of big iOS updates to save a few hundred pounds.
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 4G and 5G networks; 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.